Edmonton film festival showcases local films alongside international features

10-day marathon, a qualifying festival for the Oscars, started Thursday and will showcase 40 features and 114 short films at Landmark Cinema in City Centre Mall.

'Filmmakers just want people to see their films'

Edmonton filmmaker Scott Townend will present his feature documentary, The Secret Marathon, in front of a hometown crowd at the Edmonton International Film Festival on Oct. 4. (Scott Townend)

Producing a film festival makes for very long days. 

"I grew up in Vegreville on a dairy farm and that really prepared me to do the film festival," Kerrie Long, producer of the Edmonton International Film Festival, says laughing.

The 10-day marathon, a qualifying festival for the Oscars, started Thursday and will showcase 40 features and 114 short films at Landmark Cinema in City Centre Mall. 

Start your festival by checking out the program for the festival's showings. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)
Long says she is excited by the lineup of local, national and international features, documentaries and animated shorts.
Festival producer Kerrie Long takes the helm of the 33rd annual Edmonton International Film Festival. (Edmonton International Film Festival)

Her advice on making the most of your time at the festival?

"Don't go see the film that's going to be in theatres three months from now."

Long suggests you "dip your toe in the festival" by opting for a short film package or swing by for a 45-minute lunchbox short, which includes three or four bite-size films and lunch from Monday to Friday.

A must-do is to see "truly independent" productions like Red Snow or First Love or in which the filmmaker attends the screening, Long says.

"I think filmmakers just want people to see their films," Long says. "So just explore and meet filmmakers and just show them the Edmonton love."

Living his dream

For Edmonton producer Scott Townend, the screening of his 76-minute feature documentary, The Secret Marathon, on Oct. 4 is going to be a "full-circle" moment. 

"My first ever project in a film festival was here," he said.

A short Townend produced with some fellow film students from SAIT won a prize at the Edmonton festival 15 years ago and he says he has been living his dream since.

Townend's latest effort documents Afghan women who are prepared to risk everything for the freedom to run in a marathon. 

The festival highlights film-making talent from around the world and here at home. One of the local projects screening is called The Secret Marathon, a feature-length documentary about Afghan women who want the freedom to run in a marathon and are prepared to risk it all. Our Edmonton recently spent some time with co-director Scott Townend as he describes the challenges of bringing this story to the screen. 2:36

"The idea that for us in North America, we don't think twice about being able to run out in public and so to imagine there's a place in the world where women don't feel free to do that is the story we set out to tell," Townend says.

He worked alongside co-director and producer Calgarian Kate McKenzie and marathon runner Martin Parnell from Cochrane, Alta., for three years to get the film to the big screen. 

"There's something special about showing a movie in a theatre," Townend says. "I think the other thing to keep in mind with stories like this is that they don't happen unless you have passionate people getting involved."

Showing the film in Townend's home city is huge, Long says. 

"Everybody wants to have a big celebration around their work and celebrate with their own community."

You can see more from this year's Edmonton International Film Festival on Our Edmonton, Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV. 

The festival takes place at Landmark Cinema in City Centre Mall. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

About the Author

Adrienne Lamb is an award-winning journalist based in Edmonton. She's the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. Adrienne has spent the last couple of decades telling stories across Canada.