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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!

Atlantic Film Festival 2014 - Shorts and Documentaries

Chris Campbell

Nick Cave in the documentary 20,000 Days on Earth

Nick Cave in the documentary 20,000 Days on Earth

While the feature dramas make up the bulk of the attention received by the Atlantic Film Festival, there are dozens of shorts and documentaries that give opportunities to see unique and challenging work with an appreciative audience. With a focus firmly built around the region with the Atlantic Shorts programs as well as some standout Canadian and international shorts programs, it's a rare opportunity to see collections of short films in a theatre. With solid documentaries from within the region and around the world, it makes the task of determining what to see just a little bit more challenging.

One change this year is the broadcast-length documentaries are now in individual slots of about an hour or so instead of being part of a longer program, which makes it easier to customize what you are seeing. With the shorts programs as well, you can see dozens and dozens of films in a short period of time and balance out the features you'll be watching. Figuring out the right balance can be hard, and that's why the best deal and easiest way to enjoy as much as possible is to get one of the passes. But even if you don't have the time to see a lot, with careful planning you can get a lot of cinematic pleasure in a short period of time.

Friday

On Friday you can start early with Les Sceaux d'Utrecht, a documentary from Paul Bossé about the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht which is an exploration of the treaty hosted by Algonquin / Métis rapper Samian. You can see the winner of the Best Canadian Feature Documentary at Hot Docs, Out of Mind, Out of Sight. Directed by John Kastner and it looks into the lives of four patients in the Brockville Mental Health Centre with filming over a year.

A film that I saw recently was The Boy Who Was Bullied, which is Greg Hemmings' short documentary about Hampton, New Brunswick's John Humphrey who was key player in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the United Nations adopted in 1948. A second short documentary directed by Hemmings plays later and in Code Kids you can see how kids learn to write computer programming code in the Maritimes. Both films will let you find out more about the people in the region as well as giving you hope for the future.

If you're in the mood for personal portraits of individuals you can see Danic Champoux's documentary Self(less) Portraits which has 50 people boldly sharing a range of personal subjects with the camera celebrating the diversity of the lives that we live. Geoff D'Eon's short documentary Bounty: Into the Hurricane explores what happened in October 2012 when the tall ship Bounty) set sail into the path of Hurricane Sandy.

The final documentary on Friday night is Giuseppe Makes a Movie where you can find out more about a teen actor turned director who makes films quickly with non-actors. With over 30 films in his body of work, the documentary is a portrait of a minimalist filmmaker outsider that should be inspiring and entertaining.

The Atlantic Shorts play every day of the festival after the opening night film. If you want to see the talent from the region, it's the best way to get a concentrated look at those in front of and behind the camera and what they are capable of. The first of the Atlantic Shorts programs is on Friday at 4:30 with Atlantic Shorts 1 which has a diverse range of films from documentary to animation to drama to humour in all sorts of combinations.

Saturday

Saturday has Atlantic Shorts 2 with NSCC Screen Arts grad Luke Freeman's Lord of Chaos, Michael Melski's Miles From Nowhere, Jesse Anthony's Crates, and Righteous from Cory Bowles. Atlantic Shorts 3 then follows in the late afternoon slot and all three of the Saturday Atlantic Shorts also have screening times the next Monday which can help in squeezing them all in.

The French language compilation of shorts, Courts Métrages, which is part of the Cinéma en Français S.V.P. programming stream that runs through the festival, is screening at 4:15 on Saturday. Sure to contain some gems, this program has featured some of the best recent short films from Québec. The film La coupe (The Cut) written and directed by Geneviève Dulude-De Celles recently won the Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction at Sundance should be one of the highlights of this program (and it also is part of Shorts 1 on Monday).

Saturday

Saturday has a lot of great documentaries to choose from as well as an exhibition related to one of the films. Jennifer Hogg's short documentary State of Mine looks at the creation of portraits by Chris Geworsky of seven musicians. Later on Saturday and on Sunday you can view the State of Mine Exhibition related to the photographs at the NSCAD University Academy Building.

For international documentaries on Saturday there are The Overnighters from Jesse Moss which looks at a pastor in the North Dakota oil fields, Gabe Polksy's Red Army telling the story of the Soviet Red Army hockey team, and I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story from Dave Lamattina and Chad Walker about Sesame Street's popular giant character.

Locally there are interesting topics explored in three documentaries on Saturday. Santa Quest by P.J. Naworynski is about actor John Dunsworth in an international Santa Claus competition along with some philosophical insights. Patrick Callbeck's Rainbow Valley tells the story of the P.E.I. amusement park which closed after 36 years. Danny has Justin Simms and William D. MacGillivray telling the story of the former Premier of Newfoundland Danny Williams).

