The summers of my youth were spent at two places: summer-camp and Summerfolk.

I’m not sure which I have better memories of. I mean, I had young crushes at both; I met some of my best friends at both; hell, I was even exposed to my first vices like cigarettes and alcohol at both. And I definitely learned to appreciate music at both. I first heard The Hip’s Long Time Running on acoustic guitar around the evening campfire; it sent shivers down my spine. And sitting at the amphitheatre on Summerfolk Saturday nights listening to bands like the Arrogant Worms entertain a crowd is where I first understood the draw of festival life.

Photo: Good Noise

There wasn’t a shortage of things to do or experiences to have. When my friends ask if they should bring their young kids to Summerfolk I say “definitely!” They’ll build memories that will stay with them forever. They’ll foster an appreciation for music, the arts, and finely-crafted wares (did I just say ‘wares’?). Most importantly, thought, they’ll realize there are places where a cell phone can be left behind.

And now they’ll have one Summerfolk experience that I never did: a cinematic one.

Yes, Scenic City Film Festival is establishing themselves as part of the Summerfolk tradition with their return to the Down by the River Tent, and they’ve got some big surprises this year that will ensure some memorable experiences for people of all ages. (I don’t think I’m allowed to divulge anything yet, but I can say that film buffs will be very happy once it’s confirmed).

Photo: SCFF

Mixing film and music is a natural move for festivals, and one that has been established early on by the bigger players such as Bonnaroo and Coachella. When Bonnaroo first introduced their film and comedy tents in the early 2000s, they were met with long lineups of people who were looking for a different experience (and air-conditioning!). I tried to get in line to see The Big Lebowski and Dimitri Martin in that first year, but the wait was far too long and I opted for an afternoon Xavier Rudd show instead.

The key to bringing film to a music and crafts festival is choosing the right film. SCFF has nailed it this year with a ‘rock show romance’ for the Friday feature, a film that is geared at a music-loving generation who recognizes the name Broken Social Scene as one of the best and most buzz-worthy bands in Canada. This Movie is Broken by Bruce McDonald is a cross between romantic comedy and concert film where a guy tries to impress his longtime crush by taking her to a harbourfront concert in Toronto.

“This is our way of showcasing another concert at Summerfolk through a uniquely Canadian cinematic lens,” says Nelson Phillips. It’s like a kind of meta-festival experience that combines storytelling with music and I think it’s going to be a big hit at this year’s fest.

The inclusion into the Summerfolk experience is a natural progression for an organization who has worked hard to bring important films to this area. Since 2014, Nelson Phillips, Myke Dyer, and Wendel Brooks of SCFF have brought the Short Film Festival to Owen Sound, as well as features such as The Hoard and Spirit Unforgettable in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Society. The Film Festival in 2018 expanded to include a Grub Crawl, an art installation, and two nights of films. They are quickly becoming an Owen Sound institution in their own right.

If you visited the tent last year, you may have caught the Friday showing of Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World or some of the short films if you went on Saturday:

Submissions are still open for the Short Films Program happening on the Saturday night, which will offer a similar scope to the previous years’ with a focus on music, Canadiana, sonic arts, short docs, narrative film, and Indigenous works.

The tent is geared towards festival go-ers of all ages, so go make some new memories. They may not have an air-conditioned tent (yet) but the good people at SCFF will remind you that Summerfolk is more than just music. It’s an experience.


Written by Jesse Wilkinson