The Chilliwack Independent Film Festival will begin this week, nearly two months after it was originally scheduled to take place.
Organizers delayed the event due to the impact of the devastating floods that struck the Fraser Valley in mid-November.
The flooding directly affected some of the festival’s volunteers, and it also cut off Chilliwack from both Metro Vancouver and the Interior, which made it all the more impossible for the event to continue, according to festival director Taras Groves.
"We’re essentially a destination festival," Groves told CTV News. "Fifty per cent of all our tickets are usually from outside of Chilliwack."
He said he was personally lucky to avoid damage from the flooding.
"Water came right up to our doors," Groves said. "It was definitely a surreal and scary experience."
The in-person portion of the festival begins on Friday, Jan. 14. Over three days, organizers will screen 40 films in 10 screening blocks at the Cottonwood Cinema in Chilliwack. Attendance is limited to 50 per cent of capacity because of B.C.’s current COVID-19 rules.
After the in-person screenings, a virtual festival will run from Jan. 17 to 30, allowing those with tickets to watch all of the festival’s offerings online from the comfort of their homes.
Half of the proceeds from all tickets – in-person and virtual – will be donated to flood relief efforts.
Groves said there was no question for organizers that donating proceeds was the right thing to do.
"I think it puts things in perspective, you know?" he said of the flooding.
"It’s a stressful thing, being a nonprofit ourselves and trying to run a film festival. It’s all 100 per cent done by volunteers. We volunteer our time. But then something like the flooding happens and it really just kind of grounds you. It makes you want to try and give back to the community after they’ve tried to support us so much."
Ticket sales are typically one of the primary sources of income for the festival, but Groves said he’s not concerned about the reduced revenue this year.
"We’ll cope," he said. "It’s not about making money. It’s about providing the platform for artists to have their stories heard and obviously bringing stories and filmmakers to Chilliwack." 
More information on the Chilliwack Independent Film Festival can be found on its website.
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