Tag Archive for: AFF

Halifax screening picks — September 14-21 (film festival edition)

14 Sep
September 14, 2017

The Atlantic International Film Festival runs September 14-21. Here are the ten films that I am most interested in (*asterisks indicate that I’ve already seen and I’m recommending personally):


Netflix Canada picks—2017 festival season tee-up edition

19 Aug
August 19, 2017

Some of the hottest directors in world cinema will be screening new work at festivals next month. Here are some defining films by key directors of the season that you can watch right now on Netflix.

Whatever you think of the Atlantic Film Festival renaming itself after the part of the shark that you have to clear when you jump it, you have to like Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name as the pick for 2017’s closing gala—the Italian/American/Brazilian/French co-pro in English, Italian, and French is very much on message with the addition of “International” to the festival name. In North America, Guadagnino perhaps first came to public attention with 2009’s I Am Love, and then convinced Tilda Swinton to return for the wonderful A Bigger Splash by promising her she wouldn’t have to speak.

The newly rebranded festival in Halifax has also booked Mary Shelley, the new film from Haifaa al-Mansour, director of Wadjda, the first feature film in history to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. As fascinating as the production story may be, the film itself is a triumph of narrative skill, brilliantly balancing realism and idealism with a young protagonist you won’t soon forget.

Fans of Sean Baker’s extraordinary Tangerine were elated to hear this week’s announcement that his follow-up The Florida Project will be screening at TIFF in Toronto next month. Famous in part for being shot on three iPhones, Tangerine is in fact a beautifully shot and directed film: “An overt, outrageous comedy, it follows two transgender prostitutes on a day when one of them has a singing gig and the other is on a mission of vengeance to find her boyfriend and crush him for his various infidelities.

Ruben Östlund’s The Square was a surprise winner at Cannes earlier this year, and now it will be making its North American debut at TIFF. His gloriously biting Force Majeure is a little slice of cinematic near-perfection—let’s hope the ill-conceived American remake never actually gets made.

Finally, Hirokazu Kore-eda has a curveball lined up for TIFF audiences this year in the form of crime drama The Third Murder, but 2015’s Our Little Sister is right in Kore-eda’s sweet spot—a carefully drawn Japanese domestic drama, the sort of quietly gripping, insightful film for which you rarely if ever see a North American equivalent.


Halifax film screening picks — September 19-25 (Atlantic Film Festival edition 2)

19 Sep
September 19, 2016

There is much to be said for the small-city film festival experience. Yes, you have to put up with some pretty excruciating pre-film commentary at moments (like when a staffer asks audience members to put up a hand “if you’ve heard of the auteur theory”). Yet the continuing miracle of the Atlantic Film Festival is that it keeps bringing in some of the absolute cream of the festival circuit, albeit to a largely under-appreciative local audience, who really only turn up in big numbers if there is a local rooting interest. Unlike at TIFF, there is really next to no effort involved in getting into screenings of the hottest international films, which constantly makes it feel like an absolute bargain for the dedicated cinephile. Here is a very partial, incomplete list of some of those films that should be worth checking out in the final four days.

All of those films are evening screenings, but there are interesting films playing in the earlier time slots, as well, and some NSCAD profs are hosting discussions after select 4pm screenings—check it out here.

It’s been a bit under the radar to this point, but the Dal Art Gallery Wednesday evening free film screening series has started up again, and the fall theme is Shakespeare—adaptations of, and films about, “chosen for manageable durations as well as their overall quality.” This week’s pick is the 1935 Max Reinhardt Hollywood production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Out of town, on Tuesday, King’s Theatre in Annapolis Royal has last year’s Cannes Palme D’Or winner Dheepan, while Fundy Cinema‘s Wednesday screening is “India’s first female buddy comedy,” Angry Indian Goddesses. On Sunday, Fundy has the Meryl Streep vehicle Florence Foster Jenkins.

Halifax film screening picks — September 12-18 (Atlantic Film Festival edition 1)

12 Sep
September 12, 2016

The Atlantic Film Festival—challenging films, challenging website. OK most of the films aren’t really that challenging, but the new website is an act of digital sadism that I haven’t seen the like of in some time. That as may be, I have braved the digital frontier to come back with a dozen picks for the weekend phase of this year’s edition:

Before the festival kicks off on Thursday, on Wednesday night at Cineplex Park Lane you can get a virtual taste of the big-city festival experience with a special premiere of the new Oliver Stone political thriller Snowden, where the film is followed by a live-via-satellite Q&A featuring Stone and the film’s subject, Edward Snowden.

