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FIN Atlantic International Film Festival 2017

Chris Campbell

With a rebrand and taking over the Park Lane cinema screens, the 2017 edition of the FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival was a solid week of films and this year I focussed on features and dove right in by seeing 24 films. There is always something great about seeing a film with an appreciative audience and seeing films that you don't know a lot about. It's the essence of the festival experience as you share films and when you immerse yourself in it, the outside world starts to fade away a bit.

The Square

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The film that I talked about the most and kept thinking about was Ruben Östlund’s The Square, a dark satire of the art world that built upon the carefully-constructed and more tightly-focussed Force Majeure. Art is an easy target, but Östlund plays with expectations right from the beginning with the inciting incident showing how people respond to each other when there is a crisis. After a cleverly staged pickpocketing of the main character (an art curator played by Claes Bang) his privileged life becomes chaotic as he seeks to find those who stole his phone, wallet, and cufflinks. In a series of increasingly strange and uncomfortable interactions we see the agreements between each other for the social norms that allow us to live together start to fray.

Overall the cast is great at their deadpan and strange interactions with a memorable supporting performance by Elisabeth Moss as a journalist and Dominic West’s appearance as a boundary-pushing artist. Terry Notary is at the core of the most memorable and uncomfortable scene in the film as a performance artist who disrupts a black tie dinner. But it's Bang's cool narcissistic performance as the art curator that is at the core of the film as we watch him always stop just short of what is right as things get increasingly out of control. It's darkly funny and goes right up to the line of what is acceptable and what is not as we watch in horror with the fear of something horrible happening lurking in the background. The film is so carefully balanced that there was a twin sense of anxiety as the film progressed with my empathy for the character blending with the fervent hope that Östlund wouldn't make a misstep later in the film and thankfully he walked the tightrope brilliantly.

Faces, Places

”Chance has always been my best assistant." – Agnès Varda

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The film I anticipated the most and also loved was Agnès Varda’s collaboration with JRFaces, Places (Visages, Villages) which was what I expected and more. Following the same casual structure of her other documentaries, this time with the perspective of JR included it allowed for some more personal moments with Varda. On the surface it's a bit of a road movie where they take portraits and print them out in large format and paste them on walls. It's about people and their stories and a fascinating glimpse at different people that is brilliantly structured as everything comes together at the end in a surprisingly moving way. Varda has an almost supernatural ability to find a story and structure it in a way that seems casual and random until the true structure emerges.

The Other Side of Hope

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With The Other Side of Hope, Aki Kaurismaki covers some familiar territory, but still manages to keep it interesting. Narratively he shifts things a bit with the world outside of his quirky, colourful collection of odd characters coming in a bit more through the story of the Syrian refugee (played by Sherwan Haji)who accidentally arrives in Finland and seeks asylum. As usual, Kaurismaki takes his time and portrays the characters with deadpan scenes carefully composed and look like they are from a Technicolor film from the 1950s. The colours are offset with a sense of melancholy that seems especially poignant with this story which was one of the highlights of festival for me. It’s a skillful and unique melding of current events and the distinctive world and approach that the director has developed over decades.

BPM

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Robin Compillo’s directorial debut is the impressive and powerful BPM, which tells the story of ACT UP-Paris in the late 90s as they fight to get action taken by the French government and pharmaceutical companies. The film is skillfully and brilliantly constructed with a bold and non-traditional approach right from the start. The film begins with a protest that goes wrong and then moves into a meeting where the action is dissected at length after we find out what the rules are for discussions at the meetings. It's a way to casually introduce the world of the characters and the intellectual scene is reflected later in the film where the bureaucracy disappears and the characters are all assembled again in a radically different context. It's a film that takes its time and resists the cliches of the issue drama with scenes extending far beyond the points when most films cut away, which results in a surprising depth and complexity. This approach makes the long film rewarding for those who stick with it. It also features some remarkable transitions between the scenes as the film moves from a intellectual mode to a more impressionistic one. With a large cast and a perspective that moves between the characters, it becomes a powerful look at the people and processes of activism.

