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The Salon in the News

Salon #1

The Halifax Commoner
Local filmmaker Tim Tracey struggles to understand why his films receive no recognition from the Atlantic Film Festival

Local filmmaker Tim Tracey struggles to understand why his films receive no recognition from the Atlantic Film Festival.

Laura MacKenzie

The Atlantic Film Festival is an ideal venue for many Halifax filmmakers, but for some, it is a source of frustration.

Joel MacLeod submitted his first film to the festival this year, and got a public screening and support for his next project. Timothy Barron Tracey has submitted seven films over the years, but has never been accepted.

The festival, started in 1980, originally focused on Atlantic work and developed into an international festival. Lia Rinaldo, the festival director, says that Atlantic films are still the festival’s “heart and soul.”

Rinaldo says the festival received 1,500 submissions this year and accepted 235 films. Eight feature films and more than 100 short films were from the East coast, but competition is stiff for local filmmakers.

MacLeod’s film GhostVase is a science fiction parody.

MacLeod posts much of his work, including the trailer for GhostVase, on YouTube. Some of his school project films were shown at NSCAD University screenings, but the audiences were mostly friends and family. The festival was his first chance to get a wider live audience.

MacLeod says the biggest challenge was getting the right set and props. He and his crew spent their Christmas break “having craft-making parties” to outfit the campy film.

Their work paid off. MacLeod and Adam Rafuse shared the festival award for Best Art Direction. MacLeod says he was honoured to win an award for an element of the film they put so much effort into.

Power Post Production gave MacLeod free services for his next project. He says he is planning to collaborate with Joel MacKenzie and Dayle Hendrix. They’ll be pooling their resources; MacKenzie won Best Atlantic Short for Super Science, and was awarded free film stock from Kodak.

Tracey has been making films since age 10. He teaches at the Centre for Arts Tapes, freelances as a camera operator and editor, and is the broadcast television technician at the University of King’ College School of Journalism. He also runs his own film company, Machine Productions.

Tracey thought this could be the year for him and his film crew. He submitted three films, each with different genres and lengths. One was his first completed feature film, Grit Town.

“I was surprised that I didn’t get one out of three. I figured I was hitting a wide spectrum,“ said Tracey.

Tracey says there are lots of possible reasons why his work isn’t getting in.  An international festival only has so much space for local work, and Halifax has lots of filmmakers.

Tracey also self-funds all his work and he says that could put him at a disadvantage. Films supported by governments or groups like the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative get screened by their sponsors and might get more consideration.

Rinaldo says the programmers keep an open mind when they look at submissions. It takes about three months to go through everything, with two intensive weeks devoted to looking at the submissions from Atlantic Canada.

Rinaldo admits that, like most festivals, they don’t watch every film all the way through. She says it isn’t practical – they would still be going through films now if they did that.

She adds that involvement in certain programs does not guarantee a spot in the festival.

“The thing is that a wonderful film can come out of nowhere.“

She says the programmers reject many films they think are good. Some films don’t fit the rest of the lineup, and the economic downturn forced the festival to cut back screening time.

“It forces you to make harder decisions.”

Next year will be the 10th anniversary for the Salon des Refuses Atlantique, a festival for films rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival. The “head reject” Steven James May, says there are bound to be good submissions that don’t fit the aesthetic of the festival. But he’s not “anti-AFF” and is glad they show international work as well.

Tracey’s short animation, Busted Plastic, was screened last week on Oct. 17 at Halifax’s Nocturne art festival. He is also optimistic about getting into another festival, because it
showcases only self-funded films.

Tracey says it’s hard to not get frustrated after so many rejections. He just paid $250 to apply to another festival, and it adds up.

“It definitely makes it harder when it’s your own money on the line.”

Tracey had tickets for the festival this year, but didn’t get to go.  He became too busy working on one of his own movies, an action comedy called The Canadian Ninja.

He says it’s great to have a festival that brings international films to Halifax. He just thinks the local film scene needs more development; more independent screenings and a festival devoted to local work.

