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Remembering the Silver Wave Film Festival 2015

Chris Campbell

Being on the organizational committee for the Silver Wave Film Festival was a great experience. It gave me the chance to go back to the New Brunswick Filmmakers Co-operative to work for a few weeks and to spend a lot of time with some great friends. Tony and Cathie are some of my favourite people and to work with them over a few weeks was a joy. After 15 years the film festival is a compact, friendly, and smoothly running machine. It's not the biggest film festival, but they've simplified and worked things out to give everyone a warm and supportive experience. The strange thing about a festival is that the programming decisions happen months earlier, so for those behind the scenes we've seen the films and are anticipating how the audiences will enjoy them. Getting as many filmmakers as possible in is the secondary goal as it's important to have the creators there with the audience.

It was fun to be part of the mundane details of the festival such as helping to make up the passes or fold the programs for the Industry Series or help in reworking the sponsor reel that plays before the films. I'd introduced some of the programs in past festivals and did that again, but had a lot more insight into what was happening behind the scenes this time. The reaction to the films was positive and the whole atmosphere around the festival is one of happiness. The community around the NB Filmmakers Co-operative has long been positive and supportive and it's why I became involved with filmmaking and teaching. So in many ways you can trace my whole professional career back to the film coop in the early 1980s.

I was closely involved with the Canadian and International Shorts programs which had films from across Canada and around the world, but a lot of the films were from Nova Scotia and I knew many of the filmmakers. It's a privilege to showcase the work of people you admire and share it with an enthusiastic crowd. Going to a festival away from home is also a good way to see how people who don't know you will react to what you've made as well. Attendance was up at the screenings and for many us who live in Nova Scotia, the positive spirit and celebration of our work was a nice boost after a challenging year.

Seeing the screenings of the low-budget features Owl River Runners and Noon Gun for the first time at Silver Wave was a lot of fun too. I missed them when they played at the Atlantic Film Festival and was eager to see them on a big screen with an audience in Fredericton. When you know the people who make a film there is always a bit of nervousness when you see something as you hope that it turned out ok after hearing about it while it was in production. It's even better when you see the films and you enjoy them along with an audience. Owl River Runners is funny and local, telling a story about rural New Brunswick that feels recognizable. Noon Gun looks at a challenging issue with racism and history and community in North End Halifax and makes a powerful and moving statement.

Structurally the Silver Wave Film Festival happens mainly over a weekend with an opening film Thursday night, an Industry Series of panel discussions on Friday during the day with the rest of the weekend full of film screenings. Most of the panels have filmmakers who have films in the festival, so the participants get a good overview of the challenges that they've faced in making their films. The biggest day is Saturday with time in the morning to allow for a trip to the farmers market before the films begin. In the evening the main events are the New Brunswick Shorts Gala films followed by the Silver Wave Awards. Sunday is a lighter day with screenings starting in the afternoon and going into the evening.

The films are great to see with an audience and there is a lot of fun to be had after the films are over in the James Joyce Pub (with a wonderful range of New Brunswick and other craft beer and cider on tap) and in the Hospitality Suite after the bar closes. Thanks to the small size of the festival it's possible to meet just about everyone who is there and to talk about the films they've seen too. The most social day and night is Saturday with the party getting started later after the awards and photos of the winners. The bar and Hospitality Suite were packed into the wee hours filled with excited conversations about films and celebration by the winners of the awards. Sunday is more casual with the most people sitting down to talk more quietly in the bar as they reflect on the films and make plans for the future.

The key to a film festival is figuring out what you want it to be about and then balancing the films with the audience, the filmmakers, and the space between all those things to allow for interaction. I'm happy with how it went this year at Silver Wave and look forward to helping with it more and being on the lookout for other films and filmmakers to follow over the coming year. The films themselves are the smallest and shortest part of the entire process and the true joy is having the opportunity to connect with people who love creating and sharing stories.

What makes a film festival special for you and what do you love about a festival?

Silver Wave Film Festival 2015

Chris Campbell

Silver Wave 2015 Launch

Silver Wave 2015 Launch

For me filmmaking is inextricably linked with the New Brunswick Filmmakers' Co-operative. It's where I first found out how to make a film and saw and handled celluloid. The Film Co-op began in 1979 and I first walked in when my friend Kevin Holden told me I should stop in. It was neat to see the tools of filmmaking there –-- the flatbed Steenbeck film editor and the rolls of film on it. The Eclair NPR camera and lenses and lights and the Nagra tape recorder seemed like exotic and special tools that I would grow to love. I remember the first big screening we organized where we showed all the films made by the coop and the whole program was just over a half hour.