Sunday

Another big day with many documentaries focussing on people, the choices they make, and what they do with their lives are available on Sunday. Vocation, directed by Rhonda Buckley which looks at a group of artists who choose to work as artists and talk about what being an artist means to them. In keeping with the artistic theme, but in a much different direction, the Kickstarter-funded documentary Art and Craft from Sam Cullman and Jen Grausman is about the most prolific art forger in U.S. history. Jackie Torrens finds common ground between the UFO hunters of Shag Harbour, Halifax Steampunks, and some Kings County yodellers in her documentary Edge of East.

Later in the afternoon Douglas Kass and Roger Kass illuminate the struggle of migratory songbirds in Europe and the challenges that they face from poaching in Emptying the Skies. In Raising Windhorse Kent Martin looks at the intersection of spirituality and farming at the oldest working sustainable farm in Canada. With Sister Morphine, Brad Gover provocatively profiles some of the nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador who struggle with addiction in the difficult circumstances of their profession.

The documentary day wraps up with a pair of documentaries about artists and their work. First at 8pm is Ron Mann's latest, Altman, which looks at the great American director. In his other films, Mann skillfully weaves together archival footage to construct brilliant stories with insight into their subjects and this look at Robert Altman should be the definitive reflection on him. Finally the experimental documentary 20,000 Days on Earth from Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard weaves together music, writing, fact, and fiction in a collaboration with Nick Cave which should be a delicious combination.

There are three shorts programs on Sunday, all Atlantic and all interesting looking with Atlantic Shorts 4 consisting a short documentaries about artists and artistic practice and how it helps people in the world. I've seen John Pollack's short Art, Medium Roasted, which is a tasty treat for those interested in art and coffee. The gala for the day is the CBC Atlantic Shorts Gala with producer Lora Campbell and writer / director Lisa Rose Snow's When Fish Fly having a world premiere at the gala. Their earlier collaboration, Two Penny Road Kill is a beautiful film and their latest film should be great as well. The final Atlantic Shorts program for the day, Atlantic Shorts 5, has a lot of humour and animation including Ruby Boutilier's Ken trilogy (featuring the misadventures of Barbie's love interest), as well as ubiquitous actor (appearing in 5 films in the festival this year) Glen Matthews writing and directing the wrestling picture Saving Face.

Monday

The first three of the Atlantic Shorts programs have encore screenings during the day on Monday. Then things get more experimental with Atlantic Shorts 6 with a range of visual and sonically cinematic explorations including Chris Spencer-Lowe's Transfer and Graeme Patterson's beautiful and intricate stop-motion animated Secret Citadel. Something a bit different from the Atlantic shorts could be Shorts 1 with some of the best short films from Canada and around the world. The final shorts program of the day is the new program, NextGen Atlantic Shorts with emerging filmmakers from the region featured. Screen Arts grad David Mullins debuts his FILM 5 short Hero D, and Screen Arts grad (and my daughter) Caitlin Campbell premieres her short musical documentary Leaving, which is about Cud Eastbound. The NextGen program also has Kirk Pennell's virtuoso 11-minute, one-take short POV which is amazing.

The documentary Advanced Style from Lina Plioplyte, grew out of the blog of the same name and takes a stylish look at 7 New York women ranging in age from 62 to 95 who show how to define beauty in a world obsessed with youth. Director Bashar Shbib looks for one of the first Canadian feature films and the Longfellow poem that spawned it in The Search for Evangeline in a journey that ranges across North America.

Tuesday

Things slow down a bit the next day, but you can start early on Tuesday with youth oriented screenings with the Viewfinders Shorts at 10am and an encore screening of I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story at 10:30am. There is also an encore screening of Atlantic Shorts 4 at 4:30pm. At 6:45 you can see Shorts 2 with more of the best short films from around the world and Canada.

There are a couple of documentaries in the evening on Tuesday exploring history, politics, and identity. You can explore the teen movie genre in Charlie Lyne's Beyond Clueless which looks at over 200 teen movies in the post John Hughes era. The Swiss documentary The Circle won the Best Documentary award this year in Berlin and it tells the story of the gay male organization and the 50 year relationship of a Swiss couple through interviews and recreations.

Wednesday

A pair of documentaries on Wednesday both promise to be compelling and interesting for different reasons. First up is The Green Prince, a documentary by Nadav Schirman constructed like a thriller about the son of the founder of Hamas who became a spy for Israel. Sturla Gunnarson's Monsoon goes into the heart of the massive Indian weather system that annually covers the country. For Wednesday shorts you can catch the encore screening of Atlantic Shorts 5 followed by Shorts 3 with international and Canadian shorts exploring life and death.

