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Photo courtesy CIFF

CIFF 2022 in a nutshell

By Sheroog Kubur, Nimra Amir, Amanda Wilson, October 27 2022——

The Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) is the most coveted event for film enjoyers across the city, and this year’s iteration did not disappoint. CIFF continued to support the hybrid model of having both in-person and online screenings of limited titles, but overall the festival had a new life injected into it. While it’s nearly impossible to catch everything that CIFF had to offer this year, there were a couple of highly anticipated releases and some underground favourites, and each of them were well worth the time. 


Kikino Kids, dir. Billy Bilinsky —  5/5

This Alberta short perfectly captured the rose-coloured experiences of a day in the life of a kid in a tight-knit community. It was goofy and silly, but perfectly encapsulated the feeling of being  surrounded by a world you have yet to explore. The on-screen cast ages ranged from 5–12 years, each telling stories from different perspectives. The scenes felt like a vignette back into your childhood — counting coins to buy something from the convenience store or daring your friends to go explore the home with the crazy owner. The short’s cinematography shone the most in this film by making the sky seem bluer and the grass greener. While the actors were endearing in their portrayal, having shots that mimicked a store clerk watching them peruse the aisles and an aunt chasing them through the hallways really sold the experience.                                                                            

It’s hard to come by movies that offer pure escapism these days, with the market being saturated with gritty realism and thinly-veiled political commentaries, but this short offered the antidote to that. Each story was just kids being kids in their own silly way — it was never forced or boring. The atmosphere was a community coming together to work on a project, and that kind of energy can’t be commodified. It was a reminder to not take life so seriously and just laugh sometimes. 

Photo courtesy of CIFF

Emily, dir. Frances O’Connor —  4/5

Emily is the type of movie you watch curled up at home while the wind is biting outside. The film felt cold and distant from the titular character, Emily Brontë, author of her only novel, Wuthering Heights. This stylistic choice captured the essence of the story perfectly as it was a tale of a woman who was misunderstood her whole life. Emma Mackey portrayed this version of Brontë beautifully, embodying the energy of an estranged young woman who doesn’t quite fit in with the expectations of society. But rather than her being a defiant and confident character who actively fights against societal expectations, she’s awkward and uninviting. The film was faithful to the depictions of her by her sister Charlotte and didn’t stray away from the author’s perceived persona. 

The film chose to understand Brontë by the relationships in her life, first with her sister, then brother, then with her secret lover. The heavy contrast between her relationships with Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling)and her brother Branwell (Fionn Whitehead) was jarring — while both encouraged her to live her life on her own terms, one was filled with careful expression and the other with lethal hedonism. Her later romance with William Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) was intense and passionate, but wasn’t as emotionally evocative as the earlier depictions of her. This film was a looking glass into Brontë’s life and dipped its toe into a multitude of different stories without straying too far from the source, which made it both entertaining and palatable. 


I Like Movies, dir. Chandler Levack — 5/5

Chandler Levack’s I Like Movies set in early-2000s Burlington, Ontario is a funny but touching coming-of-age feature debut that follows teenage cinephile Lawrence Kweller (Isaiah Lehtinen). 

Unlike the rest of his fellow peers at high school — or “idiots” — who will probably enroll in some Canadian university to take tourism or business management, Kweller has big plans to enroll in New York University’s (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts once he graduates. That is when his life will truly begin and until then, everything else is just a placeholder. 

Levack perfectly balanced Kweller’s character with humour so that he is likeable no matter how pretentious he gets. 

Throughout the number of outbursts and arguments with everyone from his mom (Krista Bridges), to his manager (Romina D’Ugo), that force Kweller to accept that his life will truly begin when he wants it to — whether that is at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts or not — you cannot help but empathize with him. After all, even if you are not a “film bro,” growing into yourself is not easy for most. A universal feeling that was captured so originally without the American football matches against rival high schools or homecoming scenes that most coming-of-age movies fall back on.

Photo courtesy of CIFF

Broker, dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda — 4/5

The Busan Family Church, home to one of the many “baby boxes” disseminated across South Korea, is under tight surveillance from detectives Lee (Lee Joo-young), and Ji-Sun (Bae Doona), who are hoping to crack down on suspected illegal child trafficking. They just happen to be in luck one rainy night when the baby left by young mother So-young (Lee Ji-eun), is stolen by brokers Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won). 

When the mother returns for the baby the next day, she is left with very little choice but to join the brokers in finding the baby a suitable home among their network of wealthy parents.

It is no surprise after starring in Parasite that Song is a powerful lead actor but it is Gang who stands out as the perfect counterpart to his more self-interested partner. Throughout the movie, we see him develop fully throughout each part of their trip. He is not just a broker for the profit, he is one so he can do the right thing — to help children find a home that he never got. A point of resentment that without any forcefulness he comes to terms with when he sees the hardships of a mother like his who has chosen to abandon her son. A powerful moment, among many, in the beautifully slow-paced movie.

Photo courtesy of CIFF


Decision To Leave, dir. Park Chan-Wook — 4/5

Acclaimed South Korean director Park Chan-wook has returned with his latest film, Decision To Leave to leave fans and moviegoers stunned once again.

The film chronicles a sleep deprived but dedicated detective, Hae-joon (Park Hae-Il), and a recent widow, Seo-rae (Tang Wei), who has become the prime suspect in her husband’s case. However, tensions arise when Seo-rae’s allure obscures Hae-joon’s professional judgement.

Decision To Leave has been described as the most Hitchcockian-style film that is not by Alfred Hitchcock. While the pressure between the two leads boils over in a traditional manner — the film is built as a highly unique puzzle that is bursting with motifs and symbols that are begging to be solved. Another highlight of the film is its clever incorporation of dry yet sharp humour. The script is wonderfully sculpted and the elements of humour are the details to provide life to a murder mystery. The charm of Decision To Leave is its ability to equally urge its viewers to laugh, think and tear up.

Decision To Leave is as heart-wrenching as it is hilarious. The film is a worthy addition to Park’s catalogue and is one to be revisited over time.

Seeing the hoards of lines outside each theatre was a comforting return to something we haven’t been able to experience for a while. CIFF is a place where film enthusiasts, casual viewers and people who happen to be at the right place at the right time can go to see something mesmerizing. Interacting with some local directors and seeing the film community come out was special, and it’s an experience that everyone should take advantage of.

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