“Maybe in the winter,” he says, “when there’s nothing else to do.”


The refused

Head reject Steven James May revels in the spirit

of the Salon des Refusés Atlantique.

Someone once insinuated that I started

the Salon des Refusés Atlantique so that

I could screen my own Atlantic Film Festival


  Not so. I can’t imagine anything lamer.

I’ve rented out The Oxford theatre to

screen my work before, but this is something

totally different—the Salon des

Refusés Atlantique isn’t about me. It isn’t

even really about the individual filmmakers

whose works screen as part of the gathering

each September at the Khyber on Barrington Street.

    The Salon des Refusés Atlantique is

about the faceless filmmaking majority. The

original plan was to have everyone at the

first Salon in 2001 sport bandanas or black

balaclavas, a la Subcomandante Marcos, but

then September 11th happened. I was worried

that the cops might freak out by seeing

people running around with masks on their

faces a mere two days after 9/11, so we

scrapped the face coverings.

  The Atlantic Film Festival, like most

competitive festivals, receives way more

submissions than they could ever possibly

screen. How then do they decide which

ones to pick? A jury. But first of all, before

that, the (hardworking and underpaid) AFF

staff literally scours the globe to find films

that are hits at other festivals and then

bring them back to show in Halifax. Once

that is done, they gather a selection of

jury folk who are assigned the momentous

task of watching all the AFF submissions.

Refused cinema is unavoidable.

Enter the Salon des Refusés Atlantique.

  I first learned about the tradition of

the Salon des Refusés during the 2000 Toronto

International Film Festival. I somehow

scored TIFF media passes for myself and my

“cameraman” so we could conduct interviews

for my documentary, The Festival is

Gravy. It was then that I learned of a one night

screening that the film cooperative in

Toronto, LIFT, held each year to screen films

rejected by TIFF. Provided filmmakers could

prove that they had indeed been rejected by

TIFF, their films would be considered for the

Salon. I also learned that the tradition of

the Salon des Refusés dated back to 1860s

France (hence the French name).

  By 2001, I had moved back to my second

home of Halifax to pursue my dream

of becoming a documentary

filmmaker. Key to the

success of my master plan

was to get The Festival

is Gravy into the AFF.

Back then, when you were

rejected, you received an

actual physical letter sent

to your residence. The

Festival is Gravy, so the

story goes, was rejected

by the AFF. I didn’t take

it very well. Whether it’s

being refused by the local

elite T-ball team at age

eight, or being dumped by a lover over the

telephone at age 28, being left behind is

always hard to take. And it’s extremely hard

to take when it involves a film that you’ve

put your time, energy and money into.

I guess I must have been better at

channeling my heartache back in 2001 because

my immediate response to having my

film rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival

was to start planning the Salon des Refusés

Atlantique. Salon Atlantique is unique in

that, unlike other Salons, there is no curating

of submissions. The first time a film is

seen by the Salon is when it screens to the


  Absurd? Perhaps. The goal, however,

is to provide a balance to competitive,

subjective film festivals. The Salon des

Refusés Atlantique, unlike even the Salon in

Toronto that features curated TIFF rejects,

is entirely objective (films are selected by

lottery and screened in the order selected),

non-competitive (no prizes) and

inclusive (AFF-rejected films of any genre

and of any length are eligible, as are films

rejected from any year of the AFF).

  It’s hard to believe, but 2010 will mark the

10th anniversary of the

Salon des Refusés Atlantique.

Seeing that it’s a

nice round number, we’re

gonna kick things up a

notch. As such, we could

use your help. If you’re a

filmmaker who has ever

had any of your films rejected

by the AFF since its

very first year, we encourage

you to apply to the

Salon. (It would also be

cool to see a copy of a AFF rejection letter

from, say, 1984.)

Until then, Salon des Refusés Atlantique

2009 will present a crop of seven

proud AFF rejects on Saturday, September

19, at the legendary Khyber building, 1588

Barrington Street in Halifax. Chance has

provided the Salon this year with an all-

Nova Scotian line-up of refused cinema

from various genres. The show starts at

7pm. See you there.

