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Calgary Film Festival lineup stacked with international and local talent

By Rachel Woodward, September 8 2016 —

As the Calgary International Film Festival draws near, the city prepares for the annual 12-day showcase of international, local and experimental films.

Now in its 17th year, the festival will show over 200 films under categories including documentary, music on screen, short film and world cinema. Different days focus on different categories.

While films are brought from countries including Libya, Peru, Israel and Ukraine, CIFF executive director Steve Schroeder says that this year’s festival has a special emphasis on Alberta-grown film.

“There are some big new things and big new themes. One of the things is that we are really seeing are increases in the numbers of really strong Alberta films and short films in the festival,” he says. “We are and will remain the type of festival that will show every type of genre from as many places in the world as we can — but it is very interesting to see our own Alberta industry and filmmakers really emerge.”

Some Alberta-specific showings include Alberta Spirit 2016, a collection of short films to be shown at Theatre Junction GRAND on September 25. The films showcase short stories from prairie musicals to Brett Kissel’s rise to stardom. Aboriginal storytelling is also a theme. Directed by Kelton Stepanowich — Gods Acre — tells the tale of the rising water around traditional lands and an isolated man grappling with the decision to leave or stay.

On October 1, Canadian TV classic Heartland will screen its 10th season premiere as a part of the festival. The event will feature a collection of fan activities including a Q&A with the cast and red carpet event on Stephen Avenue.

Schroeder says that involving fans in behind-the-scene features of films is an important goal of the festival.

“Our new behind-the-screen series is a whole range of programming that is off the screens for audiences to connect with the makers of the films. [So it] ranges from a tour of the new Calgary Film Centre to things like [Andrew Simpson], who is one of the most famous wolf trainers in the world [and] is right here in Alberta. He trains the wolves in Game of Thrones, so we are having panel discussions with him,” he says. “We are always looking for more ways for filmmakers themselves to be in direct contact with the fans.”

Highlights of this year’s festival include an animated short film titled Window Horses, starring the voices of Sandra Oh and Ellen Page. Feature films will premiere as headliners and screenings will present many familiar faces to audiences.

Burn Your Maps, a film directed by Jordan Roberts, stars Jacob Tremblay from Room and Vera Farmiga. It will show at Eau Claire on September 23.

Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams star together in Manchester by the Sea. The film tells the story of Lee Chandler, a man forced to take care of his 16-year-old nephew after the death of his brother. The film is produced by Matt Damon.

“The thing about a film festival is that it is a mind blowing range of vision and styles. We are an audience-focused festival,” says Schroeder. “We want to connect a wide range of film lovers and regular everyday people to this incredible world of cinema that’s being made out there. My objectives for the festival are to create an environment where every aspect of attending the festival feels special.”

Tickets for CIFF are available online.

For more information, visit calgaryfilm.com

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