Story By Ayano Hodouchi Dempsey

Most people may know Vox Popular Media Arts Festival by its previous name, the Bay Street Film Festival. After a move away from its Bay Street location last year, the festival changed its name, marking not only a change in address, but also a change in content. From a film festival, they have branched out into a multimedia arts festival, featuring installations, performance art, music, 360 VR, and filmmaking workshops.

For this year’s festival (September 13–16), about 160 films were submitted for consideration. Organizers narrowed that down by half and then had a screening night with volunteers and friends to arrive at the final 60. Included in the lineup are works from the film workshop the festival hosted in June on the theme of harm reduction. Filmmaker and sociologist Greg Scott mentored several local filmmakers and he will be back for the festival, bringing an installation he travels with. The work is a supervised consumption site. “A lot of people don’t know what actually happens at these sites, so he’s trying to demystify the whole thing,” explains festival intern Marcus Agombar.

Many of the screening sessions will have individual themes, such as French films (September 14, 6:30 pm) children’s films (September 15, 11 am) and horror films (September 15, 9 pm). This is the first time the festival is showing horror, and the screening will include a feature by local filmmaker Brendan Peterson, Darkslide.

While many of the films are short, there are several outstanding feature-length films this year—notably, the documentary Grain of Sand by British musician and filmmaker Jason Carter, who went to Bahrain to document the disappearing traditional music of pearl divers. “It’s a beautiful film,” says festival founder Kelly Saxberg. “It’s so cool—so not what you’d expect.” There is also Dad is Pretty, a film about a cross-dressing family man, which is also the first Korean feature to be shown at this festival.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this year’s festival is that it will be spread across two venues: Trinity Hall for the screenings and Urban Abbey (just a block away) for installations, live music, and refreshments. “Following our gala screening on Thursday evening, we’re having an afterparty at the Urban Abbey. There will be live music, Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. beer, and Classic Roots will be performing that night as well,” says Agombar.

For more information, go to or check out Vox Popular Media Arts Festival on Facebook.

Some local films that are not to be missed:

Eric Collin’s Northern Meltdown is about the ice storm of April 2017 that effectively shut down our city.

Damien Gilbert’s Bringing Jazzy to the Top is about a young man born with spina bifida whose friends band together to take him to places he’s never been.
Jon Wesselink created a documentary, Mishkeegogamang, about a mural created in his community.

A World of Our Own, by Morningstar Derosier, is a drama about two young women who connect in a technology-dominated dysfunctional world.

Jack Belhumeur’s War Paint is about the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Bright Sunny Light by Martin King is a comedy about an unlucky salesman who is given a magic suit to bring him good luck.