     Nous sommes le pouvoir.

Visit, or Twitter

@salonatlantique for the latest.

Salon des Refuse unspools at Khyber

The Chronicle Herald
Wed. Sep 10/08
Before Halifax filmgoers celebrate the best of the fest, there’s the best of the rest, as the eighth annual Salon des Refuses presents a program of projects rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival.
Taking place tonight at the Khyber Building at 7 p.m., the Salon will feature an evening of randomly selected films chosen by picking AFF rejection letters out of a hat.
Tonight’s lineup includes Candace Mooers’ Halifax comedy short No Yetis Allowed, director Patrick Blackie’s experimental horror short Uncertainty, the social drama My Friend Susan about a young woman who discovers she’s schizophrenic, and two shorts by Williamswood’s John A. Baker: the comedy Majinx about a bumbling magician and the fictional docudrama A Flashing Life.
Longer pieces include Greg Hemmings’ Melting Lands, a documentary about the affects of global warming on a northern Canadian community; A Song for the Home Front by Fredericton director Jon Collicott, about a farmer whose life changes when he finds his grandfather’s long lost guitar in the waning days of the Second World War; and the gay horror romance They Only Come Out at Night, by Fredericton’s Glendon McKinney.
Admission is $6, restricted to those 19 and over. Visit for more information.

The Coast
The Dope Show
Arts news by Sue Carter Flinn
Win at the Salon des Refusés
August 11, 2008
If, for some reason, the Atlantic Film Festival jury rejected your movie about the cannibalistic mime and his talking iguana (they just didn't get your vision or the homage to 1970s post-classic noir), there's still a chance to invite your mom to a screening: the eighth annual Salon des Refusés, scheduled for September 10, a tradition that goes back to Napoleon's time. All you need to do is follow these three easy steps: 1. Get rejected by the AFF. 2. E-mail your rejection letter, along with a completed Salon application form (available at, to salonatlantique(at)hotmail(dot)com by August 29 at 5pm. 3. Hope your film is randomly selected to screen. The Salon doesn't worry about pesky details like juries, you're counting on the luck of the universe in hopes they randomly pick your rejection letter. 

Daily News, September 14, 2007
"Napoleon would've thought these rejects were dynamite"
There is one rule when it comes to the Salon des Refuses Atlantique - you need a rejection letter from the Atlantic Film Festival.
"People seem to dig it," Steven James May said. He is the organizer of the Salon, which takes place tomorrow night at the Khyber Club.  It is an opportunity for filmmakers who don't get into the AFF to screen their works.
"Certainly, I think the filmmakers like it," he said about the event, which is now in its seventh year. "They are feeling upset about not getting into the Atlantic Film Festival, and are feeling sad and rejected, and then all of a sudden they get word the film will be playing in Halifax."
May named the event after the Salon des Refuses that Napoleon III created in the 1800s to provide a venue for painters refused by mainstream galleries because their art was seen as too progressive.
Unlike the AFF, where a committee selects the works which will be shown, the Salon's selection process is usually about the luck of the draw.
With only five films submitting their rejection letters for this year's Salon, all are being screened.
Here is a look at the line up:
- Bread for the Journey: This drama, directed by Halifax's Convivial Daze and produced by Maynard Harris, is about a group of nuns and a time-travelling bread recipe.
- PHONE WHORES: A comedy by Truro's Gary Caven and Darrell Sampson about an out-of-work guy who resorts to taking a call-centre job.
- TETAS DE MUERTE: A robotploitation film set in the future, where artificial-intelligence units rely on human blood as a source of fuel.
- HOW I GOT BUSTED: A documentary where Canadians talk openly about their use of marijuana and how they've been arrested for growing, buying or using it.
- BETWEEN THE BURIES AND ME: Halifax's Eric Duncan produced and directed this horror film about university students who go to an isolated island in the middle of Halifax Harbour and are killed one by one.