Lucky

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The directorial debut of John Carrol Lynch starts off in familiar territory with a prickly old man named Lucky, played by Harry Dean Stanton as we see his daily routine. This establishes a pattern where we can see how things change. But as the film progresses it becomes a lot more than it needs to be and that elevates it about a collection of great actors in some interesting scenes. One of the standouts is David Lynch as a man with a pet tortoise, and what seems like stunt casting is brilliant and well-considered, along with many of the other decisions made within the film. It holds together with the scenes all adding a bit more to the story and deepening the characters. It resists and challenges stereotypes and results in a beautiful and grounded film that mixes light and dark into a fitting final film for Harry Dean Stanton.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

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Not having read the Neil Gaiman story that How to Talk to Girls at Parties was based on, the only expectations that I had were from John Cameron Mitchell’s previous films. Right from the first frames I enjoyed it as the shooting style, film grain, music, and collection of strange characters created a unique world growing out of the intersection of teenage angst and punk music. It has the ramshackle feeling of many British films and tv shows of the early 80s and overall the entire film feels almost like it was made in the 80s and dropped into a time capsule for us to rediscover now. I admired the film for the sense of wonder and embrace of a low-budget, punk aesthetic combined with a Mitchell's ongoing project to look into the worlds of oddballs and outcasts who connect with each other.

Dim the Fluorescents

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With a clever construction and approach, Dim the Fluorescents seems like a parody of corporate culture at the beginning with a pair of actors (skillfully played by Naomi Skwarna and Claire Armstrong) who illustrate workplace dilemmas. But as the film progresses, the over-the-top nature of the scenes at the beginning start to smoothly and slowly slide into more realism. It's skillfully shot and brilliantly acted with the direction by Daniel Warth carefully changing what we see within the precise frames established. While it would have been ok just as a comedy, it deepens as it goes with the distraction of the parodic elements allowing darker elements to appear as the film becomes a more powerful and profound look at friendship and how we treat people.

Ava

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A Canadian-Iranian film directed by Sadaf Foroughi, Ava is about a young woman struggling figure out who she is as she goes to school in Iran. The film is at times intense, but carefully-constructed and framed. Visually we stay close to the main character with shallow focus and with her filmed through window frames and doorways. Characters are cut off in the frame and we only see the full picture when she is happy and playing music. It's a complex portrait of a young woman making decisions about her life within a set of constraints that she has little control over. The bold commitment to the visual style elevates the film above the usual coming-of-age story as it adds a whole other later of meaning to the film.

A Fantastic Woman

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A Fantastic Woman is a Chilean film directed by Sebastián Lelio about a woman who loses her boyfriend unexpectedly when he dies and it causes her life to disintegrate as she faces prejudice and misunderstanding. Stunningly shot in a style that harkens back to Almodovar, it’s a sad and beautiful film about love and loss that takes a slightly different approach filled with sensitivity and empathy. With some magical realist elements sprinkled through and a moving lead performance from Daniela Vega as a trans woman navigating through a challenging world filled with expectations and pitfalls.

The Florida Project

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When I first started reading about The Florida Project it was interesting because Sean Baker’s previous film, Tangerine, was a remarkable burst of energy embracing the small technology of an iPhone to tell a story that I hadn't seen before. This time Baker switches to film and a wide screen image and the strip of highway close to Disney World to tell the story of a child living on the edge of society with her mother. Defiantly told from the perspective of the child, the darkness of the world outside is barely observed as the days go by. Beautifully shot with a darkness just below the surface, it's a sensitive and ultimately challenging look at people on the margins of society and the resilience of children in difficult circumstances.

It was a solid year at the film festival with a great selection of films from around the world that made me think and laugh and cry. If you didn't have a chance to see many films, keep an eye out for these in the coming months as they will start to appear in theatres and on home video. It's encouraging and heartening to see films in a theatre with friends and strangers. The film festival is the highlight of the year for sharing these experiences and I am so glad that we have it.

FIN ATLANTIC INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2017 PREVIEW PART 3

Chris Campbell

The final two days of the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival still have a wide range of films to see from documentaries to dramas. Here is a preview of Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday

One Thousand Ropes

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Wednesday begins at 1:30 pm with Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary Our People Will Be Healed as she looks at the Cree community of Norway House, Manitoba and how they are taking an innovative approach to education for First Nations students. Tusi Tamasese writes and directs the New Zealand drama One Thousand Ropes which is playing at 3:30 pm. The drama focusses on a father reconnecting with his daughter as he tries to rebuild his family. At 4 pm the documentary Geek Girls, directed by Gina Harais playing. It’s a look at the women who are part of nerd culture and the challenges that they face. There is an encore screening of Shorts Program 4 at 5:45 pm.

