A Liar's Autobiography is one of the many films featured at this year's Calgary International Film Festival.
courtesy Bill and Ben Productions

The many dimensions of film

The Calgary International Film Festival continues to grow

Publication YearIssue Date 

The time has come once again for Calgary cinephiles to partake in the annual feast of films at the Calgary International Film Festival. Now in its 13th year of deluging the city with celluloid, CIFF is set to dazzle diverse audiences throughout the 11-day affair. With genres ranging from psychotronic cult films to wacky and irreverent comedies, CIFF is sure to satisfy everyone’s cinematic needs.

“There’s a ton of stuff that will appeal to anyone,” says Stephen Schroeder, the new executive director of the festival. Boasting over 150 films this year, from shorts to feature-length presentations, the festival features all types of genres that would pique the interest of even the most particular filmgoer. 

“On an average night there are four or five films playing at a time,” says Schroeder. “You can come down one night with your wild cousin who could go see a blood and guts movie, and your really conservative little old grandmother could see a different movie, and you could go see something intellectual or foreign, and you would all leave satisfied.”

Of all the films featured at this year’s festival, about a third are homegrown. 

“We aim to be the world’s biggest champion of Albertan and Calgarian films,” says Schroeder. This year, Calgarian Kurtis Harder has been nominated for CIFF’s Discovery Award for his film Cody Fitz. The Discovery Award is given to the best emerging artist for their first feature-length film.

Calgarian actor Victoria Maria
plays the lead role in both the Canadian made Kept and the American film Placebo. She recently relocated to New York City, but plans on attending CIFF this year. “They’re really cool,” she says about the premiere of both her films. “Having the premiers in my hometown is great because my family and friends are able to come. It’s really exciting.”

There are opportunities for viewers to participate in recognizing the creative talents of filmmakers throughout the festival. The 
People’s Choice Award allows audiences to select their favourites for the narrative feature, documentary feature, live-action short and animated short categories. 

This year, CIFF is running a spotlight series in 3D. “We’re exploring the world of 3D filmmaking from a bit of a different angle,” says Schroeder. “Most people are used to thinking of 3D film as being the major, multi-million dollar, Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster. But 3D technology is actually beginning to make its way into independent films and even short films.” Some 3D films to look out for at the CIFF are A Liar’s Autobiography, a film about the late Graham Chapman of Monty Python, and the Canadian comedic zombie movie Dead Before Dawn with Christopher Lloyd.

One of the great things about the festival is its accessibility. Students get into films for $11 at the door, or they can purchase a regular ticket for $13 in advance. However, one downside is the high price of the opening and closing galas, which act as fundraisers for the festivals, but also showcase some of the year’s hottest films. 

“In future years I’d like to work to find a way to make the galas more accessible price-wise,” says 
Schroeder, referring to this year’s $75 price tag to Deepa Mehta’s highly anticipated Midnight’s Children. 
“The good news is that films of this magnitude typically have a wide release.”

CIFF runs from September 20–30 at venues throughout downtown. Shows are playing throughout the day, including noon and late night screenings. Film lovers will have to live on a diet of energy drinks in order to get their fill. Even then, they will not fully absorb all the sights and sounds the festival has to offer. 

Here is just a small taste of the amazing films being shown at CIFF this year:

Amour — Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m. at Eau Claire Cineplex

This German/French film won the 2012 Palme d’Or, the most prestigious prize at the Cannes Film Festival, awarded to the best director. The story is about an aging couple holding on to one another against the stark reality of dementia. This is a thought-provoking drama for people who relish smart cinema.

Mars et Avril — Sept. 29, 

7:00 p.m. at Globe Theatre

A sci-fi romance set in a futuristic Montreal, this film will appeal to fans of graphic novelist Martin Villeneuve. Slow-paced and philosophical, the plot revolves around humanity’s mission to finally set foot on Mars. The cast of characters include a man who designs musical instruments in the shape of women’s bodies, an enchanting photographer, a hypnotic musician and an inventor with a holographic head. 

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s 
Graham Chapman — Sept. 23, 7:15 p.m. at Eau Claire Cineplex

Monty Python fanatics will love this lewd, crude 3D animation which presents the presumed memoirs of one of the collective’s departed members. Utilizing a variety of animation styles, this comedy falls into the irreverent category and will have die-hard Monty Python disciples rolling through the aisles.

Midnight’s Children — Sept. 20, 7:00 p.m. at Jubilee Auditorium

For those who can afford the $75 price tag, Midnight’s Children is the film to watch for at this year’s festival. Based on a novel of the same title by Salman Rushdie, the fantastical tale weaves history into the magical lives of two boys born at the same time India became independent from British rule. Another Deepa Mehta classic, this film is highly anticipated.

3–11: In the Moment — Sept. 30, 4:15 p.m. Eau Claire Cineplex

This documentary is shot in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It compiles footage from the Japanese devastation and stories of the individuals who must piece together their homes and lives. Moving and hopeful, the film is an examination of healing after tragedy.