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CIFF 2022: Emerging artist award big deal for early career filmmakers

Up for grabs this year at the Calgary International Film Festival for is $10,000 in prize money and a U.S. distribution deal for one emerging artist’s film.

The RBC Emerging Canadian Artist award is being jury selected this year from a selection of 12, which was narrowed down from a harrowing 100 by CIFF’s programming team.

“It was one of the most challenging years to narrow down to this 12 that I’ve ever had, trying to do this,” said Brenda Liberman, CIFF’s lead programmer.

“It was a really tough decision to make, and I lost a lot of sleep trying to figure out which ones to put in and having to sadly reject some.”

Competition is limited to Canadian filmmakers who have made their first or second feature. The winner will receive, in addition to the cash prize, a right of refusal distribution deal from Gravitas Ventures. That company focuses on the distribution of independent films to theatres and streamers in the U.S.

A jury of three esteemed members of the international film community will serve as the judging panel.

The films under the competition are also eligible for the Telus Audience Awards.

Prize of $10,000 might be the only money a filmmaker makes off a film

Liberman said the emerging artist award was an important competition for first and second time filmmakers in Canada, and for CIFF.

“I think it’s huge. We wanted and tried to fight as a team within the festival to gain this award, and this prize opportunity for years before we had it,” she said.

“There’s a lot of really competitive Canadian awards throughout the country at different film festivals, and we really wanted to be a part of that—giving back to the artists and filmmakers, and showcasing Canadian talent.”

She said that in many cases for the creators of the films up for competition award, they wouldn’t have made any money for doing so.

“The money goes to the filmmakers who, in a lot of cases, probably didn’t make anything off the film, and we want to be able to support as best we can.”

American distribution deal puts films in front of more eyes

The opportunity to be connected with an American distributor also means that first time filmmakers will have the opportunity to put their works in front of far larger audiences. Although, said Liberman, many of the films competing this year already have deals with Canadian companies for local distribution.

“Having a U.S. distributor is fantastic to help get into more streaming platforms and audiences, and just overall eyes in the U.S.,” Liberman said.

“This may be a really fantastic opportunity for them to have the U.S. market covered.”

Previous emerging artist award winning films have gone on to success in subsequent competitions. Maxime Giroux’s 2018 film The Great Darkened Days saw Giroux nominated for best motion picture and best director at the Canadian Screen Awards (CSA). Cinematographer for the film Sara Mishara won the award at the CSAs that year, and at the Prix Iris in Quebec.

The winner for 2020, Violation by Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli, went on to it’s U.S. premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. It received five CSA nominations, and was released on AMC’s VOD network Shudder.

Lineup for 2022 covers all genres

Liberman said that this year had a really great variety for CIFF audiences to take in.

“We’ve got there’s some comedy in there, where’s some light coming-of-age films, comedy coming-of-age films, there’s lots of female films dealing with adolescence, we’ve got small town stories, we’ve got bigger budget films—the range is kind of all over the place,” she said.

“The audience coming out it is really just going to see a wide spectrum of talent. Everything from the casting of films with young kids, all the way up to the directors of different demographics.

“Just a really nice variety.”

Full list of films competing for the 2022 RBC Emerging Canadian Artist Award:

  • Adult Adoption, directed by Karen Knox: A former crown ward is driven to find familial love through an adult adoption service.
  • Before I Change My Mind, directed by Trevor Anderson: New kid Robin forges a complicated bond with a school bully, after arriving in a new small-town.
  • Falcon Lake, directed by Charlotte Le Bon: Two teenagers bond over a summer vacation at a lake cabin in Quebec, haunted by a ghost legend.
  • I Like Movies, directed by Chandler Levack: Ambitious teenage cinephile dreams of attending film school at New York University, pays for it by working at a local video store while alienating his family and friends.
  • The Maiden, directed by Graham Foy: A magical ravine, a supernatural encounter, and the afterlife connect three suburban teenagers on a river float.
  • North of Normal, directed by Carly Stone: A film based on Cea Sunrise Person’s memoir about an unconventional childhood in the Canadian wilderness.
  • Pussy, directed by Joseph Amenta: Three adolescent queer friends living in Toronto’s underbelly, taking in the freedom of summer.
  • Riceboy Sleeps, directed by Anthony Shim: A sudden change forces a Korean single mother who left that nation to provide a better life for her son, to return to reconcile with a tragic past.
  • Rosie, directed by Gain Maurice: A story about a young orphan Indigenous girl in 1980s Montreal.
  • The Swearing Jar, directed by Lindsay MacKay: A tragicomedy about a music teacher throwing a birthday concert for her husband, with intertwined recollections of their love stories.
  • Until Branches Bend, directed by Sophie Jarvis: A cannery worker finds an invasive bug infestation within peaches at work, while simultaneously trying to obtain an abortion. The parallel of the two ideas play out in a film about obsession and alienation from friends and family.
  • You Can Live Forever, directed by Mark Slutsky and Sarah Watts: A queer teenager is sent to live with devout Jehovah Witness relatives in the 1990s, and begins a secret relationship with one of the daughters of a Witness elder.

Single ticket sales for CIFF films starts on Sept. 8. For more details on all of the CIFF films this year, see www.ciffcalgary.ca.