Monday, October 4, 2010

My Favourite CIFF 2010 Moment: The Black Carpet Gala!

Well folks, it’s that time again. As CIFF 2010 draws to a close, I (along with hundreds of other cinephiles) am exhausted - but it is the bittersweet fatigue of someone who has just spent the last ten days in a film-focused frenzy. Every year I get a little better at balancing my trips to the cinema with school, and it certainly pays off to dedicate a few moments to planning a schedule when it comes to film fest season - that way you can take full advantage of everything CIFF has to offer. My highlight of this year’s festival was undoubtably Friday night’s Black Carpet Gala.

The film, I Spit On Your Grave, was everything it promised to be, and more: gruesome, gratuitous, horrific, controversial, compelling, and disturbing. Since it will be theatrically released on October 8th, I’ll save you any revealing remarks, suffice it to say that lead actress, Sarah Butler, approaches the devastating subject matter with a maturity and bravery that is extraordinary - and the rest of the cast is not far behind. Chad Lindberg had the audience gripped in pity and fear for his vulnerable character, Matthew, and Jeff Branson’s character, Johnny, embodied a bitterness, arrogance, and sociopathic numbness that was frightening in itself. The area sheriff, played by Andrew Howard, was equally cold and despicable - rounding out the perfect crew of victims for the spite of a vengeful woman.Butler, Lindberg, and Branson were all in attendance, and held a Q&A session following the screening. They explained their personal processes for taking on the identities of such dark characters, and joked about the mishaps that made it into the final cut - like Branson “accidentally” hitting Butler in the back of the head with a baseball bat. Despite the violent and brutal nature of the film’s content, the cast agreed that it was their chemistry and trust for one another that made the film really come to life.

The after party was held at Sam’s in Kensington immediately following the Q&A session, with free drinks being dispensed to ticket holders and tasty appetizers floating about on silver platters. The pub was intimately lit, and already buzzing with excitement when the screening crowd arrived.Butler, Lindberg, and Branson were all there, and were incredibly approachable - bubbling at the chance to chat with fans and film-lovers alike. I had the chance to speak briefly to all three, and was humbled by their lively, friendly, and entertaining personalities. stars were not afraid to mingle with the crowd, share some beverages, and take part in the jovial atmosphere of the Black Carpet Gala.

Memories and experiences like these are the reason I am such an enthusiastic advocate for the social aspect of cinema. There is a whole culture that takes place outside of the theatre, and I encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in film to seek out these types of events, and take advantage of everything an organization like CIFF has to offer. Don’t feel discouraged if you didn’t make it to every screening and event you had hoped to - CIFF 2011 is only 12 months away!

See you next year, fellow filmaholics!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Some of the best of the festival still have screenings to come

We are partway through the final day of the festival and there are still many great films to come. There are two films from the Mavericks series screening today. SNOW & ASHES (4:30 at Globe) is the lone Canadian film in the series. It is a disorienting journey through the fragmented memories of a war correspondent. Although set in Eastern Europe, the film was shot entirely in Canada. There is an encore screening of R today (9:15 at the Plaza). Friday's screening was one of the most talked about of the past few days. This Danish film deserves a place amongst the great prison films of all time such as Midnight Express.
I did not see MYTH OF AN AMERICAN SLEEPOVER (4:45 at Plaza) but read great reviews of it out of Cannes and SXSW.
WHEN WE LEAVE (7:00 at Eau Claire) is the winner of the Best International Feature award at CIFF this year. This is its only screening of the festival so expect a large crowd ready to be blown away by an incredibly moving film. Another award winner will be crowned after the ALBERTA SPIRIT shorts program (7:00 at Globe). The best Albertan shorts of the year will be screened and then a winner chosen. I will not be at the screening but some of the filmmakers will be at the Marquee Room afterward and will try to find out what people thought there.
A film that I had overlooked but got great ratings at the screening Saturday was GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY (9:00 at Eau Claire). Geetika wrote a strong piece on it here:
One of the best Canadian films of the festival, HEARTBEATS, has an encore tonight at 9:30 at Globe. One year after bursting onto the festival circuit with the multiple award-winning I KILLED MY MOTHER, Xavier Dolan returns with another highly personal story that has been garnering acclaim around the world.

All good things must come to an end!

Another 1o days have come and gone, and have felt like a whirlwind of truly diverse film! I must say that of the films I saw this year they left me feeling great about the work and thoughts of people from all over the world.


This film centres around Daniel who has Downs Syndrome, however the focus was not on that he had Downs as much as it was on love and normalcy. It was a beautiful look at our perceptions.


An intimate film that looks at the women of the red light district who have been rescued and their journey to rebuild their lives and self esteem.


After much media around the Mukthar Mai Story, this film showcases the power of Mukhtar's perseverance after her rape, and the effects she has had on the women her village.

Until next year!

Me, Too (Yo, Tamien): a familial perspective

I took a friend with me to see the encore screening of ME, TOO (YO, TAMBIEN), which had to be one of my favorites this year at CIFF. I was really interested in the film myself as I am very close to my friend and her beautiful little boy who has Downs Syndrome. I wanted to take this opportunity to see the film through her eyes, as a relatively new mother.

The film itself was beautifully centered around the theme of love, and the concept of normalcy. What we perceive to be normal is not always the case, and does not necessarily mean that having a disability does not fit into the concept of societal norms. The characters in the film make us look at how we often seem to ignore basic needs of ALL people, when we classify them into specific groups. There are no boundaries when it comes to people, we are all different, some are a little kookier than others, some are smarter, some are reserved, some are more creative, some are more daring. We can not put people into boxes any longer. The newer generations are making this more apparent than ever, that it is about individualism. One glove no longer fits all, and in reality it never did.

We chatted after the film and discussed disabilities and the train of thought around whether it is better to give a child an opportunity to be with and share the experiences of those with similar disabilities, or with those that society would call "normal". I shared my experience with my friend as it related to my younger brother who has Cerebral Palsy. I feel that he should be sharing in both worlds and is also lucky to be sharing in both. He has his friends from school that he hangs out with in the evenings and on the weekends, getting into trouble just like any other 15 year old. However, he also has activities that he participates in with other kids that have Cerebral Palsy as well. For example this year he attended the Easter Seals camp which allowed him the opportunity to engage in activities that he would not be fully able to do on his own at another camp. These activities were no different than at other camps, however there was assistance and support for him to experience the same things. My friend agreed that this was the same principle that she wanted to follow, and is following, allowing both worlds to integrate. It is similar to being from two different ethnic backgrounds, they may be different, but we need to appreciate that we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn, and share in both cultures.