- WHAT: Salon des Refuses Atlantique 2007
- WHERE: The Khyber Club
- WHEN: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

September 06, 2007  The Coast
A trip to the Salon
Tara Thorne knows the dopes and the shows.
by Tara Thorne 
Film festival season is upon us as of this week, but the Atlantic Film Festival is not the only game in town. The Salon des Refuses, the annual one-night festival of AFF rejectees, has announced its selected-by-lottery line-up.
The all-Atlantic slate of films includes: Bread for the Journey, "a 30-year journey in the lives of a group of nuns revolving around a recipe as it travels through time" by Convival Daze; Phone Whores, a call centre comedy by Truro director Daniel Gaynor, whose hilarious Grindhouse contest entry Tetas de Muerte (yes, Tits of Death) will also screen; Between the Buried and Me, a horror feature from Eric Duncan about a weekend camping trip gone awry and How I Got Busted, by New Brunswick documentarian Connell Smith. We happened to see a rough cut in St. Andrews, NB in March, and it's a funny and heartbreaking account of four disparate North Americans who got nailed for pot possession and how the busts affected their lives.
The Salon begins at 7pm on September 15 at the Khyber Club (which, on an unrelated note, HRM, we would love to see go the route of the Marquee and re-open permanently). Tickets are $6.

The Coast, August 2, 2007
by Tara Thorne 
The refused unite
The first week of August always finds local filmmakers on edge as they wait for the programming team at the Atlantic Film Festival to start sending out the acceptance and rejection letters. If you get the latter—it happens! For all kinds of reasons! Chin up!—there's still a chance your film can be screened in Halifax during the festival when all those bigwigs are in town.
The seventh annual Salon des Refusés Atlantique has released its yearly call to the rejected—send in your letter (and your movie, duh)  and you will be entered into a lottery (note: do not send your movie with your letter). Letters will be drawn at random to compose the one-day Salon program at the Khyber Club on Saturday, September 15.
For more info, keep an eye on
Film fest, schilm fest. Bring on the Salon des Refusés
Lezlie Lowe
September 13, 2006
Look – I’m not saying the 26th annual Atlantic Film Festival isn’t worth your time. Heck, I’d hock my jewels to get tickets if I had to. But you know all about it already – it runs September 14 through 23, 2006 at venues around Halifax, Nova Scotia and features a collection of 223 films from around the region and around the world. And it’s getting press coverage up the wazoo. But the Salon des Refusés Atlantique? Now that’s another story.

The Salon – taking place Wednesday, September 13, 2006 in the main floor club at the Khyber Centre for the Arts – is a handful and a half of films rejected from the Atlantic Film Festival.

This is the place where the films that would otherwise go unseen by regular film fest goers get their due. Call it a chance to see the films too hot, too gross, or too simple to make it to the fest. Call it a chance to critique the judging skills of the Atlantic Film Fest juries. Call it a good night out. It is. That’s clear - this is the sixth annual year for this event.
The process for getting a film into the salon is simple:

Step 1: Get rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival.

Step 2: Submit your rejection letter and an application to the Salon des Refusés Atlantique.

Step 3: Cross your fingers.

The films included are chosen by random draw. So no one has to worry about having rejection heaped upon rejection. Phew.

In case you were wondering, the concept of the Salon des Refusés goes back to 19th century salon hangings in Paris.

Traditionally, salon acceptance gave artists the nod of the Académie des beaux-arts and, by extension, the approval of the royal court and wealthy patrons who might buy their art. If you were in, you were in. If you were out, you were way way out.

But then the first Salon des Refusés came along in 1863. Artists whose work didn’t fit the tight mould of the Académie des beaux-arts – such as, notably, Renoir, Monet and Manet – got the chance to show their work. And the rest is, literally, history.

