By Jonathan Lawrence
CALGARY — Watching a foreign film generally involves a degree of multitasking that gets even the best of us. “I have to watch – and read? At the same time?” you ask incredulously.
The most rewarding experiences often aren’t the easiest though, and the Calgary European Film Festival is returning for its fifth year to prove that stories rich in character, setting, and culture are worth paying attention to, and worth letting that poor bag of popcorn last longer than the opening credits.
The Calgary European Film Festival, or CEFF, which runs from November 7-13 this year, is an opportunity for Western audiences to see European-made films that would otherwise likely not see an overseas release. That said, each production has received at least one international award or other accolade from such notable festivals as the Venice International Film Festival and Cannes. This year’s line-up includes films from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and Czech Republic – more countries than ever before.
It is also running for a full week this year, up from a four-day run in 2015.
Much like the other film festivals in Calgary such as the Calgary Underground Film Festival and the International Film Festival, the European Film Festival is seeing rising attendance rates each year. We caught up with Beatrix Downton, the board president for the European Cultural Society of Calgary (organizer of CEFF) and the representative of the German community for the festival to discuss it in further detail.
“The image of Calgary as a backwater provincial town is definitely long gone,” says Downton. “Calgary is quite cosmopolitan, people are hungry for stories from other cultures – our movies allow us to travel the world without shelling out big bucks for airfare.”
Looking at the line-up of films this year, one can easily see some recurring themes of complicated relationships, outcasts in society, and other serious subject matter. In response, Downton writes: “I love the way European movies place the human experience at the centre of the story. There might be less action…than in many Hollywood productions [but] instead we get to see stories that feel true to life, relatable to the viewer’s own experience.”
Despite the dramatic nature of most of the films, Downton assures that there is still a good dosage of comedy and levity in the festival’s line-up. “[It’s] a great way to address serious questions and make them approachable.” She adds that she is most looking forward to the quirky Life is a Trumpet from Croatia, and the Austrian crime movie Life Eternal, which “brings some unconventional dark humour to the screen.”
Even if you think foreign films aren’t your cup of tea, Downton believes that if you like independent cinema, you’ll love European film. The eclectic culture of Europe embraces everything people love about independent cinema, where anything and everything is possible. Because of this, Downton says, “There is room for many different stories, movies that are fun, serious, exciting, sad, thought-provoking … and always entertaining.”
The opening night on November 7th will kick off with Sieranevada (Romania, 2016), directed by Cristi Puiu, who received the ICS Cannes Award for Best Screenplay.
So this November, do yourself a favour and put down Netflix for a bit, put on your reading glasses and go experience some culture. Don’t worry, Luke Cage will still be there when you get back. Probably.
Watch something from the other side of the world this November at CEFF Nov. 7-13 at the Globe Cinema.AB, Alberta, Calgary European Film Festival, CEFF, Globe Cinema