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The animated adaptation of Deborah Ellis’ children’s novel, The Breadwinner, is screening at 6 pm. Directed by Nora Twomey, who co-directed the earlier festival film The Secret of Kells, it’s the story of a young woman growing up in Afghanistan in 2001.

The 6:30 pm Gala is the French drama BPM. At 6:45 pm Pat Mills’ film Don’t Talk to Irene is playing as we follow Irene, a teenager suspended from school and makes the most of her community service at a retirement home. A collection of three of the stories from the acclaimed series Studio Black!, directed by Cory Bowles, Koumbie, and Juanita Peters screens at 7:00 pm along with a q&a with the directors.

At 7:15 pm the documentary Small Town Show Biz: 2 Dreams From A Harbourtown from director Jackie Torrens is playing with a portrait of two women from different times. An encore screening of Shorts Program 5 is playing at 8:30 pm. The Cape Breton documentary In the Waves from director Jacquelyn Mills plays at 8:45 pm. The film is an expressive look at Joan Mills searching for meaning in the natural world after the death of her sister.Margaret Betts writes and directs Novitiate playing at 9 pm. She won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance as Breakthrough Director for her story about a young woman raised in 1950s who seeks to become a nun. Shorts Program 7 at 9:15 pm has some great documentaries about art, activism, and nature. Michael Haneke’s latest film Happy End in the 9:30 gala where he examines issues of privilege through a family in a bourgeois bubble close to the migrant camps surrounding Calais. Things wrap up Wednesday night with the restored Technicolor horror film Suspiria from master director Dario Argento.

Thursday

The final day of the festival begins with another documentary about sports with State of Exception that plays at 1:30 pm. It examines the disruption in Rio de Janiero caused by the forced eviction of people leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2016 Olympic Games. At 3 pm there is an encore presentation of the film Gregoire. Nicholas Bedos’ French film M & Mme Adelman plays at 3:30 with a love story that spans 50 years. At 4 pm the documentary A Scattering of Stars from Kent Martin looks at musician Chris Norman who founded the Boxwood Festival and Workshops. At 5:45 pm there is an encore screening of Shorts Program 6.

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Artist Ai Weiwei’s documentary Human Flow playing at 6 pm looks at human migration in a film shot over a year in 23 different countries. It's a visually stunning look at people who have had their lives disrupted as they move around the world. Taron Lexton’s drama In Search of Fellini is playing at 6:45 pm with the story of a sheltered young woman who takes a trip to Italy to understand the filmmaker and learn about the world.

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Laurent Cantet assembles a talented cast of actors who play students attending a summer writing workshop in The Workshop which plays at 7 pm. Taking a similar approach as with his earlier film, The Class, (and with a script also co-written with Robin Campillo who wrote and directed BPM) it promises to be a great showcase of acting in a story that will go in unexpected and improvisational directions. The closing gala, Call Me by Your Name is playing at 7 pm. There is an encore screening of Shorts Program 7 at 8:30 pm. The NextGen Shorts Program plays at 9 pm with a range of great short films from emerging filmmakers.

Tulipani, Love, Honour and a Bicycle from Dutch director Mike van Diem plays at 9:30 pm. Set in 1953, the romantic story begins with a Dutch farmer riding his bicycle to Italy after he loses his farm in a flood. At 9:45 pm Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin direct the musical thriller Barracuda starring Allison Tolman and Sophie Reid as a half-sister who returns after the death of their country musician father. At 9:50 pm the film The Florida Project plays. Starring Willem Dafoe and directed by Sean Baker whose previous film Tangerine was a visual and dramatic burst of energy last year, this time his film is set along a stretch of highway in Florida with a young cast living life during a summer. The final film screening this year is the Norwegian horror film Vidar the Vampire directed by Thomas Aske Berg and Fredrik Waldeland who also wrote and act in the film which blends horror and comedy.

That's a wrap for the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival for another year with a wonderful set of films and I hope that you have found many that you loved.

FIN Atlantic International Film Festival 2017 Preview Part 2

Chris Campbell

With the festival fully underway with some great films here is a preview of what is in store for Monday and Tuesday.

