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35th Atlantic Film Festival Galas and Events

Chris Campbell

The Atlantic Film Festival is 35 this year and with the unveiling of the full lineup there is a great range of films from the region and around the world to see. At the core of the festival are the Atlantic films, with feature length dramas and documentaries, as well as many great short films. The best of the region is combined with the best of the world to give you a condensed experience of seeing a lot of films in a short period of time. With over 200 films screening it can be a challenge to figure out what to see.

The highest-profile parts of the Atlantic Film Festival are the galas and events and if you want the full festival experience you should go to at least one. The festival runs from September 17 to the 24 and tickets for the more popular screenings can sell out, so making choices early can be a good thing and if you want to experience a lot more, a pass is a great way to see a lot of films and to be able to go to the events and be able to hang out in the Reel East Coast Festival Lounge at the Lord Nelson Hotel. Most days have a featured gala so lets go through the festival day by day to see what the gala choices are this year.

Thursday, September 17

The easiest day for decisions is the first day since there is only one film screening and everything starts up with the highly-anticipated Canadian war drama Hyena Road from writer / director / actor Paul Gross . Set in Afghanistan with Canadian soldiers facing moral dilemmas, it looks tense, dramatic, and timely. Paul Gross and Alan Hawco will be in attendance for the screening which is at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.

After the screening the opening night party is in the Lord Nelson Hotel (where the Reel East Coast Festival Lounge happens during the rest of the festival). The opening night party is always a great time and a good chance to find out from other festival fans what they are going to see.

Friday, September 18

The Atlantic Gala this year is the first feature film from Stephen Dunn and it's a Newfoundland coming-of-age story Closet Monster. The cast is fantastic with Connor Jessup (who was in the great AFF-screened film, Blackbird , a few years ago), Aaron Abrams , Joanne Kelly , Newfoundland treasure Mary Walsh , and the always intriguing Isabella Rossellini . It's a story about identity, creativity, and growing up from one of the emerging talents in the region. After the film is the Atlantic Gala Party at the Argyle Bar and Grill which is a fun venue to connect with people as the festival gets up to speed.

Saturday, September 19

On Saturday we get to see Patricia Rozema 's latest film in the Spotlight Gala with Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood starring as sisters surviving in a post-technological world in Into the Forest. Based on the novel of the same name by Jean Hegland, it has an intriguing premise and it follows the sisters as they learn to survive in an isolated forest after the collapse of society.

Rozema has done some great adaptations with writing and directing Jane Austen's Mansfield Park , a film version of Samuel Beckett's Happy Days, and co-writing the script of the dramatized version of the Maysles Brothers' documentary Grey Gardens. Rozema is always interesting and seeing Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood in a film built around them is a good thing.

Saturday also has a special celebration of the 40th Anniversary of NIFCO, the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-operative with the NIFCO 40th Anniversary Screening. If you haven't seen some of the older and amazing shorts from NIFCO, this is your chance to get caught up on the best of Newfoundland filmmakers.

Rounding out the evening is the Festival Music House Atlantic at the Marquee that is for those with full festival passes or Strategic Partners delegates. The bands this year are the psychedelic The Brood, Rose Cousins, Buck 65, and the legendary Sloan. It should be a great night of music at the Marquee that people will be talking about the next day.

Sunday, September 20

On Sunday afternoon at the Lord Nelson is the celebration of Atlantic talent with the 35th Atlantic Film Festival Awards Reception. Happening early in the festival gives you more of a chance to see some of the award-winning films and filmmakers that will be playing later that day and throughout the week. It's great to celebrate the talent of Atlantic filmmakers in the middle of a festival sharing their work.

The heart of the Atlantic Program is the Reel East Coast Showcase Gala happening Sunday night. The films go from animation, to dramas, to documentary, to comedies, to thriller. With a packed house of filmmakers and cast members, the Atlantic screenings are always fun with many opportunities to network with the people who have made the films. The Showcase Gala is a chance to celebrate great short work from the region.

