It’s September and in Halifax that means that the film festival is happening. Newly rebranded as FIN Atlantic International Film Festival, it’s happening from September 14 to 21 with the opening film at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium and all the other screenings happening in the Cineplex Park Lane theatres. Here’s a guide to the gala screenings that happen every day during the festival.
The festival begins with the highly-anticipated Gala presentation of the documentary about the 2016 tour of the Tragically Hip, Long Time Running at the Rebecca Cohn Theatre on Thursday, September 7. Co-directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicolas de Pencier, it follows the iconic Canadian band as they prepare for their tour and the discovery that lead singer Gord Downey has brain cancer. Baichwal co-directed the stunning Manufactured Landscapes which played at the festival in 2006, and de Pencier was the cinematographer of The End of Time which played at the festival in 2012. Following the film the Opening Night Celebration takes place in the VIA Rail station as part of the “Movie Nights Across Canada” celebration.
Writer / director Michael Melski returns to the festival with a supernatural thriller The Child Remains that starts the week of gala films off with a scream. Starring Suzanne Clément and Allan Hawco and shot locally, the suspenseful horror film takes place in a country in that was a maternity home that held some dark secrets. The party after the gala is at the Compass Room of Casino Nova Scotia.
The 9:30 gala on Friday night is Haifaa Al-Mansour’s biopic Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning as author Mary Wollstonecroft and her bohemian romance with Percy Shelley and the tragedy of losing a child which inspired her to write Frankenstein. Al-Mansour was the first Saudi woman to direct a feature film with her gentle 2012 drama Wadjda. With a screenplay by Australian Emma Jensen, it should be an interesting historical romance with a strong cast.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is a romance set in Liverpool in 1978 starring the always interesting Annette Bening as actress Gloria Graham and Jamie Bell as actor Peter Turner. Based on Turner’s memoir of the same name which tells the story of the young actor’s relationship with the Hollywood leading lady. The film is directed by Paul McGuigan who directed several episodes of the TV series Sherlock as well as episodes of Scandal, Designated Survivor, and Luke Cage. The adapted screenplay is written by Matt Greenhalgh who adapted the screenplay for the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic Control.
Shot in Winnipeg, Room for Rent is written and directed by Matthew Atkinson and stars Mark Little, Mark McKinney, and Brett Gelman in a comedy about an unsuccessful man living with his family after he squanders his lottery winnings and suggests renting a room to a mysterious stranger who disrupts his regular routine.
The 6:30 Gala on Sunday is the showcase of the best short films from the Atlantic Region with nine films in the Reel East Coast Shorts Gala. The shorts gala gives you a condensed glimpse at the wide range of talent from the region in a series of films that are dramatic, funny, beautiful, and true.
On Sunday night at 9:30 Seth Smith’s latest feature, The Crescent will fill the screen at Park Lane. His earlier feature Lowlife won the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Atlantic Film Festival in 2012 and it was a strange and unnerving journey into world of darkness and addiction with echoes of Eraserhead. The Crescent seems to take a different approach visually, but it is sure to infused with Smith’s dark vision the creeps into your soul as he tells the story of a woman dealing with the death of her husband while living in a seaside cottage.
Corey Bowles debut feature Black Cop is the 6:30 gala on Monday night and this highly-anticipated expansion of his short of the same name. Looking at police culture and race relations as filtered through multiple points of view and perspectives, it’s designed to engage and make you think. Produced out of the Telefilm Canada Micro-Budget production program, it’s sure to be provocative and bold as Bowles continues to add achievements to his already impressive and multifaceted career.
On Monday night the 9:30 gala is the biopic Rebel in the Rye with actor Danny Strong directing and co-writing the screenplay that tells the story of reclusive author J.D. Salinger played by Nicholas Hoult. With a cast that includes Zoey Deutch, Kevin Spacey, and Sarah Paulson it should provide some insight into the author and what contributed to the creation of his iconic novel The Catcher in the Rye.
A celebration of films made by students, the From Away Post-Secondary Film Competition Gala happens at 6:30 on Tuesday night. Part of the Canada 150 celebrations and with a focus on identity and place, you’ll meet some fascinating people from diverse backgrounds as you see and hear their stories. I’m also proud to have the NSCC Screen Arts program represented so well in the films with 5 of the ten films in the program directed by students who were studying at NSCC.
A sports drama built around the epic tennis rivalry between Björn Borg and John McEnroe in the 1980s , Borg vs McEnroe is the 9:30 gala on Tuesday night. Directed by Danish director Janus Metz whose 2010 war documentary Armadillo won many awards (including the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes). Starring Sverrir Gudnason as Borg and Shia LaBeouf as McEnroe, it is a portrait of two different athletes with a common goal of winning.
Writer / director Robin Campillo has the 6:30 gala on Wednesday with BPM, a drama about Act Up-Paris activists in the 1990s. Campillo is a frequent collaborator with Laurent Cantet (and he wrote Cantet’s The Workshop which is playing on Thursday) he also wrote, directed, and edited the 2004 French drama The Returned (which was also a French tv series and then an American TV series). BPM won 4 awards at Cannes, including the Grand Jury prize and the Queer Palm.
Michael Haneke returns to the festival for the 9:30 gala with his formal drama, Happy End, which brings his precise and controlled approach to a well-to-do French family who don’t see the challenges faced by migrants in camps close to their luxurious home. With an impressive cast that includes French legends Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant, it promises to be a provocative and deliberate drama.
The closing gala for the festival happens on Thursday, September 21 with Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By My Name, an adaptation of a novel of the same name with the screenplay cowritten by him and James Ivory. Guadagnino directed the lush and sensuous films I Am Love and A Bigger Splash and Call Me By My Name promises to be a similar treat with a story set in 1983 in the north of Italy as a young man falls in love. Following the film the closing night party happens at the Lord Nelson Hotel as the week of cinema comes to an end.