My friend really appreciated the film and how it showcased the breadth of Downs and that we are only limited by our own perceptions, and of the perceptions of others that we are led to believe. She said something to me as well, that I had known all along. She said that she felt incredibly lucky and blessed to have her son in her life, and that she could not imagine him any different. She felt "chosen" to be part of his life. I could not agree more, she was meant to be part of his life, and he a part of hers. I personally can not imagine a better person to raise such a beautiful child, someone open and free with the possibilities out there for her son. Just like all the other mothers out there, they want the world for their daughters and sons, there is no difference it is just a matter of love.

A fabulous pick this year at CIFF full of laughter and love!

Xavier Dolan does it again with Heartbeats

The end of the festival is drawing near and there are still many movies to be screened. In fact the very last film to be shown this year, is also one of the very best. Heartbeats, French-Canadian Director Xavier Dolan's second feature film, is much like his first effort, I killed my mother, in it's style, pacing, and overall aesthetic. That film, which was critically acclaimed the World over after it first screened at Cannes and received an eight minute standing ovation, saw Dolan burst onto the international scene with a fervour unseen in Canada for many years. He is undoubtedly a name to watch in the coming years, and at such a young age he is already being likened to some of the greatest in French and Italian cinema history.

Dolan writes, directs, and stars in all of his projects. They are also admittedly very personal in nature, based on direct life experiences. But it is not the stories that he tells that are new, it is how he does so. The film is slow paced and meditative, stylish, and cinematic. It is filled with eye candy from start to finish, but it also packs quite the emotional punch. Ultimately, his films are loved because they are beautiful to behold. While also relatable and quite funny too. Heartbeats itself follows the relationship between a man and a women, two friends that encounter a newcomer who they both fall for. The french title, "Les amours imaginaires", translates directly into "Imaginary Romances", and this is the gist of the film. As both characters become more infatuated with their subject, their friendship is tested, and the notions of passion, love, and human frailty are explored.

The film is excellent, and will only help to propel Xavier Dolan, and establish him as one of Canada's greatest exports as of late. It is also the last film of the festival, so come and enjoy one last movie. It won't disappoint.

Heartbeats plays tonight, October 2nd, at 9:30 at the Globe cinema.
Tickets are available online, at the festival centre in Eau Claire, and at the door.

Alberta Spirt: A Celebration of Homegrown Talent

Over the past 11 years, the Calgary International Film Festival has been on the fast track of success, attracting filmmakers from the world over and granting thousands of Calgarians the opportunity to see a plethora of memorable independent films from across the globe. CIFF's international focus has been highlighted in recent years with the addition of the Mavericks International competition where ten global filmmakers have an opportunity to compete for the coveted Mavericks award.

All of these strides taken by the festival to establish itself as a world-class venue for foreign films have been met with tremendous success and I always look forward to seeing as many global films as I can throughout the 10 day extravaganza. However, perhaps the most admirable quality of the ever-growing success story that is CIFF, has been the festival's continued dedication to inspiring and promoting film on a national and grassroots level as well. If the caliber of the Canadian Film Series at this year's festival is any indication, Canada has established itself as a gold mine of filmmaking talent in it's own right. Tonight's Mavericks: Alberta Spirit competition is one that I have been eagerly anticipating throughout the festival, and is a prime illustration of the burgeoning talent Alberta is producing in her own backyard.

Beginning at 7pm tonight in the lower level of the Globe theater, 10 of Alberta's own up and coming filmmakers will have the opportunity to showcase their work, with films ranging in length from 3 - 16 minutes. The films cover a number of genres and styles ranging from animated to experimental, all shot in a variety of different mediums. From a post-apocalyptical world 100 years in the future, to the adventures of a rootless vagabond traveling exotic lands, there's certain to be something for everyone in this unique collection of short films. Whether you consider yourself to be a diehard film buff, or just proud to be Albertan, I encourage you to pick up a ticket to tonight's event, it's certain to be a packed house. Be sure to make a note of the names of the ten filmmakers participating tonight, as they all have established themselves as potential household names in the making.

Black Carpet Gala succeeds at mixing great film with great party

I rarely have much good to say about horror remakes. Most modern horror suffers from being derivative as it is; to out-and-out remake an existing film is a recipe for uninteresting cinema. I watch a lot of genre films so it is rare for films to present something I have not seen before. All I ask is that they try. Adding in that wikipedia incorrectly lists Jeffrey Reddick as the writer, I had low expectations for the remake I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (for clarity, I will refer to the original as DAY OF THE WOMAN). I am glad these low expectations did not keep me away. This was a fantastic film. Director Stephen R Monroe and writer Stuart Morse learned from the strengths of the original while successfully modernizing the story and adding new storylines and twists to keep it fresh. Framing this film as a remake might be a sign of the filmmakers' confidence in their ability to make an original and truly chilling film. Much the same way a superior athlete would spot an opponent a few points, Monroe and Morse let you know the basic storyline. Anyone who has seen DAY OF THE WOMAN knows what some of the most shocking scenes will be. This advance knowledge makes the deviation from the original film even more powerful. The audience is psychologically prepared for certain shocking things to happen. When something else happens in its place, the impact is heightened.

The party was also terrific. The liquor brand of the night was Hennessy cognac. The signature drink was Hennessy and ginger ale with a black super nib garnish. From what I remember of the night, these were delicious. The party also benefitted from not having a musical act performing. This year's parties were great for music lovers as there was a range of performers at the parties large and small, official and unofficial. All of these performers were great and added to the overall atmosphere of the festival. However, people tended to leave shortly after the performers finished. The Black Carpet Gala was a chance to mingle and catch up with the people I see at the festival each year. I heard about several films I missed seeing as well as several interesting film and arts events going on in Calgary over the next several months.

The End is Near, Flock to Your Closest Venue Before It's Too Late!

9 days, approximately 200 films, and a few bags of popcorn and Twizzlers later, and already we have reached the last Sunday of CIFF 2010. It's been a fantastic year full of pleasant surprises, bold and breathtaking filmmaking, and a real reason to be proud of Calgary's ever-expanding art scene. Buuut, let's not forget the fun's not over yet!

Tomorrow is another jam packed day of programming for the 11th annual festival, and I know I'm psyched for one more day of venue hopping. As a veteran film fester here are a few handy tips to making the most out of your last day to get your CIFF on.

1. Plan out your day in advance.

Personally, I'm prone to making an Excel spread sheets of movies I want to see, what time they're planning at and which venue. This way after a movie ends I'm not flustered and in a frenzy dashing off to catch the next film on my list. I realize not every film buff is quite as nerdy as I am, so just make sure you also choose movies with a bit of breathing room in between one another so you have time to debrief, stretch your legs, or grab a snack.