Tuesday, September 22

The gala on Tuesday is part of the Cinéma en Français s.v.p. program and has Philippe Falardeau 's comedic Québecois My Internship In Canada (Guibord s'en va-t-en guerre). An independent Quebec MP ends up holding the balance of power in a parliamentary vote on whether Canada goes to war and consults with his constituents accompanied by his wife, daughter, and an idealistic intern from Haiti. Starring Patrick Huard and Suzanne Clément (who was remarkable in previous AFF films Mommy , Laurence Anyways , and I Killed My Mother ) it promises to a satirical film that is fun and thought-provoking. It's also screening on Wednesday morning as part of the ViewFinders stream of the festival too.

Wednesday, September 23

The international Cinéma en Français s.v.p. Gala is Jacques Audiard's highly-anticipated Dheepan won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. His previous film Rust and Bone was one of the highlights of the festival in 2012. The film is about a Tamil warrior who flees Sri Lanka and works as a caretaker outside of Paris as he tries to make a home in the face of violence around him. It's the type of story that Audiard excels at in powerful and visceral ways, and this should be no exception.

The party at the end of Wednesday evening is a celebration of AFCOOP's FILM 5 program which is now 20. Earlier in the evening there is a retrospective screening of FILM 5 shorts and the party happens at AFCOOP which will be populated with many member of the vital community nurtured by the co-op.

Thursday, September 24

On the final day of the festival things wrap up with Deepa Mehta 's crime drama Beeba Boys. Writer/director Mehta will be present to introduce the film which looks intense, colourful, and filled with music and drama. Set in Vancouver's Indo Canadian community, Beeba Boys is about a gang war, family, and a cultural clash. Later on Thursday if you don't feel like going right to the closing night party you also have a chance to catch up on the Reel East Coast Showcase Gala if you weren't able to make it to the Sunday screening.

The final even of the festival the closing night party, which is at Pacifico this year, so there probably will be a lot of dancing happening along with the many conversations about the films seen during the week.

This overview scratches the surface of the festival and over the coming days I'll highlight some of the other dramas and documentaries that you can see during this 35th edition of the festival.

How to Enjoy a Film Festival

Chris Campbell

It's fall and that's when film festival season starts up around these parts with the Atlantic Film Festival and a whole range of other festivals new and old that will be lighting up the screens in the region and around the world. How can you get the most out of a film festival by seeing great and challenging films while not getting exhausted and overwhelmed?

You need to have a plan and maybe even do some homework before it starts and with the lineups of festivals coming out every day, now is a good time to get ready.

Look at the Schedule

Aside from the films that are playing, take a look at the dates and times of the festival to see how it fits into your life. How much time can you spare to see films and other events? Some people will try to see as much as possible, while others will just have time to see one or two things. (I'm in the former category.)

By looking at the schedule you can see if those are days that you work or if you can catch something before or after work. Many festivals will have different streams and patterns with events and screenings happening simultaneously. Find out what fits with what you like and your own schedule before you realize that you won't be able to make it to the screenings.

Get a Pass

If you can afford a pass it is the best way to go. It gives freedom to change your mind with your mood or after hearing about a different film. I alternate between elaborately-planned days and spur-of-the-moment decisions to see things. Sometimes you see something heavy and want to follow it up with something a bit lighter, other times you may see something and then want to dive back in to the theatre again.

Festivals have different types of passes, so as you start to figure out what you want to see and how much time (and money) you have, you can figure out which pass or individual tickets work best for you. Depending on the screening and festival, passes and tickets will also get you in to parties, receptions, and panels. These can be great and give you a break from sitting in a theatre for hours and hours, as well as some great conversations and food and drink.

