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Film fest returns

Edmonton International Film Festival now in its 27th year

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 06:00 am

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  • ODD COUPLE – Lawrence and Holloman is a dark comedy that could prove to be the sleeper hit of this year's Edmonton International Film Festival.
    ODD COUPLE – Lawrence and Holloman is a dark comedy that could prove to be the sleeper hit of this year's Edmonton International Film Festival.
    Supplied photo
  • STATUS: DECEASED – In Friended to Death, Michael decides to see who his friends really are by faking his own death via social media.
    STATUS: DECEASED – In Friended to Death, Michael decides to see who his friends really are by faking his own death via social media.
  • BEAT DAYS – Big Sur is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's follow-up novel to On the Road.
    BEAT DAYS – Big Sur is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's follow-up novel to On the Road.

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Lights … camera … action! The Edmonton International Film Festival is once again rolling out the red carpets, popping the corn and making sure its cellphone is turned off in preparation for another collection of cinematic delights from across the province and around the world.

This is the 27th edition of the little film fest. It has grown to include dozens of films, short and long, fiction and documentary, for audiences young, old and in-between. Executive director Kerrie Long says that it’s the fest’s scope that sells tickets.

“What keeps audiences coming back is the variety of films and the festive, 10-day experience,” she said. “Many tell us that they don’t see movies throughout the year – they prefer to wait for EIFF, then indulge in as many as they can get to.”

Fine selections

Among the Edge of Night or Lunchbox Shorts series, there are dozens of feature films for the movie-going public. There are far too many to preview but here’s a small sampling.

Big Sur is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s follow-up novel to On the Road. Considering the critical success of a recent film version of On the Road and another film (a biopic called Kill Your Darlings) on the way, audiences should be quite satisfied to get back to the days of the beat poets. Big Sur plays on Oct. 2.

Lawrence and Holloman might just prove to be the sleeper hit of the whole fest and it has Edmonton written all over it, in terms of actors, writers and director. Matthew Kowalchuk directs Ben Cotton and Daniel Arnold in the first film adaptation of Morris Panych’s play. Holloman (Arnold) is a rather depressed guy who might just be at the end of his rope. At the beginning of the movie, we aren’t sure if he’s suicidal or homicidal.

In a simple twist of fate, he meets Lawrence (Cotton), the irrepressibly happy and optimistic character foil in the flesh. Lawrence has success written all over him, but his life starts to fall apart in some rather diabolical ways. Still, he keeps his plucky attitude with him throughout, much to Holloman’s chagrin.

Despite the pretty dark nature of the comedy, Arnold was gung ho to play his part.

“I’ve known the play for awhile. I love the dark and hysterical – and kind of absurd – nature of it. I wasn’t ever scared of [that] translating into a feature film. I knew it wasn’t going to be a Hollywood blockbuster. It would be more of a twisted art film and yet I knew it would still be marketable. There would still be comedic appeal. It wouldn’t alienate people like some really weird art films do.”

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Morris Panych’s writing,” Kowalchuk said, adding that this film has been about four years in process, from development through to funding that just came through in 2012.

He explained that getting into festivals isn’t just a great way to build up the film. It also helps him to be with the fans, which should benefit his future work.

“I’m just aching to sit with the first big audience. You get some really good feedback. It’s an interesting audience of generally well-educated filmgoers.”

This movie will be screened on Oct. 4 and 5. Kowalchuk will be in attendance for both. Make sure to stay till the end of the credits.

Compare this quirky comedy with Friended to Death, a tale deftly set for the Internet age. Michael is addicted to social media but his social life is sadly flagging. So he fakes his own death, all through wall posts and text messages, just to see who his real friends actually are. It’s chock full of Internet-isms so be prepared to hear 90 minutes of acronyms. It gets its screening on Oct. 3.

Marquee attractions

Tomorrow’s opening night gala film is Muscle Shoals, a kind of music documentary that features interviews with Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Gregg Allman, Bono, Alicia Keys and Etta James.

For the first time ever, there are two closing night gala film screenings on Saturday, Oct. 5, forcing viewers to make a hard choice.

The Right Kind of Wrong is director Jeremiah Chechik’s quirky look at a dishwasher falling in love with a woman on the day she’s supposed to marry someone else. The Broken Circle Breakdown is another quirky story about love, but with a more serious storyline. Elise and Didier are two very different people – one’s an atheist and the other is quite religious – but become involved despite their better judgment. At one point their devotion gets put to the test when their daughter becomes seriously ill.

There are numerous other movies that audiences can check out between opening and closing nights. There will also be a free screening of Edmonton filmmaker Francis Damberger’s hilarious 1994 movie, The Road To Saddle River. That happens on Sunday, Sept. 29.

Lots to see and do

What would a festival be without special events and parties? Along with the gala presentations and screenings, there will be a number of other special events to keep the film-going public happy and entertained.

There will be some pre-event wine bar schmoozes and after parties. Fans of old time boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini will surely be thrilled to get a chance to meet the legend at a book signing on Friday, Oct. 4. That comes as a fine addition to the screening of The Good Son: The Life of Ray Boom Boom Mancini that evening.

24/One is a timed challenge to local filmmakers who must write, direct, act, edit and produce a six-minute short film, all in less than a day. All of the films are now done and a jury is deciding which ones will make the top 10. Announcements will come during a screening event this Saturday, Sept. 28.

EIFF U is a morning series of thought-provoking films that is meant for junior and senior high school students and other groups (film classes, social clubs). It runs next Monday through Friday, starting at 10 a.m.

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