by Shannon Buckley – The Reel Can Staff Writer
For the past 13 years, near the end of September, the Calgary International Film Festival runs. People line up to see up-and-coming, and established, directors showcase their first or latest work in a non-Hollywood atmosphere, where the first stat after opening night isn’t how much money it made at the box office. Instead, the stat is more of a question. And no matter the many different ways it’s asked by the multitude of people who ask it, it’s always the same question: how was it?
The answer is simple, and one I personally heard every day, no matter whom I talked to or what film was in question. It was great.
Unfortunately, this being my first time ever attending CIFF, I can’t claim to know anything about what happened last year or years before, and so I cannot compare or judge this year’s festival based upon that which I do not know. But based on a general understanding how festivals run, 2013’s rendition was pretty amazing.
This year marks the second year in Steve Schroeder’s tenure as Executive Director and once again he has capably managed to pull off this sizeable event nearly hitch free.
Now a little history. First held in 2000 for only six days, CIFF has now grown to an eleven-day extravaganza. Starting with only “8,000 people attending in its first year, the festival was expanded to ten days and more than tripled attendance to 25,000 within three years. Now, it is the largest film festival between the Rockies and the Great Lakes.” There were over 200 films from around the world and Canada, multiple screens and galas, and plenty of opportunities to ask the directors, actors, and other contributors about their work and inspiration.
Back to that looming question of how was it – every film that I saw was great. And every person I talked to had the same feelings about whatever film they had just come from. The selection chosen for this year was excellent. So, to whoever chose this year, congratulations. You did well, and I am greatly anticipating next year’s selection.
To the volunteers who gave up their precious time – thank you. Thank you for happily and politely ushering me and everyone else into the theatre for every screening. Thank you for stopping to chat about the latest film you were able to catch on your time off. Thank you for helping to run this festival. Without you it wouldn’t happen.
Now, I said almost without a hitch.
To much joy, thankfully nothing major, minor, or even somewhat problematic happened during these eleven days that might throw the event for a loop. However, one surprisingly regular hitch occurred – and maybe it just happened to me. But personally, I found it very frustrating that for many of the screenings I attended at the Eau Claire venue, the films were not screened on time.
First off, I would like to say I understand that it is a very busy and hectic environment, especially for those of you working the event. There is plenty going on and lots to get ready for. But when the first screening of the day begins late, it results in delays for every subsequent screening in that theatre.
Furthermore, it means that anyone who is attending multiple screenings in one day must rush to the next one. This is even more frustrating if that next screening is across town at The Globe venue where the screenings always started on time (in my experience).
With over 200 films in only eleven days, it’s hard to see everything you want to. Films are at the same time, films are only screening twice, etc. etc. – the list goes on. Now this is true of all film festivals, and mishaps happen. But when you watch from the queue that the gates to the entrance of the theatre aren’t open and it’s two minutes till screening time, when you watch the staff rushing, trying to get things in order for that first screening and then only get two of the films started on time, and when you watch it happen again the next day, it’s frustrating, and not only for those of us in line. I’m guessing it probably makes the day harder for those of you who help run the screenings.
Again, I understand that it’s an extremely busy and hectic event, especially during the start of each day when you need to open everything up and at the end of a film when you need to the theatre ready for the next screening. But when one venue seems to have it down, why can’t the other one get it as well?
However, even this very minor disappointing experience could not ruin the whole festival for me. The people were friendly, the popcorn was great; the galas were fabulous; and the films were, overall, nothing short of amazing.
And so, if it all happens this same way next year, then so be it. I will still be very impressed with the leadership and direction of this eleven-day extravaganza and proud to be a small part of the event we call the Calgary International Film Festival.