Monday

Lucky

Lucky

On Monday things get underway at 1:30 pm with the bold, musical, and experimental documentary The Road Forward directed by Marie Clements. Connecting the birth of Indian Nationalism in the 1930s with Indigenous activists of today, it’s a historical perspective and call to action that resonates powerfully. A star-studded cast joins late Harry Dean Stanton in the spiritual comedy drama Lucky which screens at 3:30 pm from John Carrol Lynch. We follow the titular character’s quest for meaning as he has a series of encounters with an assortment of people. It’s a fitting tribute to the legendary actor. The documentary California Typewriter plays at 4 pm and is a must-see for those who love the more traditional way of writing as director Doug Nichol talks with the people who love and reimagine what is possible with the typewriter.

At 5:00 pm the directorial debut of Andy Serkis, Breathe, screens with the true-life story of a man with Polio who refuses to be constrained by the challenges that he faces. Starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, it promises to be inspirational and moving. There is an encore screening of Shorts Program 2 at 6:15 pm. The 6:30 Gala is Cory Bowles’ drama Black Cop. At 6:45 the biopic Django is playing with the story of the gypsy guitarist told by French director Etienne Comar.

At 7 pm the drama Small Town Crime, starring John Hawkes is playing. Co-directed by Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms, it’s a mystery about an ex-cop who finds the body of a woman and is determined to find her killer. Donna Davies’ timely documentary, High Hopes: The Business of Marijuana plays at 8:45 pm and looks at the world of medical marijuana. At 9 pm Shorts Program 5 plays with some more experimental and beautiful short films from the region collected together.

The Belgian drama Racer and the Jailbird plays at 9:15 pm and it stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Matthias Schoenaerts (who was also in director Michaël R. Roskam’s films Bullhead, and The Drop) in the stylish crime drama that is Belgium’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. The 9:30 pm gala is the biopic Rebel in the Rye. Things wrap up on Monday with the UK drama God’s Own Country from writer / director Francis Lee.

Tuesday

At 1:30 pm on Tuesday the day of films begins with the documentary A Better Man. Directed by Attiya Khan and Lawrence Jackman with Khan taking a personal and active role in the film as she and her abusive ex-boyfriend meet in a powerful exploration of responsibility and healing. At 3:30 pm the Canadian drama A Worthy Companion screens starring Evan Rachel Wood in the character-driven drama as a woman struggling to find a sense of normalcy in her life. At 4 pm the documentary The Workers Cup looks at labourers building the facilities for the 2022 FIFA Word Cup and the soccer tournament for the workers that they play within.

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Kyle Rideout’s comedy Public Schooled plays at 5:45 pm and it stars Judy Greer as the mother of an awkward home-schooled boy who wants to enrol in public school. Sally Potter’s ensemble-based comedy The Party is playing at 6 pm with an amazing cast in a dark story told in black and white. Aram Collier directs the Korean Canadian comedy Stand Up Man playing at 6:15 pm with the story of an aspiring standup comic who moves back to his hometown of Windsor to help with his parents' restaurant. The 6:30 gala on Tuesday is the From Away Post Secondary Competition highlight some of the best student films from the region. The music documentary Play Your Gender from Stephanie Clattenburg is screening at 6:45 and it looks at women in the music industry and why they are so underrepresented as producers.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

There is an encore screening of Shorts Program 3 at 8:30. At 8:45 the drama In Syria (Insyriated) directed by Philippe Van Leeuw looks at a woman struggling to maintain her family life in an apartment while the war rages outside. The French film C’est la Vie! co-directed Olivier Nakache and Eric Tolédano plays at 9pm. They also directed the crowd-pleasing award winning 2011 film The Intouchables. A range of short comedies fill Shorts Program 6 playing at 9:15 pm. The 9:30 gala is the sports drama Borg vs. McEnroe is playing as the penultimate Gala of the festival. The final film of Tuesday at 9:45 pm is John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of the Neil Gaiman story How to Talk to Girls at Parties. Starring Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning in a story set outside of London in the 1970s, it should have some unexpected surprises and great music as well.

FIN Atlantic International Film Festival 2017 Preview Part 1

Chris Campbell

The newly rebranded FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival has started this year in Halifax. It's a great opportunity to connect with the local film community and see a wide range of films from around the world. A busy time filled with remarkable images and sounds and stories. It can be overwhelming and confusing and there are many choices to make from the program of films available. Let's take a look at what we'll be able to see at the festival as it begins.