Really Look at the Schedule

As soon as possible I look through the full lineup of the festival to see which films are playing and if I recognize anything. I'm a big fan of Letterboxd and keep track of what I've seen and what I want to see through their watchlist feature. So when I read about an upcoming film that seems interesting I'll add it to my watchlist. Start to make a list of things that you want to see using a notebook or an app so you can make some decisions later.

When you look through the lineup of films, drill down to look at the names of the directors and actors. Finding familiar ones can give you an idea of the type of film it could be and whether it will be interesting to you. After the initial pass you can start to do some more research (using IMDb, Letterboxd, and Indiewire) to see what other people have written about the films or see what they've done before. If you have time you can even watch some of their earlier work to get an idea of what type of work they do. After doing some research and watching some films look through the schedule again to see if there is anything that you have missed. I always seem to miss things. There are always obscure gems or directorial debuts hiding in the films that have been carefully chosen for a festival.

Make a Plan

Start to make your own schedule with the list of films you want to see. It's important to have a list of films you want to see so you can look at it if something changes in the festival schedule or your schedule. This gives you the ability to quickly change your plan when something is cancelled or you decide to go for a drink or a meal instead of a film. This gives you options.

Map out your festival experience by starting to schedule the films that you want to see using a calendar. It can be on paper or electronic. I will usually overbook my schedule to delay making decisions. If there are two films I want to see at the same time I put both of them on my schedule and make the decision later. Make sure to check the running times of films as some choices will eliminate later choices as there may not be time to get to the second film before the first finishes. Films never start early, but with a lot of screenings delays are inevitable so always be early and never be late if there is something that you really want to see.

See shorts and documentaries and foreign films especially if you don't usually watch them. Shorts give a more condensed, intense experience in a limited time frame. You can see a range of films and see emerging talent early. With documentaries you can choose based on the topic (as well as the filmmaker) to expand your horizons in that way. With foreign films you get a glimpse into a different way of making films and telling stories. Subtitles can be challenging at times, but for me it's always worth the effort as you discover directors and actors and film movements that you never knew about. A film festival is a gift that keeps on giving in providing a guide to more films and filmmakers to explore during the rest of the year.

I'll make my schedule on my computer and sync it to my phone and make sure I have the location, synopsis, and running time of the film in the schedule. That way I can quickly see when, where, and how long the film is. With introductions and ads, there can be 5 or 10 minutes added on to the time for a screening, so keep that in mind. By having my schedule synchronized to my phone and iPad and laptop I can check it and adjust it as things change. Some people have it all done on paper which is great when you don't have cell phone service (which happens often in theatres) and having a paper copy of the full schedule or program guide can be good for looking things up too.

Eat and Drink

While I won't schedule it as formally, it's important to eat, so figure out the spaces in the schedule where you will get something to eat. It can be expensive to eat out all the time and can also change your plan dramatically if things are busy and you need to wait for food. I'll always have some good energy bars (high in protein) and a water bottle so I stay hydrated and nourished physically (cinema nourishes your soul). Popcorn can be great at a movie, but after the second or third film in a row with popcorn your lips will be dry and that is not fun. Better food and a nice break for a meal and conversation can truly enhance your festival experience.

Sharing a meal or a drink with someone is a great way to share what you think and feel about the film. Maybe there is something that you missed or something that they missed. Reflecting and talking is a way to learn more about the films you've seen and can help you adjust your schedule or plan to see other films. A good meal also can give you a burst of energy before diving back into the theatre to see something else.

Make Notes

It's important to keep track of what you've seen and what you think of the films when you see a lot. I make sure to have a notebook with me to jot down notes (as my phone is off) during a film or right after a film. I used to keep track of all the films in a notebook, but now I use Letterboxd and Your Flowing Data to track the films. As you start to see more and more films it is easy to forget something you've seen (especially in shorts programs that could have 10 or more films). Jotting down quotes or actor names or directors is good as a reminder of things to check out later too.