It was slower making films then as we only shot on film which went to the NFB lab in Montreal to be developed and printed. Then the sound and picture were synchronized and the mag stock and work print were sent off to have rubber numbers printed on it before editing could begin. The whole process was much more elaborate and involved and all through the process you would handle the film as it took shape. Then the sound mix and colour timing would need to happen in another city which involved travel and money. Now the whole process for postproduction can happen all within a laptop or even a phone, so it's faster to make films.

There were years where there was only one film finished at the coop, but now there are films at various stages of production with work happening every week. So while we had to wait a few years to get enough films together for a screening, now every year for the past 15 years, the Silver Wave Film Festival has been able to highlight the best of the films from New Brunswick in November. I've been to Silver Wave almost every year and seeing the development of new talent from the little film coop where I first started making film always is an inspiration.

For me (and many others) Tony Merzetti and Cathie Leblanc are the key organizers at the heart of the coop. Tony and I got involved at the coop around the same time and it's wonderful that he's still there. As Tony and Cat will point out, the coop is powered by many volunteers and one of the most encouraging things is to see how many new people get involved every year. The exciting thing this year is that I've been able to help with the festival in becoming part of the team to help with programming. There are a lot of other people involved and spending time at the coop this year gave me a deeper glimpse into the festival that has evolved over the past 15 years.

While there are over 100 films in the program this year, the whole festival is condensed into four days, so it's a concentrated dose of films and filmmakers. With a few features and a lot of shorts, there are films for every interest and age from drama to documentary. Things get started on Thursday, November 5 with the New Brunswick comedy Owl River Runners playing at Tilley Hall at UNB at 7pm with the opening party following at the James Joyce Pub at 10pm. It's the first of three Atlantic micro-budget features playing with the Nova Scotia feature Noon Gun screening Sunday, November 8 at 2pm at Tilley Hall and the closing feature from Prince Edward Island, Kooperman, Sunday at 7pm.

Friday is a packed day with the Industry Series at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre which is free (but you need to sign up). There are five panels with a range of filmmakers talking about their films, the industry, and themselves. It's a chance to meet people, find out more about the films, and the state of the industry in the region. The Industry Series wraps up with a reception before the films start showing in the evening throughout the city.

The documentary Guilda: elle est bien dans ma peau plays at 7pm at Conserver House as part of the Cinema Politica Showcase. At 8pm at Wilser's Room in the Capital Complex you can see a diverse range of music videos in the East Coast Music Video Showcase. The CLiFF (Canadian Labour International Film Festival) feature film is the animated documentary Little Girl with Iron Fist with a reception beginning at 8:30 at the Kinsella Auditorium at St. Thomas University and the film beginning at 9:30. The Coast to Coast Shorts show starts in Tilley Hall at 9:30 pm with films from across Canada (with heavy New Brunswick representation). The final event for Friday is the much-anticipated and chaotic Midnight Madness with a theme of "Murder, Ghosts & Time Travel" at Tilley Hall beginning at Midnight.

Saturday begins at noon with the Canadian & International Shorts I with some of the best short films (drama, comedy, and experimental) from Canada and the world showing at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. The popular Youth Shorts are showing at noon at the Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne as well with the next generation of filmmakers well-represented by the short films on display. At 2pm the more dramatic Canadian & International Shorts II program screens at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. The CLiFF Shorts play at 2pm at Chickadee Hall in the Fredericton Public Library with a mix of documentary and dramatic shorts built around workers and the Labour movement. The short documentary showcase Short Docs I (People and Places) screens at 4pm at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre with Canadian documentaries with a range of approaches to their subject matter (and featuring the great animated musical documentary The Singing Lumberjack about Charlie Chamberlain).

The warm heart of the festival is the NB Shorts Gala beginning at the Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne at 7pm with the best local shorts from the past year. The 18 shorts preceded the Silver Wave Awards at 10pm and the Gala Party at the James Joyce Pub at 11:30pm with things continuing in the Hospitality Suite early into the next morning as filmmakers and fans talk about what they've seen, what they've made, and what they're going to make over the next year.

