The lights, cameras, and features are ready as OFF is now on!

The Okotoks International Film Festival (OFF) is a go for 2022 and set to take place in the first week of June for its 6th year of celebrating cinema. 

Festival Director Katie Fournell is proud to bring over 60 films to the Okotoks Cinemas.

"We want everybody to be able to enjoy the festival," says Fournell. "We have some screenings that are very family-friendly. We have a film called Jim Button in the Wild 13, which is an adventure family film that is from Germany and that one will be playing on June 5th at 12:30, and then on the complete flip side, we have our Twisted Reels package. That's on June 3rd at 10 p.m. online and that one, don't let the kids watch. Take them far, far away.” 

Of these films, over 20 are locally made or made by local residents including the feature film opening the festival Thursday evening.

"It's called 179. It's made by a director right here in Okotoks about a family in Calgary and it's a documentary. It's one of the most powerful documentaries that I've seen in a really long time. It will rip your heart out and then give it back to you and make you want to change the world.  

“It's the story of a family that had an absolute tragedy happen to them and how they turned that into something really beautiful and making sure that this exact thing doesn’t happen to other people. It's an absolutely stunning film."

The festival is split up over several days and sections with full-length features, short films, animated and documentaries all get their own slots in the festival. As well as a special selection of all German productions.

a panel at one of the festivals The festival also gives the audience a chance to interact with filmmakers from around the world. (Photo: Okotoks Film Festival - Film Freeway)

New this year is the Lunch Break selection (Friday, June 3 at noon.) A one-hour screening that features a selection of uplifting and funny films as well as lunch as well as the Zooom Youth Festival (Sunday, June 5 at 3 p.m.) Previously held separate from the main international event, it was included this year to ensure young filmmakers are featured among the selected bigger films of the Festival.

She adds a few reasons why festivals are a nice break from the big-budget box office flicks in theatres. 

"A lot of the independent filmmakers and the individual filmmakers are making films that really speak to their heart and speak to a message that's very important to them, so you'll get some that have really deep under meanings and then also some films that just have a beautiful style to them that you can't otherwise achieve with the big box office… Also the level of creativity, when you're working on a budget, is insane.

"When you have $10 million so you can do anything you can get anyone involved, but having to work with only $500 to tell a story really makes you think about every moment in that story."

There is also an online component with a collection of films that won't be screened at the live event as well as an 'In Case You Missed It' section available after the festival wraps up.

The Okotoks International Film Festival starts Thursday, June 2 at 7 p.m. and runs until June 5th with the screening of the popular 48 Hour Film Challenge closing down the festival.

Tickets can be found on their website.