2. Stay Hydrated!

This advice is really applicable in daily life - not just during the film festival - but it's definitely worth mentioning nonetheless. You won't be as focussed and alert if your body is dehydrated so be sure to stop by the concession stand before or between movies. Planning to have a few snacks is always a good idea as well. Keeping your blood sugar ensures you'll be wide awake from the opening scene to the final fade out, and energetic enough to engage in some post-film discussion.

3. Spice Things Up

The Calgary International Film Festival is teeeeming with a variety of films from all different genres. Keep your energy up by mixing things up. Maybe after catching a film from the Canadian series you want to see a Global Film followed by a documentary. Also try to vary the venues too. The walk between theaters is a good way to get some fresh air and stretch your legs before sitting down in another uncomfortable movie theater seat for a couple hours.

4. Let the Credits Roll

Lots of people are quick to hop out of their seats and dash for the exit as soon as the final scene fades to black. Why not take some time to sit and truly absorb the content of the film you just saw, or discuss it with a friend? It's always neat to listen to another person's view on the same feature and compare how similar or different your thoughts were.

There you have it, a few tips straight from the film geek's mouth. Now get some sleep so you're ready for a full day of movies ahead. Happy festivaling! :)

Incendies.. a film not soon to be forgotten

One of my favorite aspects of the movie-going experience is walking into the theater with that slight twinge of uncertainty. Sure, the critics may have said one thing, and your best friend may have said another, but as you take your seat equipped with popcorn and diet Coke, you are ultimately unaware of the effect a film will have on you. Once in awhile, you see that rare gem of a that truly grips you, to the point where you find yourself replaying certain scenes over and over in your mind for days to come.

The first movie I ever saw that for lack of a better phrase "shook me to the core" was admittedly, James Cameron's Titanic. To be fair, that 3 hours-plus marathon of a movie was the likes of a film my pre-teen aged self had never experienced before, and it had yet to be played to death on TV every weekend. I confess that Celine Dione's "My Heart Will Go On" was my most played song for weeks afterward, and certain scenes lingered in my head for even longer.

Since those days, I have had the pleasure of being truly gripped by a film only a handful of times, and most of those times have occurred during the Calgary International Film Festival. (Shout out to all of the amazing festival programmers and staff for making this possible!) Incendies, a beautiful and unabashedly groundbreaking French-Canadian film has become the latest film I've seen to make it on to this rather short list. Even though I saw the movie three days ago, it is one that I have talked to friends and family about incessantly and sincerely hope it gets a more wide-spread Canadian release.

The film, which had the honor of winning best Canadian Feature at this year's festival, is based on a play by Order of Canada recipient, Wajdi Mouawad and brought to the screen under the brilliant direction of Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique). The premise of the film is fairly simple, yet executed in such a manner that both my mom and I left the theater speechless. The story follows twin siblings Jeanne and Simon as they embark on a life-altering trip to carry out the last wishes of their mother. Together they travel into the heart of the Middle East, to track down the brother they never knew they had, and the father they always thought had died before they were born.

Incendies dances back and forth between the present day and the 1970s-1980s when Jeanne and Simon's mother was a young woman struggling to survive the hardships of living in a country being torn apart by brutal civil war. I don't want to spoil it, but the twist at the end as the twins learn the identity of their father and brother is both haunting and tragic, and I found myself struck by the bravery of the characters. I felt as though I had been on their journey overseas along with them, and as the credits began to roll goose bumps covered my arms. Both the acting and cinematography was incredible, and the emotion was so raw and real that I could almost feel the packed-theater give a collective sigh as the credits began to roll.

It is moments like these that keep me coming back to the film festival year after year, to feel the raw power a film can harness in a mere two hours and exit the theater still totally engrossed in what you just watched. I for one am completely smitten with this film and have my fingers crossed that it will be seen again on Calgary screens in the near future.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

On Friday evening, I took my mother with me to see Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. I’m not sure what it was that drew me to this film – perhaps the unique, and lengthy, title; the fact that I can’t remember ever having seen a Thai film before; the idea of past lives, ghosts and fairy tale intersecting with real life; or all of the above.

The film blends reality and fantasy, as Boonmee meets with the ghost of his long-deceased wife, and his missing son – who has since mated with a Monkey Ghost and has himself become one of the fabled creatures.

One of the things that amazes and, I’ll admit, confuses me about global films, are their tendency to weave together threads of multiple stories within one film, while not necessarily linking them, or providing any sort of resolution whatsoever. Uncle Boonmee hits both of these, with somewhat disjointed inner tales interwoven into the larger story.

I think I was expecting this film to have a bit more of the fantastic incorporated – more ghosts, more fables, more creatures that go bump in the night. But nevertheless, it was a creative, moving film that I truly enjoyed. It’s a languid and quiet film that gently relates the last few days of Boonmee’s life and his unremarkable passing. As my first introduction to Thai film, it served as an excellent gateway.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Light Thief

Mr. Light is a thief. As the only electrician in a small mountain village in the Kyrgyz Republic, he gives light to the poor and disadvantaged. But Mr. Light has another dream – to bring wind-powered electricity to the entire town.

When a local businessman returns from the big city vying for a place in government, he makes Mr. Light a tempting offer – work together and power the town with wind turbines. The events that follow force Mr. Light to reevaluate his position in society and his own moral code.

One of my favorite things about many global films is the value they give to the seemingly mundane. Most Hollywood films, for example, fabricate the extraordinary. Nearly all of the global films I’ve seen this year appear to take a snippet out of the daily lives of average people – how they live their lives, their families, their struggles and accomplishments. If extraordinary things happen during that time, they’re still couched in the real.

With lingering, thoughtful pans of the landscape hold your attention long after the scene has ended, The Light Thief touches on issues of poverty, access to resources, class and social obligation, all within the framework of friendship, family, and just plain doing what’s right.

You can catch the North American premiere of The Light Thief at Eau Claire, Sunday, October 3 at 4:45pm.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Myth of an American Sleepover

Do you recall your days of youth when the most important thing in the world was your popularity, your crush on that unknowing boy or girl that you imagined you would be with forever, your first kiss, summer fun, and which parties you got invited to. THE MYTH OF AN AMERICAN SLEEPOVER, will have you recalling your youthful memories of your teenage summers.

