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Friday, July 19, 2024

CanCon is king at this year’s Atlantic International Film Festival

The 2023 Atlantic International Film Festival runs from September 14-21.

Now in its 43rd year, the recently rebranded Atlantic International Film Festival (AIFF) will showcase 115 feature and short films with a lineup of nearly two-thirds Canadian content. In addition, this year’s selection includes 57% of the movies by female-identifying directors.

“Celebrating innovative and exciting talent and newly defined programming streams, festival goers will have close to 90 opportunities to watch world-class cinema together on the big screen,” says Lisa Haller, AIFF Director of Programming.

Among this year’s offerings are four gala presentations that will include Fawzia Mirza’s The Queen of My Dreams as the Opening Night Gala. Mirza’s debut feature spans multiple periods, moving seamlessly between small-town Cape Breton and the bustling streets of Pakistan.

“An incredibly vibrant, bold, and beautifully realized family story, depicting a South Asian mother-daughter dynamic,” says Haller. “Filmed in Pakistan and Cape Breton, the film stands out as completely original and unique.”

This year’s Atlantic Gala will feature Sweetland from award-winning Newfoundland-based writer and director Christian Sparkes. Based on the novel by Michael Crummey, it tells the story of outport Newfoundland and a man who loves the land of his birth so much he’s willing to remain there after others have left.

A still from Christian Sparkes’ Sweetland, this year’s Atlantic Gala.
A still from Christian Sparkes’ Sweetland, this year’s Atlantic Gala.

The Reel East Coast Shorts Gala will highlight Atlantic talent, festival alums and award-winning films, including the world premiere of the Newfoundland and Labrador documentary The Healing Jar by director Andrea Cass and New Brunswick alumni Todd Fraser’s Father Archie.

The Closing Night Gala film is John Carney’s musical dramedy, Flora and Son. The film follows Flora, a single mom trying to connect with her teenage son through a shared love of music.

New this year, the Short Programmes will include a selection of films from Canada and around the world, celebrating a variety of genres and styles, including documentaries, animation, international award winners, and more.

The Narrative New Waves program spotlights debut features from around the world and has everything from family drama and comedy to vampires and a critique of colonialism.

The World Cinema program includes new works from Canadian filmmakers and international films earning top prizes on the festival circuit, including the world premieres of the comedy-drama Suze and PEI’s Who’s Yer Father?

A still from Who's Yer Father?, which receives its world premiere at this year's AIFF.
Who’s Yer Father? receives its world premiere at this year’s AIFF.

To satisfy genre fans, AIFF’s brand-new Late-Night Visions program will bring weird, wild, and boundary-pushing films to the big screen, including Red Rooms by Pascale Plante, which recently opened the Fantasia Film Festival.

Celebrating seminal work, the Classics/Restored program will feature the 4K restoration of The Mother and The Whore by Jean Eustache and the newly restored print of the 1988 Atlantic film Life Classes from director William D. MacGillivray.

This year’s Focus program, created to honour the work of a filmmaker or icon, pays respect to Gordon Pinsent, with screenings of 1987’s John and The Missus and The Grand Seduction from 2013.

Both the Classics/Restored and Focus programs will be available for free.

Gordon Pinsent directed, wrote, and received a Canadian Screen Award for acting in John and the Missus.
Gordon Pinsent directed, wrote, and received a Canadian Screen Award for acting in John and the Missus.

The AIFF goes beyond the screen again this year, offering attendees the opportunity to engage with industry professionals through workshops and panel discussions.

Finally, for those outside Halifax, select Atlantic Canadian features and shorts will be available to stream via AIFF Online from September 14-24, giving online patrons an extra three days after the in-person festival to catch up on any films they may have missed.

The 43rd annual Atlantic International Film Festival runs September 14 through September 21. Tickets and passes are now on sale. Visit for more information.

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