Edmonton Short Film Festival kicks off a wave of fests focused on Muslim culture, horror and women

Movie fans will not only have dozens and dozens of new titles to indulge in but some filmmakers will also be appearing, Hollywood cred included

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And, action! So much action.

The 11th annual Edmonton Short Film Festival rolls out this weekend with 34 films and a red carpet gala, plus a few bonus guests with legit Hollywood credits.

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Running short films from around the world in its Long Shorts afternoon program Sunday, the bulk of ESFF’s regional filmmaking first plays during Saturday’s Red Carpet Gala evening — 21 Alberta shorts under 15 minutes striding a wider range than your typical festival categories of “fiction, documentary and animation.”

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“We’re one of the few festivals that actually screens music videos,” says ESFF’s executive director, Candace Makowichuk. “Because who doesn’t love music?

“We’re also one of few festivals that screens trailers, but a lot of thought goes into them,” she says. “And then you’re hooked.”

Starting at 6 p.m., Saturday night’s gala is awash with activity surrounding two hours of screenings, including red-carpet photos, hors d’oeuvres, a 50/50 raffle and live music by Nat & Jyson. Plus all kinds of camaraderie.

“It’s a real opportunity to come in and meet some of the filmmakers in our community,” Makowichuk notes. “And for the filmmakers themselves to network and dress up. Or dress in jeans.”

Marilyn by Daniel Martin, Labeled by Justin Kueber and The Choice by Nicole Papadopoulous and Anna Primiani are a few examples of Edmontonian-directed shorts, as is Tom Robinson’s Gerry Mouse.

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The full list of films is at esff.ca under the filmmakers banner, click the awards and adjudication tab.

Speaking of which, while the shorts are already up for numerous local-jury genre awards, there’s a $250 audience choice prize awarded at the end of Saturday night.

The organizer also notes the first 100 people who show up also get a free glass of champagne and a small popcorn, if you weren’t already aboard.

Sunday, as mentioned, is the afternoon Long Shorts event with films from Edmonton and around the world, running up to 60 minutes (most top out under 20).

Among these is Life of Riley, directed by L.A.’s Lisa Datz, who as an actor has appeared on Bones, and Law and Order, as well as doing voice work for Grant Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption video games, plus The SpongeBob Movie.

“It’s a really poignant film about an interracial couple,” explains Makowichuk of Datz’s short, “and they get in hot water with the legalities around immigration.”

The actor-director will appear in person Sunday, doing a Q-and-A before the intermission.

Doors are at noon, films start at 1 p.m., running until 4 p.m.

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All the above takes place at Metro Cinema (8712 109 St.) and tickets can be found at filmfreeway.com.

Tickets for the Red Carpet Gala are $30, the Long Shorts will cost you $15, or you can grab a $50 Festival Pass, which gets you everything, including Dangers and Thrills of Stunt Work, explained next.

Before its two days of films, ESFF kicks off Friday with this special pop-up panel featuring married stunt performer-coordinator team, Steven and Leslie McMichael.

A former Marine, the American-born Alberta stuntman (X-Men; I, Robot) switched gears to being a stunt coordinator after breaking his neck on set.

“Steven was main co-ordinator for the sword scenes in The Hobbit,” says Makowichuk — his credited title in Peter Jackson’s trilogy being “Sword Master.”

His wife Leslie, meanwhile, did stunts on Dark Angel and Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. Both Cochrane-based experts are advocates for on-set safety, which they’ll be talking about 7 p.m. Friday at the CKUA Building (9804 Jasper Ave.)

Separately, this panel costs $15.

Of course, the main point of ESFF is its shorts.

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“I like the energy, the creativity that goes into them,” says Makowichuk. “Especially because they don’t have the big budgets for all the fancy stuff.

“You have to be able to tell a good story in a very short period of time, and you’ll have the opportunity to see a whole bunch of different genres in one sitting.

“Imagine,” she laughs, “having to watch that many features at once in a row!”

Mosquers is best of Muslim films

There are actually three more film festivals in the next month, starting with the annual Mosquers Film Festival 2023.

Running at the Winspear Centre 6 p.m. Saturday, eight short films selected from more than 1,000 submissions from the Muslim community will play on the big screen in the soft-seater.

As well as the films, Yusra Ali will read her poem inspired in part by cinema, while hip-hop artist Narcy and light calligrapher Karim Jabbari will do their thing. Comedian Hassan Phills hosts the evening.

The afterparty at 10310 102 Ave., dubbed Popcorn, will feature halal food and mocktails.

General admission tickets are $34.99 at themosquers.com, or $54.99 with the afterparty included.

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Gore and horror from NorthWest FEARFest

NorthWestFEARFest, next on the block, is bringing its second annual horror lineup to Metro Cinema Oct. 18-22, a nice appetizer for Halloween.

Following last year’s gory sneak preview, NWFF has spread out to five nights showing more than 20 blood-curdling features and shorts.

“From the moment we decided to start this festival,” says festival programmer Guy Lavallee, “our number one focus was to bring the best new and retro horror and genre films to Edmonton audiences.

“There’s a huge appetite for horror here.”

Joe Lynch’s Suitable Flesh is the opening night film next Wednesday, with more festival features including the amazing-looking Late Night With the Devil, The Sacrifice Game, How to Kill Monsters and When Evil Lurks.

Closing the fest on Oct. 22 is the local film The Last Video Store, directed by Tim Rutherford and Cody Kennedy, starring Edmonton’s actual last video store owner Kevin Martin.

Retro films on the bill include Friday the 13th Part III in 3D (which includes free red-cyan glasses), a 30th anniversary edition of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a 50th anniversary screening and director’s cut of The Exorcist, just in time to wash out the taste of the ill-reviewed new sequel.

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NorthWestFEARFest’s All-Access Pass is $99, or you can buy individual tickets for $15 or less — Nightmare Before Christmas is free for kids 12 and under, for example, while the retro films run $13.

Women in cinema

Finally, the amazing Broad View International Film Festival returns for its second year Nov. 9-11, also at Metro, featuring plenty of animation.

Showcasing and fostering women-directed films, this year’s lineup opens with the NFB’s Arab Women Say What?! directed by Edmonton’s Nisreen Baker, Tango Through Life, local director Eva Colmers’ Swallow, Dear Swallow, When the Day Breaks, Wild Life, The Flying Sailor, Between Waves, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, and Dawn, Her Dad and the Tractor.

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We’re absolutely lucky to have this much thoughtfully curated cinema rolling in our midst in the next month. Take a chance and fill those seats!

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