Some of my favorite memories as a young girl are of the sleepovers I had with my girlfriends, staying up and talking all night, playing games such as "light as a feather", watching movies, eating popcorn and ice cream. Summers however added another additional element to these regular sleepovers. For many it was the time to have some sort of experience or event to mark the time. This film looks at that need for youth to have experiences, and to learn about what it is that they really want in life. It helps them to define a clearer concise picture of their goals whether it is in love, or in their future pursuits. It is a time to experiment and grow, and this film showcases the search, innocent experimentation, and self realizations that not everything has to happen or will happen immediately.

THE MYTH OF AN AMERICAN SLEEPOVER, is an innocent look at several young teens and the allure of summer romance before the school year starts. The scenarios although all different in their search are similar in the their desire to love and be loved. As youth we all long for these experiences, often not knowing why we are doing what it is we do to get it. We do however learn about ourselves through these events helping us to become the people we are today.

For a light and youthful taste of summer at 4:45pm on Sunday October 3rd at the Plaza

Zonad: A return to red latex?

I’ve been looking forward to the Irish film Zonad since the festival began. There’s something inherently appealing about a nice, fun flick about a rehab escapee posing as an intergalactic spaceman who pulls the wool over quintessentially naïve and trusting townsfolk eager for a little excitement. Our story begins with a celestial event – a comet. The 160+ people of Ballymoran, Ireland, gather at a party to watch the flaming hunk of rubble hurtle past as they speculate on the existence of life on other planets. When the Cassidy family arrives home, they’re shocked to find a man dressed in red latex, passed out on their living room floor.

Convinced he is a visitor for places beyond, the Cassidy’s welcome Zonad (Simon Delaney) into their home, their refrigerator and, eventually, their beds. As the first spaceman the town has ever met, Zonad becomes instantly popular, especially with the women. Both young Jenny Cassidy (Janice Byrne), frustrated by her lack of sexual experience – despite repeated attempts to throw herself at boyfriend Guy (Rory Keenan) – and her mother (Donna Dent) turn to Zonad for affection.

Zonad lives the highlife as the local, out-of-this-word celebrity. That is, until Bonad – Zonad’s rehab cohort – arrives claiming to be Zonad’s superior officer. After having Zonad cast out of town, Bonad sets up office in Jenny’s bedroom; and the bedrooms of women all over Ballymoran. It’s not until Zonad joins forces with Jenny’s hapless boyfriend Guy that Zonad is at last able to challenge Bonad’s supremacy.

Filled with cliché music and Pleasantville-esque sentiments, Zonad is a fun, quirky and entertaining film that’s sure to appeal to all viewers. Challenging assumptions about what is socially acceptable and socially responsible, Zonad highlights the power of believing, even if what you believe in is a lie.

Have your own close encounter at The Plaza on Saturday, October 2 at 9:15pm.

Creepy Choices for a Scary Saturday

As the final weekend of CIFF 2010 approaches and our lovely Late Night Line-Up draws to a close, give yourself a moment to reflect upon your favorite fright films of the past week. Although horror films usually get lumped into one giant category due to their reliance on grotesque imagery and terrifying narratives, there are actually many different styles and aesthetic approaches to scary movies, and every viewer’s personal taste is different. When you give a horror film five stars, is it because it sends you diving under the covers every time a floorboard creaks? Do you prefer a flick that has a compelling and likely story? Or do you give it two thumbs up based solely on the amount of blood and brains left on the floor? Or maybe you like them all... No matter your preference, CIFF 2010 has been a year of disturbing diversity when it comes to creepy flicks, and Saturday gives you one more grueling decision to make: Mutant Girls Squad, or The Corrupted?

Mutant Girls Squad (Japan, 2010, 85 minutes, 18ª)

What do you get when you cross the hilarious gore and mayhem of Evil Dead with the Japanese kiddie action of Sailor Moon? Mutant Girls Squad, of course! When 16-year-old schoolgirl Rin discovers she is a “hiruko” mutant, she is identified by the school nurse and embarks on a defensive killing spree. Wh the town demands her blood, she is brought under the protective and educational wing of a secret hiruko clan where she learns how to embrace her uniqueness and use it to her full violent advantage. Surrounded by other mutant teen girls with their own form of biological weaponry, she demonstrates her natural prowess and potential to the group’s leader. However, she isn’t fully on board with the extremist fundamentals of the clan and soon there is a mutiny on the Mutant Girls Squad. Who will come out on top - Rin, with her bio-mechanical, indestructible claw hand? Or the squad, whose assassins include a cheerleader with an unfortunately located chainsaw? Regardless, copious amounts of blood with be shed before a champion rises. The acting is approached with reckless abandon, and the crew is not shy about mussing up the camera lenses. Loaded with arterial spray, splitting heads, and a cast of young girls driven mad by their changing bodies, Mutant Girl Squad is a riotous good time.

The Corrupted (Canada, 2010, 75 minutes, 14ª)

The premise of this Canadian feature (which could rightfully hold a place on the Late Night Line-Up as well) is one familiar to fans of films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Cabin Fever. A group of university friends spend their vacation at a remote cabin deep in an Albertan forest, isolated and alone, with only the sporadically-appearing forest ranger to check up on them. In true Canuck-style, they drink around the fire, hang out by the lake, and spend their holiday hooking up in the dense Canadian wilderness. The impending disaster is foreshadowed by one ambitious drunk’s comment: “Tonight, we see which one of us drops first!” Soon things begin to go wrong - cars won’t start, injuries begin to appear, campers begin acting strangely, and creepy figures are seen lurking the woods. It soon becomes clear that someone, or something, does not want these students to make it to graduation. The film boasts impressive moments of exciting cinematography and creative dialogue, and a realist, hand-held aesthetic that reiterates the down-to-earthness of Canadian Cinema.

Personally, my favorite of the two is Mutant Girls Squad - but the beauty is, you don’t have to choose if you don’t want to! The films play at separate times, making it easy for shock-seekers to catch both in one day. This is the last opportunity to raise your arm-hairs before the film festival concludes for another year, so make the most of it and treat yourself to a generously gruesome Saturday at CIFF.

The Corrupted plays Saturday, October 2nd at Eau Claire #1 at 9:15 PM. Get your online tickets here.
Mutant Girls Squad plays Saturday, October 2nd at The Plaza at 11:30 PM. Get your online tickers here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Film Unfinished: A Nazi propaganda film in the making (encore screening)

On Tuesday, September 28th, I took in A Film Unfinished, a compilation of found archival footage documenting the conditions of the Warsaw Ghetto during the second world war. I've seen several films that deal with the subject of the Holocaust. I've seen the images of emaciated bodies being dropped into mass graves, read survivor journals and the Diary of Anne Frank. I even wrote my undergraduate thesis on the Holocaust writing of women. While each piece of literature, each interview, each documentary offers additional insight into this dark period, A Film Unfinished provides a unique and deeply interesting entry in the library of Holocaust study.

