While the Toronto International Film Festival may draw worldwide attention, the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) has been quietly building its own reputation as a showcase of wide-ranging, exceptional films.
Part of the appeal for younger, edgier audiences is the long-running Late Show series, which showcases the oddball genre movies that don’t fit into any of the festival’s very diverse categories.
“I think everyone has their favourite genres that they liked, and I always loved horror movies,” said lead programmer Brenda Lieberman of her long association with the Late Shows series at CIFF, which concluded Sept. 30.
“Often I find that the genre films feel a little more creative. They tend to help you escape more than other movies.”
Lieberman has been programming for the festival since 2007, which has given her time to find the best metrics for picking the perfect movie for the festival’s assorted series.
“It’s trying to find the balance between what people want to see,” said Lieberman at the Globe Cinema.
“Do they want to see the blockbuster movie that’s opening next week, or the weird one they’re only going to see here?”
Picking only six films for the Late Shows series seems a tall order, but Lieberman has refined her process over the years.
“A film that gets great audience reaction is always something you look for, whether it’s an energetic response or something that’s going impact them when they leave the theater,” she said.
CIFF often partners with community groups on the films it shows throughout the festival.
On indie slasher flick The Ranger, CIFF partnered with the Night Terrors Film Society to present the film to Calgary audiences.
“We love to screen horror films at our own events so we try to associate our partnered screenings with horror or exploitation films,” said co-founder and Globe manager Cody Cook.
“When Greg and I started Night Terrors it was just a good fit. We love crazy, weird, wild films and both CIFF and the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) are known for showing their hard genre titles.”
When it came to festival picks, both Lieberman and Cook recommended the divisive and provocative Climax, directed by the acclaimed Gaspar Noé. Lieberman also recommended Mega Time Squad, in addition to The Ranger.
“Mega Time Squad and Climax were two completely opposite types of films that both surprised and pleased me in completely different ways,” said Lieberman.
“Depending on what you’re up for, you have to be in the mood for them.”
The midnight madness-type series in film festivals has long been a staple at film festivals, with good reason, Lieberman says.
“It was really designed to build a culture and a fan base around those kinds of films, and to get people excited about them.”