Calgary International Film Festival 2005 - Wild West

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The Calgary International Film Festival is the youngest of the large film festivals in the country and, like the host city, has quickly come to rival its sisters. As it is not a tool of the Hollywood machine like the Toronto Fest, it's not a haven for starfuckers and instead remains, like Montreal's Festival des Films du Monde, more of a true "international" festival focusing on works from around the Globe. However, unlike that festival which seems bogged down in fatigue, there is still a great deal of excitement for the films themselves.

After only 6 years, the Festival still has quite a few bugs to work out dealing with overcrowding and starting films on time. The lines are ridiculously long, there aren't enough screenings, and the venues often can't hold the crowds. Still, the Festival does one thing right and that's the films themselves. The selection this year was excellent.

The Festival does bring a diverse set of international movies to Canadians. From high profile films like Breakfast on Pluto, 2046 and Caché to lessor known gems like the charming The Man Who Copied, the Festival highlights films from all corners of the planet.

There is also the requisite American independent showcase featuring the likes of Capote, Junebug, Heights, Thumbsucker and other hot indies doing the circuits. However there were also screenings of films with a little less buzz like Rhinoceros Eyes and Berkeley.

One of my favorite parts of the festival is the Canadian Filmworks series. The Calgary Festival has done a consistently good job of bringing a wide variety of locally produced cinema to Calgary. This is especially important since Canadian distributors on the whole fail miserably at promoting domestic films outside of Toronto. It is a blemish on the entire industry. Thank goodness this festival helps to rectify that situation. Also thank goodness there is a festival that exhibits western made films, a segment of the industry ignored in the rest of the country.

Among these Canadian films, my personal favorite was Thom Fitzgerald's 3 Needles. I am a huge fan of his previous work from The Hanging Garden to Wild Dogs although I admit, I thought The Event was woefully lost. I think he's the most exciting Canadian film maker working today (sorry Atom and David) and 3 Needles proves it.

I also enjoyed attending the midnight series where I saw Cellar a strong but very low budget production that is the film Saw should have been.

My biggest regret is missing the gala for Beowulf and Grendel, the Icelandic retelling of the classic tale. My understanding is that it is epic in scope and traditional in production.

With a series on Aboriginal Films (something most film festivals are lacking) as well as a family film series, the Festival manages to cover all bases. The organizers just need to get their act together in terms of dealing with the phenomenal growth of the Festival. Still, I have been to many film festivals and I have rarely been more impressed with the slate of films than I was this year.

Except for Thunbsucker which truly did suck.

Here's hoping the Festival is even better next year.

Review By: Collin Smith

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