Categories: Entertainment

Edmonton Film Fest still on a roll

The Keeping Room reimagines American Westerns in this Romanian civil war story.

This year’s edition of the Edmonton International Film Festival rounds its first corner this weekend after two great premieres of new films by Deepa Mehta (Beeba Boys) and Paul Gross (Hyena Road). Things are far from over though, as there is a wealth of silver screen goodness still to be viewed.

There is a lot of buzz about the premiere of the Alberta-made 3-D romantic comedy 40 Below and Falling. Attendees at the test screening came out positively raving about the look of the film. The story and the acting were pretty darn good too, they said.

Before that, filmgoers must check out Driving with Selvi, a documentary a decade in the making. The international premiere of this quiet but triumphant drama looks at 18-year-old Selvi, who starts off a meek woman-child in a girls’ shelter in India. She’s a runaway from a tragic life.

The film starts off by saying that more than 700 million women alive today were married before they turned 18, one-quarter of a billion before they were 15. A third of all child brides live in India. Selvi’s husband was abusive and she decided for herself that her only choices were death or escape. She escaped and struck out on her own, becoming what many consider to be the first female taxi driver in south India.

Director Elisa Paloschi followed her over several years as she finds herself and her path, and eventually sheds her shyness to speak with some incredible wisdom about happiness, peace and life.

Driving with Selvi plays this afternoon at 4 p.m. Paloschi will be in attendance.

Other interesting screenings over the next few days include the fast-paced one take original German film Victoria, about a runaway party girl who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd. Like, really wrong. The previews make it look as if it will put Run Lola Run to shame, as if that was possible.

On Monday afternoon, The Embargo Project offers five indigenous female filmmakers the chance to make their own short films but under a set of restrictions specific to each person. The results aren’t just in five different languages but demonstrate the vast creative and cinematic talents that exist no matter what part of the country you’re in.

And then there’s Figurine on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The Edmonton-filmed two-hander is an observational drama about a truck wash attendant named Karin (Kelly Goetz) who is trying to get back into college. When she meets trucker James (Albert Cseh), a romance blossoms but love doesn’t come easy. This movie shared the Best Feature Film prize at this year’s Middleburg New Filmmakers Festival. Director Hans Olson will be in attendance for the screening.

Among all of the feature films and documentaries, there are dozens of short films that will be screened as part of the Lunchbox Shorts and Short Films programs. Film lovers need to check the program guide or visit the fest’s website at www.edmontonfilmfest.com for full details.

There are also two unique dramas on the billet for Thursday: Eadweard and The Keeping Room. The first is based on the real history of the life of Eadweard Muybridge, a pioneer in the world of photography and moviemaking, earning the nickname the Godfather of Cinema.

Co-starring Edmonton’s Sara Canning, this psychological biopic tells the tale of a man who was more interesting than I thought he would be. That doesn’t mean it’s all good news though since he was the last American to receive the justifiable homicide verdict after he killed his wife’s lover. Eadweard plays at 9 p.m.

That means that you’ll have to decide between that and The Keeping Room, which starts at 9:30 p.m. the same night. Reimagining the American Westerns a la True Grit and Unforgiven, this Romanian civil war story finds two renegade soldiers rampaging across the countryside like a pair of evil drunken louts. We cheer for sisters Augusta and Louise and their maid Mad as they take their stand in this story of survival.

It’s based on Julia Hart’s widely regarded 2012 Black List screenplay and it’s a bit unsettling in its brutality. You could consider it to be the darker, colder companion piece to Cold Mountain, and on a smaller budget. Small budgets, mind, often mean higher-quality viewing, and that’s another reason why events like the Edmonton International Film Festival are such valuable cultural moments.

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.