Well folks, that’s a wrap on the 29th annual Calgary International Film Festival and with that my first attempt at covering a film festival as a critic/media. The festival was gracious enough to admit me some clearance into some red carpet premiers as well as some general passes to a few of the films, and for that I’m grateful.
Due to some personal time constraints, I was unable to cover the festival as thoroughly as I wanted to, plus it was a challenge navigating myself through some unfamiliar territory. As a relatively shy person, it was a personal goal of mine to come out of my shell, ask more questions and actively engage the film community, something I was somewhat successful at when the occasion presented itself.
My one regret was not being able to attend more of the films being shown at the festival, particularly on the local end. It is definitely a gateway for young Canadian filmmakers to get their foot in the door for the first time, and it’s probably the best reason for a festival like this to exist. Special awards were given out Sunday evening for Best Canadian Narrative Feature, Best Overall Short Film, Best Alberta Short, as well as best Documentary Short. To find out who one, you can check out the link here.
Being a part time/non-paid critic, I had to be choosy on the films to see, so I definitely decided to partake on the “International” side of the festival. Although Calgary is very good at getting a wide number of American independent films into the area, foreign films can be a little scarce, so I decided to soak up as much of them as I could. The five films I saw ran the gamut of world filmmaking ranging from countries such as France, United States/Denmark, Poland, Iran, and China. Although I can’t say I enjoyed all of them, they all brought a unique perspective to the art of filmmaking, which I found to be very refreshing and exciting.
It was actually nice not knowing what to expect in every film, we sometimes forget that we live in a world full of spoilers, internet speculation, and trailers that like to show more of the movie than we really want to see. With all of these films, I went in cold, and with little or no idea of the story or plot. I found this type of viewing experience much more fulfilling, as if my senses were a little more awake, and receptive, I could remain attentive and engage with the film in an active way, mainly because I wasn’t sure what would happen next.
There were so many more films I wish I could’ve seen, but the festival just wasn’t long enough, and my schedule just couldn’t allow for it. I was able to meet some very nice people who helped put the festival together, and were kind enough to show this rookie some of the ropes.
Lastly, I cannot end this entry without mentioning the biggest highlight for me which was meeting and listening to Leonard Maltin. Maltin is probably the most famous living film critic today, and his knowledge of old Hollywood and classic films probably exceeds anyone I have ever met. It was a great pleasure to meet him as well as his lovely daughter Jessie who actually chatted me up about the festival and gave me some great advice on how to cover one.
Leonard and Jessie came for a panel discussion to discuss today’s film criticism in the age of the internet and Rotten Tomatoes. Leonard spoke about the importance of film critics having the knowledge of film history, and what came before in order to give new films some context as well as some perspective. He cited legendary critics such as Siskel and Ebert, as well as Pauline Kael who had that knowledge and helped them create powerful arguments for films they would be critiquing.
Along with that, Leonard and Jessie also regaled the audience with classic stories of some celebrity encounters. Whether it was with Al Pacino who recently guested on the duo’s podcast “Maltin on Movies” or Mel Brooks who Leonard remembered meeting in 1964 in a movie theatre while watching a short film called “The Critic” which played right before “Dr. Strangelove”. The crowd was eating up all of the great conversation, and the panel actually went a half an hour longer than scheduled. Personally I could’ve sat in the theatre all day listening to the father and daughter team tell more stories, and give more opinions, they were a lively and entertaining duo.
At the end of it, Leonard took some pictures with fans in the lobby, and I was able to tell Jessie how much it meant to me to have an article published on the Leonard Maltin website under their New Voices banner. The New Voices was started by Jessie and Leonard as a response to the growing concern of more inclusion in the film critic community. The fact remains that most critics who review movies are still mostly white men, which includes Leonard himself, as well as ,,,,me I guess (although I’ve never been paid). However New Voices is set up to include anyone who just wants write about movies, or television and the website gives them that exposure as more experience in the writing field. I know speaking for myself, I was able to email Jessie my back and forth, as she would help me edit my piece into a much more cohesive article. I personally recommend it to all of my fellow film writers out there who have the same passion I do. It was definitely something that gave me more confidence to explore new film terrain such as this festival which I have learned a lot from.
The one thing, I know I can take away from this whole experience is I need to get a better phone. I have held off on getting a new phone for so long because I’m not much of a photographer, and I don’t take many photos. I usually just use my phone as a….well phone, but I learned right away that my pictures were not up to snuff at the red carpet. So I intend to get a new phone by the end of this week, in my quest to take this film writing thing a bit more seriously.
With that, I will say thank you #Calgaryfilm, I hope to see you next year, or maybe….Toronto?
For those of you who have missed my reviews on the films I saw at the Festival here are links to those pieces.