There are a few options for passes if you want to immerse yourself in the festival. The Festival Experience Pass is $250 and gets you into all screenings and galas except for the opening night gala and party. In addition you get to go to Script Out Loud and the Script Pitch as well as the Strategic Partners panels and Keynotes and the Festival Music House event. If you're going to dive deep, that's the best option for you. But at $150 you can skip the parties and the 6:30pm galas and focus on the films and panels with the Festival Film Pass. If you're a student or senior there are discounted versions of the Festival Film Pass for you.

Friday

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The first full day of the festival is Friday, September 15 and there are some great films to see. In the afternoon at 1:30pm there is the comedic Dim the Fluorescents which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance festival this year.

The choices begin later in the afternoon with two documentaries. All the Wild Horses playing at 4:00 pm is about the Mongol Derby horse race which covers 1000 kilometres across Mongolia. At 5:00 pm Here Right Now is a Nova Scotia documentary directed by Amanda Gallagher about two young adults who share what it is like to live with terminal cancer. Kathleen Hepburn directs the drama Never Steady, Never Still which is screening at 5:45 pm. Starring Shirley Henderson as a woman who is living with Parkinson’s disease, and Théodore Pellerin as her son who works in the Alberta oil fields, this Canadian film explores themes of love, loss, and masculinity.

Jake Gyllenhall stars in Stronger, the true-life story of Jeff Bauman who survived the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in the latest film from David Gordon Green playing at 6:00 pm as part of the Special Presentation series. At 6:15 as part of the Telefilm 50 series there is a free screening of Jennifer Baichwal’s 2006 documentary Manufactured Landscapes which is a visually-impressive look at the photography of Edward Burtynsky. The Gala screening of Michael Melski’s psychological horror film The Child Remains plays at 6:30. The documentary Beerocracy looks at the craft beer industry in New Brunswick and it starts at 6:45 pm.

Collette Burson’s 80s comedy Permanent plays at 7:00 pm as a young woman wants to get a perm to fit in at her new school with her parents (played by Patricia Arquette and Rainn Wilson) trying to save money by taking her to hairdressing academy with unpredictable results. A pair of Newfoundland documentaries from Kenneth J. Harvey, I Heard the Birch Tree Whisper in the Night (about painter Gerald Squires), and The Drinking Life (about a community of drinkers) screen at 8:15 pm.

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Master of deadpan Finnish comedy Aki Kaurismaki’s latest film The Other Side of Hope plays at 8:30 pm. It’s the story of a young Syrian refugee who seeks asylum in Helskini. Shot in his colourful style and with his regular oddball collaborators, it should be a dry and semi-sweet film with unique characters. The Canadian thriller Hollow in the Land directed by Scooter Corkle plays at 8:45 pm.

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The Japanese drama Radiance from writer / director Naomi Kawase plays at 9:00 pm. Her latest film is about woman who writes versions of films for the visually impaired and an older photographer who is going blind. Radiance won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes this year. The first of the shorts programs plays at 9:15 pm with an impressive collection of documentary films about fascinating people from Canada. The directors include Lisa Rose Snow and Lulu Keating and it will be a great chance to see some of best short-form documentaries in one program.

Beach Rats

Beach Rats

The final two films of Friday are two different coming of age dramas both directed by women. The 9:30 Gala is the drama Mary Shelley and Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats plays at 9:45. Hittman’s earlier drama It Felt Like Love was the naturalistic and unnerving story of a young woman dealing with her sexuality and in Beach Rats she explores similar themes with a young Brooklyn teenager who is figuring out who he is.

Saturday

Saturday gets underway at noon with the documentary Halifax Explosion: The Deaf Experience. It’s a unique documentary directed by Linda Campbell telling the story in American Sign Language and Maritimes Sign Language of the people of the Halifax School for the Deaf who survived the 1917 blast.

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One of the late additions to the festival this year was Ruben Östlund’s satire The Square playing at 12:15 pm. Östlund’s impressive one-take short Incident by a Bank played at the festival in 2010 and his feature Force Majeure was one of the highlights of the festival in 2014. The story of an art curator played by Claes Bang who is in a series of escalating situations it also has Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West in roles and the film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. Artist Laurie Simmons’ quirky feature drama My Art plays at 12:30 pm with Simmons directing, writing, and acting in the film along with her daughter Lena Dunham.