Sunday is the final day of Silver Wave and Short Docs II start the day off at 2pm with diverse documentaries from the Atlantic and Quebec at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. The Nova Scotia feature drama Noon Gun is playing at 2pm in Tilley Hall with filmmaker Caley MacLennan present for the film and a Q&A afterwards. At 4pm the New Brunswick Documentary The Utrecht Seals (featuring Algonquin Métis rapper Samian) shows at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre for a different perspective on history and the Utrecht Treaty. The final film of the festival is the bromance Kooperman which plays at 7pm at Tilley Hall on the UNB Campus before the closing party at the James Joyce Pub at 10pm.

I'm excited to dive back in to Silver Wave this year to see films, share stories, and spend time with friends as we celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of inspirational filmmakers again.

Best of the 35th Atlantic Film Festival

Chris Campbell

In anticipation of a film festival you create impressions of films based on the past work of the directors and actors and don't know what to expect. When the films are first announced there are things that you have heard of and things you haven't and as you dig in to the details things emerge and the excitement builds. It's a challenge for a festival to secure a range of films that appeal to all audiences and this year at the 35th Atlantic Film Festival they did a great job. Now with a few days to reflect on a busy week here are the films that are sticking with me.

There were some great looking films. The development of digital imaging technology and the experience and development of techniques to use it is bearing some gorgeous fruit. When you combine better cameras and sensors with colour correction you have a wider palette of possibilities for the look and approach that you take with a film and that was clearly on display this year. Viewing a film on a large screen with an audience is a privilege and joy and that's always a highlight of any festival.


The film that I anticipated the most was Jacques Audiard's Dheepan which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. As with his other films it's about outsiders and crime and trying to fit in and have some sort of family relationship. With Dheepan and a new cast (including novelist Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, and Claudine Vinasithamby) and a new cinematographer (Éponine Momenceau) he does something that is recognizably Audiard, but feels a bit different. Moving outside of his regular collection of actors and collaborators makes for a film that is more vital and unpredictable.

Cemetery of Splendour

My favourite informal slot at the festival is the weekday afternoon slot with more esoteric foreign films. Last year it was the mesmerizing 3 hour plus Winter Sleep and this year it was Cemetery of Splendour. Apichatpong Weerasethakul crafts meditative and beautiful films combining Thai legends, geography, and people with his own cinematic techniques to create truly unique films. His Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is one of my favourite films and in his latest film he makes something similar, but with a distinctive internal logic. The best approach to take with his films is to be present and let the film wash over you. With minimal exposition and repetition the story and themes emerge over time as the film confidently moves forward. It encourages you to look and listen to follow details and see things. It's a transcendent cinematic experience.

The Lobster

I wasn't so sure if Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster would be part of the lineup for 2015 at the festival and was happy to see that it was. Lanthimos is an acquired taste with a deliberately alienating approach and use of violence to show the strange nature of relationships. In Dogtooth and Alps with a small cast and crew he crafted challenging and memorable films that I appreciated more after thinking about them and discussing them. With a bigger budget and bigger stars, The Lobster retains the power and challenge of his earlier films along with a higher profile. Tweaking and adjusting his approach (and improving it in many ways) makes for a film that is simultaneously more accessible and still deeply strange in terms of the mainstream.


Anti-comedy is a challenging thing as there is a meta level to what is going on. The jokes are not funny and that is why they are funny. It's elaborate and easy to misinterpret and shares a common thread with surrealism and the work of Luis Buñuel. I'm a big fan of that type of comedy from the surrealists to Andy Kaufman to Kids in the Hall to Alan Partridge to Garth Merenghi's Dark Place to name a few examples. Entertainment is almost the 2001: A Space Odyssey of anti-comedy with Gregg Turkington as Neil Hamburger, a bad stand-up comic on a tour across the American desert. It's definitely not for everyone as it blends pain and bad jokes with some stunningly beautiful photography to create a cool and depressing portrait of a man who is not happy in his life.

Early Winter

Speaking of unhappy people, one of the films that I didn't know much about at all was a pleasant surprise with Early Winter. With sparse frames, practical lighting, and unbroken takes, it's a story told through the things not said and things not seen. Michael Rowe's film is anchored by an understated performance from Paul Doucet with yet another complex acting turn from Suzanne Clément. It's a story about a marriage that isn't working. It's a voyeuristic film with key information missing and sparse exposition from dialogue. We start to piece things together in increments as time goes by and the spaces in the story start to fill in. It's bold and confident storytelling built around characters.

