Our top picks for this year’s Calgary International Film Festival

The Calgary International Film Festival kicks off Thursday, Sept 20 and runs until Sunday, Oct. 1.

In between are hundreds of films both big and small, short and long, art and not — for every taste and inclination one can imagine.

It can be a daunting thing to navigate your way through the 12 days of onscreen action, so the writers at theYYSCENE thought we’d pitch in and help you out.

Here’s what we’re looking forward to and what we’ve already seen and can highly recommend.


When God Sleeps: The story of an Iranian musician who, having fled his home country after a fatwa was put upon him, seeks to build his life and career in Cologne while enduring the backlash faced by Middle Eastern refugees after the 2015 Paris Bataclan terrorist attacks.

The Party: An “undeniably British character comedy.” A politician has been promoted and wants to throw a party. The evening takes a turn when conversations get heated and relationships are tested, resulting in it all going comedically downhill from there.

Rebels On Pointe: New York’s Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the all-male drag ballet troupe, takes the “high art” of classical ballet and makes it as fun as it is beautiful. This film looks at their satirical presentations of ballet classics, touches on the birth of the troupe, the rise of gay activism in the 1970s and how they use dance to break down cultural and political barriers — to grand aplomb.

Mary Shelley: The real-life story of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein and married to poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the hardships and tragedies that she endured and suffered all for the relationship with her older husband.

A Fantastic Woman (Una Muler Fantastica: Marina is a young transgendered bar singer in love with her older boyfriend who suddenly becomes ill and dies. Dealing with his death, Maria has to also address his family as well as society, proving herself to be the strong, “fantastic woman” she is in light of the taboo of her relationship with Orlando.


Marlina the Murderer In Four Acts: Lots of things fascinate me about this film: the heat-ripple landscapes; the female lead  who turns the tables on her captors and somehow becomes the villain; and the implied  four-act structure which promises that there’s more to it than that.

Have A Nice Day: “Animated Chinese Crime Drama” seems like a woefully inadequate description, given the tantalizing unanswered questions suggested by the trailer.  I need to know what this thing is!

Lowlife: Sometimes a screaming luchadore and a trailer full of wild, unconnected mayhem is all it takes to convince me to buy a ticket.

A Day: “Two men must relive the most terrible day of their lives in this expertly written thriller from Korean director Cho Sun-ho.” Even disregarding my addiction to modern Korean cinema, this sounds utterly fascinating.

A Bad Idea Gone Wrong: Dim-witted/unfortunate home invaders trapped in the house they’re attempting to burgle … could this be the next big genre? Weirdsville did it and Don’t Breathe did it. And so far, I’m on board!


Public Schooled: This story of a home-schooled kid who joins the public system is destined to be a favourite at this year’s festival. Promises to be warm and hilarious.

Buckout Road: A fun and spooky mystery that exploits all of the midnight movie genres with thrills, humour, and gore. Smart script, great cast and made by a Calgary ex-pat!

Félicité: Félicité lives in the capital city of the Congo, works as a singer in a local bar, and is forced to take desperate measures to get money in order to help her son. This film looks to be soulful, visually stunning and musically rich.

Score: A Film Music Documentary: I love a good documentary, especially one about music. Score has great production value, a variety of interview subjects and snippets of all the mainstream movie hits. If this is your bag, also check out the Behind the Screen Series: This Sounds Amazing, a panel discussion with four composers, including Christophe Beck (Frozen, Ant-Man).

Wall: Another documentary! And it’s animated! Written by famous playwright David Hare and directed by Calgary’s Cam Christiansen, this animated feature documentary examines life along the Israel/Palestine border. See it and enjoy a conversation with Cam Christiansen, David Hare and their producers after the screening.


Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town: This American comedy sounds like a modern cross between The Graduate and After Hours — “Dazed, confused, and lost, Izzy only has 5 hours to beg, borrow and steal her way across LA to break up her ex’s engagement” — and should deliver some fast laughs.

Fake Blood: In this faux documentary, two horror filmmakers make contact with the darker side of humanity in order to see if violent films actually have real-life consequences. Here’s hoping it gets good ’n’ gory. Cast and crew will be in attendance at both Calgary Film screenings.

Small Town Crime: An incredible cast — John Hawkes, Octavia Spencer, Robert Forster and Anthony Anderson — stars in what’s been described as “an ultraviolent and gritty … crime-noir.” Hawkes plays a down-and-out ex-cop who looks for redemption by attempting to solve the murder of a teen prostitute.

Don’t Talk to Irene: Fifteen-year-old, overweight oddball Irene gets in trouble at school and is forced to volunteer at a senior’s home, where she convinces some of the elderly denizens to enter a dance competition. Geena Davis and Scott Thompson appear in what looks to be a quirky and uplifting Canadian comedy.

Lucky: A quiet, beautiful, sad, joyful, poignant, funny, deep, slow and thoughtful gem of a work of art. It’s exactly how you want to remember the recently departed Harry Dean Stanton, who inhabits utterly and completely the titular character. If you see only one film at the festival, please, do yourself a favour, check out this brilliant last-minute addition.

The Calgary International Film Festival runs Sept. 20 to Oct. 1 at various venues around the city. For the complete list of films and showtimes please go to