Thursday

The final day of the festival has one documentary in the morning and encore shorts screenings throughout the day. Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity is a documentary by Catherine Gund that paints a fascinating portrait of extreme choreographer Elizabeth Streb and the amazing and physically demanding performances that redefine dance and risk. The NextGen Atlantic Shorts have an encore screening at 4:45, the CBC Atlantic Shorts Gala screens again at 8pm, and Atlantic Shorts 6 has another screening at 10pm.

You can see the results of the intense 10x10 music video and director collaboration (and find out who wins) at the 10x10 Music Video Screening at 7:30pm. Over the course of five days, bands and filmmakers met and in that short period of time they will have made 10 music videos that will all screen at this event. The RBC Foundation's Emerging Artist Award of $10,000 goes to the winning video and is divided between the filmmaker and the musicians.

The key to a good festival is balance and mixing drama, documentaries, and shorts is a great way to get a diverse experience and have a lot of fun at the Atlantic Film Festival. Good luck planning out what to see!

Anticipating Atlantic Films

Chris Campbell

Still from Andrea Dorfman's film Heartbeat

Still from Andrea Dorfman's film Heartbeat

A couple of days ago the Atlantic Film Festival made their first round of announcements and unveiled the Atlantic Program. These films are the heart of the festival and it is the best place to see what the filmmakers of the region have been making. This year it seems to be another bumper crop of shorts and features, drama and documentary, all worth seeing and sure to be thought-provoking and entertaining.

I'm lucky to teach filmmaking at NSCC in the Screen Arts Program, so many of the grads and current students have worked on the films. It's always great to hear about their adventures working on films and even better to see the results of their hard work. I've also been part of the film community in the region for a few decades now, so it is great to see friends and colleagues continue to tell stories in their own way year after year.

There are some new Atlantic Programs this year and more than a dozen feature-length films too. The usual Atlantic Shorts are filled with a mix of humour, drama, and documentary. One of the new programs that I am anticipating is the Nextgen Shorts which is highlighting emerging talent in the region. In that program there are two Screen Arts alumni, Dave Mullins with his FILM 5 short Hero D, and Caitlin Campbell (who just graduated and is also my daughter) documentary about Cud Eastbound, Leaving.

In the 10x10 Music Video Mentorship Program Dave Mullins will also be making a music video along with music videos directed by Paul Benjamin and Steven Gill who just graduated from Screen Arts. The 10x10 program is exciting as the directors are teamed up with bands and over 5 days they make a music video which is then screened. There is an audience and jury vote with the winning team split the RBC Emerging Artist Award along with a $10,000 cash prize.

Screen Arts grad Luke Freeman's film Lord of Chaos is screening in the Atlantic Shorts 2 program. It's in great company along with Michael Melski's documentary short Miles From Nowhere and Cory Bowles' Righteous who are two established filmmakers whose work I always enjoy. In the Atlantic Shorts 5 program you can see Ruby Boutilier's funny and unique Ken trilogy interspersed with the other shorts as well as Glen Matthews directing and writing the wrestling picture Saving Face.

The CBC Atlantic Shorts Gala highlights the best of region short film and for me I can't wait to see Lisa Rose Snow's When Fish Fly. Her previous film, part of FILM 5, Two Penny Road Kill is one of my favourite shorts and her latest should be similarly great.

The most exciting announcement and film that I've been eagerly awaiting is writer / director Andrea Dorfman's Heartbeat. Her third feature film and another collaboration with Tanya Davis, it's sure to be warm, heartfelt, and visually stunning. The team and cast look like an amazing collection of Halifax-based artists with superb cinematographer Stéphanie Weber Biron being the sole import. Andrea exemplifies what it means to be a collaborative artist here and it will be a wonderful experience to see the world premiere of her latest feature at the Atlantic Film Festival.

Sappyfest 9 - Day 3

Chris Campbell

Basia Bulat

Sappyfest is a lot of fun and it is possibly annual. At the very first festival the attitude was established. It was called the Sappy Records Music Festival and we were welcomed to "the first and possibly annual" festival. There is something nice about knowing that nothing is guaranteed and that you should value every moment as who knows if it will happen again. The first Sappy was casual and fun with a tiny tent beside Struts Gallery and there was some rain. The crowds weren't massive, but it was fun. We were all figuring it out and knew that this wasn't going to be like other music festivals. It was Sappyfest and if there was only one that would be have been cool. But it wasn't the only one and with the ninth one over, it feels good to have been there every year.

