(Publisher’s Note: Originally published in April of 2013)

When Canadian cinema is mentioned, it’s hard for many to come up with a long list of famous film titles. Most Canadian films are fairly low-budget and sparsely distributed. The industry is definitely not as big or as prominent as those in the United States, France, or India. But Canada’s film culture does have notoriety for the promotion of movie projects from other countries. Film festivals in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver have received worldwide acclaim and attention, attracting some of the biggest stars and biggest films. Canada simply does what it does best: promote other cultures — and in this case, through film. But are there events and festivals that focus on promoting Canada itself? Of course, but they are much more low-key and much more interested in promoting the Canadian culture that may be unknown to non-Canadians.

Take The cInéMAGINE Society for example. It’s a Lethbridge, Alberta-based not-for-profit organization that is focused on promoting French films to the surrounding area. Alberta and the Prairies are not very well-known for large amounts of French-Canadian citizens, or even culture for that matter. Compared to large centers like Montreal, it’s nearly non-existent. But cInéMAGINE works hard to make a name for itself by promoting something different for the Francophones and Francophiles of Alberta. The organization is in its tenth year, and has grown (and continues to grow) to allow for better film festivals. Marie-Hélène Lyle has been with the cInéMAGINE for 7 years, and has seen it grow. She has organized festivals in small towns and large cities, attracting audiences who either identify with the Francophone culture, or simply want to learn more. These festivals are open to the general public, and to all ages. Some events have been geared toward children, and others to adults. And on some occasions, film directors and actors have been brought in to speak and help with workshops.

The films shown at these festivals may be hard to find on television or movie providers like Netflix, but they give cInéMAGINE an important reason to exist and flourish. A recently-shown film did happen to have some notoriety — War Witch (or “Rebelle“) was an Oscar-nominated French-Canadian film about an African child solider. Other types of Canadian cinema have included children’s films, short films, and full-length features. Marie says it all depends on the type of audience and type of event.

And why show French films in places that aren’t predominantly French-speaking? Marie says many French-speaking residents find it a great service and easily-identifiable. Film buffs and/or students get an outlet to watch and learn about different types of filmmaking. And finally, it gives others a chance to widen their perspective on the world. And it’s not just in Alberta that foreign film festivals like these are taking place. They exist in all forms across the world, promoting different cultures to different people. Not only do these films provide knowledge and entertainment, but they bring us closer together and let us see and understand our world a bit better.

Coming up in 2013 for cInéMAGINE is a short film festival (appropriately titled, The Shorty Film Festival), which begins May 24th. It will showcase a mixture of English and French short films, while the audience enjoys traditional French-Canadian poutine. For more information on those French films, and what cInéMAGINE showcases and promotes, please visit www.cinemagine.net/.

But foreign film festivals aren’t only about widening the interest or knowledge of French culture in Canada. There are many other communities that have some form of club or organization determined to spread films from around the world. So it’s up to you, wherever you may live, to seek out and find events and programs from dedicated organizations like cInéMAGINE, and to learn and take what you can from them.