There are some pretty excellent screenings out of town this week as well: on Tuesday, King’s Theatre in Annapolis Royal has Terence Davies’ Sunset Song, while Fundy Cinema‘s Wednesday documentary screening is Hockney. On Sunday, Fundy has one of the better films from last year’s festival: Simon Stone’s excellent update of Ibsen’s The Daughter.

  • Halifax area screening picks for this week:
  • Annapolis Valley screening picks for this week:
    • Tuesday (Sep 13) — Sunset Song, King’s Theatre (209 St. George St., Annapolis Royal), 7:30pm, $8. Terence Davies, UK/Luxembourg, 2015, 135 minutes
    • Wednesday (Sep 14) — Hockney, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 7pm, $9. Randall Wright, UK, 2014, 112 minutes.
    • Sunday (Sep 18) — The Daughter, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 4pm & 7pm, $9. Simon Stone, Australia, 2015, 95 minutes.

Halifax film screening picks — Sep 21-27 (inc. Atlantic Film Festival pt. 2)

21 Sep
September 21, 2015

It’s double goodness this week—not only is the Atlantic Film Festival in full swing, but also Carbon Arc returns for a fall season of screenings, kicking off with the well-received Brazilian domestic drama The Second Mother. The first three weeks have been planned as double screenings (7pm and 9:30pm) so it will be easier than ever to make it out to the Museum of Natural History to see films, starting this Friday.

If you’ve looked at my pre-festival top ten picks for AFF, you know that seven of those films are packed into the first four days of the week, so I guess you know where to find me for the next while.

The Radical Imagination Project isn’t taking a break for the festival, and has a Monday screening of Til the Cows Come Home—the story of the protests against the closing of Canada’s rehabilitative prison farms in 2010.

Out of town, the Lunenburg Doc Fest picks up where AFF leaves off, kicking off a weekend of documentary screenings on Friday. I haven’t broken out the individual screenings in my picks below, but you can check out the whole program here.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for this week:

  • Monday (Sep 20) — Cemetery of Splendour (Rak ti Khon Kaen), Cineplex Park Lane, 1:30pm, AFF: tickets. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, UK/France/Germany/Malaysia/Thailand, 2015, 122 minutes.
    — Mountains May Depart (Shan he gu ren), Cineplex Park Lane, 1:30pm, AFF: tickets. Zhangke Jia, China/France/Japan, 2015, 131 minutes.
    The Lobster, Cineplex Park Lane, 6:30pm, AFF: tickets. Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/Greece/France/Netherlands, 2015, 119 minutes.
    ‘Til the Cows Come Home, Halifax Central Library, 6:30pm, free, presented by the Radical Imagination Project. Lenny Epstein, Canada, 2014, 60 minutes.
    — Rear Window, Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing, 7:00pm, free tickets available at box office only. Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1954, 115 minutes.
    Rams (Hrútar), Cineplex Park Lane, 9:45pm, AFF: tickets. Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland, 2015, 93 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Sep 21) — The Daughter, Cineplex Park Lane, 6:30pm, AFF: tickets. Simon Stone, Australia, 2015, 96 minutes.
    — Mistress America, Cineplex Oxford, 7pm & 9:10pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Noam Baumbach,USA, 2015, 86 minutes.
  • Wednesday (Sep 22) — Dheepan, Cineplex Park Lane, 7:00pm, AFF: tickets. Jacques Audiard, France, 2015, 109 minutes.
    — The Reflektor Tapes, Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing, 7:30pm, $14.95. Kahlil Joseph, UK, 2015, 92 minutes. Arcade Fire documentary just premiered at TIFF.
  • Thursday (Sep 23) — Son of Saul, Cineplex Park Lane, 6:30pm, AFF: tickets. László Nemes, Hungary, 2015, 107 minutes.
    James White, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:15pm, AFF: tickets. Josh Mond, USA, 2015, 86 minutes.
  • Friday (Sep 24) — The Second Mother, 7pm & 9:30pm, Carbon Arc Cinema @ the Museum of Natural History, $7. Anna Muylaert, Brazil, 2015, 112 minutes.