Writing reviews on sites like Letterboxd or tweeting out impressions or sharing things on Facebook are good ways to share what you've seen too. This can help other people too as they can find out more about great things or films and filmmakers that they didn't know about. Find out the hashtags that a festival is using and follow it and share things there (or mute it if you don't want to know about it). As you share and see what others have shared it can help you figure out things that you have missed that you may want to check out later. Sometimes it can take months or even years before a festival film shows up in theatres or is available for rental, so this may be your chance to remember to keep an eye out for that obscure Turkish film everyone was raving about last year.

Take Chances

While it's good to have a plan and know what you are seeing and why, it's also important to leap into the unknown at times. Take some chances and see things that you know nothing about. It can be a great experience as you can find something new and different. You may also find things that you do not like and that is ok too. The key is trying to balance it all out between having a plan with no surprises and a chaotic experience. I tend to choose something more obscure instead of things that are more popular as the popular things will probably be easier to see later.

A film festival can be a wonderful experience. You see things you would never see and meet great people who share a love of films. Every festival is different with a different focus, but the common thread is a love for discovering new films and bringing that love to an appreciative audience. Have fun seeing films and sharing them!

Geolocating Myself In The Landscape of Grand-Pré

Chris Campbell

In keeping with my less thinking and more making goal for Making Learning Connected this year, I woke up and saw it wasn't raining, so I hopped on my bike and off I rode to take some pictures of the Landscape of Grand-Pré for the sixth make cycle of #clmooc this year which is to GeoLocate Your Space. I'm also letting go of my need to do things sequentially and jumping in since I figured I'd be racing the rain and get some exercise too. The US National Park Service is facilitating this final cycle, and while I'm not in the US, in Canada we have Parks Canada and I'm lucky to also live in a province that has 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (and I've visited all three).

This morning I went for a bike ride around one of my favourite areas which happens to intersect with the UNESCO World Heritage Site Landscape of Grand-Pré. Rich in history, the first people of the area, the Mi' kmaq, settled here for over 4000 years, established trade routes and used the fish, fowl, and medicinal plants to survive and thrive. French settlers reclaimed farmland from the sea with a series of dykes built in the 17th century. The settlers called the region (which encompasses the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) Acadia and they became known as Acadians and traded and lived with the Mi'kmaq people.

The building of the dykes and the draining of the land used an ingenious low-tech solution with the tides (which are the highest in the world) draining the land. A simple wooden valve would let water drain out at low tide and would close as the tide rose. Around Grand-Pré this resulted in over 1,300 hectares of farmland that is still used today. By 1755 the area was under control by England and most of the Acadians (over 14,000 people) were expelled and lost their homes and land. The British resettled the land with New England Planters began farming on the fertile land and maintained and expanded the system of dykes.

One of my favourite bike rides goes through the dykelands which are still active farmlands with cows, fields of corn, and other things grown there. This morning I took a shorter and more direct route, pausing first at one of the new signs for the Landscape of Grand-Pré UNESCO World Heritage site and then going to the view park (which has a webcam which I didn't realize until later and then saw myself when I rewound it!). One of the best parts of living in the Annapolis Valley is the way that the geography is clearly visible. When I start out on a bike ride from the Ridge Road I can see where I'll be going further down. In the distance I can see other places where I've been as well. When you're in the Valley you can look up and see landmarks on the mountains around too, so it's fairly easy to figure out where you are.

Most of the time while riding my bike the focus is on moving. I love it when I take a long ride and my feet never touch the ground, but that means I may not pause and just see things as I pass them by. So this morning as part of this challenge for #clmooc I slowed down a little bit (while keeping my eyes on the rain-filled clouds in the sky). After surveying the dykelands from the view park I went down to the Grand-Pré National Historic Site interpretation centre (which wasn't open yet as I was early) and took a few pictures there (and practiced a bit of my French with a tourist from New Brunswick who was also early). Then I biked along the side of the Historic Site on the road which leads to the dykes (which isn't technically a trail, but lots of people bike and walk dogs there).

