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The biggest time 

As the Atlantic Film Festival launches its largest line-up ever, Carsten Knox screens the 27th edition and finds more than a few highlights.

It's the most wonderful time of the year. For the film fan, that is. The 27th edition of the Atlantic Film Festival is almost upon us and its schedule has just been announced. There's plenty to look forward to: 246 films over 10 days, running from September 13 to 22.

For the first time, the first three evenings all feature star-studded homegrown product. The opening gala is the Halifax—and Kigali-shot Shake Hands With the Devil, the dramatization of General Romeo Dallaire's memoir of the Rwandan genocide. Produced by Laszlo Barna and Academy Award-winner Michael Donovan, it stars Quebec thesp Roy Dupuis in the lead. The following night, Haligonian hyphenate Chaz Thorne's directorial debut, Just Buried, will be presented at a CBC Gala and the night after is the Telefilm Atlantic Gala of Poor Boy's Game, Clement Virgo's tale of race and boxing, which was scripted and produced by Thorne. Expect to see the burgeoning filmmaker, who got his start as a stage actor and playwright, around town taking part in panels and events.

"We've never opened with that kind of strength in galas that are Atlantic-based," says festival director Lia Rinaldo. "So we're pretty excited about that."

But there's much more. British auteur Peter Greenaway, the director of such painterly, lush film epics as The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Prospero's Books, will be here. He'll present his new film on Rembrandt, Nightwatching, and will be interviewed by Mike Clattenburg at an Academy luncheon. Also on the slate are legendary documentarian Albert Maysles, who will show his 1970s Rolling Stones concert film Gimme Shelter and be interviewed as part of the Inspired Docs series, and Newfoundland acting icon Gordon Pinsent, who will help debut a new program at Neptune Theatre called the ACTRA Studio.

Other juicy new Canadian movies include two Ellen Page films, The Stone Angel and The Tracey Fragments, which will see our homegirl and her director, Bruce MacDonald, in attendance. Slamdance Film Festival opener Weirdsville—the new Allan Moyle (New Waterford Girl) picture—will be screening, as will Jeremy Podeswa's Toronto film-fest kickoff Fugitive Pieces, the Montreal-shot Emotional Arithmetic starring Susan Sarandon and Hot Docs award winner The Bodybuilder and I, which Rinaldo calls a "significant Canadian documentary."

Rinaldo also makes mention of documentaries that are more in the fringe. "We've been calling them Freaks and Geeks." Screening are Monster Camp and Addicted to Anachronism, about historical re-enactors, and Chasing Ghosts: Beyond The Arcade, which revisits the video-arcade warriors of the '80s. Strictly Background is about life as an extra and Confessions Of A Superhero takes a look at people in costume working the Sunset Strip.

As with past years, the AFF partners with international cinema as part of the Strategic Partners international co-production market. France is the focus country this year and the gala will be Angel, the new film from Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool). Strategic Partners is expecting 185 attendees including producers, broadcasters, distributors, financiers and agents. Jan Miller, SP director and a founder of the National Screen Institute, is enjoying the continuing success of this part of the AFF, a program she started 10 years ago.

"Let's bring the best here to our own backyard, have a barbecue and show them the opportunities they have," she says, recalling the initial impetus for the event. And this year, "there's a more stringent selection process because there are more applications than we can serve. For a long time there were more Canadians than international and last year that shifted—it's almost 50-50."

The number of films being shown once again tops previous years but Rinaldo says we shouldn't expect the festival to get any larger in years to come.

"We really can't get any bigger than this," she says. "It's all about community, people talking and connecting. We want people to come out of the screenings in Toronto" —TIFF takes place the week before—"and come into this environment, get to see each other's films and get to talk to each other. That's what we're trying to achieve."

Single tickets for the Atlantic Film Festival are available now at, by calling 422-6965 or at the box office at 1599 South Park, in the Radio Room of the CBC building.

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