June 20, 2014 6:44 pm

TIFF founder pairing wine and film at Niagara festival

TORONTO  – The man who founded the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is now trying to pair films with fine wine at the inaugural Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF).

Bill Marshall helped build TIFF into a premier event for filmmakers and actors and is now putting his stamp on a brand new festival in Niagara on the Lake.

“There used to be a time when Niagara wine was in a box,” Marshall said. “They hoisted those all out, they brought in the best wine makers.”

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He admits this inaugural season of NIFF is not a star-studded event but says the filmsare of the highest quality.

“We only wanted the best,” he said.

Films are screened at several locations in Niagara, including six wineries.  Massive, inflatable projection screens blend with row upon row of grapevines to create a backdrop unlike any commercial theatre.

“It’s the elite drive-in,” Michelle Brisebois, the estate manager of Trius Winery said. “You can sit with your glass of wine and the breeze is blowing, the vineyards are there – its magical.”

Trius debuted one of Marshall’s top picks, a feature documentary Restrung. Marshall says he believes the film marks the launch of a successful career for filmmaker, Mike Enns.

“You can say you heard it here first,” Marshall said.

There are several world premieres at the festival including Ribbit, a 3D animated film.  Ribbit was written and directed by voice actor, Chuck Powers and stars Canadian comedian, Russell Peters, as well as American actor Sean Astin.

“Few people know this – I actually wrote that character with Russell in mind,” Powers said.  “So when I’m writing the lines, I’m imaging Russell saying them.”

Peters recorded the voice at a studio in Los Angeles and, according to Powers, the first day didn’t go so wellbecause Peters was battling a flu.

“He came back – and it was amazing,” Powers said. “It was like a dream come true.”

Having world-class films among the artistic minds that develop award winning wines is a dream come true for Brisebois.

“This is one of the most creative places on earth, so to have such a creative endeavour as NIFF here, is a perfect fit,” she said.

NIFF and TIFF founder, Bill Marshall couldn’t agree more, wine-makers are like film-makers he said.

“I think they are artists,” he said.

The festival runs from June 19-22.

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