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What's In Store At The 2013 Calgary International Film Festival

09/12/2013 06:07 EDT | Updated 11/12/2013 05:12 EST

It's film festival season once again! Hot on the heels of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) kick-off, the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) announced their complete 2013 lineup of films, galas and events on September 3. My love of film is no secret, and I'm tickled each year when the leaves begin to change and the smell of popcorn is heavy in downtown Calgary.

A few years ago I came up with an algorithm to help determine the number of films I could see in a season, attempting to break my 2010 record of 32 films in 10 days. Thus far, the elusive 33rd film continues to escape me. Perhaps this year?

In 2013 -- as in years past -- the programmers at CIFF have compiled a diverse assortment of films in more than a dozen categories. This year, I've gone through each of the film listings closely and decided, for simplicity sake, that I would highlight my choice for one must-see film in 10 categories -- leaving out the Award Winners, Galas, and other related events. This list is by no means complete, as I'd see nearly everything in most categories in my quest to surpass 32 films, but I'd like to think it's a good starting point for me and, possibly, for a first-time CIFF attendee. So here you have it, 10 choices for CIFF 2013:

- Canadian Cinema Series

Gabrielle (2013)


Every now and then, a film just calls to me. I don't know exactly why I want to see it--the story sounds compelling; the theme is an area of interest; the cast is impressive -- but I do. Gabrielle is one of those films. According to the description on the CIFF website:

Gabrielle (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard) is an outgoing and vivacious young woman who lives in a foster home for adults with developmental disabilities. But her rare neurological disorder, called "Williams Syndrome," is also her talent--giving her perfect pitch and strong musical abilities, and making her perfect for the local choir for developmentally disabled adults. As Gabrielle befriends her new choir-mates, she finds herself falling for Martin (Alexandre Landry).

Gabrielle (French with English subtitles) makes its Albertan premiere at CIFF 2013, playing Monday, September 23 (9:15pm) and Sunday, September 29 (2:00pm) at Eau Claire Market Cineplex Odeon.

Other films from the Canadian Cinema Series topping my list: Gerontophilia (2013), The Birder(2013) and Fair Sex(2012).

- Documentary Series

Unhung Hero (United States, 2013)

After a very public marriage rejection on the jumbotron of a UCLA basketball game, Patrick Moote is informed of a certain shortcoming by his girlfriend. And then she leaves him. Heartbroken and confused, he sets out to answer mankind's burning question, once and for all: Does size matter?

Your classic romance--boy meets girl; boy falls for girl and asks girl to marry him in a dramatic and public way; girl declines because boy just doesn't "measure up". Beautiful. (I'm also interested from an academic perspective--having studied gender relations for several years -- and because I'm genuinely curious of the way Unhung Hero is approaching this cultural norm/phenomenon. Aren't you?)

Unhung Hero plays Saturday, September 21 (9:45pm) at Eau Claire Market Cineplex Odeon and Friday, September 27 (5:00pm) at the Globe Theatre.

- Other films in the Documentary Series on my to-see list: Oil Sands Karaoke (Canada, 2013), Tales from the Organ Trade(Canada, 2013), Watermark (Canada, 2013), A World Not Ours (Denmark/Lebanon/United Arab Emirates/United Kingdom, 2012), and Pandi (Canada, 2012).

Family Fare Series

Lad: A Yorkshire Story (United Kingdom, 2012)

Tom Proctor (Bretten Lord) has nothing to lose. The death of his father has sent his family reeling, and the local bank is preparing to foreclose on his mother's house. With his older brother leaving to join the military, lonely, angry Tom has no-one to turn to--until an act of vandalism against the bank leads the police to sentence him to community service.

I lived in Yorkshire for a year so I have a soft spot for what I know will be breathtaking and underrated landscape. But aside from my location bias, the story of Tom is one that many--both young and old--can relate to; a story of loss, confusion, and renewal.

Lad: A Yorkshire Storymakes its Canadian premiere at CIFF 2013, playing Sunday, September 22 (11:30am) and Thursday, September 26 (7:00pm) at the Globe Theatre.

Additional films in the Family Fare Series making my list: The Legend of Sarila(Canada, 2013), Thorn Castle(Hungary, 2012) and Who's Minding the Store(United States, 1963).