On the bill for this year’s Salon des Refusés Atlantique is Halifax director Mirco Chen’s The Birth of Serfs, Winnipeger Vanessa Loewen’s Morning Radio, Haligonian Megan Wennberg’s My name is, documentary film Carline-A Mother's Convictions by Convivial Daze and Los Angeles-based director Crystal Us’s An Open Door.

The Salon des Refusés Atlantique 2006 takes place September 13, 2006 in the main floor club at the Khyber Centre for the Arts. Screenings run from 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM. Admission is limited to those 19 and over and costs $6.

For more information visit And for more information on the 26th annual Atlantic Film Festival (September 14 through 23, 2006), visit
© Lezlie Lowe 2006

The Daily News
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Films get a second chance
Salon des Refuses welcomes films rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival
By Dean Lisk
The Daily News
FILM - Some of the films rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival will get a big screen debut after all.
"As an artist, - filmmaker, specifically - you get pretty used to rejection," said Steven James May, who is holding a Salon des Refuses Atlantique at the Khyber Club tomorrow night.
Now in its fifth (sixth actually, SJM) year, the one-night film festival is a feel-good chance for people rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival to still have their movies screened.
Five films will be shown at tomorrow's screening, including three works by Halifax directors. They are Mirco Chen's horror The Birth of Serfs, Convivial Daze's documentary Carline - A Mother's Convictions, and Megan Wennberg's comedy My Name Is?
Also being show are the drama Morning Radio, by Winnipeg director Vanessa Loewen, and the drama An Open Door, by Los Angeles director Crystal Us.
Unlike the Atlantic Film Festival, where a committee selects the works which will be shown, the Salon's selection process is all about the luck of the draw.
"Every application is assigned a number, and I write each number on an ibuprofen tablet," said May. "I put that in a jar, and the first one I pull out is the first one I screen. I do it until I have a couple hours of programming."
All you need you need to enter the salon is a film and a festival rejection letter.
The salon has been in existence since 2001 - when May received his first rejection letter from the Atlantic Film Festival.
He named the event after the Salon des Refuses that Napoleon III created in the 1800s to provide a venue for painters refused by mainstream galleries because their art was seen as too progressive.
"Those dudes turned out to be the impressionists, like Renoir, Monet," said May.
Similar salons have since popped up in all areas of art, from photography to film and music.
"I've heard there are people that don't like the salon, but nobody has said anything to my face," said May. "Some people might not like the films, but I don't care if they are good or bad, I just put them out there

September 6, 2006
The Coast
All-North American rejects
Last week we told those passed over by the Atlantic Film Festival to hurry your asses up and apply for the Salon des Refuses, the sixth annual screening of AFF-rejected shorts. This week we've got the line-up for you. For a mere six bucks you can check out the following films from all over North America: Vanessa Loewen's Morning Radio, Crystal's An Open Door with Haligonian efforts including Micro Chen's horror film The Birth of Serfs, Convivial Daze's Carline: A Mother's Convictions, a documentary about Carline VandenElsen, and the comedy My Name Is by The Coast's own Megan Wennberg.
The screening begins at 7pm on September 13 at the Khyber Club, 1588 Barrington. Visit for more.
-Tara Thorne
August 31, 2006
The Coast
Here and there
August 31 is your last day to apply to the Salon des Refuses Atlantique, the place where filmmakers rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival get to screen their works. To apply, hit and send an electronic application, along with your AFF rejection letter, to the Salon. The films will be randomly selected from all entries and screened on September 13 at a location we'll confirm next week.
-Tara Thorne

August 23, 2006
The Chronicle Herald
Salon des Refusés Atlantique wants films

Filmmakers whose latest masterpieces have been turned down by the Atlantic Film Festival have a second chance at finding an audience thanks to the Salon des Refusés Atlantique which takes place on Sept. 13.

Any piece that’s been given a pass by the AFF is eligible, dating back to the festival’s very first year. The submission deadline is Aug. 31 at 5 p.m.

The Salon was inspired by its namesake established in 1863 by Napoleon III for artists kept out of official exhibits, like Renoir, Monet and Manet.

