While overall, there are fewer films this year at FIN Atlantic International Film Festival, there is still a lot to choose from. The best option is to get a relatively affordable pass (or a Bubble pass for supporting the festival if you are watching with friends) and the decisions get easier as you don’t have to buy tickets and can watch any of the programs when you want during September 17-24. The only more restrictive time constraints are with the Gala presentations which are only available for 24 hours after their premiere time. Here are a selection of interesting films from the non-Gala programs this year.
The Swedish documentary I Am Greta tells the story of Greta Thunberg from the beginnings of the school strike to her travels around the world. Director Nathan Grossman was provided with great access, and he allows us to follow the young leader of a worldwide movement as she tries to change the world.
No Ordinary Man is a bold look at the life of Jazz musician Billie Tipton with the story told by trans artists who reimagine the life of a complex person. It should be thought-provoking and entertaining as musical, dramatic and documentary elements are blended by co-directors Aisling Chin-Yee (whose dramatic feature The Rest of Us played at FIN last year) and Chase Joynt.
If you’ve watched short films over the past few years at the festival you’ve seen and noticed actor / director Taylor Olson and his award-winning performances. His feature-length writing / directing / and acting debut, Bone Cage, was funded by the Telefilm Talent To Watch program and includes a strong supporting creative team of NSCC Screen Arts grads. The film is an adaptation of the Governor General’s Awarded play by Nova Scotia author Catherine Banks and tells the story of a man working in the pulp industry who rescues injured animals at the end of his work shift. The much-anticipated film should be another strong entry in the emerging body of new films from the region created with small budgets.
Some of the most interesting and challenging films of the last few years have been part of the loose sub-genre of the Greek “Weird Wave” blending dark humour and unsettling subject matter to look at contemporary Greek society. The feature debut of Georgis Grigorakis — Digger — is a family tragedy with a battle between father and son that is mirrored by the struggle of humanity with the environment.
The feature debut of New Brunswick writer / director Jillian Acreman is Queen of the Andes, which is another film funded by Telefilm’s Talent to Watch Program. In her film, Acreman sets the story in the near future where young adults are being recruited for a one-way trip to Mars. Starring Bhreagh MacNeil (whose stunning performance in Ashley McKenzie’s 2016 festival favourite Werewolf earned her several awards) as one of the chosen for the trip who keeps her selection secret from her family as she contemplates her last days on Earth.
Set in Warsaw, Mariko Bobrik’s The Taste of Pho is about a Vietnamese chef and his ten-year-old daughter in a gentle story of family, food, and culture as we see a father and daughter adapting to life under challenging conditions.
There are many great shorts in the 4 Atlantic Shorts (plus the Atlantic Shorts Gala), the NextGen Program, and the 3 Canada and the World programs with over 70 shorts playing this year. Some Atlantic highlights are the intense and stylistically bold Inceldom from Taylor Olson, Sarah Gignac’s animation Rage Monster, Todd Fraser’s 16 mm Lobster Festival, James MacSwain’s Bedtime, and the late Alex Peeler and Chris DeVanney’s Squeaky Wheels. In the NextGen shorts program there are once again some NSCC Screen Arts grads with Carter Thurber’s animated What if I Choke, and Meg Legere’s Grown Up, as well as Annick Blizzard’s impressive directorial debut in which she also stars — When We Were Young.
In the Canada and the World programs there is Glenn Matthews tense, unnerving, and dramatic Teething, a short from Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos — Nimic — starring Matt Dillon, Ann Marie Flemming animated Old Dog, Ashley Eakin’s Single, and Ben Proudfoot’s The Lost Astronaut to name just a few.
Another feature-length debut is Elizabeth Lo’s documentary Stray, which is about the stray dogs of Istanbul. Shot from the perspective of the canines, it’s a portrait of the dogs who live on the streets in the city that outlawed the euthanizing of stray dogs. The film was also shot by director Lo who was the editor as well tells the story of dogs and humans with sensitivity and compassion.
Lulu Wei’s documentary There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace is about the changes to the legendary Toronto city block that housed Honest Ed’s. Looking at the people who were dislocated after the block was sold to a developer, it’s a look at history and change amid an urban housing crisis.
Director Mira Burt-Wintonick tries to complete her legendary documentary filmmaker father Peter Wintonick’s final film as she pieces together things from what he left behind. Wintopia should be an emotional and entertaining journey through possibilities, history, family, and possible worlds from one of the great and generous giants of Canadian documentary filmmaking.
These are only a few of the films that stand out for me and one of the true pleasures of a film festival are the unexpected discoveries that lie within. So get a pass, take some chances, and watch as much as possible during the week of the festival.