The audience at the Calgary International Film Festival
The audience enjoys a screening at the Calgary International Film Festival | Photo: Courtesy of the Calgary International Film Festival

Calgary International Film Festival

Milestone lineup perfect for film fanatics or casual viewers

Amy Jo Espetveidt

  • Location Various Venues 
  • Price Prices Vary
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The year was 2000 and the first Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) was attended by 8,000 people over six days.

Now, 20 years later, the festival showcases over 200 of the most compelling films of the year from Canada and 54 other countries. This 12-day lineup, includes gala events, screenings, special presentations, and so much more!

CIFF has become the largest film festival in Alberta and the sixth largest in Canada—it’s well worth hitting up. The festival also offers an impressive Behind the Screen series that even includes a conversation with Jason Reitman.

So, what’s on our must-see list? Here are our top picks for this year’s festival:

The Song of Names

September 18, 2019, 7:30pm
Jack Singer Concert Hall, Arts Commons (205 8th Ave. SE)

Opening the festival on a high note, don’t miss François Girard’s musical epic, The Song of Names. Starring Tim Roth and Clive Owen, the film is scored by renowned Oscar-winning Canadian composer Howard Shore. Girard is even expected to be in attendance for this Alberta premiere.


September 19, 2019, 7:00pm
Globe Cinema (617 8th Ave. SW)
$13 – $15

A throwback to CIFF’s 2000 Opening Gala, a group of young employees bet a month’s salary on who can last the longest without going outside by using Calgary’s +15 system. Shown in 35mm—how it was originally intended to be enjoyed—director Gary Burns, producer George Baptist, production designer, actor Donna Brunsdale, and cinematographer Patrick McLaughlin will all be in attendance.

Blood Quantum

September 23 & 29, 2019
Various venues
$13 – $15

An infectious zombie outbreak begins to sweep the world but the Indigenous inhabitants of a Mi’gmaq reserve are strangely immune. This Alberta premiere is part of the Late Night series and is sure to be a cult-hit.

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band

September 25, 2019, 6:30 & 9:00pm
Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre (850 4th St. SE)
$17 – $25

This Centrepiece Gala kicks off the Music on Screen series. Director Daniel Roher and Executive Producers Martin Scorsese, Brian Glazer, and Ron Howard team up to bring this career-spanning documentary about Canada’s own Robbie Robertson to the screen. Due to its overwhelming demand, an encore screening takes place later that night.

Brokeback Mountain

September 26, 2019, 4:00pm
Central Library (800 3rd St. SE)
Free admission, registration required

Set against the sweeping vistas of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, this film tells the story of two young men—a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy—who unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection. This free retrospective screening is part of the Alberta-Made Retro Cinema series.

Closing Gala

September 28, 2019, 7:00 & 7:30pm
Globe Cinema (617 8th Ave. SW)
$17 – $35

For the first time ever, two films are part of the festival’s Closing Gala. Choose between Eddie Murphy’s return to the screen in Dolemite Is My Name and Guest of Honour from famed Canadian director Atom Egoyan. There’s even an epic block party to check out with special pop-ups and industry guests in attendance.

The 20th annual Calgary International Film Festival runs September 18 to 29, 2019 and the full schedule can be found at