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FIN Atlantic International Film Festival 2018 Documentaries, Features, and Special Presentations

Chris Campbell

With almost 200 films screening over a week, the Atlantic International Film Festival presents a number of challenges every day in terms of deciding what to see. If you have a pass it's a bit easier to decide at the last minute, but the complex arithmetic of how all the times of the films fit together can make it complicated as you obsessively fill your calendar, or maybe that is just me and my friends who dive deeply into that particular rabbit hole. Here are 10 films in the Features, Documentaries, and Special Presentations programs that look intriguing to me.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

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On Friday at 1:00 pm the documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening plays. It's an extraordinary documentary directed and shot by RaMell Ross that starts out casually and once you settle in to it the world and connections begin to emerge and strengthen. Not completely cinema verité, but deeply rooted in photography and empathy it's powerful and confident while sharing a similar approach to Chantal Akerman with her documentaries and Apichatpong Weerasethakul and his dramas. It's a different and long-overdue glimpse into the lives of black Americans without an agenda or prejudice.

The Wild Pear Tree

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Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest film comes to the festival on Saturday morning at 11:30 with The Wild Pear Tree. His previous film, Winter Sleep played at the festival in 2014 (and won the Palme d'Or at Cannes) and it was a deliberate, gorgeous and sprawling drama that connected a range of characters into a extraordinary film. The Wild Pear Tree explores similar themes with history, family, landscapes, and regret. I can't wait to immerse myself into his distinctive and compelling vision again.

The Girls of Meru

Andrea Dorfman brings her feature documentary The Girls of Meru to the festival on Sunday at 1:30. Years in the making, and filmed, written, and directed by Dorfman, it's the remarkable story of Kenyan girls and the multinational legal team who developed a legal strategy to help them. The shocking statistic of one in three Kenyan girls under 18 experiencing sexual violence with little police activity sparked the legal challenges as a way to combat what was happening.

An Elephant Sitting Still

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On Sunday night, at 7pm the only feature film from the late Chinese novelist and director Hu Bo (who took his own life after the completion of the film at the age of 29) plays. An Elephant Sitting Still is the story of a set of characters With a running time of 3 hours and 50 minutes, it's a film with the focus and approach recalling the work of Béla Tarr with long tracking shots and a focus on a single day within a Chinese context.

Lemonade

On Monday at 4:10 pm an interesting variation on the Romanian New Wave comes to the festival with co-writer and director Ioana Uricaru's film Lemonade. One of the directors and editors of the satirical Romanian film Tales From the Golden Age, it's her solo feature debut. Set in the U.S., it tells the story of a young Romanian woman who recently moved there with her young son and follows her through a day in her life.

Transit

German director Christian Petzold's latest film, Transit, plays on Monday at 6:10 pm. The final chapter in a trilogy that Petzold calls "Love in Times of Oppressive Systems" whose first two parts are the great Barbara and Phoenix, Transit is a wartime story of refugees, identity, impersonation, and desperation. Petzold films are deliberately constructed with complex characters in difficult situations that are memorable and devastating.

Shoplifters

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Winner of the 2018 Palme d'Or, Shoplifters, from Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-Eda, is about a family who survives through petty crime who face challenges when they take in a young girl. Creator of complex and remarkable stories, Kore-Eda's impressive oeuvre includes After Life, Our Little Sister, and After the Storm. Any opportunity to see the work of the great Japanese director on a big screen is worth taking.

The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution

A documentary looking at the changes happening to kitchen culture as more women are owning restaurants, The Heat plays at 4pm. Directed by Maya Gallus, it's a look at the chefs and food they make and how they're making kitchens a more humane and better place to work.

Cold War

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Visually stunning and with a similar approach to his previous film, Ida, Polish director Paweł Pawlikowski's Cold War is a challenging love story set in post-war Poland. The film screens on Wednesday at 9:20. Shot in black and white with the same cinematographer who created the evocative images of Ida, it looks like a companion piece to that earlier film.

