It’s hard to believe, but its September and the leaves are changing colour once again, making way for fall and eventually winter. The month of September is my favourite time of year for many reasons: my birthday (9/8), the beginning of my favourite season, and most of all, the promise of another fantastic week at the Atlantic Film Festival.
As a regular patron of the festival, I always buy a festival pass so that I have freedom to see as many films as I want to, and to change my mind about screenings as I go. (For anyone that has never experienced four or five film screenings in near back-to-back succession, you would be surprised how very exhausting it can be!)
I also have been known to temporarily swear-off the Opening Gala film, as it is the one screening that a festival pass is not good for. On top of that, the screening always costs a significant amount more than a regular screening, with or without the added price of attending the swanky after party.
That being said, I like to think I’m a fair fellow, and while this article may, thus far, seem like a gripe-fest, I admit that as an AFF regular I see the dozens and dozens of festival employees and volunteers who pour their hearts and souls into our ever-growing celebration of film. I see the screenings that are attended by only a few, lucky individuals and all of the beautiful design work that goes into each years visuals; the program guide, the projections and posters and advertisements. The frugal film fan in me has to take a back seat to the business-minded me that my career has developed and I realize how much it makes sense to have a higher ticket price on a sure-to-sell-out screening (this year, in three theatres simultaneously) in order to continue offering all of the less popular, less glitzy moments that make the festival such a diamond to behold. It’s truly a pleasure to support a cause that has brought me such happiness and inspiration every year since I moved to my fair Halifax some thirteen years ago, and (as long as the film interests me) I always suck it up, attend the opening night film, and have yet to ever be disappointed.
2013’s opening gala film, Don McKellar’s The Grand Seduction, makes Canadian film history as our first intra-national movie remake. (In 2003, a Québécois film named Le Grande Seduction, was a hit and won the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance.)
McKellar’s Seduction tells the tale of a town downtrodden by the decline of the fishing industry on which it once thrived. Desperate to get his people off of social assistance and bring life back to their home, the Mayor of Tickle Head, NFLD embarks on a bid to bring in an off-shore oil operation, but is met with opposition because their little town has no resident doctor. When the good Mayor jumps ship to move to St. John’s and work in airport security, leaving long-time local Murray (Ireland’s Brendan Gleeson) to take his place, a chance encounter with a young, cocaine-carrying, plastic surgeon (the beautiful Taylor Kitsch) turns into blackmail, and a month-long quest involving the entire community of Tickle Head to convince the good doctor that their little piece of the world is his ideal home, and in turn, save themselves from poverty. To discuss the hijinx that ensue, would be to do any of you a disservice who may seek out an opportunity to see this gem in the future, but let’s just say the town go to VERY great lengths.
Boasting a cast that includes Canadian film royalty (Gordon Pinsent as the new mayor’s hilarious sidekick, Simon), a home grown-turned-Hollywood heartthrob (Kitsch), and some of Atlantic Canada’s finest, The Grand Seduction does exactly what it’s title suggests. During a grand introduction by the film’s cast and crew, prior to the screening, the film had a lot of expectations to live up to, and it did not disappoint. Virtually impossible to dislike; The Grand Seduction is funny, heartfelt, beautifully shot and written, and carried by the strength of a genuine, realistic, believable cast of incredible talent. So much heart was put into this film, that it radiates out of the screen and sticks with you.
It’s Judgement Day for The Grand Seduction and the Pop Gods have made their decision:
The Grand Seduction is …
More reviews to come from the 33rd annual Atlantic Film Festival as the week progresses!