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Age-positive film festival a natural fit for Seniors' Week

Senior's Week (June 7-13, 2021) is a chance for Albertans to show appreciation for the contributions seniors make to all our lives.

Towns and villages across the province have scheduled events for Seniors' Week; everything from free treats in Olds, and Celebrate A Senior (random acts of kindness) in Taber, to province-wide webinars on finances, driving and aging in place.

One not-to-miss feature of the week is the annual THIRD ACTion Film Festival (online June 11-13). With an aim to create an 'age positive culture shift', festival executive producer Mitzi Murray says this year's offering of 22 short and full-length Canadian and international films are mostly upbeat in nature, allowing viewers to join in to the live Q and A discussion sessions following each recast screening.

"If the weather is nice, we're encouraging people to watch the films 'Al Fresco'. Take your tablet or laptop outside with your popcorn or glass of wine and enjoy some pure entertainment, or thought-provoking discussion on issues affecting those in their third act," said Murray. "Even though the festival is online again this year, we still want it to be a special event for viewers. The pandemic has been good in one way, turning our Calgary festival into an Alberta festival, and we want viewers across the province to pick a film that appeals, dim the 'theatre' lights and enjoy."

Festival highlights include marquee screenings of The Long Today, following a Saskatchewan filmmaker and his 70-year-old dad on a canoe trip, and Ladies of Steel, which Murray describes as a comedy about three older sisters helping one sister who may or may not have killed her husband. "There's hijinks, but some soul-searching too," said Murray. "With our films, we're being as positive as possible while not ignoring the realities that life can throw at us in our third act."

Murray points to When Tomatoes Met Wagner, about a small town in Greece that encourages its tomatoes to grow by playing classical music, as an example. Another called The Frenchy, follows an 82-year-old inspirational Frenchman who mountain bikes, skis and embodies resiliency. The U.S. film is winner of this year's Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging's Resiliency in Aging Award.

The 'You Got A Friend In Me' recast screening focuses on dementia and caregiving, addresses important issues around dementia and will feature four speakers at the post-show Q and A: filmmakers and advocates alike.

Using the moniker "Projecting Possibilities", Murray says the film festival is critical in battling the under-representation of older adults and aging in mass media.

"Because we don't see ourselves in the media we consume, we start to believe we don't matter. And what media is out there is fraught with negative stereotyping and the medicalization of aging; leading audiences to believe aging is nothing but decline and frailty."

A film festival can be a perfect place for advocacy storytelling, Murray explains, effectively communicating a message to the audience, and encouraging people to act. To that end, THIRD ACTion has continued to grow outside of festival dates with online watch parties and discussions. "Even after the pandemic, we have no plans to drop the online component of the festival. And we've already started looking for films to screen this fall."

Tickets are $12.50 per individual session, or a festival pass is available for all 9 screenings at 20 per cent off. Attendees get a personal link in a Showpass confirmation email.

See THIRDACTionFilmFest.ca for tickets and film information.