I stopped and took some pictures of the cows in the field there and they looked at me. Then I continued down the road and saw a deer carefully watching me further down the road. As I approached the deer slipped into the bushes and I saw a squirrel scurry across the road as well. Then the road winds through a cornfield on one side and a field lying fallow on the other. Then you meet the dyke wall and while I usually just continue along the road, today I rode up onto the dyke to take some pictures there. It's beautiful seeing the ocean and Blomidon in the distance with the grass growing tall along the top of the dykes (and the root system is an important part of solidifying the dykes as well).

Continuing back on the road I paused again when I could see the town of Wolfville in the distance with the buildings of Acadia University above the trees that are all through the town. The final leg of the journey was along the trail beside the abandoned railway line, beside the town library which is in the old train station, and then onto the street and up the hill to my house. A lovely, leisurely ride exploring my town with some fresher eyes on a cloudy morning

Games and Learning

Chris Campbell

Every year with the Connected Learning MOOC the pattern with me seems to be diving in, getting caught up in other summer stuff, and starting to lose the thread. It's a challenge for me to stay within a routine when I change my routine. In the summer I will usually travel and that is where the pattern changes. When there is a game that I play it will work in the same way where I will be heavily into it (and maybe even a bit obsessed) and then will either not have the time or get frustrated by something and then the interest will wane. That's the same sort of thing that happens with learning too!

In thinking about teaching and learning and games the things that work best for me balance surprise and improvisation with structure. So that means the key is having a set of rules and paths to follow to make sure that there is a way forward and milestones and guideposts along the way. While for many it may seem obvious, the key event for me which transformed the way that I do just about everything was realize the importance of outcomes. What is the goal?

Whether it is editing, writing, teaching, learning, or playing a game, having a simple and clear goal seems to be the key. If you know what it is you can expand or contract what you are doing to fit within the constraints that you have. You can do a 5 minute version, a 45 minute version, or even a 5 week version of something. Games can have complex mechanics where you need to learn how to work within the system or even figure out the controls. Once you have that down you build on that and move on to other things. While writing this the games in my mind are more computer-based ones as those are the games that I play the most now.

The games I keep coming back too are simple and beautiful. My favourite now is Alto's Adventure which is a small and simple game where you snowboard and capture escaped llamas. The controls are minimalistic and it's easy to start playing, but the complexity grows. This is the type of goal that I strive for with any workshop or thing that I teach. What is the most basic, important thing to learn and how can that form the basis of additional learning? It takes a lot of work and thought to get to that point and in a game something that is well-designed gives me joy and keeps me wanting to come back to it. Teaching something more than once can help a lot as you see what works and what doesn't, what's important and what isn't.

I played with Twine a bit to create a game that was a sort of essay about games and it was neat to be able to easily create a game that is text-based. The goal was just to share a bit of history, but it was good to write in a slightly non-linear way with some loose planning to get started. The tool is fairly easy to use with additional complexity that would allow you to make much more interesting things with it, but in keeping with my goal to think less and make more, I finished it and now will share my Game About Games (which is hosted on Phloem.la).

Currently Tracking

Chris Campbell

Morning writing on 750words.com

Morning writing on 750words.com

Apps for tracking my health

Apps for tracking my health

It's the beginning of summer and a good time to reflect a bit on what I'm recording every day with various devices, apps, and sites. I first did an inventory of My Tracking Toolkit last year in February and I'm still using a lot of the apps there. The prompt for this update is from starting to use Mike Lazer-Walker's caffeine-tracking app Cortado as it made me think about the uses that other people have for the data that I'm generating. What made me want to use Cortado was a blog post by Lazer-Walker about why you shouldn't trust him. There is a whole bunch of data out there and it's valuable.

For me the value is in being able to check back on what I've been doing and to remember things. In looking back at my other post about this, it didn't list everything I was using, but that's ok as there is so much stuff around and some things drop out of the rotation while others stay. The random tracking that I do is via the Reporter app which collects data through a questionnaire that pops up throughout the day. It's flexible and powerful and always with me.

