The Okanagan Film Festival International had been slated to start its four-day run on Thursday at Kelowna’s Paramount Theatre, which has hosted the festival for several years.
But this year’s program includes the movie Donkey Love, a documentary about village life in remote parts of Colombia where men have sex with donkeys.
It has screened at four film festivals around the world and won the best documentary award at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival.
After local media reported on the film’s inclusion last week, outrage quickly spread over social media.
"I’ve had the craziest week," said festival organizer Jeremy Heymen. "I honestly cannot believe it. This is so surreal to me, that a documentary would upset so many people. It blows my mind."
Theatre refuses to screen film 'of that nature'
Paramount Theatre manager Sarah McFernie said the theatre had yet to finalize an agreement to host this year’s festival when the theatre’s parent company, Landmark Cinemas, learned about the festival’s plans.
“Now our theatre has other commitments it has to fulfill so we can’t play [the festival]," she said. "But our head office said that they would never agree to play that film, a film of that nature even, so it was the final straw."
The decision left Heyman scrambling to find a new venue with a week to go or be forced to cancel the festival.
He says he was approached by a group of students from UBC Okanagan, who asked him to move the festival to a theatre on the university’s Kelowna campus.
Heyman said he hoped to finalize an agreement to do so by Wednesday afternoon. If he’s successful, the festival will be shortened by a day and start on Friday.
Donkey Love remains on the program and its filmmaker, Daryl Stoneage, plans to be at the screening. He says the outrage over his movie is misplaced.
"It seems a little bit much for a documentary," he said.
"The film is a well made film, it’s a well researched film. We interview animal rights activists, police officers, lawyers, doctors, history professors, musicians. We even interview a guy who wrote a book on the topic. I think people are forgetting that this actually is a documentary."
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