There is no official selection of work screened at the Salon des Refusés Atlantique; instead, it is programmed by randomly drawing submitted Atlantic Film Festival rejection letters from a lottery. The pile of letters drawn at the end of the day will be the works to be screened at the Salon.

To apply, get a Salon application form from and e-mail it and your Atlantic Film Festival rejection letter to salonatlantique(at)hotmail(dot)com.

CBC Radio One
Alternative event screens rejects from Atlantic film fest
Thu, 16 Sep 2004 13:01:20 EDT
CBC Arts
 HALIFAX - A Halifax man who once had a film rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival has created an event to showcase the work of others like him.
Steven James May founded the Salon des Refusés Atlantique, which takes place Thursday, in 2001, after his independent documentary The Festival is Gravy was turned down by the Atlantic and other film festivals.
"I think one should embrace their being a reject," May told CBC News.
"If you're rejected and you're not fitting into the popular idea of 'what is of value' and 'what is acceptable in life,' I think that's good because you're kind of challenging people and their opinions," said May. "I think that's where innovation comes from."
May – the self-described "head reject" – said his annual event was inspired by the original Salon des Refusés, which took place in Paris in 1863. In that case, a group of Realist and Impressionist artists was rejected from the official exhibition at the French Academy of Art, and managed to persuade Napoleon III to give them their own show.
Though some of the works at that exhibition may indeed have been of poor quality, it also included at least two influential pieces: Édouard Manet's Déjeuner sur l'Herbe and James McNeill Whistler's The White Girl.
May's only requirement for filmmakers is that all submissions first be turned down by the Atlantic Film Festival, which opens Friday. Those rebuffed can then send their rejection letters as part of their application to the Salon.
While other film festivals make their selections through a jury process, the Salon "programs" its lineup by making a random draw from all the submissions.
This year, the seven films to be screened range from a political satire about the Sydney Tar Ponds to a "hallucinogenic comedy" from Spain.


The Coast. September 9-15, 2004
Respect for rejects

In 1737 the French Academy created the Salon, an annual artwork exhibit chosen by jury and held at the Salon d’Apollon of the Louvre. Known for its conservative, established tastes, the Salon was the only exhibit of its kind until disgruntled artists convinced Emperor Napoleon III to create a new exhibition in 1863. Artists such as Edouard Manet and James McNeill Whistler displayed their work at the first Salon des Refuses, and other famed artists such as Renoir and Monet would follow.

Well, if the Altantic Film Festival is the French Academy, then Steven James May must be Napoleon III. May is the creator of the Salon des Refuses Atlantique, a one night film festival taking place at the Khyber Club September 16 that showcases some of the AFF’s rejected works. “It seems like when people get rejected they turn to us first,” says May, who is back for his fourth turn at Refuses. “It makes rejection as bearable as possible, and it’s a good base for discussion.”

This year’s Salon features seven films from Canada, the US and Spain, with subjects ranging from mystery boxes to the Sydney tar ponds. All films were randomly drawn for screening, and James hasn’t watched any of them.

“I never check out the films,” explains May. “We’re providing balance to competitive festivals like the Atlantic Film Festival. It’s purely a lottery and everyone is on the same playing field, which is nice.” And while this experiment in fair play could lead to sitting through a few wretched films, May isn’t losing any sleep over it. “It’s hair-raising but you have to trust filmmakers. That’s part of the excitement and that’s why people come out.”

The Coast   August 19-26, 2004
Scene and Heard
Jane of Arts
Everybody gets a festival festival

Attention all Atlantic Film Festival rejects: the 4th annual Salon des Refuses Atlantic wants your tapes! Go to, fill out an application and send in your rejection letter, and get a chance to show your film at the Khyber Club on September 16 (it’s a draw, so don’t worry about getting rejected twice). Deadline is August 31.

The Coast, September 11-18, 2003.


The daily shows
176 Films in eight days? Not likely. Tara Thorne helps you get through the Atlantic film festival one day at a time.


