Coming hot on the heels of the Toronto International Film Festival (well, slightly overlapping it actually) is another high profile Canadian movie event: the Atlantic Film Festival.
Founded in 1980, the Halifax-based AFF has steadily grown into the most important event of its kind on the east coast and one of the premiere film fests in the country. As a showcase for Maritime filmmakers, the AFF has helped foster the careers of Halifax locals Mike Clattenburg ("Trailer Park Boys," "Afghan Luke") and Thom Fitzgerald ("3 Needles," "Cloudburst") among others, and thanks to a thriving regional film industry the ten day festival has also begun to attract some of the top film talent from rest of Canada and around the world.
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With 158 films in all, the Atlantic Film Festival has a particularly good lineup this year, featuring local, Canadian, and international fare sure to please East Coast movie fans. Here are a few of the highlights.
On the local front there's a lot to like. Halifax-based filmmaker and recent TIFF Best Canadian feature debut award winner Jason Buxton brought his winning film "Blackbird" to the fest on the eve of his Toronto win. The film tells the story of a troubled city teen's even more troubling experiences in a small town.
Another Maritime highlight includes New Brunswick-born director Shandi Mitchell's first feature "The Disappeared," a harrowing tale of six men lost at sea aboard a pair of small dories starring American actor Billy Campbell ("The Rocketeer," "The Killing").
Films from the rest of Canada are also well represented at the 32nd annual AFF. Brandon Cronenberg's clinical body horror film "Antiviral" (which shared TIFF's Best Canadian feature debut award with Buxton's "Blackbird") hit Halifax earlier this week in advance of its Oct. 12th Canadian release.
From the same folks who brought us the Academy Award nominated "Incendies" and "Monsieur Lazhar" comes "Inch'Allah," the story of a Quebecoise doctor helping pregnant women in embattled Palestine. Anais Barbeau-Lavalette's film (which premiered at TIFF earlier this month) had its AFF debut over the weekend.
This week, Sarah Polley's much talked about documentary "Stories We Tell" comes to Halifax. The film traces Polley's funny and sometimes sad family history through the stories of relatives and friends.
Other Canadian highlights include Xavier Dolan's gender-bending "Laurence Anyways" (winner of TIFF's Best Canadian Feature award), Ruba Nadda's political thriller "Inescapable," and Deepa Mehta's "Midnight's Children."
But it's AFF's absolutely stellar (and Oscar-worthy) international lineup that has people really buzzing - the fest has brought some of TIFF's biggest and most talked about films to Nova Scotia.
"Casino Royale" actor Mads Mikkelsen was one of TIFF 2012's breakout performers thanks to memorable turns in the period drama "A Royal Affair" and Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt." Mikkelsen's performance in the latter has rightfully earned him a lot of Oscar talk. "The Hunt" can be seen at AFF tomorrow, while "A Royal Affair" will close out the fest with a gala on Sept. 20.
Another film featuring an actor being touted for Oscar glory is "The Sessions," a movie that dominated the awards at the Sundance film fest earlier this year. John Hawkes (of "Winter's Bone") plays Mark O'Brien, a physically disabled man who in middle age wishes to lose his virginity, and Helen Hunt his kindly (and frequently naked) sex surrogate.
Sundance hit "Smashed" garnered a lot of award talk at TIFF thanks to a strong performance by its leading lady Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The "Scott Pilgrim" actress plays an alcoholic teacher who attempts to get clean with or without her frequently soused husband ("Breaking Bad's" Aaron Paul). "Smashed" premieres at AFF tonight.
Other notable international AFF selections are Michael Haneke's "Amour" ("Love"), Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" (starring potential Oscar contender Marion Cotillard), murder doc "West of Memphis," and multi-national horror anthology "The ABC's of Death."
AFF is already well underway, so if you're in or around Halifax this week and want to see some great films, be sure to check out the fest. Many of these movies will not play in Canada again any time soon.