In 2018, the first of its kind vegan film festival started. It was called the Ottawa International Vegan Film Festival, and it took place in Canada’s capital. At the time, it was the only known vegan film festival in the world. The founder, Shawn Stratton, was a vegan with a dream of expanding media geared towards those living a plant-based lifestyle.
“One of the reasons I started the International Vegan Film Festival was to help people discover outstanding vegan-themed films they had not heard of before or may never had an opportunity to see. I also wanted to give vegan-themed filmmakers another platform to highlight their work to more audiences.” – Shawn Stratton, Founder of IVFF
With a slight name-change, The International Vegan Film Festival (IVFF) was born. The festival began to get worldwide media attention as time went on.
Every year since the festival’s creation, both professional and amateur filmmakers have submitted their work. The beauty of the festival is that it creates an unprecedented occasion for filmmakers to showcase content that may otherwise be ignored at more mainstream film festivals.
“This is also a unique opportunity for the talented vegan filmmakers in the festival to showcase their work to a large audience,” Shawn says.
The IVFF proves that vegan ideology is diverse and international. Since 2018, the festival has seen film submissions from all around the world in a variety of different languages, genres, styles, and themes. Both feature-length and short films are screened as well. Regardless of genre, the movies shown are thought-provoking, eye-catching, and sometimes controversial.
In 2019, the International Vegan Film Festival screened a piece called ‘Casa de Carne,’ a short film about a man forced to slaughter his own pig at a restaurant. The film immediately went viral, prompting discussions and forums everywhere about the ethics of animal consumption. Presently, the short feature is on YouTube, with nearly three million views and counting.
Another film that pulled at the audience’s heartstrings was ‘Gold Doesn’t Rust,’ an in-depth look at the animals stuck in a lifestyle as test subjects for biomedical research.
Regardless of whether the films are hard-hitting documentaries or light-hearted animations, the International Vegan Film Festival seeks to give viewers a new way of thinking: one that prioritizes a lifestyle without animal consumption for a variety of different reasons.
Shawn says the goal of the IVFF is simple:
“To be the leading film festival for vegan films that inspire people to choose a healthier, more environmentally-friendly and compassionate lifestyle through the consumption of plants and animal-free alternatives.” – Shawn Stratton, Founder of IVFF
Through films like 2019’s ‘Casa de Carne’ and ‘Gold Doesn’t Rust,’ the International Vegan Film Festival has gained media popularity and brought vegan creators to new heights. It didn’t take long before people from all over the world were interested in screening their own vegan film festival. This gave Shawn the idea to take the festival on a world tour.
The concept came from the idea that while the festival was physically based in Ottawa, Canada, people from all over the world were submitting and taking an enthusiastic interest in the festival.
The International Vegan Film Festival World Tour gave anyone the chance to host a two hour ‘best of the best’ screening of the short films submitted to the Festival. The IVFF World Tour screenings are organized by local hosts who purchase a license to hold a screening in their community. The locally-hosted screenings may be organized by vegan advocacy organizations, businesses, events, theatres, clubs, and by any passionate vegan who can round up an audience.
Hosting the ‘Best Of’ World Tour is a great way to share the excitement, raise money, and create or strengthen local partnerships while inspiring vegans to maintain the lifestyle, and to start a discussion and educate those who are vegan-curious.
When the World Tour first launched, Shawn said he was “very excited to give audiences around the world an opportunity to view a diverse collection of vegan-themed films in the screening.”
Every year, the International Vegan Film Festival is accompanied by a photo essay contest. The contest has one message: tell a story using the three to five images. The photos can cover a comprehensive arrangement of categories such as lifestyle, health, and nutrition, animal welfare, or environmental protection.
Shawn believes this is a creative way to get more people participating in the Festival.
“A photo essay is a collection of images that tell a story and propel a narrative over multiple images. Photo essays often create a series of emotions in the viewer and are a powerful way to tell a story without relying heavily on text.” – Shawn Stratton
IVFF’s photo essay contest opens opportunities for vegan photographers to be showcased in addition to vegan filmmakers.
Both the film festival and photo contest continued on during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the 2020 festival events were transitioned to be completely virtual. During the strange pandemic times, viewers attend the festival virtually, watching the films presented from anywhere in the world.
The International Vegan Film Festival is made possible with the generous help from sponsors and volunteers. For more information on the festival and how to get involved, submit films and photo essays, participate in the festival, and more, visit the website!