Atlantic film fest opens with Roller Town

Halifax's Atlantic Film Festival kicks off Thursday with Roller Town, a showcase for the humour of local comedy troupe Picnicface.

Bond girl Famke Janssen, Hobbit Billy Boyd among special guests

Actors Olympia Dukakis, left, and Brenda Fricker are shown in a scene from Thom Fitzgerald's Cloudburst. (Canadian Press)

Halifax's Atlantic Film Festival kicks off Thursday with Roller Town, a showcase for the humour of local comedy troupe Picnicface.

The three Thursday showings of Roller Town are sold out, festival artistic director Gregor Ash told CBC News.

It’s a big year for Picnicface, the comedy troupe that includes Mark Little, Andrew Bush, Kyle Dooley, Cheryl Hann, Brian Eldon MacQuarrie, Evany Rosen, Scott Vrooman and Bill Wood. Their TV show premieres this week on the Comedy Network.

Vrooman, Bush and Little wrote and star in the film, a parody of 1970s roller-derby films, which is making its world premiere. Ash says the roller-derby themed fun will continue with the festival's opening night party.

Dutch director Famke Janssen is screening her first film, Bringing Up Bobby. (Michel Spingler/Associated Press)

Dutch-born Bond girl Famke Janssen, former Hobbit Billy Boyd and Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker are among the special guests for the festival.

Janssen, who had roles in Golden Eye and X-Men is making her directorial debut with Bringing Up Bobby, a mother-son road drama.

Boyd, known for his role as a Hobbit in Lord of Rings, is to attend the premiere of Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy on Sunday. The film also brings Scottish actor Adam Sinclair, Vancouver's Kristin Kreuk who stars in Smallville and director Rob Heydon, a Juno winner for his work in music videos to Halifax.  

Irish actor Fricker, who won an Oscar for My Left Foot, has a role in Thom Fitzgerald’s Nova Scotia-shot film, Cloudburst. 

Fitzgerald first created Cloudburst, the story of an elderly lesbian couple struggling to stay together when poor health and infirmity forces them apart, as a play.  

"This is a family struggling to stay together in the face of old age," Fitzgerald said. "And that isn't particular to gays and lesbians at all."

The director of The Hanging Garden, Beefcake and The Event wrote the film with Olympia Dukakis in mind as the foul-mouthed Stella, while Fricker plays her partner Dot. The story takes them on a journey to Canada, where they have the right to marry.

"The story comes from thinking about how much the world has changed in my lifetime and what it's like for people who have lived one way for a lifetime and suddenly doors open that were always closed," he said. "That can really throw a person a little off kilter."  

 Ash said the Atlantic festival has a strong representation of local talent. Among the 189 films to be shown are Mike Clattenburg's Afghan Luke and Mike Melski's kidnapping drama Charlie Zone.

He also highlighted some of the documentaries at this year's festival.

"There is a couple of films I'm looking forward to – one of them is Being Elmo. It's the story of Kevin Clash who is Elmo, the story of him growing up in Baltimore in the 1960s. It's a really touching film," Ash said.

"Another great film I'm looking forward to is Cooking History – it's about food prepared on battlefields in the different wars."

The Atlantic Film Festival runs Sept. 15 to 24 in Halifax.

With files from The Canadian Press