Under the Silver Lake

In 2010, David Robert Mitchell's debut feature, The Myth of the American Sleepover played at the festival and it was a gentle coming of age story with a great cast. Four years later he moved into the horror genre with the stylish and compelling It Follows. Now he returns with the strange Under the Silver Lake which stars Andrew Garfield trying to solve a mystery. Mitchell's earlier films have been carefully-crafted and clever riffs on genre conventions and Under the Silver Lake seems to be another interesting and challenging film.

FIN Atlantic International Film Festival 2018 Preview, Galas, Restored!, and Extreme

Chris Campbell

The latest edition of the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival is underway and there is another great range of films to see. With almost 200 films screening over a week it can be a challenge to figure out what to see but I hope that I can help highlight some of the films that should be worth seeing.

Passes or Tickets?

The first choice is how many films you are planning to see. To fully immerse yourself in the festival the "Big Binge" pass will get you in to everything except the opening night film for $175. If you are a senior (65+) or a student the passes are $135. If you want to just pick a day (other than the opening gala) you can get a "Binge on Us" day pass for $38 which gets you into everything (including the galas) for that day. Single tickets for the 6:30 galas are $22.50, the 9:30 galas are $17.50, Special Presentations are $15, and the other programs cost $12.50. The Opening Gala costs $50 and the Closing Gala costs $30.

Opening Gala

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Things get underway on Thursday, September 13 with the first of the Gala events with Thom Fitzgerald's Splinters, which is an adaptation of Lee-Anne Poole's 2010 play of the same name. It's the story of a woman in her 20s who returns home to the Annapolis Valley for the funeral of her father. She faces the challenge of hiding her relationship with a man after she coming out as a lesbian when she was a teenager which her mother never accepted. With an Atlantic Canadian cast and the beautiful backdrop of the Annapolis Valley, it's a welcome return to the festival for Fitzgerald whose first feature The Hanging Garden won the Audience, Canadian Feature, and Direction award with his most recent feature, Cloudburst winning the Audience Award. The film is screening at the Rebecca Cohn Theatre at 7pm with the opening night party happening this year at the Discovery Centre at 9pm.

The Galas

The daily Gala program has 11 features and one shorts program from September 14 to 19 with a 6:30 and 9:30 Gala every day.

Friday Galas

 Life Itself

Life Itself

Friday's Galas look to be some heartwarming dramas with things getting underway first with An Audience of Chairs, based on Joan Clark's novel of the same name. Directed by Deanne Foley, who also directed the delightful Relative Happiness, it's the story of a concert pianist under stress with an absent husband and two daughters at home. Exploring mental illness, the complexity of families, and the possibility of redemption it promises to be one of the highlights this year as the festival celebrates Atlantic Canadian filmmakers. The 9:30 gala is Dan Fogelman's Life Itself, which follows a New York couple through their relationship in college to their first child and beyond with an impressive ensemble cast that includes Olivia Wilde, Oscar Isaac, Annette Bening, and Antonio Banderas.

Saturday Galas

 The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers

On Saturday night there is an anthology film that features 6 talented female directors working together on Hopeless Romantic, which shows different aspects of relationships through the stories of 6 women. The romantic comedy was filmed in Halifax by directors Deanne Foley, Megan Wennberg, Latonia Hartery, Stephanie Clattenburg, Martine Blue, and Ruth Lawrence. All have had impressive shorts and features that have screened in other editions of the festival. The 9:30 gala is Jacques Audiard's much-anticipated adaptation of The Sisters Brothers with festival favourite Audiard moving into more mainstream territory with a cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, John C. Reilly, Rutger Hauer, Riz Ahmed, and Carol Kane. The western is the English language debut of Audiard whose stunning Rust and Bone, and Dheepan screened at the festival in previous years.

Sunday Galas

Sunday night the focus remains on Atlantic Canadian filmmakers with the shorts program Real East Coast Shorts Gala screening 9 films from 10 directors at 6:30pm. With dramas and documentaries in the program it provides a condensed and impressive glimpse of the filmmaking talent that we're so lucky to have in the region as we see the stories told with a range of approaches and styles.