Headliners Series

Another House (Canada, 2013)

Henri (Marcel Sabourin) has a feeling that he's gotten lost. A widowed octogenarian with declining mental health, he's been dispatched to live with his adult son Éric (Émile Proulx-Cloutier) in the idyllic countryside. But despite what Eric tells him, Henri can't shake the feeling that he's supposed to be in 'another house' -- though he can't place where it might be.

This film reached out to me instantly. Promising to be deeply moving, with an overarching story that touches on how mental illness impacts not only the afflicted, but an entire family; and featuring one of my favorite Canadian actors, Roy Dupuis (Shake Hands With The Devil), I'm looking forward to this potentially challenging film.

Another House(French with English subtitles) plays Thursday, September 26 (7:00pm) at Eau Claire Market Cineplex Odeon.

Other films in the Headliners Series topping my list include:The Past (France/Italy, 2013), The Rocket(Australia, 2013) and It's Me, It's Me(Japan, 2013).

Late Shows Series

XL (Iceland, 2013)

Leif Sigurdarson (Olafur Darri Olafsson) is doing well at work. Well enough to amass a wealth of perks and kickbacks, while still harboring ambitions of taking over his boss' job. He's also an overweight, middle-aged, heavy drinker with a drug addiction and a handful of sleazy girlfriends. The only problem is that he's a politician: his boss is the Prime Minister of Iceland.

Maybe it's my interest (and day job) in politics or the (numerous) parallels this seems to have with the (multiple. Ongoing) Rob Ford scandal(s) in Toronto, but I'm very curious about this film.

XL(Icelandic with English subtitles) makes its North American premier at CIFF 2013, playing Monday, September 23 (10:00pm) and Tuesday, September 24 (4:45pm) at the Globe Theatre.

Other films in the Late Shows Series I'm willing to stay up for include: Borgman(Belgium/ Denmark/Netherlands, 2013), Big Bad Wolves(Israel, 2013) and We Are What We Are (United States, 2013).

Masters Series

Like Father, Like Son (Japan, 2013)

Successful architect Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Kukuyama) and his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) are celebrating their six-year-old son's acceptance into a top primary school, only to find out that a mistake from their hospital means that they have someone else's child, and that their biological son is being raised by another family. The two families are advised to meet, and over the next year, work to exchange the boys to their rightful parents. But Ryota is appalled at the other family's unkempt, easy-going nature, and seeks to not only keep the son he has raised, but also buy off the other parents to give up legal ownership of his true, biological son.

Like Father, Like Son (Japanese with English Subtitles) makes its Albertan premier at CIFF 2013, playing Sunday, September 22 (1:45pm) and Friday, September 27 (7:15pm) at Eau Claire Market Cineplex Odeon.

I'd love to see all of the remaining films in the Masters Series--there are only four films in the series--including Federico Fellini's Amarcord (France/Italy, 1973), Me and You(Italy, 2012) and Goltzius & The Pelican Company(Croatia/France/Netherlands/United Kingdom, 2012).

Music On Screen Series

If you're looking for One Direction: This is Us, you've come to the wrong place. What you'll find here is a collection of in-depth and creative explorations of the musical life, both local (Canadian) and abroad. While each of the four films in the Music On Screen Series are appealing--including a tag-along look at the rise of Saskatchewan rock band, The Sheepdogs, and a comedic twist in the world of Hip Hop--I'm most looking forward to delving into a little-known facet of The Beetles rise, thanks to Good Ol' Freda.

Good Ol' Freda (United States, 2013)

Imagine you're a young girl enlisted to help four young boys with their band. It's easy to picture--this particular scenario repeats itself thousands of times every year, and each time everyone thinks the band is going to be huge. But what would happen if those four lads went on to become not just the biggest band in the world, but of all time? How quickly would you sell your inside story to the tabloids? Would you wait fifty years?

Good Ol' Freda makes its Albertan premier at CIFF 2013, playing Sunday, September 22 (11:45am) and Sunday, September 29 (6:45pm) at Eau Claire Market Cineplex Odeon.

The three remaining films in the Music on Screen Series are also mighty enticing: Muscle Shoals(United States, 2013), The Great Hip Hop Hoax(United Kingdom, 2013) and The Sheepdogs Have At It(Canada, 2012).

New American Cinema Series

Feeding Mr. Baldwin (2013)

When Drew (Dalton Leeb) is asked to watch the home of Lance Bryant (Christopher B. Duncan), a successful self-help guru, he believes it's the key to everything that's been missing in his life - namely a good job and some general direction. But shortly after he takes the reins of the household, a series of odd and increasingly threatening people stop by--punctuated by the home delivery of a young woman's corpse. Not wanting to ruin an opportunity to become Bryant's right hand man, Drew ropes his long-lost friend into his shenanigans, as they are forced to deal with the body and the suspicion around Bryant's home.

Feeding Mr. Baldwinmakes its Canadian premier at CIFF 2013, playing Saturday, September 28 (9:30pm) and Sunday, September 29 (4:15pm) at Eau Claire Market Cineplex Odeon.

Additional films in the always-captivating New American Cinema Series that make it to the upper-portion of my list: Zero Charisma(2013), Lily (2013), The Retrieval(2013) and Wet Behind The Ears (2013).

Short Film Series

The Short Film Series is one of my annual favorites--a quick shot of multiple, short films all at once. It's like a film festival inside a film festival! The shorts are broken out into sub-themes: Animation Fixation; Breaking Point; Days of Their Lives; Love, Sex and Tears; Relative Secrets; Short, Fast and Funny!; Strange Sinema; and The Dark Side of Stardom. With so many great short films packed into each grouping, it's difficult to choose just one--or more! See them all!--but if I had to choose... Love, Sex and Tears.

Love, Sex and Tears features eight short films totalling 89 minutes of "relationships gone wrong, right and everywhere in-between", including: Dinner and A Movie (United Kingdom, 14 min); Ellen is Leaving (New Zealand, 16 min); The Date (Finland, 7 min); Epilogue (United States, 7 min); Your Place or Mine (Canada, 6 min); Other Lives (Norway, 11min); Sweetieface (Canada, 14 min); and Ballet (Norway, 4 min).

Relationships gone wrong, right and everywhere in-between abound in these cutting short stories. How does a superhero's heart break? What is the sound of unspoken lust? Where there is true love there are also ultimately tears, be they happy or sad.

The Love, Sex and Tears Short Films Series selection plays twice: Tuesday, September 24 (9:30pm) at the Globe Theatre and Thursday, September 26 (4:45pm) at Eau Claire Market Cineplex Odeon.

Additional selections in the Short Films Series that I can't go without include: Animation Fixation (Canada/Netherlands/France/Australia/Poland), Days Of Their Lives (Egypt/United States/France/Germany), Strange Sinema (Canada/Japan/Noray/Spain/Switzerland/United Kingdom/United States), and Short, Fast and Funny (Australia/Canada/United Kingdom/United States).

World Cinema Series

The World Cinema Series is another one of my CIFF favorites. There's a quiet beauty to many global films that take pleasure in the every day. And I deeply appreciate that they needn't always close with a Hollywood happy ending. The 2013 World Cinema collection is long and rich; it was difficult to choose.

In The Name Of (Poland, 2013)

Father Adam (Andrzej Chyra) is a compassionate and loving priest who just moved to a small Polish parish. He's quickly welcomed and loved by his new community, but while a dedicated priest, Father Adam struggles with demons that threaten to tear at the fabric of his vows.

In The Name Of (Polish with English subtitles) makes its Albertan premier at CIFF 2013, playing Wednesday, September 25 (9:45pm) and Friday, September 27 (4:45pm) at Eau Claire Market Cineplex Odeon.

With so many fantastic choices in the World Film Series, there are several I hope to catch, including: Loveless Zoritsa(Serbia and Montenegro, 2012), The Missing Picture(Cambodia, 2013), Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?(Taiwan, 2013), Young and Beautiful(France, 2013), and Tall as the Baobab Tree(Senegal, 2013).

Shannon will be taking in all the CIFF she can handle. Watch for full coverage of the 2013 Calgary International Film Festival, including film reviews and more, coming soon.