Atlantic Canada’s largest film festival returns, showcasing local talents and international stars
By Trevor J. Adams
If you’re a cinephile, congratulate yourself: you picked the best month to visit Halifax. Returning from Sept. 12–19, the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival boasts a diverse roster of cutting-edge cinema, including screenings of features, shorts, and documentaries, plus lots of parties and industry events.
Things get under way on Sept. 12 with the Opening Night Celebration at the Waegwoltic Club and the Opening Night Gala featuring Murmur. Nova Scotian filmmaker Heather Young tells the poignant story of a woman whose alcoholism cuts her off from her family. When ordered to perform community service at an animal shelter, she finds a new path. See it at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue.
Cineplex Theatres at Park Lane hosts the other gala screenings, which include Assholes: A Theory by John Walker on Sept. 13 and Conviction by Nance Ackerman, Ariella Pahlke, and Teresa MacInnes, on Sept. 16.
The Reel East Coast Shorts Gala on Sept. 18 offers a great opportunity to immerse yourself in East Coast filmmaking talent and discover the newest up-and-coming creators. This screening includes some nine short films, coming from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Capping the Gala series is the Closing Night Gala on Sept 19, featuring The Lighthouse. Shot in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, the moody black-and-white horror film stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as lighthouse keepers on a remote (and decidedly unusual) New England island.
This year’s feature selection was still being finalized at press time. Currently on the roster are Entropic by R.W. Gray and Shadow in the Mirror by Ron Foley Macdonald.
The festival’s selection of documentaries is always noteworthy. Megan Wennberg’s critically acclaimed Drag Kids profiles a group of children meeting each other as they perform in drag together at Montreal Pride. It’s a warm story about community and family support.
Also on the documentary lineup (among many others): Ghost Artist by Stephen Palmer, It Was All So Wonderful: The Everyday Magic of Mary Pratt by Kenneth J. Harvey, Her Last Project by Rosvita Dransfeld, L’nuk 101: Finding Common Ground and Atautsikut/Leaving None Behind by John Houston, Radical Age by Jackie Torrens, and What Happened to Holly Bartlett? by Sonya Jampolsky.
The latter film has already inspired a great deal of discussion. It looks at how the 31-year-old student died, challenging the police narrative that the woman (who had been blind since age 13) fell accidentally from the MacKay Bridge—a story that’s never rang true for her friends and family. A podcast hosted by investigative journalist Maggie Rahr shares the documentary’s name and delves even deeper into the story, generating a great deal of social-media buzz.