A kick in the AFF

How to deal with the Atlantic Film Festival, whether you’re a newbie, a wannabe Weinstein or wishing it would just go away.

Face AFF Shot taken from Lust, Caution.

I was once afraid of the Atlantic Film Festival. When I was aimlessly wandering the grounds of Saint Mary's University back in the late "90s, I thought a cool thing to do, something that would assert my newfound adult independence, would be go to some film-fest films. But I didn't know how—where did I buy tickets? Could I go to anything I wanted? Will the ticket people heckle my country roots? Did I have to buy a beret?

This was before the internet, remember. But really, I had no excuse, except ignorance. I'm not letting you go out like that.

FOR FILM GOERSFirst of all, chill. It's a movie, not some chick about to give birth in a taxi. A handful of these films will come back around again, if not on screen, at least on DVD or in torrent form. Before the year is up you can expect to see the Ellen Page films The Stone Angel and The Tracey Fragments, Silk, Shake Hands with the Devil, Poor Boy's Game, Lust, Caution and Control hit North America one way or another.

While it's cool to see anticipated films in a festival setting, it's also a huge mindfuck that can alter your true opinion. See some of your question marks instead—this will be your only chance for the majority of the 200-plus movies in the line-up.

Get tickets online at atlanticfilm.com, or at the theatre an hour before showtime (this is the rush line and it sucks, so try to avoid it) or drop by the festival box office at 1599 South Park. Just make sure you fill out the form right or you will pay—I checked "cash" last year but wanted to pay by debit and it was like I'd driven through the bridge without paying the toll then hit a cop car, such a debacle it was.

FOR FILMMAKERSThis is one of the few times of the year film industry people of consquence are in Halifax. No, there's no Weinstein brother this fest, but there are hundreds of producers from all over the world in town (thank co-production conference Strategic Partners for that). So if you have made a film, are about to make a film, have a great idea for a film or maybe even want to be in one, it behooves you to get yourself out there.

Don't bother trying to get into parties. They're lame and exclusionary and there are never free drinks. What you need to do is hang out on Argyle Street—the Shoe Shop and Bitter End especially—and loiter around the fest's HQ, the Delta Halifax. The bar, Sam's Place, is reasonably priced—dude, they make their own potato chips!—and always full of delegate badges. It might be worth sneaking up to the eighth floor, too, where all the panels are held. If you don't dig the bar scene, park yourself in Park Lane and watch who's coming and going.

If you're a filmmaker who decided to volunteer thinking it would be a way to meet some VIPs, it is, but please remember, from us and the fest, be professional. If you're driving some drunk producer to the golf tournament, don't pitch him your script. Wait until you see him coming out of brunch the next day. It's a small town—you know it, they don't. People are easy to find. Just play it cool.

FOR FILM HATERSFirst off, what's your problem? Second, if the hustle and schmooze of film festing isn't for you—personally, I'm in a constant state of panic—but you like the idea of being in the know (I am onto you), then you should hit up the Inspired Music series. The festival has been including music-related programming for years—panels, party entertainment, rock docs—but this feels like the first year they're really going balls-out. Beyond the Joy Division film Control and the Kurt Cobain doc About A Son (not to mention videos by Jenn Grant, In-Flight Safety, Two Hours Traffic, Julie Doiron and Matt Mays), the week is full of musical showcases.

Of course the big show is Buck 65 and The Heavy Blinkers—making their only local appearance this year!—rocking Argyle Street on September 13. But there's also David Myles and Rose Cousins—ask them about their recent trip to California!—hitting the Seahorse on September 20. Before that show will be the 10 x 10 screening, pairing up 10 local filmmakers and 10 local musicians to create 10 local music videos. Mark Bragg and The Divorcees hold it down there the following night.

On September 22, the about-to-be-opened-for-true Marquee gets started early with the closing party, featuring an appearance by Nathan Wiley and, more excitingly, hey rosetta, fresh off a central Canadian tour.

Coast arts editor Tara Thorne's diary from the just-finished Toronto International Film Festival is still up at thecoast.ca. If you like celebrity-meets-hilarity, you'll love it.

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