My connection with Sappyfest started with Paul Henderson. He was the director of Faucet, the media division of the arts behemoth that is Struts Gallery. Paul got me to teach a few workshops on things like stop motion animation and Final Cut Pro. The workshops always had great people in them and were fun and once Tara K Wells and Shotgun Jimmie were even in a workshop. Sackville is a small and magical town. When I first bought my pass to Sappyfest there was a little note from Paul in the mail that made me realize that he was the some person who brought me to the workshop.

Egg and Cheese Bagel from The Black Duck

Now it's years later and Sappyfest is still here, under new management, but the vibe is the same. It's small and personal and honest and fun. As the final day of Sappy rolls around everyone is into the groove. We're taking our time, smiling at each other as we pass on the street and everyone knows why you are there. The town fills up and there is music and laughter everywhere. Now there is an invisible social media layer all over the festival with photos and tweets and updates flying around connecting us all.

On this lovely Sunday morning in Sackville the great coffee and food of the Black Duck beckoned to me and breakfast was their delicious egg and cheese bagel. Following the food it was time for a peaceful walk around the Sackville Waterfowl Park. So nice to get out into nature and walk around before starting a day filled with film and music.

Sackville Waterfowl Park

The Sappyfest events for me began in the Vogue Theatre watching the deeply odd and fascinating film Asphalt Watches. A based-on-a-true-story about hitchhiking across Canada, this isn't the typical movie of the week. Asphalt Watches is a unique animated film from Shayne Ehman & Seth Scriver that surreally documents a road trip that they took. Done in a bright, primitive animation style and with a catchy, experimental soundtrack, it is strangely compelling. Musical and fun it was a good, strange way to start the day while sipping coffee in the dark.

The great thing about the afternoon shows in the tent on Bridge Street is that there are chairs. The tent usually will fill up, but there is enough space to sit in a chair or on the ground to listen to the music. That is important after standing for hours the previous two days. It's good to be able to rest and enjoy music. One of the many neat things about Sappyfest is how small and flat the structure is. The musicians appear on the stage before their sets and get their gear ready as we watch in the crowd. After the show and the applause they quietly return to the stage to unplug their gear so the next band can get ready. Many of the other performers are usually in the audience watching and they slip backstage near the end of the previous set to get ready for their set.

Rae Spoon

Wandering out of the Vogue after the film, Banded Stilts were playing in the tent. The seats were full and after being in the theatre for a couple of hours it was good to stand for a little while. After they finished some seats opened up and there were some great seats to relax in as Rae Spoon set up their gear. I've heard Rae Spoon's music, but hadn't actually seen the film about them yet, but having listened to one of the albums, I knew that there was a good chance I would be in for a treat. Taking the stage alone it was fun and neat to see a set filled with humour and small-personal songs that ranged from dance to grunge. The crowd loved it and I did as well.

Fredericton's The Olympic Symphonium wrapped up the afternoon with a great collection of songs and constantly reconfigured themselves switching instruments and vocals. I had not seen them perform before and they were a nice, gentle ambient folk band that provided a fitting end to the afternoon show and hints of what was to come in the evening.

The pace seemed to be just about right for this final day and after a beer and light supper at Ducky's there was time to get the blog post about day 2 done and rest a bit before heading back down to the tent for the evening show. The evening was packed and it started gently with Michael Feuerstack singing his own songs as well as some Snailhouse songs. Accompanied by some of the members of Olympic Symphonium, it made me realize how much of Sappyfest is interconnected with all sorts of collaborations happening between the talented artists who make the festival what it is. Gently-crafted, honest, and personal, they are lovely and it was interspersed with some humour as well. A great Sappy way to get the evening started.

A sweetly-smiling Basia Bulat took the stage and our hearts as she started to play. There was an amazing energy as she played her songs and switched instruments. Such a lovely voice and beautiful songs. We sang along sometimes and stood, transfixed as she sang and played. It was magic. She finished and was drawn back by the applause and chanting of the audience for one more song.

The power-duo of Shotgun & Jaybird reunited for the penultimate set in the tent. Fred Squire and Shotgun Jimmie alternated playing guitar and drums and pleased the packed tent. So nice to see them play together again in another reminder of Sappyfests past and of the bright future the artists who are part of the whole experience. They set up things for the Constantines who were reunited and powerful and friendly and rocked the tent. All the pent-up energy and anxiety from the previous 8 Sappyfests and the possibility of there not being another combined in moments of rock and roll perfection. Sappyfest never went anywhere and we'll always have that feeling in our hearts. Thanks to everyone for continuing to make it so special.

Constantines

Sappy forever.