Filmed in the months leading up to the relocation of Ghetto residents to Treblinka, A Film Unfinished juxtaposes haunting images of starvation, suffering and death against the carefully orchestrated scenes shot by Nazi propagandists. These staged scenes, shown from different angles through multiple takes, paint a bizarre and painful picture of life inside the Ghetto. Interspersed with archival film footage, journal entries, official reports and trial transcripts, the film also captures the memories and reactions of childhood survivors as real and fraudulent scenes play across the screen.

Journal entries made by Adam Czerniakow -- head of the Warsaw Judenrat -- outline details of the filming, narrating many of the images found in the four reels, lending credence to the verdict that these images were indeed manufactured. Elaborately-staged dinner parties, nights at the theatre and traditional Jewish rituals, including an infant's briss, are directed by members of the SS and preserved in cellulose by hired cameramen.

No one knows the intended purpose of the film, but there are those who speculate it was shot to reinforce the Nazi belief that what they were doing was justified -- that the alien Jewish traditions were reasons to fear and hate the people as a whole. The film depicts apparently wealthy Jews turning a blind eye to those in need; women in fine clothing scoff at begging children while well-heeled businessmen step over decaying corpses lying discarded in the streets.

Anyone with an interest in World History, the Holocaust or Nazi Propaganda is sure to find this an engaging and worthwhile watch. The initial audience feedback from the Tuesday night screening was so positive, CIFF is giving festival-goers a second chance to see it.

You can catch the encore presentation of A Film Unfinished at The Plaza on Friday, October 1 at 4:45pm.

Daydream Nation: A Promising Canadian Feature

I’m a huge fan and advocate of Canadian coming-of-age films; C.R.A.Z.Y. is one of the best, and last year’s Victoria Day was probably my favorite screening of the whole festival. However, I’ve got one beef with them: where’s the girl power? Generally, the protagonist is a young man battling with puberty, peers, pretty girls, and parents. Gosh, wouldn’t it be fresh to see a film that gives the feminine perspective of growing up and all it’s complications? Well, as luck would have it, the film Daydream Nation takes a dark and daring chance, centering it’s racy narrative around female teen Caroline Wexler as she ruffles feathers in her small, Canadian hometown.

I won’t give away too many plot points, suffice it to say that Daydream Nation, directed by Michael Goldbach, is a innovative re-working of the dramatic teenage films we’ve all grown to know and love. I’ve got my ticket, and can’t wait to see if Caroline can navigate the turbulent waters of adolescent angst as effectively as her more popular male counterparts. If the theatrical trailer is any indication of this film’s potential, I’m sure Ms. Wexler will do just fine. Check it out below:

Daydream Nation plays Saturday, October 2nd, at Eau Claire #2 at 5:00PM. Get your tickets at the CIFF box office location, or online. It’s true that our country makes great films - let's get out there and support them so that creative Canucks like Mr. Goldbach can keep them coming.

Let Me In: A Refreshing Spin on a Tired Genre

Vampires. A popculture phenomenon in recent years that I'm sure has a number of you readers already rolling your eyes at the thought. Our TV stations and friendly neighborhood cinemas have been pumping out vampire hits as fast as they can ranging from the highly romanticized and shamelessly cheesy Twilight Saga to HBO's gory and envelope-pushing True Blood. I too was part of the vampire jaded camp for quite some time. I admit, I read Twilight and shamefully have seen all three movies. But there was never any really oomph or spark to this series (other than Edward's apparently glittering abs) that left any lasting impression.

Robert Pattinson starring as Edward Cullen in all his vampiric glory.

As an avid horror fan I was seeking something a little darker, a little less polished and a whole lot more bloody than the average vampire fare had given me in recent years. I was steadfast in my preference for zombie movies and apathy towards vampire films.. up until I saw one little foreign film at CIFF in 2008 that changed it all.
Which film was that? You may be wondering. (Even if you weren't wondering I'm going to tell you anyways.)
Well fellow film buffs, the film was: "Låt den rätte komma in" Swedish for "Let the Right One In." The film was so many things other vampire films of late were not. Refreshing, tragic, eerie, poignant - and of course, gory. It showed that horror could be both a work of art and leave you feeling jumpy and nervous walking to your car afterwards in the dark.

The film takes place in a suburb of Stockholm
in the 1980s and centers around a young boy named Oskar who is a victim of constant bullying at school. A strange young girl named Eli and her father move into the apartment next door and the two develop a bizarre yet strong friendship. We soon learn that Eli is not the timid and innocent pre-teen that she appears to be, and in fact has been 12 years old for a loooong time.

Let the Right One In was a haunting and beautiful film, and has justly earned a spot on my list of favorite films of all time. So where does Let Me In fit into all of this? Well, it is a Hollywood remake of this beloved Swedish film, and stars a number of breakout young stars. Most notably, Chloe Moretz who starred as Hit Girl in the underr
ated comic book movie Kickass. But I digress. From the trailer it is apparent that Let Me In has taken strides to make itself a memorable movie in its own right while remaining faithful to the original Swedish text and film. Let Me In takes places in a small town in New Mexico in the 1980s and follows the burgeoning relationship between the young loner Owen and the mysterious new girl, Abby.

Chloe Moretz as Abby in Let Me In

Like all of you, I will be seeing this movie for the first time tonight and I couldn't be more excited. Let the Right One In has become a cult-classic in its own right, and it will be interesting to see how director Matt Reeves (of Cloverfield fame) puts his own spin on the beloved story. Be sure to pick up tickets to this show now, as it's certain to be a full house. You can purchase tickets either online at or through the Festival Central box office in Eau Claire. The film plays tonight at 7pm at Eau Claire Market. Jump at the chance to see this movie before it opens in theaters later this week. See you there!

Red White & Blue: Twist and Turns of Torture and Tragedy

If you’re a procrastinator, and by some tragic circumstance miss out on tickets to tomorrow night’s amazing Black Carpet Gala: I Spit on Your Grave (PS: There are still a few tickets left!) - never fear! There is no need to stay home and pout whilst staring at The Exorcist for the 400th time, there is a better option! The winner of the Best Film award at the Boston Underground Film Festival, and Best International Feature Film at the Fantasia International Film Festival is a sure way to get your Friday night fright on. Red White & Blue is an American thriller that combines awkward romance, mental instability, enormously bad luck, and a cast of emotionally compelling characters in a story that will guide you through the psyches of different perspectives - some which are touching and tragic, others which are incredibly disturbing.

