Posted on September 17, 2019

Brian Owens joined the Calgary International Film Festival as the Artistic Director last October. He comes to us from his prior role as the Artistic Director of the Nashville Film Festival, where he had been for the last ten years. Under his leadership, the audience of that festival doubled, and it is now going strong into its 50th season. Before that, he was the founder and executive director of the Indianapolis International Film Festival, which he launched in 2004.


I tried to pick a list of gems that could be overlooked and films (or events) I genuinely want to catch at this festival.


1. 17 BLOCKS

Like a real-life BOYHOOD, 17 BLOCKS is one of the most moving documentaries of the year. It follows one Washington D.C. family over the course of twenty years – years filled with joy, tragedy and hope. It will break your heart, heal your heart and then warm your heart.



I caught this little charmer at the Sydney International Film Festival and I was very excited when we were able to program it here in Calgary. With realistic, lived-in performances and overflowing with Kiwi quirkiness, BELLBIRD is the type of film that may seem a hard sell on the surface – but no one will regret the choice of spending 90 minutes with this film.



I mean, seriously, how can you NOT want to hear from one of the best American directors working right now. From JUNO to UP IN THE AIR, he’s proven that he can work in the indie scene and in the Hollywood system with equal panache.



Confession, I’ve not seen this one yet. But, with Rafe Spall (HOT FUZZ, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, END OF THE WORLD) in the lead, I need to. Here, he plays a British slacker who sees a report on the posh conditions in Danish prisons and so decides he needs to get to Denmark to get arrested. Dry British humour is my jam. It should be the same for a lot of others, as well.



After the world premiere at TIFF, I’m so stoked that we get to present this comedic bio-pic from the teams who created HUSTLE & FLOW and ED WOOD. Eddie Murphy is a sure-fire Golden Globe nominee for Best Actor in a Comedy and – who knows? – maybe an Oscar nomination awaits him? With a 70s vibe, a soulful soundtrack and an all-star cast, it’s a surefire hit.



I’ve seen this three times already and I laugh harder every time I see it. It’s a bizarre, warped, hilarious comedy about suburban FOMO and one-upsmanship from a pair of women who have looked at the filmmaking rulebook and tossed it aside. It’s been deservedly building buzz since it premiered at Sundance back in January. It’s the sunlit acid trip you did not know you needed in your life.



A fascinating and infuriating blend of documentary and narrative filmmaking techniques. THE INFILTRATORS are young undocumented Americans (Dreamers) who intentionally get themselves arrested and detained in ICE centres in order to give legal counsel to those inside. Their courage is undeniable and the film will stay with you until you feel like you have to do something. Highly recommended.



Simply put, the trailer looks like exactly the kind of horror movie I go for: realistic suspense based on realistic relationships. With the likes of Ari Aster and Robert Eggers changing the face of horror films, THE LODGE seems like one that’s ready to ride that wave. I can’t wait to see it.



Céline Sciamma’s GIRLHOOD was one of the best films of 2014. I’m so glad to see her return with this lush, beautifully shot period romance set on the Brittany coast of France. It is more-than-deservedly one of the best reviewed films of the year.



Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano made the hugely successful THE INTOUCHABLES, released in North America back in 2013. The unlikely buddy picture based on real-life events was a surprise hit across the globe. With THE SPECIALS, they return to a narrative based on two unlikely friends – Bruno works with severely autistic teens and young adults. His friend, Malik, works with low-income young people, training them how to be caretakers for Bruno’s clients. When a license issue threatens to stop their work, they have to find the strength to keep going. With many of the actors on the autism spectrum themselves, it’s a respectful tale of real-life inspiration.


Tickets for these and all our films are on sale now at Explore the guide and schedule here. 
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