Labour dispute in Whitby forces venue change for DRIFF gala to Oshawa’s Biltmore Theatre


Published October 17, 2023 at 12:09 pm

DRIFF ticket

The strike by unionized workers at the Town of Whitby has forced a venue change for the opening night of the Durham Region International Film Festival.

With all Town facilities closed during the labour disruption, the Centennial Building in Whitby is out as a venue, prompting a move for Thursday’s gala reception and opening night screening of the dramatic comedy Suze (Canada) to the Biltmore Theatre in Oshawa, already the location for Day 3 of the festival Saturday night.

The gala time Thursday at the Biltmore will be 5:30 p.m. with screenings of the short film Primitive Times (Germany) at 7:30 p.m., followed by the feature film Suze.

The festival will showcase a carefully curated line-up of film programming, including local and Canadian productions alongside international films. In addition to film screenings, DRIFF 2023 will offer workshops and panels for audiences and filmmakers to engage and learn more about the film industry.

Suze, directed by husband-and-wife duo Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart, follows Suze (Michaela Watkins), a single mom who has lost her purpose after her daughter leaves for college. Stuck taking care of her daughter’s heartbroken ex-boyfriend who she can’t stand, Suze ends up on a journey of self-discovery and finds what living purposefully really looks like, while making an unlikely bond along the way.

DAY 2 takes DRIFF to the St. Francis Centre for Community, Arts & Culture in Ajax. kicking off the night with a pre-screening party and two feature films. This year DRIFF will be offering festivalgoers the chance to indulge their tastebuds in a delicious Local Food Showcase, featuring three chefs from around Durham Region. The night will also feature a panel discussion with film and television industry experts on finance, insurance, and distribution. The feature film for the evening is evening is The Boy in the Woods (Canada), directed by Rebecca Snow. Based on the memoir of the same name, the film follows the true story of Max (Jett Klyne), a Jewish boy escaping Nazi persecution in eastern Europe. The film will be preceded by the short film, Demon Box (Canada). The screening of the second feature film, When Hope Breaks Through (Canada), directed by Matthew Wagner, will follow shortly after. This inspiring documentary follows Whitby’s Mike Shoreman, a former professional paddleboarder and now mental health advocate, who – after contracting Ramsay Hunt syndrome and being told he would never paddleboard again – sets out to raise awareness and funding for the youth mental health crisis in Canada by paddleboarding across all five Great Lakes.

The film has been making the rounds of the festival circuit for the past month after debuting in Toronto September 15 at the Jane Mallet Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts and made its first Durham Region appearance October 10 on World Mental Health Day with a screening at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences.

Mike Shoreman at the debut screening in Toronto in September for When Hope Breaks Through

DAY 3 of DRIFF 2023 will be back in Oshawa at the Biltmore with a free event looking at the world of sound effects in film with a Foley Workshop presented by Footsteps Post-Production Sound Inc. Next, a panel of industry professionals will take the audience behind the scenes with a look into the filmmaking process and a chance to learn about careers in film such as cinematography, music scores, make-up and special effects, production coordination and more. Following the workshops, the doors will re-open for the ticketed event with a homegrown shorts program, including The Fore-Men (Canada), Beyond the Ranch (Canada), Colin Carvey’s Long Halloween (Canada), Not Here, Not There (Canada), Tiger Mom (Canada), and Redlights (Canada). After a short break, the evening will begin with a screening of the feature film Purple Don’t Cry (Canada), directed by Mamoun Hassan. This crime/drama film follows a misguided young man who ignores the advice of a gang leader and begins selling drugs to achieve his dreams of a luxury lifestyle. However, he soon realizes that quick money comes with deadly consequences. The second feature film of the night is Egghead and Twinkie (USA), a coming-of-age LGBTQ+ comedy directed by Sarah Kambe Holland. The film follows an Asian American teenage girl who, after coming out to her parents, takes off on a road trip to meet her online crush with the help of her nerdy best friend. The film will be preceded by the animated short film Frida in the Sky (Canada).

A panel of independent judges will award cash prizes to four films in the following categories: Best Features, Best International Shorts, Best Student Film, Best Canadian Shorts, Best Doc, Best Animation Short, and Best Regional Film. The film winning the People’s Choice Award will be announced on and on DRIFF’s social media platforms (@catchthedriff) following the completion of the virtual screenings on October 28.

Tickets will be affordable at $10 for Day 1 and Day 2 and $15 for Day Three screenings. For more information on tickets and program information check out


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