Sudbury news: Opening of the year’s Cinefest

Saturday marks the opening of the 34th annual Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival featuring a film shot in an unconventional way in Kitchener, Ont.

Filmmakers Jeremy Lalonde and Jonas Chernick brought their latest film, Ashgrove — that they co-wrote with the star of the film, Amanda Brugel — to the Nickel City for the opening night gala presentation.

Jonas Chernick, oc-wrote and starred in the movie Ashgrove, Cinefest’s opening night gala film. Sept. 17/22 (Pat Laframboise/CTV Northern Ontario)

(Jonas Chernick, co-writer and actor of the film Ashgrove. Sept. 17/22 Pat Laframboise/CTV Northern Ontario)

Lalonde and Chernick were last at Cinefest in 2019 with their film Jason vs. His Future Self.

It was that same year while they were on a road trip from Calgary to Edmonton – before the pandemic — touring that film when the pair came up with the concept for Ashgrove.

“We wanted to tell a story in a way that we hadn’t done before. We actually shot this film in a very untraditional way where we wrote an outline, we came up with the characters, but the actors didn’t know what was going to happen from scene to scene. And we shot it in chronological order,” LaLonde told CTV News in an interview.

“So the film is actually largely improvised, but in a really structured way where the actors really had a lot of freedom to play and explore. And that was really enticing for all of us.”

The movie is set during a world water crisis and they were worried about the audience being able to relate to a world pandemic. Then COVID-19 hit, the world shut down and they spent a lot of time planning over Zoom.

Brugel’s character is a top scientist tasked with solving a global toxic water crisis in the film and the toll that it takes on her marriage to Chernick’s character.

The movie was filmed over 10 days in September 2020 at LaLonde’s wife’s family farm, which is where the film and main character’s last name comes from.

“We just took our time in post-production because we knew we wanted to wait until film festivals and theatres were open again because we really wanted to share this film with audiences and not just screened virtually in film festivals,” he said.

“Movies are meant to be seen in the theatre. It’s mostly, not just because of the big screens I know a lot of people have big screens in their homes, but there’s just something about watching the film with other people around in that shared feeling of excitement or terror or laughter. You know, there’s just something that you know an audience makes just all the richer.”

Lalonde said his favourite part of film festivals is the audience interaction and conversations after the film.

“Cinefest is one of my favourite festivals. I’ve been lucky to come here numerous times over the years with films and I just love how much the audience gets involved, how many people show up,” he said.

“I was out on the golf course this morning and I ran into somebody and he found out I was part of the festival and he told me about how they have family come in from all over the place just for the festival and I love how much the city embraces it.”

Both of the filmmakers agreed being asked to have their film screened at the opening night gala at Cinefest shocked them.

“It’s an honour just to be included in the festival at all because it’s such a great festival and I’ve been here before. But to be the opening night gala? That’s just nuts. Ad when we made this little movie, it was really like a labour of love and almost an experiment, let’s see if we could make a movie this way. And the response it’s got is incredible and to be opening night here at Cinefest is, you can see I’m beaming, I’m humbled and very honoured by it,” Chernick said.

Ashgrove is being released in theatres in Canada and the U.S. on Dec. 2. It will also be shown in the U.K. 

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