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Photo courtesy Calgary International Film Festival

Travel the world from a theatre seat with the Calgary International Film Festival

By Scott Christensen, September 14 2017 — 

Calgary is gearing up for 12 days of films from around the globe and our own backyard during the 18th annual Calgary International Film Festival. Featuring almost 200 films from a variety of genres, movies will screen daily from Sept. 20 – Oct. 1.

Executive director Steve Schroeder says Calgary Film attendees can expect to see film premieres that may be overlooked by other major film festivals across Canada.

“We have a very high proportion of first-time filmmakers in the festival. As far as the festivals go, we would be one that are more on the edge — promoting, selecting, finding and championing brand new filmmakers not just in Canada but across the world as well,” Schroeder says. “We think that Calgary has its own distinct character as a city — that Calgarians have their own unique and wonderful way at looking at the world and engaging with film.”

Schroeder says that the short films premiering at the festival often contend for Oscar nominations.

“We’re Oscars-qualifying, which means that the winner of our ‘Best of Shorts’ award, which is the jury award for the best short film in the festival overall, is allowed by the Academy to go into contention for the Oscars,” he says. “That’s something we have that not many other Canadian festivals have at all.”

While Calgary Film features films from across the world, Schroeder stresses the importance of supporting local films.

“The work we show comes from across Canada and everywhere, but we do keep a strong chunk of the program for Alberta’s own film and screen industry,” Schroeder says. “What other film festival is going to champion our homegrown local filmmakers and Alberta filmmakers if we’re not doing that?”

Even as Calgary Film grows, Schroeder says that it maintains a high level of interaction between filmmakers and the audience.

“You kind of measure your experience as a general festival-goer by how many velvet [ropes] you cannot get past, how many things you cannot get into and how many filmmakers you couldn’t meet,” he says. “Our whole approach is around the experience of the audience having as close of an interaction with the filmmakers there as possible.”

The continued growth of the festival has allowed for a larger selection when it comes to choosing headliners. According to Schroeder, the festival had a 27 per cent increase in submissions this year.

“Looking at the open submissions and the ones we solicited, we just basically look at and consider all of them equally and the ones that seem to have the biggest excitement around them tend to be the ones we put into headliners,” Schroeder says.

Notably, the opening and closing gala premieres When They Awake on Sept. 20 and Suck It Up on Sept. 30, respectively, were open submissions.

Along with the open submissions, programmers attend other festivals around the globe in order to find the most interesting films to premiere at home.

Calgary Film runs from Sept. 20 – Oct. 1 at seven venues across the city. Passes, information and a list of films are available on the Calgary International Film Festival website.

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