On Our Radar: Calgary International Film Festival

CIFF takes place from September 19 to 29, from the Red Carpet Opening Gala and screening of The Grand Seduction (a flick about luring a resident doctor to a small Newfoundland town) on the 19th at the Jubilee Auditorium, to the Closing Film, The Right Kind of Wrong (a love story filmed in Banff) on the 29th at the Globe 2. The two main venues are The Globe (617 8th Avenue SW) and Eau Claire (200 Barclay Parade SW); films run all day, so if your after-work schedule is jam-packed, maybe a long lunch fits the bill.

Now that we have the big picture details settled, how do we navigate this festival? We sat down with Executive Director Steve Schroeder to get the goods. 

Are tickets scarce? Can I just show up or do I need to get them in advance?
I recommend getting tickets in advance. While there are nearly 200 screenings, no two are exactly alike, and sometimes they are sold out and sometimes they aren’t. You are taking your chances if you just show up at the door. There is a rush line for sold out shows, for last minute availability, but don’t bank on it. And it’s $1 cheaper to get tickets in advance.

When I think film fest, I think film fest parties. Does the CIFF have a party?
Several. A gala is a showing of a film with a party afterwards. The festival is about films, but about people getting together and enjoying the festival atmosphere. The biggest gala is the opening party, following the screening of The Grand Seduction, which was also a big party at TIFF. The film is a laugh riot, and it’s the only showing of that film during the festival. The party is at the Jube after the show, open bar, and $75 a ticket.

I’ve heard the phrase Green Carpet thrown out there with respect to CIFF. What is that?
There are other galas; the Black Carpet Gala – which is the alternative gala and the “other” great party of the festival. The Black Carpet Gala film is often a horror or twisted film. This year it’s on Friday September 27 and the film is Eega (Housefly), which involves a crazy reincarnation by a romantic rival. Part of the fun is the movie, part of the fun is the party afterwards.

The Green Carpet Gala, introduced in 2012, spotlights an acclaimed environmental film. The film this year is The Last Ocean and the director from New Zealand is coming up for it on Monday, September 23. The film is about the race to save the last pristine ecosystem, the Ross Sea. The sea is fished for Chilean Sea Bass and being destroyed as a result. 

Any tips for the average moviegoer who wants to attend the Fest but is worried they’ll chose a film they aren’t keen on?
The audience rates the films via ballot at the end of the viewing. Last year, the average was 4.3 out of 5, which is very high. If you look at the CIFF’s track record, the films have had very high feedback. Also, embrace the festival and see a few things. Even if you don’t love them all, you’ll find at least one you do. The tickets are $13, so people may catch 3 to 5 movies; if there is one in the batch that’s not your cup of tea, the next one you’ll love.

Photo courtesy Calgary International Film Festival