The Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) is kind of like the little brother to Canada's largest film festival, held in Toronto. We don't get many of the biggest films, but we do get some of them, and many of the smaller ones wind up making their Canadian debuts here instead of at TIFF. However, big names aren't always indicative of quality - if you watch a Hollywood film in the months of January and February, you already know this - so getting to see smaller-name films isn't necessarily a bad thing. Today, we're going to take a look at four films from CIFF that have a good chance of garnering awards consideration at all of the big awards shows in the coming months.
Son of Saul
Directed by László Nemes. Produced by Gábor Sipos and Gábor Rajna. Written by László Nemes and Clara Royer. Release date: December 18, 2015.
Son of Saul is one of the most difficult movies you'll be able to watch this year. It's also one of the most powerful. Set in Auschwitz in 1944, a prisoner, Saul (Géza Röhrig), finds the body of a boy whom he decides to claim as his son. Almost all of the rest of the movie revolves around Saul trying to figure out a way to give his "son" a proper sendoff, including both finding a rabbi and trying to figure out a time and place to bury the body.
You can probably already see why this wouldn't be an easy watch, and likely also why it would be a powerful one. This is a movie about a man trying to grasp on to one last shred of humanity, represented by his quest to get this boy the peace he deserves. We see him suffer both physical and emotional turmoil, which the film presents to us in an uncompromising fashion. It doesn't overly dramatize things like many Holocaust dramas, though; it feels far more real and, as a result, a lot more horrifying.
One of the most interesting things about Son of Saul is the way that it was shot. The majority of the film features close-up shots of the face of Géza Röhrig. There's a gas chamber scene early on, for example, which focuses not on any of the carnage surrounding Saul, but on Saul himself. That puts a tremendous burden on Röhrig, and he pulls it off. He puts on one of the performances of the year. You want to see him accomplish his goal, but you're honestly not sure that he will. The film captivates, even if it does, eventually, grow a little tiresome and repetitive.
Potential Award Nominations: Best Foreign Film, Best Actor (Géza Röhrig), Best Picture.