After losing her job, sexually promiscuous and bitter Erica is on the brink of being evicted. Thanks to the kindness of older neighbour, Nate, she is relieved to find work at the local warehouse where he is employed. Nate is drawn to Erica despite her coldness, and Erica is eventually intrigued by Nate’s kind, but mysterious nature. The two share a complicated, awkward, yet well-intentioned attraction to one another despite their differences in age and past experiences. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, a garage band is lead by enthusiastic rocker and loving son, Frankie. He balances his musical ambitions and sexual exploits with the care of his mother who is battling cancer. Thanks to a past sexual encounter with Erica, the world of Frankie and his band clash violently with Erica and Nate - leading to a horrific climax of violence, torture, and tragedy.

I absolutely loved this film. For the first hour you may wonder why it has gained a place in the Late Night Line-Up, as it closer resembles a dark, indie-romance in the beginning, but it’s inclusion in CIFF’s horror series will become gut-wrenchingly apparent once the third act rears it’s ugly (and entertaining) head. That is not to say that the movie is dull and motionless until the violence sets in - quite the contrary. The characters are complex and fascinating, and the film takes a welcome amount of time building the personalities of the players in way that makes the final act strikingly powerful. It perfectly balances drama and brutality, treating the audience to a moving, intense, and at times despicable, tale of unfortunate love and circumstance.

As the token horror junkie, I feel compelled to add that Red White & Blue is MY PICK for favorite Late Night Feature of CIFF 2010. It plays on Friday, October 1st, at the Plaza at 11:30 PM. Pick up your tickets at the CIFF Box Office location, or online. Don’t miss out - successful horror/dramas such as this are few and far between!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gabi on the Roof in July

GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY is a refreshing look at young adults, wanting freedom, and fun, without all the responsibility. A young college girl, Gabi, visits her older brother who is trying to get his art career going in Brooklyn. Gabi's free spirit turns out to be another piece for her brother Sam to worry about as he struggles at getting his life together while making ends meet.

Gabi's character in the film is free spirited, and in many ways just young. There is no concept of maturity although, she feels she is mature and pretends to engage in adult acts. She really is just a child, and is looking for support and guidance from her older brother. Gabi's has had a hard time dealing with the separation of her and Sam's parents, and accepting her father's new partner. Gabi is hoping to get support from her brother however she ends up seeing him act out the same way as their father.

The story looks at Gabi's relationship with Sam as she explores art herself in her unique way. Sam's art work which pieces together society, and social decay is beginning to take off. The uniqueness of Sam's art with regards to behavior mimics the decay of Gabi and Sam and the ability to make clear wise choices. The characters desire for something fresh, fun and new is there, however the lack of commitment or dedication are not present. Gabi is a great girl, and as I mentioned she acts exceptionally free, and this freedom is a way for her to learn about herself, although some of how she learns is not conventional. She really is looking for someone to understand her and be there for as a male role model, and Sam needs to step up to the plate to replace that father figure.

Gabi and Sam both do and say things that will leave you thinking societal decay with respect to young people. However being not so old myself (depending on your perspective) the decay is from within due to deeper issues that need to be resolved. I personally would never be as free as the characters in this film, and I am sure there are many others out there that are similar to me in thinking, and behavior, however that is why we enjoy the arts, and do not necessarily create them. We can see fresh new ideas and concepts through a different light which often come from much experimentation, and experiences in life, that some of us will never experience due to our own boundaries, and limitations.

For a fresh fun look at artistic youth through an independent lens check out GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY on Saturday October 2nd at 4:45 at Eau Claire or on Sunday October 3rd at 9:00pm at Eau Claire.

The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu Had this Horror-fan in Hysterics

It can be hard deciding whether to laugh or scream when it comes to scary movies, and that’s why horror and comedy make such a lovely genre pair. Horror-comedies have been around for decades - literally. The first one was a silent film in 1920 titled Haunted Spooks. Of course today we’re more familiar with films like Evil Dead, Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, and Idle Hands, but the American film The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu takes this melded genre to a new level. Part buddy flick, part road movie, part supernatural thriller - think of this film as Road Trip meets Alien.

In the depths of the ocean, a monster lies dormant. For Cthulhu to be roused from years of slumber, the two separated pieces of the relic key must be brought together in order to unlock his underwater tomb. The earthly cult of Cthulhu has found one half, and with the help of a supernatural army of fish-people, they are on their way to the location of piece number two. Unfortunately for Jeff, an average cubicle-bound office worker, he has been given the task of guarding it due to a hereditary link to infamous horror novelist, H.P. Lovecraft. He and his co-worker (and best friend), Charlie, call upon their old high school’s token geek, Paul, to learn more about the ancient beast and the consequences of the relic being joined. They are tracked down by the cult’s army and the three unlikely heroes soon find themselves on the run from Cthulhu’s vicious descendants. If they can keep the relic in two pieces, they will save the world from violent destruction and certain doom. If not, we’re all fish food.

You really get the best of both worlds with this one. The laughs are many, thanks mostly to Paul, whose character bears a striking resemblance (physically and behaviorally) to Zack Galifianakis in The Hangover. The bumbling trio never seems to find a cohesive mode of defense - much to the delight of audiences. As for the horror - blood, battle, and beasts are aplenty. Sci-fi fans will also be pleased with the creature designs and costume effects. If you like to laugh, or love to scream (or never know which to do), this film is for you!

The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu plays Thursday, September 30th at the Plaza at 11:00 PM. Get your tickets at CIFF box office locations, or online. Make sure you bring a box of tissues - whether you’re wiping tears of fright or fun is up to you.

Suzuki Picture a Promising Force

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki movie has it's Western Canadian premier tonight at the Plaza. From the looks of it this will be a very popular one, even with an Albertan audience. Unlike other films of a more radical nature, such as this year's 'green screen' series highlight Dirty Oil, which has already caused it's share of controversy, this movie seems like it will be much more quaint, quiet, and introspective. The film is a movie about the man himself, his legacy, and much of it is in his own words, in a documented "final speech". Scenes from this speech or seemingly woven into scenes from Suzuki's past to create what seems like it will be a moving biography, and one which maintains an influential message for decades to come. In this sense the film seems like it will draw a fine line between honouring the past and encouraging the future. Both a humble send off to the man that we all have come to know, and an re-instillment of his passion for change, and to leave a better world for generations to come. Suzuki, a revered scientist, broadcaster, and environmentalist, has aged, and he has undoubtedly gained a reservoir of knowledge, reason, and wisdom over the years. This movie will hopefully capture all of that into a single sitting, one that in my opinion, will be well worth while.