At 1:00 pm the surfing documentary Take Every Wave looks at the life of surfer Laird Hamilton. The documentary The Halifax Explosion directed by Jennifer Adcock plays at 1:30 pm and it features described video for the visually impaired..

The 1950s set Spanish drama The Queen of Spain plays at 2:00 pm and it stars Penélope Cruz as actress Macarena Granada who returns home after her successful career in Hollywood. Kim Nguyen follows up last year’s Two Lovers and a Bear with his drama Eye on Juliet playing at 2:30 pm. The local dark comedy You Ruined Our Life! from writer / director Iain MacLeod (whose quirky Your Money or Your Wife was at the festival in 2015) is playing at 3:00 pm. The story of a man in his 40s visited by a 12-year-old version of himself from the 1980s who has ideas about how to get his life back on track.

Christine McLean’s documentary The Girls of St. Mary’s is on at 3:15 pm and it looks at the life of three Maliseet teenagers from the St. Mary’s First Nation. Hugh Gibson’s documentary The Stairs plays at 4:00 pm and is about three people who survived being on the street in Toronto’s Regent Park and how they help others. A documentary double-bill is on at 4:15 pm with Free Reins and Jen’s Book Launch. Free Reins is directed by Jackie Torrens and it’s about Patty McGill of Hinchinbrook Farm. Jen’s Book Launch is about Jen Powley launching her book Just Jen: Thriving With Multiple Sclerosis and it’s directed by Alan Collins and Chuck Clark. An Iranian film is screening at 5:45 pm with Ava, directed by Montréal-based and Tehran-born director Sadaf Foroughi it’s a character study of a young woman trying to fit in at school and with her family in Iran.

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Playing at 6:00 pm is an adaptation of Richard Wagamese’s novel Indian Horse, which is about an Ojibway man taken from his family and placed in a residential school in the 1950s who has a talent for hockey and struggles to deal with his difficult past which could destroy his career. Shorts Program 2 plays at 6:15 pm with some more great short films that are on the darker and more challenging side as they explore human nature.

The 6:30 Gala is the biographic drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. At 6:45 the documentary Sickboy has two screenings (which are selling out) of the film about how Jeremie Saunders and his friends Brian and Taylor created a popular podcast that deals with the way people view serious illnesses. The Australian drama Jasper Jones, directed by Rachel Perkins shows at 7:00 pm. Based on the novel by Craig Silvey, it’s a coming of age story and mystery set in the summer of 1968.

The free screening of Bill MacGillivray’s Cape Breton drama Life Classes is at 8:00 pm and it is part of the Telefilm 50 series. The film played at the Atlantic Film Festival in 1987. Jamie M. Dagg’s dramatic thriller Sweet Virginia plays at 8:45 pm. The Russian drama Loveless is playing at 9:00 pm and it’s director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s newest film after his dark and powerful 2014 Leviathan. Telling the story of a couple going through a difficult divorce whose young son disappears after one of their fights it promises to be a visually stunning exploration of the soul.

Shorts Program 3 has some animation, drama, science fiction, and comedy with a focus on the more human elements at 9:15 pm. The 9:30 gala is the dark Canadian comedy Room for Rent. The final screening of the day at 9:45 is Cody Bown’s character drama Gregoire about four young adults and the choices that they make.

Sunday

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s restored masterpiece Stalker is playing at noon on Sunday as part of the Restored! program. Even if you have seen it before, the chance to view it on a big screen will be rare. Also at noon is the Script Out Loud session at the Lord Nelson with Bob Mann and Adam DeViller’s screenplay Hustle & Dad performed live by professional actors. Porcupine Lake, Ingrid Veninger’s coming of age story about two young women in Northern Ontario during a hot summer screens at 12:15 pm. If you're in more of a documentary mood the film Only 78 looks at the small Nova Scotia coastal community of Gabrus and their struggle to preserve their town.

At 1pm Ali Weinstein’s documentary about Mermaids and the people who play them plays at Park Lane at 1:00 pm. At 1:30 pm there is an encore screening of Shorts Program 1. A bold cinematic experiment, Ordinary Days, plays at 2 pm. With a three directors each taking one section of the film telling the story from a different perspective and genre, it's an omnibus film to showcase the talents of Jordan Canning, Kris Booth, and Renuka Jeyapala. The biographical Irish drama Song of Granite plays at 2:30 pm. Directed by Pat Collins, it’s the Irish entry for Best Foreign Language film for the upcoming Academy Awards. The Telefilm Canada Script Pitch happens at 3 pm with writers pitching their ideas for films and the $10,000 development prize.

