Calgary International Film Festival Celebrates Its Fifteenth Run And I Get To Be There!


I am about to do something crazy – over the course of eleven days, between September 18th and 28th, I am going to try to see way too many movies from around the world and tell you about them.

Why? Because the Calgary International Film Festival is about to begin – and because, although it may not have the cachet of the Toronto International Film Festival, it has, over fourteen editions, provided a host of noteworthy films that have gone on to win awards, rack up critical acclaim and achieve hit or cult status everywhere. More following the jump.

This year, there CIFF will present 89 feature films and 98 shorts – productions or co-productions from over 40 countries including but not limited to: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Israel, Nigeria, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Turkey, the United Kingdom (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales), the United States and Venezuela.

There will be features already grabbing awards and critical acclaim – Whiplash (the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Awards), God Help The Girl (Sundance Special Jury Prize, World Cinema), Jalanan (Best Documentary, Busan International Film Festival), Little Spartan (Micul Spartan – Free Spirit Award, Warsaw International Film Festival), and features no one has heard of yet, but will shortly – like Teen Lust – a Canadian sacrificial virgin tale with a unique twist and a cast that includes True Blood’s Kristin Bauer van Straten, Spy Kids’ Daryl Sabara and The Dread Pirate Roberts himself, Cary Elwes.

For its fifteenth festival, there are some pretty high expectations for CIFF – after all, it has more than tripled its attendance from its first go in 2000, and it has featured some impressive lineups for a festival not located in Toronto, Sundance, New York or Cannes.

This year, for example, there were 1,100 films (shorts and features) that had to be whittled down to, by my count, 187 total selections and, judging by some of the titles selected – and the filmmakers represented – the choices reached could not have been easy.

Speaking of filmmakers, Jean-Luc Godard and David Cronenberg (both legends in their own lifetimes), have films at CIFF – Godard’s Goodbye to Language (Adieu au Language) and Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars are being featured. And films starring Dustin Hoffman (Boychoir) and the triumvirate of Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher) are sure to draw full houses.

CIFF may be an international festival – insofar as it programs films from around the world – but it also maintains a firmly local side, too. A number of the films programmed this year are either shot by Alberta filmmakers, or filmed here. The opening night gala features The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet which was shot in Alberta and has an international cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter (Howards End, The King’s Speech), Judy Davis (Barton Fink, The Starter Wife) and Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica, 24, Due South).

Prior commitments might keep me from seeing everything I want to – and I’ll be doing well to get to between twenty and twenty-five of the eighty-seven feature films. By concentrating mostly on films that are flying under the radar, I hope to luxuriate in the cinematic experience and uncover some hitherto unsuspected gems – and then share them with you.

MovieMaker calls CIFF ‘one of the  top 25 film festivals in the world worth your entry fee.’ I aim to prove them right over the next week-and-a-half.


Let the adventure begin!