You’ve heard it said that Canadians are the nicest people in the world. Well, let’s get more specific: Edmontonians are, especially those at Edmonton International Film Festival.

“Welcome Filmmakers and Film Lovers,” the banner at EIFF’s red carpet entrance proclaimed, and boy, did we feel welcomed.

From the moment we received word that our short film “Stripped” was accepted into the festival, it only got better and better. Emails from the staff, bubbling over with personality, clearly explained the specifics needed by the festival—we could immediately tell this was a well-organized event. A lovely volunteer greeted us at the airport, and we were put up in the fabulous Matrix Hotel, which felt like a holiday in itself. Our festival arrival packet included gorgeous lanyards and a thick, full-color program—an absolute page-turner, thanks to the descriptions Program Director Kerrie Long provides. I preferred the logline of my short she wrote to my own!

As large and impressive as the festival is, EIFF felt intimate and non-corporate. Its built-in audience filled the top-of-the-line Landmark cinemas. During the brilliant “Lunch Box Shorts” program, attendees politely waited ’til between shorts to eat their lunches to avoid any wrapper noise.

EIFF film lovers buy festival passes every year and I can see why. The programs are curated with impeccable care. They had it all—humor, history, heartbreak. Nine of the films screened were nominated for the 2017 Oscars: all five in the Foreign Language category, plus Manchester by the Sea, Elle, The Lobster and short “Borrowed Time.”

The audience experienced these magical stories long before the general public.

EIFF staff are passionate and always made us feel important. We signed a massive poster, walked the red carpet, attended afterparties that were full-on affairs with food delicacies, photo booths, dancing and blue champagne. We even had a two-minute interview on Canada’s Global News, organized by the festival and including clips from our film!

To top it all of, a stunning blanket of snow covered the city. (Though that was the only time the Edmontonions weren’t their usual bright selves—the snow came a full month earlier than expected and therefore extended their winter).

As I sip tea from my EIFF mug and stare at the stunning award placard the festival sent us, I still feel special. I am incredibly proud to have the EIFF laurels on our “Stripped” film poster, and have nothing but beautiful, unforgettable memories of our experience. MM

India Dupré is an English-Australian filmmaker. Her short film “Stripped” is currently in development as a feature film. More information here.

Visit the Edmonton International Film Festival website here.