You can catch Force of Nature tonight at 7:00 PM at the Plaza in Kensington.
Tickets are on sale online, at the festival centre in Eau Claire Market, and may be available at the door. Get your tickets before the show if this is one you want to see! It's sure to be a popular one!

Would you like a little faith with your coffee?

Faith, Fraud and Minimum wage follows small-town girl Casey (Emily of New Moon’s Martha MacIsaac) as she struggles to strike a balance in her life. After her sister Meg (Kate Lavender) is left in a coma following a vehicle accident the year before, Casey turns her back on her faith, much to the chagrin of her highly-religious, ultra-conservative Maritime town. Heartbroken by the tragedy, Casey’s father, played by well-known Canadian actor Callum Keith, spends his waking hours at Meg’s beside hoping and praying for a change in her condition.

Frustrated by her job at Krowne Donuts, her father’s absence, and the strained-yet-playful relations with her coworker – local football hero and boyfriend of her arch-rival – Jansen (Ricky Mabe), Casey tosses a cup of Krowne Donuts 100% Arabica coffee on the outter wall of the donut shop. The ensuing mania that takes place, when the coffee stain bears a striking resemblance to Jesus Christ just days before Christmas, throws Casey's world into further chaos.

With Christmas creeping ever closer, the appearance of the holy image gives the town instant notoriety, drawing in worshipers from across Canada and the United Sates. Taking advantage of the sudden rush of visitors, both Krowne Donuts and Casey’s family Christmas tree lot – conveniently located in the adjacent lot – begin to receive a rush of Christmastime income.

As the image attracts more and more of the faithful, the aspirations of local business man -- and Krowne Donuts owner --‘Uncle Bob’ (Don Allison) begin to conflict with the modern views of recently-appointed Father JJ (Andrew Bush). But when Casey’s father begins to believe that the coffee stain Christ is a sign that Meg’s health will be restored, Casey is torn between her practical need for money and her moral obligation to the town, her father and herself.

Equally touching, entertaining and funny, Faith, Fraud and Minimum Wage is a creative commentary on society, capitalism, faith and what it means to be faithful. MacIsaac and Keith are heartbreakingly believable, suffusing the film with an emotional quality that extends beyond the screen to the audience.

Don’t miss the Alberta premier of Faith, Fraud and Minimum Wage Thursday, September 30th, 7pm at The Plaza.

Me, Too (Yo, tambien)

The Spanish film Me, Too (Yo, tambien) tells the story of Daniel Sanz (Pablo Pineda), the first Down’s Syndrome individual to graduate from University in Europe. After studying teaching and education psychology, Daniel takes a job as an assistant in the General Office for Disabled Persons and forms a friendship with coworker Laura (Lola Duenas). The two quickly become close, and it’s not long before Daniel falls in love.

As a result of a vigorous education, Daniel is ‘more advanced’ intellectually and developmentally than most individuals with Down’s Syndrome. His thoughts on art, politics, culture, history and literature surpass those of most of his coworkers, but in spite of his insights, he is still largely considered childlike. At more than 30 years of age, as his brother and sister-in-law expect their first child, Daniel struggles with his own desire to fit into mainstream society, find love and one day start a family of his own.

Me, Too depicts love in a variety of forms, from the tradition and comfort of long-time married life, to the purely sexual and areas between. The film raises questions of a disabled person's right to choose and whether they have the capacity to make decisions about their own lives and bodies.

With that in mind, Me,Too isn’t so much about acceptance and treatment of disabled persons, but rather the universal search for love. People yearn for love and acceptance regardless of whether they graduate university, have a career, or need help tying their shoelaces. Me, Too plays on feelings we all experience – fear of fitting in and being accepted, and the desire to find someone to love who loves us in return.

Daniel faces the same challenges of any individual searching for love, and through it all, he’s hopelessly and determinedly optimistic. Me, Too is a touching, humorous twist on the traditional love story that is certain to appeal to all audiences.

Catch the Canadian premiere of Me, Too at the Globe Theatre on Thursday, September 30th, or the encore screening Saturday, October 2nd at 2:45pm.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Low

In the mood for an American Indie flick, well NEW LOW may be just the light comedic drama you have been looking for.

Adam Bowers gives us a look into an all too common story that many, many women can relate too. For all those men out there, perhaps this comedic look into the search for relationships may actually give you that sense of commitment that normally leaves you running for the door.

In the film Wendell is in search of a relationship, for what we are not sure of but I am assuming it is to fill his time. He is twenty some, and has no plans for the future, no hobbies, and no interests. Vicki who we meet in the film lets Wendell know about his lack of appeal to women however she herself is willing to overlook it. Wendell however, although willing to get involved in a relationship is not willing to overlook some of the odd and unconventional pieces of Vicki's life.

The story I'm sure you have seen in your lives, or the lives of friends, where one person in the couple is looking for something better, better than they really can get. Not to say we should not strive for the stars, however often we lose a really good thing because we are not happy with the great stuff before us. We are human, and easily blinded by the next more prettier, shinier thing, even if we can not afford it, or it is beyond our means. This film is an entertaining reminder to go home and tell the people in your life how much you love and care for them, and that you would never trade them in for anything.

You still have time before the festival wraps up, so get out and catch NEW LOW on Sunday October 3rd at 6:45 pm at Eau Claire.

Certified Copy: A Canadian premiere

Last night, in an all-but-sold-out theatre, the Calgary International Film Festival played host to the Canadian Premiere of Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy. I wasn’t familiar with Kiarostami’s work prior to this film, but I’ll be sure to seek him out in the future.

Writer James Miller (William Shimell) is touring Italy with his latest book, Certified Copy, a layperson’s study on the significance of official replicas of artistic masterpieces. Elle (Juliette Binoche), plays a French antiques dealer living in Tuscany with her teenaged son Julien.

After reading Miller’s book, Elle disagrees with many of its arguments and sets out to confront the author in person. The two spend the day walking through a small, nearby town, admiring and discussing various pieces of local art, both authentic and replicated. At first appearing to be strangers, it’s left for the audience to decide if Miller and Elle infact share a deeper history.

Juliette Binoche is, as always, genuine and superb in this film, while William Shimell takes on the role of the somewhat egocentric intellectual with charisma. Certified Copy provides an almost voyeuristic glimpse into the often awkward conversation between strangers. Neither censors their opinions and are unapologetic when disagreeing with the others’ views.