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Petra Volpe's Swiss drama, The Divine Order, about women getting the vote in Switzerland in 1971 plays at 3 pm. The drama Mobile Homes screens at 3:15 pm. A France / Canada coproduction directed by Vladimir de Fontenay and starring Imogen Poots, Callum Turner, (who were both in the festival film Green Room) and Callum Keith Rennie in a character drama about a woman drifting from place to place with her boyfriend and young son. Phil Comeau’s documentary Zachary Richard, Cajun Heart plays at 3:30 pm and looks at Acadian identity through Richard’s quest to find out more about his family roots. Geoff D’Eon's documentary Body Language Decoded plays at 4pm. At 6pm the drama Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House looks at the identity of the mysterious source for much of the information in the Watergate scandal.

Jordan Canning’s story of two best friends who reconnect in BC, Suck it Up, is playing at 6:15 pm. At 6:30 pm the Reel East Coast Shorts Gala is playing to celebrate shorts from the region. The animated Chinese drama (and remake of Pulp Fiction) Have a Nice Day, plays at 6:45 pm. With a different animation style than most mainstream films, it looks like a fascinating crime drama with the story told in a unique way.

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A documentary collaboration between the amazing Agnès Varda and photographerJR, Faces Places playing at 7 pm is a cinematic journey through rural France. It's always exciting to see something new from Varda on a big screen. At 8:30 pm The Sweet Hereafter screens as part of the Telefilm 50 Features series. The world premiere of the documentary Modified, is playing at 8:45 pm is a first-person look at genetically modified organisms and how they are not labeled in Canada.

At 9 pm the Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman is playing. A love story and personal journey of a woman becoming herself, it looks like a beautiful drama from Sebastián Lelio, the director of Gloria. Shorts Program 4 screens at 9:15 pm with a range of short films with dramatic, documentary, and comedic elements. The 9:30 pm Gala is Seth A. Smith's psychological horror film The Crescent and things wrap up for the day with the 9:45 pm screening of the horror film Pyewacket directed by Adam MacDonald who also directed the 2014 film Backcountry.

FIN Atlantic International Film Festival 2017 Gala Preview

Chris Campbell

It's September and in Halifax that means that the film festival is happening. Newly rebranded as FIN Atlantic International Film Festival, it’s happening from September 14 to 21 with the opening film at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium and all the other screenings happening in the Cineplex Park Lane theatres. Here's a guide to the gala screenings that happen every day during the festival.

Opening Gala: Long Time Running

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The festival begins with the highly-anticipated Gala presentation of the documentary about the 2016 tour of the Tragically Hip, Long Time Running at the Rebecca Cohn Theatre on Thursday, September 7. Co-directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicolas de Pencier, it follows the iconic Canadian band as they prepare for their tour and the discovery that lead singer Gord Downey has brain cancer. Baichwal co-directed the stunning Manufactured Landscapes which played at the festival in 2006, and de Pencier was the cinematographer of The End of Time which played at the festival in 2012. Following the film the Opening Night Celebration takes place in the VIA Rail station as part of the “Movie Nights Across Canada" celebration.

Friday

The Child Remains

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Writer / director Michael Melski returns to the festival with a supernatural thriller The Child Remains that starts the week of gala films off with a scream. Starring Suzanne Clément and Allan Hawco and shot locally, the suspenseful horror film takes place in a country in that was a maternity home that held some dark secrets. The party after the gala is at the Compass Room of Casino Nova Scotia.

Mary Shelley

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The 9:30 gala on Friday night is Haifaa Al-Mansour’s biopic Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning as author Mary Wollstonecroft and her bohemian romance with Percy Shelley and the tragedy of losing a child which inspired her to write Frankenstein. Al-Mansour was the first Saudi woman to direct a feature film with her gentle 2012 drama Wadjda. With a screenplay by Australian Emma Jensen, it should be an interesting historical romance with a strong cast.

Saturday

Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool

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Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is a romance set in Liverpool in 1978 starring the always interesting Annette Bening as actress Gloria Graham and Jamie Bell as actor Peter Turner. Based on Turner’s memoir of the same name which tells the story of the young actor’s relationship with the Hollywood leading lady. The film is directed by Paul McGuigan who directed several episodes of the TV series Sherlock as well as episodes of Scandal, Designated Survivor, and Luke Cage. The adapted screenplay is written by Matt Greenhalgh who adapted the screenplay for the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic Control.

