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Quarantine International Film Festival goes live and scary at the Globe for Halloween-focused third edition


“Something wicked this way comes.”

It’s one of the most famous lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and probably doesn’t often appear in a film alongside a cowboy hat.

But those were the vague requirements that filmmakers around the globe had to follow when putting together shorts for the third edition of the Quarantine Film Festival, a Calgary-based event that has gained global traction since launching at the end of March during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local filmmakers and actors Siobhan Cooney and Spencer Streichert initially founded the festival as a way to help fellow auteurs battle boredom during self-isolation. Over two online competitions, one held in April and another in late June,  the event has gained international attention and hundreds of submissions from dozens of countries.

The latest edition, and its first live event, will be held Oct. 30 at the Globe Cinema. This time around, the focus is on horror. Filmmakers were required to use both a cowboy hat as a prop and include that ominous snippet of dialogue from the Bard, famously spoken by a potion-brewing witch in Macbeth.

“We decided to do the Halloween horror challenge because we figured that would be a way to interest people to come to the festival and also raise a lot of interest in filmmakers to create something specifically for Halloween,” says Streichert. “Everybody loves a scary movie.”

Still, as with past competitions, the 10 finalists are all over the map in tone and style. A sampling sent to Postmedia includes Vancouver filmmaker Borris Biliac’s Sleepy Scratchy, based around an Edgar Allan Poe-like original poem and a loose narrative. Hear the Nothing, by Calgary filmmakers Jeremy Martin and Jessie Bigler, is a study in silence and madness that clocks in at less than four minutes. The Ghost, by Los Angeles filmmakers Charlene deGuzman and Josh Kaplan, is a dark comedy about the too-honest-for-his-own-good spirit of a dead and deadbeat boyfriend.

Cooney and Streichert received just over 100 submissions from 24 countries for the Halloween challenge, which is much fewer than past editions. This is likely because there was a submission fee for the first time, which tends to limit the numbers but also boosts the quality of films in competition. A best-of-fest prize, chosen by the Globe audience on Friday, will come with $100 and a subscription to the horror streaming service Shudder.

As a bonus, those who attend on Friday will also get to see the Calgary premiere of A Good Night Sleeps, a short film directed by Ximena Rios, starring Cooney, written by University of Calgary drama instructor Michael Czuba and produced by Cooney and Streichert.

The “proof of concept” short, which Cooney and Streichert hope to use to gain interest in a feature-length version, is not a horror movie, but a dark, meditative character study about grief. It has already screened and won awards at festivals around the world, including a jury prize at the Lake View International Film Festival in India and best short at the Eurasia Film Festival.

This is the first time that the Quarantine Film Festival will be held in a theatre. Seating will be limited to 70 people at the Globe Cinema.

“We are taking every precaution we can with the live screening,” Cooney says. “There’s all the regular COVID precautions but we are also assigning the seating so there will be lots of social distancing. We are doing everything we can to make it a safe event.”

The Halloween Horror Challenge will take place at the Globe Cinema on Oct. 30 at 9 p.m. The 10 finalists will be uploaded to the Quarantine International Film Festival YouTube Channel on Oct. 31 at 6 p.m.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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