Don't Say Its Name directed by Rueben Martell
Don’t Say Its Name directed by Rueben Martell

The Calgary International Film Festival will showcase local talent in the Alberta Spotlight program, which includes four diverse feature titles and the return of the Alberta Spirit Shorts, plus a new Documentary Shorts Package for the 22nd Annual Festival taking place from September 23 to October 3, 2021.

“I love how this years’ Alberta spotlight came together, and the completely different tone, story and genre each film has to offer. It really showcases the level of creativity within our independent filmmaking community, and I’m excited to see the filmmakers share their films with our audience this festival,” said Brenda Lieberman, CIFF Lead Programmer.


DON’T SAY IT’S NAME, Directed by Rueben Martell

The small, snow-covered Indigenous community is about to see an upturn. Mining company WEC has just made an agreement for drilling on this tribal land, and it’s looking like everyone will benefit – except the land itself. Local activist Kharis Redwater is one of those protesting the deal when her voice is silenced in a hit-and-run that remains unsolved. So as WEC begins their assault on the land, the land itself retaliates against WEC and all those who support it.

HANDS THAT BIND, Directed by Kyle Armstrong

HANDS THAT BIND is a smouldering prairie gothic drama set in the 1980s in small town Alberta. Having severed ties with his father, Andy’s (Paul Sparks) opportunity to farm as a landowner has been jeopardized. He devotes his life to working another man’s land, trying to establish new roots with his wife and children, with the hope that the land might one day be his. But those hopes are destroyed when his boss’s ungrateful son unexpectedly returns. As Andy struggles with providing for his family in a world that is increasingly unfamiliar, a darkness settles over the community and mysterious occurrences begin; cattle mutilations, drought, a missing teenager, paranoia, and unexplained lights in the sky.

Highlighting our incredible prairie landscapes, HANDS THAT BIND is the second feature by Alberta’s Kyle Armstrong (UNTIL FIRST LIGHT), with an incredible cast including Paul Sparks, Susan Kent, Landon Liboiron, Nicholas Campbell, Will Oldham and Bruce Dern, along with a fantastic original score by Jim O’Rourke!

HERE & AFTER, Directed by Shaun Crawford

While out on a day pass from an in-patient treatment program, Ray meets Arora. Ray agrees to go with Arora when she makes the audacious claim that she can predict the outcome of the day. As they walk through the city, she pulls him deeper into her accounts of love and enchantment, and the two strike a deal to spend the day together. As they continue to debate the nature of love, Arora reveals that she experiences life backwards one day at a time and that the two of them spend most of their lives married. If what Arora says is true, then it’s not only the first day Ray is meeting her – it’s also the last time Arora is ever going to see him.

HERE & AFTER is a fresh new take on a time-travel romance, from first time feature director Shaun Crawford, who was the screenwriter on previous CIFF films A MIRACLE ON CHRISTMAS LAKE & EVERFALL.

JONESIN’, Directed by Scott Westby

Small town boy Deke Jones (Brandon Sklenar) just wants to get home after his grandmother’s funeral. But a quick big city pit stop at a dive bar in a shady neighbourhood throws a wrench into his plans. A case of mistaken identity finds him duct-taped to a chair with a gun to his head. Incompetent criminals, drug deals gone wrong, and gunfights are on the menu as Deke desperately attempts to get the hell out of the city.

JONESIN’ is the much anticipated second feature from Calgary filmmakers Scott Westby and Matt Watterworth (IN PLAINVIEW), who’ve executed an off-beat, crime comedy that’s a ton of fun to watch!


GOD LADY, Directed by Emily Renner Wallace

A door-to-door evangelist is unwittingly doomed after soliciting to a household inhabited by strange cloistered women. Local stunt performer Sally Bishop lends their talents to craft wonderful, female-led fight scenes in Emily Renner Wallace’s directorial debut. Dawn Nagazina (ROOT OF THE PROBLEM, CIFF 2019) plays the film’s lead, rounding out an excellent trio of Alberta talent.

MEAN HAKEEM, Directed by Evan Bourque

Mean Hakeem tells the story of UFC fighter Hakeem Dawodu, following his journey to overcome abuse, poverty, and drug addiction to become a UFC fighter.

RKLSS, Directed by Tank Standing Buffalo

Tank, a natural artist who is always drawing, runs into trouble with the law with his gang of friends. Tank is convicted, jailed, and subjected to solitary confinement and intense brutality, but his art allows him to escape his terrible conditions. While in prison he discovers his own native spirituality, and through his art, finds a way to be in the world and to reflect on his own reality.

ROAD FROM RUIN, Directed by Ryan C. Northcott

A tragic accident prompts an emotionally distant father and son to attempt to reconcile their differences. Local actor Ryan C. Northcott takes a spin in the writer/director chair, weaving a mysterious drama that hits hard emotionally as it unfolds.

Seven other shorts titles are included in the Alberta Spotlight:

GOING TO THE CHAPEL, Directed by Matt McKinney

HOP ALONG HANG ON, Directed by Cobra Collins

HOW TO MAKE A FRIEND, Directed by Morgan Ermter

OPEN MIC AT THE COMEDY CABARET, Directed by Gianna Isabella

SLED, Directed by Byron Martin

SOMETHING IS NEAR, Directed by Robert Cuffley

THE SURROGATE, Directed by Dan Guinness


BEYOND CURLS & KINKS, Directed by Osas Eweka-Smith

BEYOND CURLS & KINKS follows a group of women who are challenging beauty standards while empowering each other and the next generation to embrace their coily, kinky and curly hair. This short explores the complex relationship they have with their Afro-textured hair and issues such as self-esteem, confidence and identity, while challenging society to see women and girls beyond their curls & kinks.

LONG DISTANCE, Directed by Kiana Rawji

A Filipino couple in Calgary, Alberta perseveres through a long-distance relationship redolent of the many years they spent apart in the past. Before, international borders separated them. Now, a virus. While Roderick, a Cargill meat plant worker, recovers in the hospital from a COVID-induced stroke, his wife, Norie, summons the strength to support her family.

UNDETECTABLE, Directed by Laura O’Grady

UNDETECTABLE is a deep dive into the hysteria, misinformation, stigma and prejudice that has surrounded the HIV/AIDS epidemic since the early ’80s. Through the eyes of current front-line workers and tireless activists, the film exposes how early societal prejudice is directly linked to today’s rising infection rates.

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