Here are my South Shore screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Thursday (Sep 23) — Amy, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 8pm, $9. Morgan Matthews, UK, 2014, 111 minutes.
  • Sunday (Sep 27) —  Mr. Holmes,  Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 8pm, $9. Bill Condon, UK/USA, 2015, 104 minutes.


Halifax film screening picks — Sep 14-20 (inc. Atlantic Film Festival pt. 1)

14 Sep
September 14, 2015

It’s festival time, kids! As usual, the Atlantic Film Festival schedule tends to be front-loaded with Atlantic/Canadian stuff while backloading global cinema, a.k.a what I’m interested in, so most of my top picks are playing next week, but I’ve sprinkled some AFF choices into this week’s picks.

It so happens that The End of the Tour, starring Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace, has also arrived in town, so I’m making it my top cheap-night Tuesday pick this week.

The Radical Imagination Project returns this week as well, with the 1993 documentary milestone Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, screening at the central library on Monday evening.

Out of town, the highlight of the schedule is the Finnish social satire The Grump, playing this Sunday in Wolfville. The Astor in Liverpool has Amy, the Winehouse documentary, on Wednesday.

Here are my Halifax area screening picks for this week:

  • Monday (Sep 14) — Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, Halifax Central Library, 7pm, free, presented by the Radical Imagination Project. Alanis Obomsawin, Canada, 1993, 119 minutes.
  • Tuesday (Sep 15) — The End of the Tour, Scotiabank Theatre Halifax (Cineplex Bayers Lake), 1:30pm,‎ ‎4:00pm,‎ ‎6:50pm &‎ ‎9:30‎pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). James Ponsoldt, USA, 2015, 106 minutes.
    — Mistress America, Cineplex Oxford, 7pm & 9:10pm, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). Noam Baumback, USA, 2015, 86 minutes.
    — Testament of Youth, Cineplex Park Lane, 3:35pm,‎ ‎6:25pm &‎ ‎9:20pm‎, regular pricing discounted Tuesday, film continues through Thursday (at least). James Kent, UK, 2014, 129 minutes.
  • Friday (Sep 18) — Experimenter, Cineplex Park Lane, 3:45pm, AFF: tickets. Michael Almereyda, USA, 2015, 90 minutes.
  • Saturday (Sep 19) — Welcome to this House: A Film on Elizabeth Bishop, Cineplex Park Lane, 1:00pm, AFF: tickets. Barbara Hammer, USA, 2014, 79 minutes.
    Into the Forest, Cineplex Park Lane, 7:00pm, AFF gala: tickets. Patricia Rozema, Canada, 2015, 101 minutes.
  • Sunday (Sep 20) — Victoria, Cineplex Park Lane, 12:30pm, AFF: tickets. Sebastian Schipper, Germany, 2015, 140 minutes.
    One Floor Below, Cineplex Park Lane, 3:30pm, AFF: tickets. Radu Muntean, Romania/France/Sweden/Germany, 2015, 93 minutes.
    Room, Cineplex Park Lane, 9:30pm, AFF: tickets. Lenny Abrahamson, Ireland/Canada, 2015, 118 minutes.

Here are my Annapolis Valley and South Shore screening picks for selected days this week:

  • Tuesday (Sep 15) — A Brilliant Young Mind (a.k.a. X+Y), King’s Theatre (209 St. George St., Annapolis Royal),  7:30pm, $8. Morgan Matthews, UK, 2014, 111 minutes.
  • Wednesday (Sep 16) — Amy, Astor Theatre (59 Gorham Street, Liverpool), 7pm, $8. Asif Kapadia, 2015, UK, 128 minutes.
  • Sunday (Sep 20) — The Grump, Acadia Cinema’s Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street, Wolfville), 8pm, $9. Dome Karukoski, Finland, 2014, 104 minutes.


Atlantic Film Festival 2016 top ten picks

13 Sep
September 13, 2015

Here, briefly, are the 10 films I’m most eager to see at this year’s AFF, September 17-24:


film festival season is TIFFing my AFF

15 Sep
September 15, 2014

The best thing about the two-week marathon that ensues when you do the Toronto+Halifax film festivals back to back as I have this year is the wall-to-wall films. The worst thing aside from the sleep deprivation is the abiding feeling that you’re rather letting down the side by not promptly posting up reviews of every film on your blog.

But as that’s really not been possible, I present, in the place of 17 AWOL film reviews, a series of random festival observations from the past 10 days.

TIFF+AFF is actually a killer pairing. TIFF is really well organized, gets a lot of films that would never play in Halifax, and offers plentiful chances to see, and pose a question to, directors and stars in person. But the Atlantic festival gets a number, this year a large number, of films that are really hard tickets to get in Toronto, and presents them for less than half the price of equivalent Toronto screenings. And it does so all in one multiplex, which makes it dead easy to get from one screening to another. And tickets for the hottest international films are plentifully available, because Halifax audiences are much more interested in regional films than what’s going on elsewhere.

UK English has taken over the subtitling industry. Maybe this has been true for a while, but it seems like every foreign-language film that I have seen so far (and I believe that I’ve seen 7 that were subtitled in their entirety) has been subtitled in UK English. There has been much fancying, significant scoffing—of food, and there have been many lads. This is how I found myself watching a film (Mommy) that was made and set entirely in Canada but subtitled in an English dialect that no native or long-time Canadian would likely use. Perhaps the subtitling will be re-done in time for Canadian or US distribution but this raises an interesting question—does the UK-English-speaking audience at film festivals really significantly outnumber the North American festival audience? If so, that’s surprising to me. Maybe someone who understands the industry better than I do can weigh in with an explanation. I mean, I’m a card-carrying Anglophile so it’s no skin off my teeth. Uh, nose.

While we’re on the topic of subtitling… It is now widespread convention to subtitle even mildly accented English, in English. I am seeing more of this, this year, than I ever have before. Don’t people whose first language is not English find this just a little insulting? And are native English speakers really that thick? I’m talking about perfectly understandable English lines here, echoed as subtitles. I would really like to know more about how this has because a consensus practice.

Goodbye to Language 3D looked way better at the Ryerson Theatre in Toronto than it did at Cineplex Park Lane in Halifax and the only reason I can think of is that Dolby 3D is a significantly better technology than RealD. This is something that I have had no time at all to research so I have no idea if there’s a firm basis to this suspicion. If anyone else knows about the difference between these systems I would welcome your observations and links in the comments. This was the first time that I ever saw the same 3D film projected with the two different technologies in the same week, so it’s nothing I had ever thought to consider before.

Movie-going etiquette is sometimes worse at festivals than at regular commercial screenings. This is of course not true across the board but I’ve been amazed how many glowing smartphone screens have disturbed my viewing experience in the past 10 days. And tonight, for example, at a particular slow, quiet and long film (Winter Sleep) I had to deal with a compulsive foot-tapper somewhere behind me. Super distracting. I don’t remember anyone being that asinine at Guardians of the Galaxy but maybe I just couldn’t hear them.

I have come to derive some perverse enjoyment from the exit walk of shame. You know, where people bend forward and move quickly as they try to hard not to block people’s view as they give up on a screening and leave. As a general rule, the more people bail on a screening, the more I am enjoying the film. This year’s champion has been the nearly impenetrable The Color of Pomegranates, a Toronto screening from which literally dozens of attendees exited in bafflement. It was awesome.

so this is film festival madness, again

25 Aug
August 25, 2014

Last year I attended TIFF for the third time, but it was the first year that I stayed in Toronto through the entirety of the festival. This left me feeling like some kind of seasoned vet. When I started to plan for this year I decided that I would be more efficient, burn fewer vacation days, and head back home on the evening of day 6.

Based on last year’s experience I reasoned that 80% of the excitement is over after the first weekend anyway, and confidently booked my air travel.

Then came the TIFF lineup announcements, along with the news, that I must have missed earlier, that a new rule was in place to keep non-premieres out of those opening days.

The result: a glut of films on Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept 9 & 10) that I really want to see. Because, yeah, previous screenings at Cannes etc may diminish TIFF’s shine on opening weekend, but they tend to rather increase my interest.  I like all that European stuff, I do.

TIFF planning calendar

Now add to the mix the added difficulty of figuring out which films are TIFF only, and which I can see at the Atlantic Film Festival after I fly back to my Halifax hometown, and my planning calendar begins to look like this. Black for Cinematheque screenings, orange for TIFF-only new films, green for films that are also at AFF. (Not shown: red for Toronto gala screenings.)