Room For Rent

Shot in Winnipeg, Room for Rent is written and directed by Matthew Atkinson and stars Mark Little, Mark McKinney, and Brett Gelman in a comedy about an unsuccessful man living with his family after he squanders his lottery winnings and suggests renting a room to a mysterious stranger who disrupts his regular routine.

Sunday

Reel East Coast Shorts

The 6:30 Gala on Sunday is the showcase of the best short films from the Atlantic Region with nine films in the Reel East Coast Shorts Gala. The shorts gala gives you a condensed glimpse at the wide range of talent from the region in a series of films that are dramatic, funny, beautiful, and true.

The Crescent

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On Sunday night at 9:30 Seth Smith’s latest feature, The Crescent will fill the screen at Park Lane. His earlier feature Lowlife won the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Atlantic Film Festival in 2012 and it was a strange and unnerving journey into world of darkness and addiction with echoes of Eraserhead. The Crescent seems to take a different approach visually, but it is sure to infused with Smith's dark vision the creeps into your soul as he tells the story of a woman dealing with the death of her husband while living in a seaside cottage.

Monday

Black Cop

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Corey Bowles debut feature Black Cop is the 6:30 gala on Monday night and this highly-anticipated expansion of his short of the same name. Looking at police culture and race relations as filtered through multiple points of view and perspectives, it’s designed to engage and make you think. Produced out of the Telefilm Canada Micro-Budget production program, it’s sure to be provocative and bold as Bowles continues to add achievements to his already impressive and multifaceted career.

Rebel in the Rye

On Monday night the 9:30 gala is the biopic Rebel in the Rye with actor Danny Strong directing and co-writing the screenplay that tells the story of reclusive author J.D. Salinger played by Nicholas Hoult. With a cast that includes Zoey Deutch, Kevin Spacey, and Sarah Paulson it should provide some insight into the author and what contributed to the creation of his iconic novel The Catcher in the Rye.

Tuesday

From Away Post-Second Film Competition Gala

A celebration of films made by students, the From Away Post-Secondary Film Competition Gala happens at 6:30 on Tuesday night. Part of the Canada 150 celebrations and with a focus on identity and place, you’ll meet some fascinating people from diverse backgrounds as you see and hear their stories. I’m also proud to have the NSCC Screen Arts program represented so well in the films with 5 of the ten films in the program directed by students who were studying at NSCC.

Borg vs McEnroe

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A sports drama built around the epic tennis rivalry between Björn Borg and John McEnroe in the 1980s , Borg vs McEnroe is the 9:30 gala on Tuesday night. Directed by Danish director Janus Metz whose 2010 war documentary Armadillo won many awards (including the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes). Starring Sverrir Gudnason as Borg and Shia LaBeouf as McEnroe, it is a portrait of two different athletes with a common goal of winning.

Wednesday

BPM (Beats Per Minute)

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Writer / director Robin Campillo has the 6:30 gala on Wednesday with BPM, a drama about Act Up-Paris activists in the 1990s. Campillo is a frequent collaborator with Laurent Cantet (and he wrote Cantet’s The Workshop which is playing on Thursday) he also wrote, directed, and edited the 2004 French drama The Returned (which was also a French tv series and then an American TV series). BPM won 4 awards at Cannes, including the Grand Jury prize and the Queer Palm.

Happy End

Michael Haneke returns to the festival for the 9:30 gala with his formal drama, Happy End, which brings his precise and controlled approach to a well-to-do French family who don't see the challenges faced by migrants in camps close to their luxurious home. With an impressive cast that includes French legends Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant, it promises to be a provocative and deliberate drama.

Thursday

Closing Gala: Call Me By My Name

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The closing gala for the festival happens on Thursday, September 21 with Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By My Name, an adaptation of a novel of the same name with the screenplay cowritten by him and James Ivory. Guadagnino directed the lush and sensuous films I Am Love and A Bigger Splash and Call Me By My Name promises to be a similar treat with a story set in 1983 in the north of Italy as a young man falls in love. Following the film the closing night party happens at the Lord Nelson Hotel as the week of cinema comes to an end.