There is some definite star-power coming to this year’s FIN Atlantic International Film Festival (AIFF) as Halifax gets to roll out the red carpet for several Hollywood and Canadian A-listers.
Putting out the call each year for celebrities to attend the annual Halifax festival, according to executive director Wayne Carter they have usually run up against AIFF’s proximity to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and shooting schedules.
“You would think that would make it easier, but it doesn’t, because a lot of them are quite tired after TIFF,” he explains. “And the challenge with actors is that September and October are popular shooting months all over the world.”
The stars have aligned this year though, and Carter considers himself spoiled with the line-up they have confirmed to be in attendance.
“Atom Egoyan is a Canadian legend, François Girard’s The Red Violin is one of the most respected Canadian films ever made, and Ellen Page is a superstar,” he says. “And to have gotten word last Thursday that Willem Dafoe will come with Robert Eggers was a bit of a pinch me moment for us.”
A Halifax native, Page is one celebrity on Carter’s wish-list for several of years, first hoping she would make an appearance when her film Into the Forrest was featured at the festival in 2015.
“We’re really excited that she’s going to be able to come here with her documentary There’s Something in the Water that she’s made about what is termed environmental racism in Nova Scotia,” says Carter. “I think it’s going to be a little bit of an electric evening with her, because hopefully she’ll do a Q&A, and I think this is a very political film, and it’s obviously something she’s very, very passionate about.”
Perhaps creating the most buzz at this year’s red carpet though will be the appearance of four-time Academy Award-winning actor Willem Dafoe. Along with director Robert Eggers, Dafoe will be here for a screening of the Nova Scotia filmed The Lighthouse.
“We were really hoping we would get Robert Eggers, but we didn’t think we would get Willem Dafoe or Robert Pattinson because they’re both really in-demand actors, and Robert Pattinson, to the best of our knowledge, is in pre-production of Batman.”
Carter believes one of the reasons both Eggers and Dafoe will be in attendance is because of the experience the two had in Nova Scotia while filming The Lighthouse. Carter says Eggers even gave a shout-out to the Nova Scotia crew at TIFF, remarking how terrific they were, and sending his best wishes as Atlantic Canada dealt with Dorian.
“I thought that was a classy thing to do, and I’m very much looking forward to thanking him in person for doing that,” says Carter. “That is the stuff that comes from the heart and not something your publicist told you to say when you went on the stage.”
Carter also relates stories of Dafoe shopping at the Atlantic Superstore in Yarmouth and, in typical Atlantic Canada fashion, how his fans were both kind and courteous.
“And he was too, because people talk about just how approachable he was, and what a lovely man he was,” says Carter.
Adding to the excitement of Dafoe’s visit to the AIFF, is the Oscar buzz surrounding The Lighthouse, which Carter saw during his trip to Cannes this year. It is a film he has little doubt will see both Dafoe and Pattinson nominated for statues.
“It’ll be interesting to see which categories they may qualify for but Willem Dafoe is sort of on a roll,” says Carter. “He’s been nominated four times, three of them a row, so I think his time is coming. And boy, there could not be a more powerful performance than this one for him to win an Oscar.”
Carter is just excited to screen the film for local audiences.
“The Lighthouse is just jaw-droppingly beautiful to look at,” he says of the film shot at Cape Forchu in Yarmouth in February and March last year. “We all know what the Atlantic weather is like and it looks just punishing.”
Carter knows film buffs are excited about Eggers’ appearance, as he is the same director responsible for the 2015 horror film The VVitch. And while Carter is loath to call The Lighthouse a horror film, he says Eggers delivers in his latest film.
“There are some moments that feel a bit frightening, but to call it a horror film would be a misnomer, because it doesn’t have a lot of violence or blood in it,” he says. “Instead, it’s much more about these two men in a lighthouse in the middle of the winter, who spend four weeks together driving each other mad.”
Calling him an “auteur in the making”, Carter looks forward to seeing what comes next from the young director. “He’s definitely got something unique. I’m excited to see where he will go.”
The 2019 Atlantic International Film runs September 12-19 with film screenings at the Cineplex Park Lane Theatre (5657 Spring Garden Rd, Halifax). Tickets are available online now at finfestival.ca or through the festival box office in the Park Lane Mall.
Tomorrow: Beyond the red carpet at this year’s FIN Atlantic International Film Festival as AIFF’s executive director Wayne Carter talks festivals and his picks beyond the galas.