Reintroducing Niagara to international film for its third consecutive year, the Niagara Integrated Film Festival returned to the most beautiful venues across the Niagara Region with a selection of the best movies from around the world– remaining the not to be missed summer film festival experience. Moviegoers settled into director chairs resting underneath the stars, ready to be swept off their feet by Filmalicious and its unparalleled outdoor movie experience.

Hosted at the renowned Trius Winery in Niagara on the Lake, NIFF could not have chosen a better backdrop for their signature Filmalicious event to premiere All Roads Lead to Rome. Co-presented to the festival through NIFF’s partnership with the Italian Contemporary Film Festival, Filmalicious pairs local wineries and world renowned cuisine with original feature-length films for a night of world class dining and film outside in the vineyard.

As impressive as any event to be held in the region, ticket prices were kept quite low for the screening. Coming in at $35 dollars per person, the ticket included red carpet entrance into the winery, a bag of caramel popcorn, a glass of wine [with a choice of white, red, rose or sparkling to suit every taste bud] a souvenir Trius glass and to top it off an Ikea blanket to keep you snuggled in for the evening.

For $119 dollars per person a five course dinner with wine pairings was offered on premise at Trius’ world class restaurant along with all of the perks of the $35 dollar package.

Once the air finally cooled down [but not enough for any of us to want to unwrap our gift blankets] and everyone was settled in, the evening took off with a number of introductory speeches by honoured guests and NIFF coordinators; including NIFF founder Bill Marshall, Queen’s Representative and Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell and two of the screened film’s starring actors Raoul Bova – also known for his breakout role in Under the Tuscan Sun – and UN Goodwill Ambassador and Italian cinema legend Claudia Cardinale; who play the on screen son and mother duo.

“What a lovely evening,” simply and accurately said Toronto International Film Festival legend Marshall as he welcome the honoured guests to the screening.

“Combining these two industries plays to the strengths of the region,” said Lieutenant Governor Dowdeswell as she touched on Niagara’s rich agriculture and the benefit to having the festival shine such a bright light on the region’s richest assets.

“What could be better than good food, good company and good film under the stars?” said Dowdeswell.

The film, which stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Bova, Paz Vega and Cardinale, was light and sweet – a perfect complement to the Trius sparkling wine being served at the bar. We sipped on wine and snacked on caramel popcorn and chocolate while the slightly uptight Parker and Italian womanizer Bova chased their loved ones – a rebellious teenage daughter and flight-risk mother – who have run away together through Italy on a ramshackle quest towards love and forgiveness.

Taking place in the valleys of Italy and bustling streets of Rome, the movie’s rolling hills were elegantly juxtaposed against Trius’s acres of varietals that rested just behind the erected screen.

Following the film, starring actor Bova sat with the remaining movie goers to answer questions about himself, his career and his past encounters with Sarah Jessica Parker. This intimate question and answer period with one of the main actors of the film was the cherry on top – or really butter to our popcorn – to a truly unique movie experience; celebrating how wonderful and unique the Niagara Region and its film industry has become due to NIFF.

While NIFF has wrapped up for this year, keep an eye out in 2017 for a new and exciting season in 2017!

Written By: Gabrielle Tieman