Salon des refuses Atlantique

The Salon, now in its third year, has two application requirements: your movie and your rejection letter from the Atlantic Film Festival. "I think it's reaching it's goal", says founder Steven James May, "which is to provide balance to mainstream competitive festivals". The line-up of randomly selected films is seven titles long. Ice Dream is about hockey; there's some fancy tango dancin in Rendezvous; you've always heard that Love is Blind; Through the Tempered Glass is an Alice in Wonderland for today; Omnivac is about gardening and heroes; Pour lEternité is a drama directed by Paul Verhoeven (who is not the guy who directed Basic Instinct) and Beyond Ursa Major shows the different stages of a sculpture installation.

May started the Salon after being rejected from the AFF himself; this year, his documentary The Nevermind Year will screen at the festival on September 18. He set out to make a movie during his 27th year, believing that, like his hero Kurt Cobain, he would not make it to age 28. He was wrong, and somewhere during filming, the project turned away from a Cobain homage and into a personal introspective. He had 80 hours of footage and with the help of editor Carrie Mackenzie cut it down to 46 minutes. May is aware of the irony of his situation. "I've never gotten into anything before", he muses. "I'm just taking it as it comes".

7:30pm, The Khyber Club, 1588 Barrington, $5.

The Coast, September 4-11, 2003

August 7, 2003

Daily News, HFX

November, 2002

Saturday Night Magazine, November 2002

September 23, 2002
DAILY NEWS: 22nd Atlantic Film Fest
by Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

>> Nova Scotia Celebrates Cinema at 22nd Atlantic Film Festival; "Dogs" and "Columbine" Win Top Awards

(indieWIRE: 09.23.02) -- A series of fall Canadian film festivals that launched with the Montreal World Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, continued last week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the 22nd Atlantic Film Festival. The festival, which kicked off on September 13 with Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," concluded this weekend with an award ceremony and a screening of Agnieszka Holland's "Julie Walking Home."
Thom Fitzgerald's "The Wild Dogs" was a big winner this year, taking the $5,000 prize for best Canadian feature and also winning the best direction prize in the Atlantic Canadian competition. The outstanding writer award went to Daniel Maclvor for "Marion Bridge," while Victoria King's "White Thunder" won the Rex Tasker Award for Best Documentary.
Moore's "Columbine" was also a clear hit at this year's festival, winning the event's top international prize, The People's Choice Award. In fact, the picture was such a hit with the city's large college-aged audience on opening night that a second screening of the movie was added. The film, the subject of an in-depth discussion during Thursday's critics panel, has local roots; it was produced by the Halifax-based company Salter Street Films Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of Canada's Alliance Atlantis). "I knew I would never be able to get the funding for this in America," Moore told Halifax's Daily News in advance of the opening night showing. He immediately secured backing upon meeting with Salter Street chairman and CEO Michael Donovan.
Other gala screenings in Halifax this year included Philip Noyce's "Rabbit Proof Fence," Deepa Mehta's "Bollywood/Hollywood," Weibke von Carlosfield's "Marion Bridge," David Cronenberg's "Spider," Tim Southham's "The Bay of Love and Sorrows," and a late-night showing of D.A. Pennebaker's "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars."
The week-long Nova Scotia Film Development Corp. (NFSDC) Industry Series welcomed Canadian film community luminaries, as well as participants from south of the border. Among the attendees were Tom Perlmutter from the National Film Board of Canada, Los Angeles Canadian Consul General Colin Robertson, Emerging Pictures' Ira Deutchman, producer Jon Marcus ("Party Monster"), Charlotte Mickie from Alliance Atlantis, Canadian film critics Cameron Bailey from NOW & CBC Radio and Liam Lacey of the Toronto Globe and Mail, Harry Knowles from "Ain't it Cool News," actor Paul Gross, and producer and director John Martin, among others.
Perhaps as a true mark of its success, the Atlantic Film Festival has even spawned an alternative fest. Dubbed the Salon des Refuses Atlantique, the event was formed last year by local filmmaker Steven James May who was rejected by AFF last year. It is back this year with a selection of films shunned by the festival.
Other fall festivals in Canada include Cinefest, Sudbury's Interntional Film Festival which wrapped yesterday, the Vancouver International Film Festival (September 27 to October 12), and Montreal's Festival International du Nouveau Cinema next month. [Eugene Hernandez]

