IMAX still selling an experience

Film festival takes viewers around the world and undersea

Gavin McKinney (director of photography)

From burning oil fields in Kuwait, to the peak of Everest, to a 370 km/h drive in an Indy car, this year’s selection for the IMAX Film Festival promises to expand horizons.

For the second year running, IMAX Victoria is bringing in a selection of old favourites and new epic features for the six-week festival, which last year drew in about 49,000 viewers.

Theatre director Paul Wild said people still come to IMAX for one main reason: the experience.

“Just that big screen, and the clarity of images, and just taking you away for 40 or 45 minutes and really putting you there,” Wild said. “I think people still really enjoy it.”

As cinemas switch to digital format, seeing actual film projection is becoming somewhat of a novelty too, especially 70mm. Although IMAX has opened screens in many commercial movie theatres, including SilverCity Victoria and Cineplex Odeon West Shore, those screens are still significantly smaller than the mainstay IMAX Victoria and use digital projectors.

Wild said most people in the industry agree that despite digital projection being cheaper and easier to use, and the technology for it ever improving, it still doesn’t look as good as film.

“One of the attributes of IMAX productions has always been high resolution and the clarity,” Wild said.

One day, as technology improves, IMAX Victoria will make the switch (albeit reluctantly, said Wild), but for now prints for the festival, all in 70mm film, are being brought in from as far away as Ontario, Oregon and Kentucky.

Sharks features up-close encounters with Great Whites, Hammerheads and other species of the great predator as audiences follow a team of ocean explorers observing sharks in their natural habitats throughout the oceans of the world.

Salt Spring Island filmmaker David Douglas’ Academy Award nominated Fires of Kuwait returns, taking viewers into the centre of the out-of-control oil fires that burned following the Persian Gulf War. The film follows the work of firefighters to quell the blazes after retreating Iraqi troops set fire to more than 600 oil wells.

“It was really a powerful film. It was just staggering,” said Wild of Fires of Kuwait. “You could almost feel the heat coming off of the screen. It was very, very amazing.”

Also opening with the festival is Mysteries of the Great Lakes, a journey through the headwaters of Lake Superior to the edge of Lake Ontario, and all the nature, landscapes and history in between.

Returning to IMAX Victoria, due to popular demand, is Everest, the dramatic true story of a team of climbers trekking to the top of the world’s tallest mountain.

Super Speedway puts audiences in the driver’s seat of an Indy car as they zip through the world of championship auto racing. On board cameras capture the cars in action, as Michael Andretti and his Newman/Haas racing team vie for the championship.

Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees runs wild as it follows the famous field researcher and the subject of her studies. The film looks at Goodall’s over 40 years of work with chimps at Gombe Park on Lake Tangayka in Africa and peeks into the daily lives of chimp families.

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