One Floor Below

Understated style and elliptical storytelling are the key features of the Romanian New Wave films and One Floor Below is a film about a murder that occurs off screen with two of the main characters knowing this from early in the film. We see the man who knows what happened and withholds what he heard from the police and how it eats at him. It's a slow-burn of a film that paints a portrait through the frame of everyday life and complex and idiosyncratic Romanian bureaucratic systems. Building in power as the film progresses, it's a delicate and powerful.

Closet Monster

A sometimes startling and beautiful feature debut from Stephen Dunn, Closet Monster has elements of magic realism in the story of a closeted young Newfoundland man who is coming to terms with who he is and what he wants. The witness to a horrific hate crime while young, this trauma makes him hide his sexuality as he grows up. It's a complicated portrait of a young man growing up shot in a beautiful way with a powerful central character created by Connor Jessup and a delightful voice performance from Isabella Rossellini as his pet hamster, Buffy. The winner of Best Canadian Feature at TIFF and Best Atlantic Director and Best Atlantic Screenwriting at the Atlantic Film Festival, Closet Monster should do well in the coming months.

Ninth Floor

Making some strong artistic choices to illustrate the story, in Mina Shum's debut feature documentary Ninth Floor, she adds visual and audio layers to a important moment in the development of Canadian society with the Sir George Williams Incident. Even if the film was average it would be worth seeing, but it's extraordinary with the approach that she takes. Shum makes the film even more moving as she connects the people and evokes the time vividly through filming locations in Montreal highlighting the distinctive architecture of the 60s as well as locations in the West Indies. Staging the interviews in abandoned rooms with occasional shots of surveillance cameras and tape machines adds a visual flair to the story. Skillfully weaving in music and a dramatic structure creates a memorable and emotional film that is immediate and inspiring.


With Frank Lenny Abrahamson made a film about creativity and depression that blended stories and history together and in adapting Room to the screen he takes a different approach in making a film that is much more subjective. With the heart of the film in the perceptions of the child Jack, born in a garden shed where he and his mother are imprisoned for half a decade, it's challenging, but works remarkably well. The film is immersive and manipulates time and space impressionistically in a way that made the nearly two hours fly by. Ultimately inspiring after a harrowing beginning, it's a film that manages to bridge the gap between the art house and mainstream cinema in a way that is refreshing.

Green Room

With Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier made a revenge drama that had a central character unsuited to the task and in Green Room, he takes a similar approach in a thriller about a punk band fighting neo-Nazis after witnessing a murder. With opening scenes that vividly and confidently establish the band and their milieu, it quickly takes a turn and increases the tension as the band is trapped and they fight for their lives. Subverting the conventions and expectations of the thriller adds a level of uncertainty and menace as things change quickly and unpredictably. Masterful genre filmmaking that pushes and changes the contours of the thriller in exciting ways.


Two strong-willed brothers who live side-by-side in Iceland without speaking to each other for 40 years face the prospect of losing their sheep herds in Rams. With a wry sense of humour and gorgeous cinematography we see the competitive brothers in their solitary environments surrounded by the spectacular Icelandic landscape. A strong character drama that carefully introduces the people before changing things, it becomes more and more engaging as it goes on and things become more complex.


A virtuoso film with no edits, Victoria shows what is possible with a strong ensemble and crew working with a great script. Shot around Berlin before dawn and into the early morning, it's a two hour plus roller coaster of a film that follows a woman (in a marathon performance from Laia Costa) as she meets a man (played by Frederick Lau) and becomes involved in a robbery. Brilliantly paced with a perfect balance between character-driven scenes and action, it's an immerse experience with the technique and cinematography perfectly suited to the story and never becoming a distraction. A singular cinematic achievement.

Day 1 - Atlantic Film Festival 2015

Chris Campbell

The first day of the Atlantic Film Festival is a nice, easy day with only one film and a party, so it's a great way to get ready for the busy 8 days of films. After picking up my pass in the afternoon I enjoyed some sunshine and relaxed in the Public Gardens while rethinking what I was going to see. The machinery is in place with the staff and volunteers getting things ready, the films are loaded onto hard drives and the filmmakers nervously await the audience reaction.

