By Julia Gunst
CALGARY — Documentaries are only getting bigger here in Calgary, and the proof is in the demand for screenings. Subscriptions are already sold out for this year’s DocSoup Calgary – a series of films selected by the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) and the HotDocs festival based in Toronto.
DocSoup serves up six monthly documentaries starting in November in Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver, each with its own local partnering organization.
Choosing the right six films to screen in a city out of a multitude of deserving documentaries is no easy feat.
“There is so much coming at you globally all the time,” says CIFF executive director Steve Schroeder. “Our mission here is to engage and entertain our audience by curating the most innovative and compelling films.”
On November 5th, The Backward Class, directed by Madeleine Grant, gave audiences a window into the lives of the first students of the “untouchable” caste to attempt to pass the national Indian School Certificate exams in Bangalore.
December’s DocSoup screening, Red Army, is no less arresting – it takes us through the ups and downs of the Soviet Union’s Red Army hockey team.
Brenda Lieberman, CIFF’s programmer who also selects films for DocSoup, saw Red Army at TIFF this past year, and immediately recognized its appeal to hockey fans and film lovers alike.
“There are riveting sports documentaries, there are incredible documentaries in the art world, fun ones about pop culture…urban planning documentaries are usually popular in Calgary. It is a very broad world out there in terms of documentaries,” adds Schroeder.
In the cold winter months, many may opt to see documentaries in the comforting glow of their laptop. Despite this temptation, there is something unique about gathering in a theatre to watch films.
“With the best films, the emotions of people around you amplify the experience,” states Schroeder.
Despite many of the documentaries screened in Calgary being available online at the time of screening or soon afterwards, there is no shortage of demand for the theatre experience.
“We sold out five out of the six screenings [of DocSoup] last year,” says Schroeder. “The last [screening] would have been sold out as well too, except for the fact that we moved to a bigger theatre at the last minute.”
Documentaries bring together both those interested in a special topic and those interested in stories in general. For Schroeder, inspiring future local documentary creation and enjoyment is the main goal.
“There is a lot of room to change perceptions of documentary film.”
DocSoup’s December screening of Red Army takes place Dec. 3, 7 p.m. at Cineplex Eau Claire. Purchase tickets at http://www.calgaryfilm.com/films/2014/red-army/.AB, Alberta, Calgary International Film Festival, CIFF, DocSoup Calgary, Eau Claire, Red Army, The Backward Class