Seven years of international film

Five screens. Ten days. An assload of movies. Starting up at the end of the month, the Calgary International Film Festival roars proudly into it’s seventh year.

Starting out in 1999 as a barely-notable blip on the scene for film nerds, the CIFF has since evolved into the fourth largest film fest in the country. Featuring films by critically-acclaimed directors like Pedro Almoldevar and Jim Jarmusch, the CIFF has come a long way since it’s days as an outlet exclusively for struggling indie filmmakers.

“Independent is becoming harder to define,” says Jacqueline Dupuis, the executive director of the festival. “You’ve got big actors and producers in smaller films now, so the lines are kind of blurred. Perhaps it’s just focusing on content versus any one specific initiative. I guess when I say that, I mean independent productions often end up taking the stage as blockbusters.”

Despite it’s growing mass-appeal, film snobs still have plenty to look forward to. Screenings of Volver, Comeback Season and The Last Door are sure to give beret-clad wankers plenty of material they can talk about loudly while wandering around video stores and criticizing mainstream movies before leaving empty-handed.

“I think that we’re really seeing a crossover in terms of independent films and more established directors and filmmakers,” says Dupuis. “David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence is technically an independent film, but it was also a massive hollywood blockbuster.”

One of the original purposes of film festivals was to act as an ‘in’ for small-time filmmakers into the nigh-impenetrable fortress of hollywood production. As film festivals have expanded, though, it’s become harder and harder for the little guy to get optioned by major production houses. With big-time filmmakers running the festival cuircuit for ‘indie cred,’ Dupuis insists the CIFF breaks away from this mould.

“Right now, nobody comes here to get a film optioned or promoted,” says Dupuis. “We just want to get the film festival out there and make sure Calgarians know about it. It’s amazing how many people don’t know there’s an international film festival right here in the city.”

On top of it’s greater breadth, the CIFF is also featuring a series of films in tandem with a lecture from U of C english professor Roderick McGillis on the recent revival of the ‘cowboy cool’ image. The films featured will include Dead Man, West World, and Johnny Guitar, illustrating why it’s suddenly bad ass to shine a six-shooter again.

“When we think about our festival and what’s going to put us on the map in terms of the global festival scene, Alberta is one of the best places in the world for western filmmaking,” says Dupuis. “We just thought: lets make a commitment to that genre and show the public what the western is all about. Let’s develop it into something we’re well known for. It’s not that we just shoot westerns here in Alberta, that’s just one of the things we do really well.”

With a more robust lineup, more screens than past years and ever-increasing national-renown, the seventh annual CIFF promises to be one of the most defining Calgarian cultural events. Quickly becoming noteworthy with not just Calgarians, but also the international film community, Dupuis is excited for the festival’s potential.

“Based on feedback that I’ve recieved, I think we’re ahead of the game in terms of things coming together on time,” says Dupuis. “We’ve been a bit more methodical and a bit more organized. The festival has been pretty well received by film lovers all over the city, now it’s just getting it noticed by everyone else.”

Recommended viewing

Volver– Early reviews of the latest from acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almoldevar have been glowing, to say the least. A dramady following the story of a ghost who returns to her home town to right the wrongs of her life, and quickly becomes a comfort to her daughters (played by Penelope Cruz and Lola Duenas). Screens Sat., Sept., 30, 6:30 p.m. at the Uptown Stage and Screen.

Fuck– A documentary about the most famous of the four-letter words. Fuck penetrates deep into the culture that perpetuates the use of the versatile expletive, and features interviews with the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Kevin Smith and Ice-T. Screens Wed., Sept., 27, 6:45 p.m. at the Uptown Stage and Screen.

Mo & Me– A documentary about the famous photojournalist, Mohamed Amin, and his truthful, startling coverage of 20th century African history. Already the winner of several awards, Mo & Me is produced by the son of the famous journalist it features. Screens Sat., Sept., 23, 3:30 p.m. at the Uptown Stage and Screen.

Comeback Season– Starring Ray Liotta, Comeback Season is the story of an unfaithful husband and injured football star as they try to reconcile their differences and help one another regain what they’ve lost. Written and directed by former Kids in the Hall writer/director/actor Bruce McCullough, Comeback Season promises to be a witty, dark exploration of what it means to be a failure. Screens Sat. Sept., 23, 7 p.m. at the Uptown Stage and Screen as part of the Camera Gala.

Candy– Based on the novel of the same name, Candy is a love story about two heroin addicts. Described by Rolling Stone as “A film of lyrical beauty.” Screens Thur., Sept., 28, 9:30 p.m. at the Globe Theatre.

Abominable– a B-ish looking movie about an agoraphobic mountain climber fighting a yeti. In other words: awesome. Screens Sat., Sept., 23, 11:59 p.m. at the Uptown Stage and Screen.

Sneakers– A documentary about, well, Sneakers. Take them for granted no longer. Screens Tues., Sept. 19 at 5 p.m. in MFH 162, free to university students, or Fri., Sept. 29, 8:45 p.m. at the Uptown Stage and Screen.

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