Drinkwater directed by Stephen Campanelli
Drinkwater directed by Stephen Campanelli

Calgary International Film Festival announced its exciting 2021 lineup of over 175 films set to screen both online and in-cinema in Downtown Calgary from September 23 to October 3, 2021.

“There’s an overall sense of optimism and re-emergence in this year’s lineup that feels very refreshing and exciting,” said Brian Owens, CIFF’s Artistic Director. “After what we’ve been through globally in the past couple of years, it has very much inspired the coming of age story and brought forward a youthful energy and lineup. There are a lot of strong titles and themes and our mandate to showcase diversity is at an all-time-high this year, not only with the countries being represented, but also in the diversity of story and the filmmakers creating these movies.”

Here are a few highlights from this year’s festival:


DRINKWATER, Directed by Stephen Campanelli (Canada)

Drinkwater is a quirky homage to 80’s teen coming-of-age films about friendship, parental mishaps, and trying your best to survive high school. Although the film is set in 2020, it harks back to simpler times and captures the nostalgia of 80’s small-town Canada.

DRIVE MY CAR, Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Japan)

An aging widowed actor seeks a chauffeur. The actor turns to his go-to mechanic who ends up recommending him to a 20-year-old girl. Despite their initial misgivings, a very special relationship develops between the two.

FLEE, Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Denmark/France/Sweden/Norway)

Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, FLEE is the story of an Afghan refugee who agrees to tell his tale of persecution and escape on the condition that his identity not be revealed. In order to fulfill this wish, filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen utilizes striking animation to not only protect the man’s identity but also to enhance the story.

THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN, Directed by Will Sharpe (United Kingdom)

The extraordinary true story of eccentric British artist Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose playful, sometimes even psychedelic pictures helped to transform the public’s perception of cats forever.

JULIA, Directed by Julie Cohen & Betsy West (United States)

Following their Oscar-nominated portrait of RBG, co-directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen turn their sights on another legendary woman in JULIA, the cookbook author and television superstar who changed the way Americans think about food, television, and even about women.

LEAVING PARADISE, Directed by Ofer Freiman (Israel/Brazil)

Cleo dreamed of his family living together in a communal setting, but when they discover a surprising heritage, his dream is imperilled.

MASS, Directed by Fran Kranz (United States)

Taking place almost entirely in one room, MASS sees 4 characters – connected through an act of inexplicable violence – brought together to talk.

MLUNGU WAM, Directed by Jenna Cato Bass (South Africa)

Equal parts psychological thriller and social commentary, director Jenna Cato Bass MLUNGU WAM confronts the legacies of apartheid and domestic servitude.

NIGHT RAIDERS, Directed by Danis Goulet (Canada/New Zealand)

The year is 2043. A military occupation controls disenfranchised cities in post-war North America. Children are property of the State. A desperate Cree woman, Niska, (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN, BLOOD QUANTUM) joins an underground band of vigilantes to infiltrate a State children’s academy and get her daughter, Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart), back.

OFFICIAL COMPETITION, Directed by Mariano Cohn & Gastón Duprat (Spain/Argentina)

Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Oscar Martínez lead the way in this stone-cold satire about the movie-making process.

THE POWER OF THE DOG, Directed by Jane Campion (Australia/New Zealand)

Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons headline Jane Campion’s latest – a western based on the novel by Thomas Savage.

THE RESCUE, Directed by Jimmy Chin & Chai Vasarhelyi ((United States/United Kingdom)

Oscar-winning directors E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (FREE SOLO, MERU) capture the headline-making rescue of a Thai soccer team trapped in a cave for 16 days.


CODED, Directed by Ryan White (Part of Shorts: Get Up, Stand Up)

J.C. Leyendecker was one of the most prominent artists of his time, but his story is largely forgotten. Forced to keep his sexuality a secret, his coded imagery spoke directly to the gay community and laid the foundation for LGBTQ representation in advertising today.

DON’T GO TELLIN’ YOUR MOMMA, Directed by Topaz Jones & rubberband (Part of Shorts: Keep on Moving)

26 vignettes representing The Black ABCs by American artist Topaz Jones.

WE GOT DIVORCED, Directed by Natalie Metcalfe & Danny Nash (Part of Shorts: Baby We’ve Got a Date)

A pair of disgruntled ex-partners are invited to their mutual friends’ place for a big announcement and are happily surprised with the reveal.

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