By Jonathan Lawrence
CALGARY – I’ll try not to talk your ear off,” says Steve Schroeder jokingly. As executive director of the Calgary International Film Festival, he talks vigorously about this year’s new films and events, espousing the level of originality and local pride that they aspire to each year.
With over two thousand submissions, the team at Calgary Film (no longer abbreviated as CIFF) had their work cut out for them. What they ended up with is “200 different, remarkable perspectives, visions of the world that come through every genre from 40 countries or more and of every type of film,” says Schroeder. It’s a passion Calgary Film has both for film and organizing a community is palpable. “It’s what we love, it’s what motivates us,” he adds.
Schroeder himself is no stranger to festivals or films. “I’ve always been a film buff. I’ve been now 20 plus years working in the arts community in Calgary. I started as a live theatre producer, where I developed a love of festivals in general…I love when a city has a deep festival-based culture because nothing makes a city liveable, vibrant and fun and civilized like a festival.”
Calgary Film isn’t merely a series of screenings at different theatres, however. People are encouraged to come out to the Q&As and other special events that will be happening during the festival week, particularly the Opening Gala which includes walking the red carpet, live entertainment and a post-screening after party. Then the Closing Gala, which follows the Alberta-made film presentation, Suck It Up, will be an all-inclusive awards celebration, free to the public that provides a great opportunity for “fans to mingle with filmmakers,” says Schroeder.
Calgary Film has a growing dedication to Alberta-produced film and TV, which has been expanding rapidly for the past several years. In 2016, they began a feature called Showcase Alberta to champion Alberta talent. In fact, about a quarter of their Canadian content has ties with Alberta.
“We’re definitely an international film fest.” states Schroeder. “But the percentage of local content that we show is significantly higher than [other film festivals].” Calgarians, in specific, are really excited by this industry that they know is growing.” Schroeder also notes that often the best attendances during the festival are films with Alberta content, particularly where the local filmmakers are present.
This year’s festival will have an event focused on the new television show, Wynnona Earp¸ produced in Alberta. It will be a “big cast and creator event,” says Schroeder, which includes a Q & A session. He adds that tickets to the event are selling fast, and that people are flying in from all over to see it, “If people’s Facebook posts are to be believed,” he jokes.
Attendees can expect a wide range in tone and genre from the lineup this year. Schroeder says if you’re unsure which film to see, his best advice is to “find a local film and just check it out, you’re likely to have a very good time. Pick one blind, and have a random experience. People are always surprised happily so.”
Calgary Film runs from September 20 to October 1, 2017. See www.calgaryfilm.com for film schedules and to purchase tickets.Calagry Film, Calgary International Film Festival