It was off to the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium for the red carpet gala screening of Hyena Road, which Paul Gross wrote, directed, and acted in. Before the film were the speeches to launch the festival with Executive Director Wayne Carter giving a bigger picture of the importance of the movie screen that transports us to another world in a time with so many other screens. There were government officials and funders and producers who spoke of films and filmmakers. Paul Gross gave a warm speech and specifically mentioned the challenges we're facing due to provincial funding cuts, and the hope for a return to more support for the industry that earned some strong applause and cheers.

Hyena Road is sincere and tense with impressive battle scenes and strong performances. It's a well-shot story told more from the soldiers point of view of a murky series of military actions in Afghanistan. The world of the soldiers is created with respect and careful attention to detail. The film earned a standing ovation from the crowd which was warmly received by Gross and actor Allan Hawco after the screening.

The opening night party was at the Lord Nelson and it was a bit smaller than some other years, but a warm and wonderful gathering of people. The opening party is a great location to catch up with people in the industry. While the industry is smaller, there is no decrease in the energy and drive of those who make and watch films. It's encouraging and inspiring to talk with people about what they are doing and the stories that they are telling. I'm so glad to be part of such a great group of people and am so happy to spending the week immersed in films and with those who love them.

Guide to the 35th Atlantic Film Festival 2015

Chris Campbell

Today, Thursday, September 17, 2015 is the first day of the 35th Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It's an exciting day as 100 films will be shown over the next week. There is a lot to see and do and I hope to squeeze in as many films as possible and share things here and in various ways over the next week. It's a concentrated and exciting time and can be overwhelming, so I am here to help you with some of the blog posts from the past week.

How to Enjoy a Film Festival

If you haven't obsessively been planning out your days, putting them into your calendar, and figuring out which chargers and bags and snacks to bring, you can start with How to Enjoy a Film Festival. There are tips for planning things out and keeping track of what you've done. If you have the time and money, getting a pass is the best way to go as it gives you flexibility in being able to change your schedule as well as letting you in to parties and events and the Reel East Coast Lounge in the Lord Nelson Hotel. The pass also gets you into the Festival Music House Atlantic on Saturday night which includes Rose Cousins and Sloan playing at the Marquee Ballroom.

Galas and Events

The high-profile parts of the festival are the galas and parties and you can buy tickets for them individually (and your ticket will get you in to the party connected with the screening if there is one) or if you have a pass you are in. The first gala is tonight with Paul Gross' Hyena Road which is happening at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium with a red carpet gala followed by the opening party at the Lord Nelson. I've got my guide to the galas and events to give you an overview of what will be playing. I'm eagerly anticipating Stephen Dunn's Newfoundland coming-of-age story Closet Monster on Friday, and Jacques Audiard's French film Dheepan on Wednesday.


There are a ton of great short films playing and you could have a pretty amazing festival just seeing the shorts. With documentaries, drama, experimental, and animated films it is a concentrated blast of cinema spread out over the week. You can find out more in my guide to the shorts for 2015 which has some real gems. The shorts program also highlights established and emerging Atlantic filmmakers well, and it's always good to have some shorts in your schedule as you plan out your week.


Some of the best documentaries of the year are in the program and in my guide to the feature-length documentaries I go through the lineup of non-fiction films that screen over the next week. There is a strong Atlantic presence in the documentaries and Donna Davies documentary Fanarchy will have people in costumes from their favourite films as well as a photo booth at the screening, so that will be one not to miss.

Feature Dramas

There are feature-length dramas screening every day in the festival which make for many difficult choices as you try to figure out what to see. I broke down the schedule day by day and you can check out the individual days for my thoughts on the films that will be playing.

The feature dramas on Friday have the weird Entertainment and the harrowing The Keeping Room as highlights. On Saturday, there is the world premiere of the P.E.I. feature Kooperman, as well as the drama Fire Song, the local feature Undone, and the tense Green Room too. Sunday begins with the German one-shot film Victoria and ends with the adaptation of Room to name two of the choices. My highlight Monday will probably be the Thai drama Cemetery of Splendour, the odd drama The Lobster, and there is the world premiere of the N.B. feature Owl River Runners too. For Tuesday the local feature Noon Gun will be great to see. The biggest day and most challenging schedule-wise seems to be Wednesday with strange and wonderful films to pick from including Guy Maddin's The Forbidden Room. The final day of the festival, Thursday, September 24 has great non-gala features playing throughout the day including the Holocaust drama Son of Saul as one of the films on a relatively full day of screenings.

Have a great festival and make sure that you share what you loved with the world. See you in the theatre!