With more than 250 films, and a festival guide bulky enough to act as a doorstop, it can be a tricky business deciding what movies to see at the Atlantic Film Festival. Here are a few tips to help you choose, depending on your mood, values or personal taste.
If you're dreading the election call...Oh Canada, you make fine films. Atom Agoyan's Adoration (September 13, Oxford, 7pm), starring Scott Speedman and (surprise, surprise) Arsinée Khanjian, tackles teenage isolation. From Deepa Mehta, who creates some of the most visually impactful movies north of 44, there's Heaven on Earth (September 17, Oxford, 9:30pm), where a young women retreats into her imagination to escape an abusive marriage.
Surveillance (September 14, Oxford, 7pm), a controversial thriller from Jennifer Lynch, produced by dad David and starring Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond, has a special local connection: It was born out of the AFF's Strategic Partners co-production program. Frozen River (September 13, Park Lane, 9:20pm), already getting good reviews, follows two women involved in illegal immigrant trafficking across the border.
The dark comedy One Week (September 18, Oxford, 7pm) stars Joshua "Pacey" Jackson as a young man who deals with the diagnosis of brain cancer by taking a motorcycle road trip. In Toronto Stories (September 15, Park Lane, 7:05pm), four directors, including Sook-Yin Lee, weave interconnected stories about the city of tall towers and cheap burritos.
If you have childish tendencies...When you want to be a kid again, or listen to a 1980s soundtrack, try Summerhood (September 20, Park Lane, 9pm), by Halifax filmmaker Jacob Medjuck, about a little cutie nicknamed "Fetus," who goes to camp and falls in love. Life ain't easy when you're wee---just ask Ugly Girl (Atlantic Shorts II, September 15, 9:20pm) and Paper Hearts (Atlantic Shorts III, September 17, 7:10pm).
The Australian The Black Balloon (September 20, 2pm) stars Toni Collette, who is turning into one of the best screen moms of her generation. Swedish King of Ping Pong (September 14, Park Lane, 9:20pm) is an awkward coming-of-age film, and while Zack and Miri Make a Porno (September 13, Oxford, 9:30pm) isn't child's fare, director Kevin Smith and lead Seth Rogen are about as immature as they come.
If you want to get animated...Don Hertzfeldt does amazing things with stick figures and simple lines in i am so proud of you (Frame X Frame III, September 17, Park Lane, 7:05pm). Local animation genius David Armstrong presents Wor, a tale of "design imagery and sideshow horrors" (Frame X Frame, September 13, 9:25pm, Park Lane). Called this year's Persepolis, Waltz with Bashir (September 18, Oxford, 9:30pm) by former defense fighter Ari Folman, animates survivors' perspectives of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
If you want to get your freak on...Bruce La Bruce making a politico-porn-gay-zombie love film? Hell ya, we're in for Otto; or, Up With Dead People (September 17, Oxford, 11:59pm). Don't let Paris Hilton's appearance keep you from the Gothic organ-collection musical, Repo! The Genetic Opera (September 12, Oxford, 11:59pm).
If you want to load your iPod...Filmmaker Steven Sebring followed the iconic musician for more than a decade in Patti Smith: Dream of Life (September 19, Oxford, 7pm), and Bananaz (September 12, Park Lane, 9:20pm) gets the real deal behind the animated band, Gorillaz.
The short film Love You More (International Shorts II, September 14, Park Lane, 9:25pm), by artist Sam-Taylor Wood and Patrick Marber (Closer), was inspired by The Buzzcocks' song of the same name. Died Young, Stayed Pretty (September 20, Park Lane, 4:05pm) examines the art of music posters, including Montreal's own Seri-pop.
If you want a cheap high...Fix (September 19, Park Lane, 9:30pm) looks like a modern-day Drugstore Cowboy, with beautiful people doing drugs and deals. Lots of docs will make you feel alright: Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (September 16, Park Lane, 9:20pm), Words of Advice---William S. Burroughs on the Road (September 13, Park Lane, 4pm) and FLICKeR (September 14, Park Lane), about Brion Gyson's drugless high Dreamachine.