New Calgary film festival explores life's third act

A new Calgary film festival seeks to start a conversation with viewers about aging and how to approach it.

'We are a youth-centric culture and it’s time for that to change,' says event's artistic director

Land Ho is a feature film that tells the story of a pair of mismatched men, former brother-in-laws, who embark upon a trip to Iceland. It's being screened as part of a film festival in Calgary. (Third Action Film Festival)

In Noatak: Return to the Arctic, a pair of 70-somethings recreate a kayak trip they took through the Arctic as young men.

An 81-year-old man checks out of everyday life and into an experimental society filled with performance art in Charlie Goes to Burning Man.

In Edith and Eddie, a pair of 90-somethings face the challenge of life as America's oldest interracial newlyweds. 

Those are snippets of three films screening at The Third Act(ion) Film Festival, which takes place June 8-10 at the Glenbow Museum.

The festival's artistic director Mitzi Murray spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.

Q: What's the Third Act(ion) Film Festival?

A: It's all about discovering the possibilities of aging. We are a youth-centric culture and it's time for that to change.

Seniors have so much to offer and there's so much possibility in that stage of life. And people need to know about it.

Calgary director Sandi Somers' documentary short, All the World's a Stage, which tells the story of three Calgary theatre pioneers, is being screened at the Third Act(ion) Film Festival, June 8-10 at the Glenbow Museum. The film explores the extraordinary contributions of Joyce Doolittle, Grant Reddick and playwright John Murrell to the evolution of Calgary's theatre scene. (Ellis Choe/CBC)

Q: What is the third act, anyway?

A: If  you go by what Stats Canada says, it would be the seventies, eighties and nineties — because we're just living that long now.

Q: You're not in your third act yet. What got you interested?

A: About three years ago, I got a job in the seniors industry and it really hit home about ageism and how people aren't prepared for the third act.

In fact, my family was dealing with the onset of dementia, and I just thought people need to be thinking about this. Not hard, but a little bit. And be prepared for it. 

Edith and Eddie, a documentary film that tells the story America's oldest interracial newlyweds, is being screened at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. (Third Action Film Festival)

I know the best way to educate is through entertainment. I love film. [So] let's do it. Let's put on a film festival!

Q: Hollywood seems to have given up on people in their second act, let alone the third. Was it hard to find films featuring characters in the third act of their lives?

A:  No, exactly the opposite. We had 170 submissions to the festival — and that's just submitted, let alone the ones we sought out. Jane Fonda is pushing hard for films in that age range. I actually think it's turning around.

Q: What's screening at Third Act(ion)?

A: We have [All the World's a Stage], a Calgary-born documentary — a homage piece to Joyce Doolittle, Grant Reddick and John Murrell, who are icons in the [Calgary] theatre industry.

We have an Academy Award-nominated documentary called Edith and Eddie. It goes from awe-inspiring love story to a soul-crushing damnation of public guardianship in the U.S.

What's very scary is the public guardianship system is similar in Canada. It's important for people to see that.

[The British comedy] Finding Your Feet actually played in Calgary about a month ago. My husband and I went, and the theatre was full. They clapped afterwards.

Finding Your Feet, a British late-life comedy, is being screened as part of the film festival. (Third Act(ion) Film Festival)

Q: What time did it screen?

A:  Early evening. [It] wasn't the middle of the day!

Q: It sounds like a cross between real life and entertainment. Is it?

A: We want to give a real mix. Life is full of possibilities. But the third act is the third act. We have to be cognizant of what is coming and be prepared for it.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.


Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: