Fall weather is in the air, university students dominate the Halifax streets and TIFF is nearly over. That can only mean one thing, it’s once again time for Halifax’s own Atlantic Film Festival. The festival is in it’s 32nd year this fall and is once again able to boast a pretty impressive line up. Traditionally, what the festival does best is to balance a mix of international and critically claimed and much awaited fare with homegrown features and shorts. This year is no different. I have attended the film festival twice now and think that this is perhaps the fest’s strongest line up in my own personal memory. Here are some of the films I’m most excited to see:
The Angels’ Share
Ken Loach’s new film opens the festival and promises to be a return to form for the notoriously Hollywood-evading Irish filmmaker. I have been a big fan of Ken Loach for a while, especially his recent efforts Looking for Eric and 2006’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The film, which was a Jury Prize winner at Cannes, centers on a young man who narrowly avoids jail only to become ensnared in a whiskey distillery heist that might enable him and his friends and family to start anew. Judging from the trailer, this may be more overtly comical than some of Loach’s other work but nonetheless a return to form.
Sleepwalk with Me
Anyone who is familiar with the hugely successful radio program This American Life knows the work of Mike Birbiglia. A hilariously self-deprecating comedian, Birbiglia has been a contributor for the show for years while also working on his stand up career. One of his most well-known and liked routines was Sleepwalk With Me, which Birbiglia has transformed into a film with the help of This American Life’s Ira Glass. If the trailer and Birbiglia’s previous work, both on the stage and on radio, are anything to go by this promises to be a hilarious and personal portrait of a man in the midst of finding himself.
Michael Haneke’s hotly anticipated film took this year’s Palme d’Or prize at Cannes which should induce anyone to want to see this movie. Couple this with my intense love (for lack of a better word) for Haneke’s last feature The White Ribbon, I can truly not wait to see his latest effort. Amour tells the story of a married couple whose relationship is transformed when the wife has an attack that leaves her changed. An amazing cast, a great director and an intriguing story make this one of my most anticipated.
Stories We Tell
Since turning her attention to directing, Sarah Polley has surprised everyone in the film world with the products of her work. Her directing debut, Away From Her, was a critical hit and even though her second directorial effort, Take This Waltz, wasn’t as universally adored (although for what it’s worth, I saw it at last years Atlantic Film Festival and was absolutely enamored with it), critics agreed that it certainly was interesting and secured Polley a spot on everyone’s “Directors to Watch” list. Her latest project differs from her first two films in that for one, it’s a documentary but not also that, it explores her own family’s past and the very idea of storytelling. If there’s anything that I love, it’s a director making a personal movie and delving into their own past, so this is high up on my radar.
Though I have been guilty of accusing Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan of style over substance (something I was very aware of in 2010’s Les amours imaginaires), I am a huge fan of his 2009 directorial debut J’ai tué ma mere. His latest effort Laurence Anyways is his first film that doesn’t feature himself as the main character. Instead, the film stars Melvil Poupard as a man struggling to keep his relationship with a woman together after he decides to undergo a sex change. Intrigued? Me too and I can’t wait to see Dolan’s latest.
The Atlantic Film Festival runs in Halifax from September 13th to 20th.
For more information and tickets, please visit the official website.