Shandi Mitchell's debut film The Disappeared involves a disaster at sea, but its star Billy Campbell was involved in a real life sea drama earlier this week.

Campbell, an American actor who starred in AMC TV series The Killing, was part of a crew that rescued three stranded sailors off the coast of Massachusetts earlier this week.

He was aboard the Martha Seabury, a Lunenburg schooner making its maiden voyage to Newport, R.I., when an "eagle-eye" on the crew spotted some sailors who appeared to be waving, said Campbell, who will walk the red carpet Friday at the premiere of The Disappeared in Halifax.

"We took in our sail as fast as we could and turned around as fast as we could," Campbell told CBC’s Information Morning. "The sun had already set so we were worried that we might lose sight of them and lose track of them altogether  We turned around the found them and they were in a bit of a mess, you know.

Suffering from hypothermia

"They were hypothermic and sitting on top of an overturned sailboat – at least one of them was sitting on top, the other two were in the water... I’m not sure that they would have had another hour in the water."

After the Martha Seabury pulled alongside, the men were barely able to swim the three metres to the rescue boat and had to be lifted from the water.

The crew got them dry and into sleeping bags before calling the Coast Guard to pick them up. The Coast Guard arrived with a doctor aboard to treat them for exposure, Campbell said.

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The Angel's Share producer Rebecca O'Brien is shown at the premiere of the film in Cannes in May. (Associated Press)

The Disappeared, the story of six men adrift in two dories after their fishing vessel sinks, is a debut feature film by Nova Scotia writer-director Mitchell

Campbell, stars alongside Shawn Doyle, Brian Downey, Gary Levert and Ryan Doucette in the character drama that shows how men react in extreme circumstances. The cast will join Mitchell on the red carpet in Halifax Friday as the film premieres.

Atlantic Film Festival opener

The Atlantic Film Festival opens Thursday with The Angel’s Share, a Ken Loach comedy that centres on a whisky heist by a group of inept thieves.

Producer Rebecca O’Brien, who has worked with Loach for the past 22 years, walks the red carpet in Halifax for the opening.

While British director Loach is best-known for gritty working dramas, he turns to comedy with this film about a group of Scottish lads determined to hijack a shipment of incredibly rare single malt.

Atlantic festival director Lia Rinaldo has chosen to start off the festival with a light note. The Thursday gala will be followed by dancing and drinks at the Cunard Centre.

O’Brien is also a keynote speaker Friday morning at Strategic Partners, where she will discuss how to foster international co-productions in conversation with producer-director Thom Fitzgerald.

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Still, directed by Michael McGowan, tells the story of a New Brunswick farmer who wants to build an accessible home for his wife. (Atlantic Film Festival)

Other stars expected over the coming week include Evelyne Brochu of Inch’ Allah, Martin Villeneuve, director of Mars et Avril, Ruda Nadda, director of Inescapable, and Michael McGowan, director of Still. 

Story of N.B.'s Craig Morrison

Still, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, is based on the true story of a St. Martin's, N.B., man who runs afoul of building code by-laws when he tries to build an accessible house for his wife of more than 60 years.

Craig Morrison's story became a cause célèbre and McGowan crafts it into a deeply moving love story starring acting veterans James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold.

There are four galas planned in the 10-day festival:

  • Atlantic Gala The Disappeared.
  • Canadian gala Midnight’s Children, directed by Deepa Mehta.
  • Atlantic Shorts Gala, with 11 short films by Atlantic Canadian filmmakers, including Trailer Park Boys director Mike Clattenberg.
  • Closing Gala: A Royal Affair, directed by Denmark’s Nikolaj Arcel.

The Atlantic Film Festival runs Sept. 13 to 20 in Halifax.