Driven by dialogue, with long, meaningful breaks in conversation, Certified Copy is a film about the power of art, while not focusing on art. Intellectual, yet unpretentious, it has a languid, quiet pace reminiscent of last years’ Cairo Time (starring Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig). The film makes stunning use of the picturesque landscape, stopping to admire the ancient structures and tranquil Tuscan countryside.

Kiarostami's use of scenery and dialogue makes for a unique film that, at times, pays more attention to the periphery than to the characters. In one scene, Miller and Elle drive out of Tuscany, discussing his book. As the car rolls along, the scene is shot from outside the windshield, the actors’ faces obscured by reflections of the passing scenery. In another, an unseen museum guide explains the history of a piece of art, while Elle translates for Miller. While watching the conversation take place between the two stars, you hear the tour guides’ narration instead.

With no encore showing at the festival this year, you’ll have to wait for your next opportunity to see Certified Copy. It’s an opportunity I suggest you not miss.

Driving for freedom - Taxi Casablanca

“For Zakia, driving the taxi affirms her identity as a free woman.”

Taxi Casablanca follows Zakia Mezzour, Morocco’s first ­­– and only – female taxi driver, as she navigates the high-speed traffic of Casablanca. She is a brave, determined woman who, after being denied a taxi license on the basis of her sex, wrote letters to the royal family, members of government and other figures of influence, petitioning for her right to work in her chosen field. After a year of perseverance, Zakia was granted her prized ‘white shark’ 19070’s Mercedes.

Morocco is said to be one of the most progressive Middle Eastern countries, so far as women’s rights are concerned. In 2004, King Mohammed VI passed the family law code which officially recognized women, as of age 18, as legal entities for the first time. The law granted women greater rights during divorce, changed the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18, placed restrictions on polygamy and gave women the right to marry without the consent of a male guardian. However, societal expectations around marriage and family, the stigma that accompanies divorce, issues of poverty and lack of education make taking advantage of these legal rights challenging for many women.

Sharing the taxi with her ex-husband, Zakia has spent upwards of five hours a day behind the wheel for more than eight years. Opinions toward her chosen career range from surprise, to support, to staunch disapproval. By the encouragement of her supporters, and determined to prove her detractors wrong, Zakia goes about her day. She seems to take genuine pleasure in driving, even if it’s at someone else’s behest.

In the face of religious and societal traditions, Zakia takes a powerful stand against Morocco’s approved cultural norms. Her courage has proven to be an inspiration for other women in the city. “When I see this woman driving, it’s as if I’m driving,” says one female passenger. “I would love to have that opportunity. To get to that place, you had to show men there’s nothing women can’t do. And it’s true!”

The film covers several broad themes in one fell swoop – women’s rights, poverty, education, domestic abuse and employment. Along with the varied applications in academia – women studies, cultural studies, and economic studies – the film is an intelligent and interesting choice for casual observers.

You can catch Taxi Casablanca, part of the Beyond Borders series, at 2pm on Wednesday, September 29th at the EMMEDIA Gallery.

[Rec] 2: Continuing to Blur the Line Between Horror and Documentary

Horror mockumentaries are rising in popularity, but few have lived up to the critical acclaim that 2007’s Spanish film [Rec] garnered. Not since The Blair Witch Project has a film of this genre caused such a commotion, or become such an instant cult hit. It even spawned an American shot-for-shot remake in 2008, Quarantine. This year, CIFF 2010 brings you [Rec] 2, the sequel to the Spanish sensation released three long years ago. The film begins literally moments after the other ends, as emergency crew assess the carnage that has just taken place in an infected apartment building where tenants were transformed into cannibalistic monsters. The horror is far from over, as officials soon find out, and the frightening phenomenon must be controlled before the panic and chaos spread like a macabre plague.

It’s no surprise that this film is highly anticipated by audiences and critics alike. [Rec] was a terrifying, bloody, and psychologically shredding film, with some of the scariest visuals I’ve seen in recent years. Jamie Russell with the BBC said it was “a runaway rollercoaster of a fright flick” that “will definitely jangle the nerves”.
As I clutch my [Rec] 2 ticket in my hand, I can’t help but get nostalgic about the other scary mockumentaries that have savaged the silver screen in recent years. Let’s go over some of them, shall we? Here are my five favorite frightening found footage films (great alliteration, huh?), starting with...

Although the documentary style, hand-held camera aesthetics in this film had the tendency to make audiences lose their lunches, I couldn’t snub this one from my list. This modern day Godzilla-esque flick trapped you in the middle of a military emergency in New York, and had you watching your back with the rest of the cast. The gigantic monster wasn’t even the scariest part! My stomach jumped every time one of it’s miniature spawns made an appearance, especially in the subway scene. Panic, mayhem, and chaos rule in this creepshow!

District 9
Part alien sci-fi, part political commentary - this film was nominated for four academy awards at the 2010 ceremony: Best Achievement in Editing, Best Achievement in Visual Effects, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, and Best Motion Picture of the Year! This film proved that there is more to horror that chills and thrills. Exceptionally acted and socially conscious, District 9 is not one to overlook.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes
I had a hard time getting my hands on this one, but it was well worth the trouble. After enjoying years of secret sadistic torture, the videotapes of an elusive serial killer are discovered in an abandoned house. An investigation is spawned and the disturbing footage is reviewed, along with the testimony of a single survivor. This one will chill you right to your core. Though “footage” from the tapes is only used sporadically throughout the film, the images will haunt you for weeks. Dramatic and insane, the Poughkeepsie killer is a man of disturbing theatricality and enthusiasm for what he does.

The Fourth Kind
This one may not entirely be considered a true mockumentary, but it is close enough for our purposes. Once the secrets of its narrative were leaked, the film bombed at the box office. However, I contest that with the right combination of open-mindedness and thirst for entertainment, this is a film that will have you questioning where the truth is. As if the use of “stock footage” of psychiatric sessions and alien abductions isn’t spooky enough, the testimony of Dr. Abbey Tyler is absolutely spine-chilling. Your nerves will hang on the brink of every word she utters in her otherworldly confession of events.

Paranormal Activity
Bar-none, the most surprising indie-hit of the year. Shot with a budget of only $15,000 American, this film was demanded in theatres all over North America, and made over $193 million dollars worldwide. Bringing to life demons, Oujia boards, and supernatural killers, footage of audiences reacting in shock and horror began circulating over the internet following its wide release. Shockingly realist, the inferred violence in Paranormal Activity had even this horror-junkie sleeping with the lights on.

So there you have it... but I digress. If these movies are your cup of tea, pick up tickets at CIFF Box Office Locations or online for [Rec] 2 playing Wednesday, September 29th at The Plaza at 11:00 PM. I hope to see the rest of my fellow fright fans there!