The Calgary International Film Festival is not about the galas.
Unless it’s about the galas.
And when you ask Steve Schroeder, executive director of Calgary Film — always remember: CIFF is dead — what he’s looking most forward to when it comes to the 2017 event he makes it pretty clear that this year’s fest is bookended by two pretty fantastic films.
“Really, truly this year I think the opening and closing gala films are two that I’m most personally excited about,” he said on Wednesday morning at the official, full-lineup reveal in front of festival venue Globe Cinema.
The flick that will kick off the entire 12-day event on Sept. 20 is When They Awake, “an uplifting and powerful documentary” on Canadian Indigenous musicians and their incredible resurgence in the past few years, thanks to artists such as Tanya Tagaq, A Tribe Called Red and Iskwe — the latter is already confirmed as one of those who will be in attendance at the Jack Singer Concert Hall screening and performing at the party afterwards.
Schroeder calls it “one of the best music docs (I’ve) ever seen and I’m extremely proud that we’ll be opening the Calgary International Film Festival with it.”
“And then the closing gala, Suck It Up, I can not tell you how much I love this film,” he says of the previously announced Alberta-shot motion picture which will show on the last Saturday of the fest before it actually wraps on the Sunday, Oct. 1.
“It’s a simple little film, it’s about a road trip to Invermere … but it’s so relatable, it’s so touching, but funny and just down-to-earth.
“And the two women who executive produced it and who star in it (Erin Carter and Grace Glowicki) grew up in Calgary so you can really tell it’s about a genuine connection.”
But, again, while it might be a little bit kinda about those galas, Calgary Film is more about catering to the local film lover, giving them a festival lineup stacked with a quantity of quality from all around the world.
And they’re responding, as he notes that “over the last four years our attendance has almost doubled to just under 37,000.”
The only problem with that, Schroeder admits, is that programmers’ jobs are getting a little bit harder these days, thanks to that growing reputation, which has seen film submissions rise from 600 in 2013 to a new record of just over 2,700 for this year’s — “the vast majority of which are unsolicited.”
Other fest highlights were announced on Tuesday by programming manager and features programmer Brenda Lieberman, who revealed that Calgary Film was “showcasing films from 54 countries” and that “one third of the films this year are from first-time feature filmmakers and one third of our selected are also from female directors.”
Those films include: Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green’s drama Stronger starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a runner who loses his legs in the Boston marathon bombing; a biopic about Frankenstein author Mary Shelley from Haifaa al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker; a screening of director Stephen Campanelli’s adaptation of Richard Wagamese’s award-winning novel Indian Horse, which will have “a ton of cast and (the) director in attendance”; Sundance Film Festival Jury Prize-winner Novitiate, which stars Melissa Leo; and satirical drama The Square, winner of the Palme D’Or at the this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The entire lineup and schedule is now available online at the festival’s website or, should you prefer, Schroeder notes that Calgary Film are bringing back this year the popular Trailer Party on Sept. 8 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Globe, where they “literally show every single trailer that we have from the entire Calgary International Film Festival.”
“They’re entertaining in their own right,” Schroeder says. “In their little sweet bon-bon way.”
Tickets for every screening are now on sale online, with the in-person box office on the main floor of Eau Claire Market opening Tuesday.
The Calgary International Film Festival runs Sept. 20 to Oct. 1 at various locations around Calgary.