The 9:30 Gala is the feature debut of Newfoundland writer / director G. Patrick Condon with his film Incredible Violence. Exploring the horror genre in a self-reflexive way it should be a treat for fans for the genre.

Monday Galas

On Monday the 6:30 Gala is the documentary Love, Scott, which tells the remarkable story of musician Scott Jones, paralyzed after a homophobic attack. Filmed over a number of years by a close friend, director Laura Marie Wayne it should be an intimate and inspiring documentary that shows what can happen when you choose love over fear. The 9:30 Gala is another feature debut of a writer / director with Elizabeth Chomko's ensemble drama What They Had, which looks at a family dealing with dementia and the difficult choices to make. The cast features Blythe Danner, Hillary Swank, Taissa Farmiga, Robert Forster, and Michael Shannon.

Tuesday Galas

 Le Grand Bain

Le Grand Bain

Tuesday's 6:30 Gala is the French / Belgian co-production Sink or Swim (Le Grand Bain), directed by Gilles Lellouche. With a cast of 40-something men facing mid-life crises who form a synchronized swimming team. The comedy has the great French actor Mathieu Amalric along with Leïla Bekhti, Jean-Hughes Anglade, Virginie Efira, and Guillaume Canet. Jim Stern's political documentary American Chaos is the 9:30 Gala and it's a look at red states and those who voted for Donald Trump in the 6 months before the 2016 American Presidential elections. The documentary should give insight into the lives, motivations, and issues that the election brought to the forefront of the daily news.

Wednesday Galas

 Sharkwater Extinction

Sharkwater Extinction

Conservationist and filmmaker Rob Stewart’s final film, Sharkwater Extinction is the 6:30 Gala on Wednesday. Looking at the illegal shark fin industry and the catastrophic effects that humans are having on the oceans, it should be a moving and important examination of the environment and what we can do. The final regular 9:30 Gala is the documentary Free Solo, co-directed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin whose earlier mountain documentary, Meru played at the festival in 2015.

Closing Gala

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The closing night gala is Björn Runge's drama, The Wife, starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce. The story of a woman who questions the choices she made in her life as she and her husband travel to Stockholm where he is to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Restored!

The Restored! program returns this year with three classic films that should look amazing on the big screen. It's a chance to revisit classic films in a new way. Last year the restoration of Stalker was remarkable to see.

Solaris

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Another Andrei Tarkovsky science fiction film gets the restored treatment with the screening on Tuesday at 1:30pm of Solaris. It's a visually stunning and philosophically complex story of a man who travels to a space station surrounding a planet to find out what is happening there. It's going to be amazing to see it on a big screen.

Belle de Jour

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The restored version Luis Buñuel’s strange and gorgeous 1967 surrealist film Belle de Jour plays on Wednesday at 1:30. The surreal French film is constructed around a great performance by the singular Catherine Deneuve.

Grave of the Fireflies

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The animated 1988 Japanese drama Grave of the Fireflies, plays on Thursday at 2:00. Isao Takahata’s film about two children after the end of World War II is often called one of the greatest animated films of all time.

Extreme

 Mandy

Mandy

The new Extreme program features three films that are not for the faint of heart. It’s a program that is provocative and challenging with films that are outside the mainstream and will be a treat for those who enjoy darker and stranger cinematic visions.

Mandy

On Monday night the Extreme program kicks off with Nicolas Cage letting loose in what appears to be a career triumph of his larger acting tendencies with the horror film Mandy. The revenge tale is directed by Panos Cosmatos and also features Andrea Riseborough and Bill Duke in the cast.

The House That Jack Built

Tuesday night Matt Dillon stars in Lars von Trier's notorious and intentionally offensive and deliberately provocative The House That Jack Built. It's way outside of the mainstream and features horrific violence and very disturbing subject matter. You already probably know if you are interested or not interested if you've seen von Trier's other work.