Guess I’ll be rebooking some air travel? But first, on Tuesday, to pick my 3 TIFF galas, and then on Wednesday to pick 5 other TIFF screenings…

Year-end review (3/3): best festival films of 2012 (a.k.a. best 2013 films of 2012)

31 Dec
December 31, 2012

For the final instalment in my year-end roundup, I recommend 10 films to watch in the coming year. These are my favourites of the films I saw at TIFF and the Atlantic Film Festival this year. Happy 2013—see you at the movies.

The Attack (Ziad Doueiri)

US theatrical release in May

This movie deserves some kind of special award all its own for artistic and political courage. A film that would not be possible without Doueiri’s understanding of the two narratives of the Israel-Palestine conflict, it won’t be put forward as Lebanon’s entry for the best foreign film Oscar because it features Israeli actors. Doueiri told the Financial Times: “Israel and Lebanon are legally in a state of war, so having a film which represents Lebanon with Israeli actors in it is out of the question.” Perhaps the first time the conflict has been considered with this much depth and complexity in a fiction feature.

No (Pablo Larraín)

Limited US release scheduled for February 15

If your eyes tend to glaze over at the mention of South American political history, don’t let that be a reason to miss this film. See it for Gael García Bernal in his best performance yet, see it for an original twist on 1980s nostalgia, see it for a powerful political story if that’s your thing, but above all see it for an involving human drama, the fulcrum of which is communication itself. Confidential to a couple dozen friends of mine: no self-respecting PR or marketing professional should miss this film.

Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)

Showing at Sundance in January 2013—the best way to catch this in Canada will be at an indie local TIFF Circuit screening

For me, Stories We Tell is better than Polley’s two previous films put together. In lesser hands an internal family story could have been insufferably self-indulgent, or inappropriately revealing, but Polley gets this just right. Credit has to go as well to her family, which seems to be entirely composed of photogenic people who are also compellingly well-spoken on camera.

Amour (Michael Haneke)

Already in limited distribution in the US and possibly poised to pick up Oscar momentum; also included in the TIFF Circuit

I will confess freely that I am not in general a Haneke fan (with the huge exception of Caché) but this film made me a believer. Haneke fans shouldn’t get the impression that he has gone sentimental—there is still plenty of edge here, but the film has something much more interesting to say than I’ve come to expect from him. And oh the performances.

To The Wonder (Terrence Malick)

Scheduled for US release April 12

It will be impossible for viewers not to compare this with The Tree of Life, as it continues in Malick’s new-found autobiographical vein, but don’t think of this as a B-side release. What it lacks in the cosmologically sublime sequences of its predecessor it makes up for in emotion and unexpected heartbreak. His most textually minimal script yet pushes the envelope; each successive film of Malick’s seems to want to find new ways to deploy his trademark overdubbed narration and this is no exception.

Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland)

IFC Midnight has the US rights

A treat for anyone who loves or loved giallo, Berberian Sound Studio is just plain delightfully weird. Toby Jones nails the role of the put-upon sound engineer who is swallowed into the strange little world of a 1970s Rome movie studio.

Barbara (Christian Petzold)

Has had a limited release in the US; also playing on the TIFF Circuit in Canada

A pleasing throwback to the kind of classically-made film that depends for its effect on telling a good story well. A film that will be tragically overlooked unless it scores a suprise Oscar (it is Germany’s nominee for best foreign film, deservedly so).

Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel)

The Cinema Guild (distributor of The Turin Horse and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia) has the U.S. rights

This absorbing, unnarrated documentary is in a similar vein to Manufactured Landscapes (in that it looks at the industrial footprint on the environment), but executed in a much different aesthetic. The narration-free, immersive documentary about commercial fishing was produced collectively from footage shot on a dozen cameras passed between the filmmakers and fishermen while at sea. You have never seen anything quite like it.

Everyday (Michael Winterbottom)

Has already screened on UK television but still has a theatrical release scheduled for 2013; no word on North America

Winterbottom takes inspiration from the “Up” series of documentaries as well as the British kitchen-sink realist tradition to create something familiar yet unique.

Pieta (Kim Ki-Duk)

Korea’s entry for the Oscars; has a US distribution deal with Drafthouse Films

Pieta shocked a few people by winning the top award at the Venice festival, but probably shocked many more with its raw content. Repeatedly surprising, never pleasant, this is the toughest watch on this list.