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Calgary International Film Festival shows diverse films from Canada and abroad

By Danielle Kim, September 24, 2015 —

The Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) is gearing up for its 16th annual year. The 12-day festival starts on Sept. 23 and brings a lineup of over 200 international and Canadian films to Eau Claire Cineplex and Globe Cinema.

Since the festival’s inception in 2000, CIFF has experienced a tremendous increase in popularity. Attendance grew by 42 per cent last year, resulting in a turnout of nearly 30,000. Despite the spike in moviegoers, executive director Steve Schroeder says the festival hasn’t strayed from its philosophy of showcasing movies purely for the enjoyment of the public.

“We’re a festival that’s first and foremost an audience festival,” Schroeder says. “We’re here for the general public — regular people who love movies — to come and celebrate the best of what’s being produced in the world right now, Our focus on the audience has gotten more and more clear.”

The festival has evolved to complement its increasing popularity, and moviegoers may end up getting more than they bargained for at screenings. CIFF has organized pop-up performances and concerts between certain films to keep the crowd entertained and engaged. The idea began as a pilot project last year with performances at roughly half the screenings. Schroeder says CIFF hopes to expand on the idea in coming years so that even those waiting in line for popcorn can be entertained.

“People are at a festival so we want to make it as vibrant as possible. Let’s fill up every corner that we can with something thematically related to what’s on screen,” Schroeder says.

There’s a film for everyone at CIFF this year. Some particularly noteworthy films like Green Room — a crime thriller in which Patrick Stewart portrays a neo-Nazi who owns a punk-rock club — have already made a splash at the Toronto International Film Festival.

CIFF also places importance on celebrating Canadian film, so keep an eye out for Sleeping Giant — a coming-of-age drama and the first feature film directed by Ontarian Andrew Cividino.

To ease audience selection, films are organized into easily recognizable categories. Though feature films may garner most of the attention at CIFF, Schroeder advises festival-goers not to count out the short film packages, which include eight or nine consecutive short films focused on a central theme.

“We have a really, really loyal and rabid short film audience. Those people are rabid about shorts because they’re so fun to go to,” he says.

The complete festival lineup and schedule is posted on the CIFF website. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office located on the main floor of Eau Claire Market.

Schroeder has a piece of advice for those who may feel overwhelmed by the vast selection.

“Don’t be intimidated by the amount of content. Just focus on the ones that jump out at you and take a risk,” he says. “Maybe it’s going to be one of the best films you’ve ever seen.”

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