Climax

Gaspar Noé somewhat appropriately wraps up the Extreme program on Wednesday night with Climax. It's a film that is reportedly challenging on many levels with his use of colour, camera techniques, and sound along with subject matter. It's a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in something that has been describe as exhilarating and outside of more reassuring mainstream cinema.

Even if you just chose from the Galas, Restored, and Extreme programs you could have a great festival, but that's only a fraction of the films that are screening at the festival this year. Good luck with your choices and see you at Park Lane.

Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival 2018 Preview

Chris Campbell

HIFF

It is a challenging time for film festivals as the flattened distribution model makes it a bit less special to see something at a theatre, so festivals need to do a bit more to remain relevant. It's just about time for the boutique film festival that expands the horizons of the audience, showcase the best of Atlantic Canadian filmmakers, and to provide an opportunity to connect with the community of those who love cinema that challenges and inspires. The Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival or HIFF, launched by the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-op in 2007. It's a festival that shows carefully-curated new work and a gives local filmmakers a chance to learn and share with other filmmakers. Running from June 6 to June 9, it's a condensed and immersive experience with the films and the filmmakers present to provide context and an opportunity to connect with them and celebrate independent cinema.

Day 1 - Wednesday, June 6

All You Can Eat Buddha

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The festival begins with Ian Lagarde’s strangely compelling All You Can Eat Buddha playing at 7pm at the Neptune Scotiabank Stage Theatre. Beautifully shot with an understated surrealism running through the film, it’s an odd reflection on life and meaning. The story is filtered through a grounded and mysterious performance by Ludovic Berthillot as Mike, a man who goes to an all-inclusive tropical resort and stays and stays. Within the carefully-composed frames and routines of the resort we watch as Mike connects with nature, other vacationers, the staff, and a giant squid in a world between day and night, waking and dreaming, solitude and community. Walking a fine line, the film treats the characters with respect which makes the film more than an absurd comedy, but a deeper and more profound reflection on the search for meaning and existence. Writer / director Ian Lagarde will be present for a Q&A following the film.

Atlantic Auteurs – Program One

 Martha Brook Falls

Martha Brook Falls

A collection of 11 short films from Atlantic directors that blend experience, experiments, nature, documentary, and introspection into a showcase of work from established and emerging filmmakers plays at 9pm at the Neptune Scotiabank Stage Theatre. Using still photos, celluloid, animation, and digital video, the films will highlight a range of approaches to storytelling and truth. The program features the latest work from Ashley McKenzie with her short Martha Brooks Falls as a way for her to step back from her intimate character explorations and to step into nature. There are also shorts from New Brunswick’s Ryan O’Toole with his experimental video krotoplaxx diary disc 1.1, Todd Fraser’s hybrid celluloid / DV Newfoundland odyssey it's good to go see different areas, and the legendary James MacSwain’s Halifax explosion story, The Red Purse.

Day 2 - Thursday, June 7

In the Waves

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Jacquelyn Mills’ documentary In the Waves plays at 7pm at the Neptune Scotiabank Stage Theatre. A personal documentary linking filmmaker granddaughter Jacquelyn with her 80 year old grandmother Joan who is coming to terms with the death of her younger sister it’s an intimate and sensual exploration of the natural world, time, and memory. The impressionistic and beautiful film was shot over several years in Cape Breton with Jacquelyn Mills serving as the crew. Mills will be present for a q&a following the film.

her silent life. + expanded cinema performance

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At 9pm on Thursday night at the Bus Stop Theatre, Lindsay McIntyre will screen her film her silent life. followed by a q&a and a live film performance. Working mainly in celluoid, and combining experimental and documentary techniques, she is a visiting artist at AFCOOP and has conducted a series of analogue film workshops over the past month. In her silent life. McIntyre explores her mixed Inuit heritage and the controversies surrounding it. The screening and performance should be memorable and engaging.