One site for collecting and analyzing my data is Zenobase, which is Eric Jain's service that allows you to record, import, analyze, and visualize data. While I've been using it for a while and have set up a bunch of data sources, I haven't dove in to explore the full potential of it, but I'm glad there is a place for my data. The other site where I track a lot of stuff and that I still use several times a day is Nathan Yau's Your Flowing Data, which is my backup for recording films, coffee, beer, bike rides, and weight. A lot of the health data also goes into Apple Health either automatically or using the Sync Solver app on my phone.

Maybe a good way to go through what I track is to think about a typical day and the tracking that happens as it progresses. The data is almost always shared somewhere else too, so I have a few IFTTT recipes that work with Craig Eley's Sifttter script that assembles a lot of this into a daily summary added to my Day One journal along with the data that goes into Zenobase.

Questions in Reporter

Questions in Reporter

Starting when I wake up I set the Reporter app to awake and make my first question of the day which is how well I slept. Then I stop the timer on my Fitbit One which recorded my sleep. It also records my steps and I will hop on the Wii Fit and weigh myself (I still don't have a smart scale) and add the weight into the Fitbit app on my iPhone (and send it via Twitter DM to Your Flowing Data using Drafts). I do some stretches and mediate (with the Stop Breathe & Think app) and check those activities along with a few others using Coach.me.

Coffee and oatmeal are breakfast most days and I record the caffeine with Cortado along with an entry to Your Flowing Data for the coffee and oatmeal with Drafts. Then I start recording the water I drink and food I eat with Lifesum on my iPhone. Lifesum has been great for me and it has helped me control my weight by allowing me to track what I eat. I have a Gold membership which allows me to link my Fitbit data, so it keeps track of my activity to be able to adjust the calories available. The nutritional and calorie information is also shared with Apple Health, so I have all that data there too.

If I go for a bike ride I'll track the ride using Cyclemeter which uses GPS from my phone, a Wahoo Blue SC Speed and Cadence sensor, and a Polar H7 heart rate monitor to track my ride data. After my ride it automatically shares data with Strava and I'll use Drafts to record the kms ridden onto Your Flowing Data. Right now I don't have a mount for my phone or a bicycle computer so I don't see the data as I ride, which is good. Sometimes I'll wear the Polar FT4 watch which shows me my heart rate and the time elapsed, and I prefer to be minimalist and simple while riding.

When I'm out and about I'll check in to locations using Swarm from Foursquare which goes to Sifttter and Zenobase. If I have something to eat or drink goes to Lifesum and Cortado (for coffee). When I spend money I track that with Next (which I just started using) and it's been working well for me to keep track of spending. The steps I take go to my Fitbit and more passively with the Human app which reminds me to move if I sit for too long and does a great job at recording when I'm moving in a vehicle or walking.

When I watch a film I record it on Letterboxd (I usually tweet about it with the Letterboxd link to let people know what I am watching). I also record how I watched the film (theatre, DVD, online service) using Your Flowing Data with a DM sent from Drafts. I also have a question in reporter about what I watched that shows up in my final report. If I'm reading a book (either in print or on my iPad) I'll record that using Goodreads (which gets collected through Sifttter too).

If I listen to music or podcasts during the day I'll record those when the question "What did you listen to?" shows up in Reporter and iTunes songs show up thanks to Last FM using the Audioscrobbler plugin. The Last FM data goes to Sifttter and Zenobase as well. But I don't manually record individual songs or podcasts if I listen to more than one episode. I also don't record tv shows (except for in my answer for "What did you watch?" in Reporter in the final report for the day).

Finally before going to sleep I'll click on the Sleep button in Reporter and answer about what I watched and listened to. Then I start the timer on my Fitbit to track my sleep and I go to sleep before starting the whole cycle again the next morning.