Among movie folk, there's a ritual: Sit down with the Atlantic Film Festival catalogue and/or website, and plot out every moviegoing second (from September 17 to 26), considering travel time, crowd sizes and the chance of films actually coming back. We hoard non-perishables and determine which lanyard ribbon brings out the colour in our Vitamin D-deprived complexions. Sometimes this journey toward film enlightenment is as pleasurable as the festival itself. And sometimes you need a little guidance.
We're still reeling from this year's fantastic line-up of local, Canadian and international films, but here are some early highlights.
Homegrown hits As usual, the Atlantic Shorts programs look really strong. Watch for Luckas Cardona, Andrew Bush, Andrea Dorfman, Jeff Wheaton, Aram Kouyoumdjian, Tarek Abouamin, Krista Davis, Melanie Colosimo, Thom Fitzgerald and Jay Dahl.
Burning Rubber is Ariella Pahlke's documentary about the culture of burning tire rubber as a form of self-expression. She interviews drivers and artists about this phenomenon you most often see snaking across rural roads. Pahlke shot an amazing performance in 2007 at Exhibition Park, where drivers made skid marks and blew tires all over the parking lot.
We Cancon love it Look for two Newfoundland features coming from close friends and frequent co-conspirators. Adriana Maggs and Sherry White were responsible for the short-lived but brilliant CBC comedy Rabbittown---think Ab Fab meets the Rock. Maggs releases her directorial debut, Grown Up Movie Star, about a young girl left with her father after her mom runs away, and there's White's Crackie, in which a young woman wants to escape her rural life and her domineering grandmother (Mary Walsh).
J'ai tué ma mere: Twenty-year-old Quebec filmmaker/actor Xavier Dolan became a Cannes darling with his semi-autobiographical teenage film that's been described as an artful Mommie Dearest.
Amreeka: Another festival fave, this time at Sundance, Amreeka is a Canadian-American-Kuwaiti co-production about a single mom who immigrates from Palestine to the States with her teenage son, just prior to the Iraq war.
Act of God: Toronto husband-and-wife team Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier blew us away with Manufactured Landscapes. Now, they speak to people who've been hit by lightning.
Suck: We'd say enough with the vampires already, except that Rob Stefaniuk's rock-'n'-bleed has appearances by Moby, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, Alice Cooper and Alex Lifeson.
The White Stripes Under Great Northern Lights: Emmett Malloy's tour film follows the red, white and black across Canada, filming the band's spontaneous acts, e.g. the city bus in Winnipeg, the one-note show in St. John's. Maybe you're in it.
Around the world This year's international fare will either romance or frighten you. Swoon for Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces, Jane Campion's Bright Star and dreamy 1960s Britain in An Education, starring Peter Sarsgaard. Lars Von Trier was bedridden with depression when he wrote Antichrist, which scared the shit out of Cannes.
Become a Microscope: A documentary by Aaron Rose (Beautiful Losers) on 1960s pop artist and nun Sister Corita, who called Alfred Hitchcock, John Cage and the Eames friends.
Best Worst Movie: If you make a really bad movie, like Troll 2 bad, someday it will be celebrated as a cult classic, and someone will make a doc about it.
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky: There's a wave of fashion-related films and docs coming out this year, and this French film is probably the classiest of the lot, recounting a romance between the fashion icon and the composer.
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus: While everyone has been talking about Heath Ledger, we've been quietly anticipating Tom Waits as the devil.
The Invention of Lying: Ricky Gervais. Tina Fey. Jason Bateman. Jeffrey Tambor.
Prom Night in Mississippi: A Mississippi high school holds separate proms for white and black students. Morgan Freeman wants to end the segregation.