Day 3 - Friday, June 8

Team Hurricane

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Colourful and at times raw, Team Hurricane is an energetic and fragmented story of young women who meet through a youth club in Denmark. It screens Friday at 7pm at the Neptune Scotiabank Stage Theatre. Blending their own experiences and creative expressions with those of director Annika Berg, it's filled with moments of pain, joy, connection, and friendship. Examining the complexity and challenges of youth and fitting in as you are figuring out who you are, it's a unique and at times overwhelming visual and sonic dive into the lives of young women. Director Berg cast the film through social media and gave her cast assignments to complete which allowed the women to create semi-fictionalized versions of themselves which grounds the film which doesn't feel like the view of an older person trying to understand youth, but of someone with a deep empathy who is allowing her collaborators to have a voice. In lesser hands it could become a chaotic mess, but Berg manages to blend it together into a film that is bold and powerful. Director Annika Berg will participate in a q&a following the film.

Matthew Rankin Retrospective

 Mynarsky Death Plummet

Mynarsky Death Plummet

Matthew Rankin’s films are very much products of his hands and mind. Using a variety of celluloid techniques that show the dazzling possibilities of analogue art they are eclectic and amazing. Friday night at 9pm at the Neptune Scotiabank Stage Theatre you can see his work on the big screen.

imagineNATIVE Virtual Reality

 The Hunt by Danis Goulet

The Hunt by Danis Goulet

On Friday and Saturday in the lobby of the Neptune Scotiabank Stage Theatre the imagineNATIVE Virtual Reality presentation will be available. Consisting of four interactive VR experiences within the framework of a world 150 years in the future, it's immersive and thought-provoking. I've seen two of the projects and they are quite amazing in providing perspective and a different way to view the complex history and future of Indigenous people. The guide for imagineNATIVE 2167 is filmmaker Judith Schuyler.

Day 4 - Saturday, June 9

Programmers Picks

 Rupture

Rupture

One of the great traditions of HIFF is to have programmers from other festivals bring some of the best work from their festivals to present in Halifax in the Programmers Picks screening. This year the programmers are Curtis Woloschuk of the Vancouver International Film Festival, Alejo Franzetti of Berlinale, Gabriela DiNobile of the Rhode Island International Film Festival, and Brennan Tilley the Calgary Underground Film Festival. They're presenting a range of films from their respective festivals and will be present to introduce the eight films that are experimental, documentary, dramatic, odd, and profound. The films screen at 3pm in the Neptune Scotiabank Stage Theatre.

Atlantic Auteurs – Program Two

 The Importance of Dreaming

The Importance of Dreaming

The second of the Atlantic Auteurs program screens at 7pm at the Neptune Scotiabank Stage Theatre with ten short films from a diverse range of filmmakers from the region. With documentary, comedy, animation, drama, and experimental work, it's another chance to see the best work from established and emerging filmmakers who push the boundaries of filmmaking. Featuring work from animator Tara Audibert with The Importance of Dreaming, the irrepressible Josh Owen with Billy's Behemoth Blast, Daniel Boos' Thug, and Seth Smith's surreal I'm Bad to highlight four of the films, it should be an emotional roller coaster with laughs, tears, and though provoking stories and approaches to narrative.

Mass For Shut-ins

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Feeling like a documentary with honest and unpolished performances, Winston DeGiobbi’s debut feature Mass For Shut-ins is an impressionistic look at the life of young man in his 20s trapped in a small community with an even smaller set of choices. It’s the final film of the festival, playing at 9pm in the Neptune Scotiabank Stage Theatre. A micro budget feature that explores similar territory to Ashley MacKenzie’s Werewolf while having a slightly different and distinctive voice. It’s raw and at times uncomfortable with much of the work of piecing together the history and narrative left up to the viewer. It’s bold and confident, haunting and unnerving as a story begins to emerge from the shadows.

HIFF is a treasure and a chance to connect with the community to celebrate and enjoy truly independent filmmaking by passionate filmmakers who create meaningful work that deserves a wider audience.

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 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.