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On with the shows: Film Fest lineup has global feel

Category: Beowulf & Grendel News
Article Date: September 9, 2005 | Publication: The Calgary Herald (Alberta) | Author: Alexandra Burroughs, with files from Tom Babin, Calgary Herald, Calgary Herald

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Break out the popcorn -- Calgary's annual celebration of movies is upon us. And this year, you might want to break out a little something extra with that popcorn -- try dahl, some hangikjot, and a side of ginger beef, all topped off with a layer of maple syrup.

That's because this year's Calgary International Film Festival is showcasing something that is quintessentially ours -- Canadian filmmakers telling international stories.

Be it our status as a nation of immigrants or simply our global curiosity, the festival -- bringing its biggest lineup ever to city screens this month -- features movies from a handful of Canadian directors telling tales from all over the world.

For proof, look at the festival's bookends. The opening film is Canadian director Deepa Mehta's Water, set in India, starring Canadian Lisa Ray. The closing film is Beowulf & Grendel, an ancient Anglo-Saxon tale retold by a Canadian-Icelandish director, shot in Iceland, starring Canadian Hollywood darling Sarah Polley.

"Our filmmakers look to other countries and continents when they're making their films. As Canadians, I think we see ourselves as one of many," says festival director David Marelli. "We're much more like a European country, unlike, say, the States, where they tend to look inward."

When you've got more than 450 films over 10 days, however, there's plenty of all types of film to chew on.

The sixth annual festival runs from Sept. 23 through Oct. 2, kicking off with the opening night gala screening of Water, which is the third in an elemental trilogy that began with Fire (1996) and Earth (1998). The Canadian writer/director will be in attendance at the Globe Cinema opening night with the film's star Ray.

"Calgarians love the movies," says CIFF director David Marrelli of the festival's strategy in 2005. "One of the reasons why the Toronto film festival succeeded early on is that the film goers are really intelligent and enthusiastic. Our city is the same.

"On one hand, I don't want to be presumptuous and say that we're going to be in the same league as Toronto, but I think we have in the same spirit, the same love of film."

Now in its 30th year, TIFF is known as the world's premiere film festival, hosting a bevy of stars, red carpet events and film premieres. With Brad Pitt, Matthew Perry and Robert Duvall in town filming movies, CIFF may get some impromptu red carpet action. But with the festival still in its infancy, it has made an effort to pick movies based on merit rather than star power.

The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico will be featured at a Honky Tonk Gala Sept. 24 at the Uptown Theatre. The mocumentary, starring Matt Murphy, Ronnie Hawkins, Levon Helm, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson, tells of the rise and fall of fictional country singer Guy Terrifico, featuring some legendary real-life performers.

It wouldn't be Alberta if we didn't do a special shout out to the oil industry so festival programmers have introduced the Big Energy Gala, which will feature a special screening of Pay Dirt: The Alberta Oil Sands, a documentary about the provincial oil industry's role on the worldwide stage.

The festival will close with Beowulf & Grendel, starring Gerard Butler and directed by renowned Icelandic director Sturla Gunnarsson, who may be in attendance. Adapted from the ancient epic poem, the medieval adventure tells the blood-soaked tale of a warrior's battle against the great and murderous troll.

This year, CIFF received a record 1,055 submissions, from which programmers selected 48 Canadian films, including a six-feature spotlight on Quebec, and 50 world cinema films, including Breakfast on Pluto starring Liam Neeson and Spider-Man 2 star Cillian Murphy.

Other Film Festival highlights:

- World cinema including The Conformist, written and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci; Hidden, starring Juliette Binoche; Yes, starring Joan Allen and The Beautiful Country starring Nick Nolte,

- Alberta-made movies including Six Figures, written and directed by David Christensen; and Waking Up Wally: The Walter Gretzky Story, made in Alberta. The screening will be attended by Walter Gretzky.

- 15 American Independents, including Capote, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman; Happy Endings, starring Lisa Kudrow and Maggie Gyllenhaal; and the much talked about Junebug.

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