By James Keller
Now in it’s sophmore year, the Calgary International Film Festival grows constantly each year. From its budget to movie selection to attendance, this year’s festival hopes to be a larger version of what we saw last year, and a small indication of bigger things to come–or at the very least, the possibility of rivalling the more established festivals around the country.
"In some ways we’re like a smaller version of the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver festivals," says Alison Mayes, festival Director of Communications. "I think a lot of Calgarians have been to those festivals and they’ll find a lot of similarities, but hopefully on a more intimate scale."
Mayes points to criticisms that festivals like Toronto’ have become too big and can be overwhelming, while Calgary’s is still small because of its age.
Another aspect setting the festivals apart is the origin of the films.
"We’ve made a point of programming some films with local content," says Mayes. Of the festival’s 67 feature films, 16 are Canadian and seven of those were either made in Calgary, or by Calgarian directors.
However, like the other festivals, the quality of films is still world class, and some productions gracing the screens this week already have an already extensive life beyond Calgary. Films on the schedule include Divided We Fall, nominated for an Oscar against Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Songs From the Second Floor, which won the Jury Prize at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.
"It’s a real variety," says Mayes. "Every film has its own story. In the case of the Canadian ones, most of them are very new, [but] some of these films come with incredible reputations."
Aside from the actual content in the festival, Mayes also points out the large effects on the Calgary arts scene.
"I think festivals are just such a great community thing," she says, adding that this is also a chance for people in Calgary to see movies they otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to see. "Some [of these] films would bypass Calgary. It wouldn’t be part of their distributor’s plan for the film, or no place in Calgary would bring it in."