Steven James May (photo credit: Devin Slater)

September 12, 2002. The Coast
"Take a chance on me: Local filmmaker Steven James May rolls the dice at his own film festival."
by Andrea Methot
"Have you seen this?" he asks you, holding up a copy of the documentary called The Salesman, and you shake your head, because you haven't. You are wandering through Video Difference with aspiring documentary filmmaker Steven James May.  "This is what's called cinema verite. It's when nothing is scripted, nobody is told what to do, what to say. They just use whatever happens. This one is able these bible salesmen." He pauses, then laughs, "I'm acting like I really know a lot about films."
He picks up another film, and says, "Have you seen this?" and you shake your head, because you haven't. "It's called Breasts. It's just these women, and this one guy, who had implants, and they talk about their breasts. I don't know. It's good."
He picks up another film, and says, "Have you seen this", and you shake your head, because you haven't. He points to the film called Buena Vista Social Club, and says, "You must have seen this," and you shake your head, again, because you haven't. The last movie you saw was Blue Crush, and you're starting to feel like a bit of a cinematic reject.
It's OK though, because May is a bit of a cinematic reject too, although in a much more palatable way. Last year, May made a film and submitted it to the Atlantic Film Festival. It was rejected. But rather than drown his sorrows in copious amounts of alcohol, or give up his documentary dreams for the life of a dentist, May chose the path of creative resistance, and launched the first annual Salon des Refuses Atlantique. The salon screened films and videos that had all been rejected by the film festival.
"Getting rejected was...I don't know," he says. "It comes in waves: first you're sad. And then you get mad. But then you've just got to let it go. This is about taking back the word 'reject'. We have to reclaim it-like the word 'bitch'. This is a celebration of rejects."
After last year's successful celebration, May is continuing the tradition with the second annual salon. This year, 11 films, videos and digital videos will be screened, representing artists from across Canada, the US and the United Kingdom.
"This is a night of reject pride." he says. "It's for people to come to the Khyber, sit in those chairs, have some drinks, smoke long fancy cigarettes and watch these films."
Still, May says the last thing he wants to do is create more rejects. Salon participants are chosen at random, via lottery.
"This is about being objective." he says. It's to bring balance to the festival-to any juried festival. These festivals-the Atlantic, Toronto, Cannes-it's people who sit there and say, ' think this is good. I think this is of value.' But then you have the salon, and everyone's treated the same."
This year, May received 35 entries after the Film Festival sent out an e-mail to all its rejects, letting them know about the salon.
"I assigned each film a number, and then I wrote a number on Apirin tavs. This year I used Ibuprofen, and I carved the numbers in instead, so I could still use the pills." says May. "Then I put them in a jar, shake them around and pull them out. I just keep picking them out until the night is filled."
Local digital video maker Matt Grant was one of those lucky Ibuprofen tablets. His video, Mr. Pirc-which follows a local chess-player as he prepares for a tournament-was rejected by the festival for a tournament-was rejected by the festival, but made it into the salon.
"I'm not a proud person," he laughs. "I don't mind showing it in the reject festival."
Grant is proud of his video,  though, and prefers to think of it as "overlooked".
"When I hear the word 'reject', the first thing that comes to my mind is 'defective' " he says. "I know my film's not perfect, but it's not defective."
The idea of the salon dates back to 1863, when artists like Cezanne and Monet were declined entry into the art shows of their contemporaries because their work wasn't judged to be appropriate. They opened the first Salon des Refuses in response, and, needless to say, it wound up bigger and better than the shows that had denied them. So Grant and May and the other film festival "rejects" are in good company.
Grant suspects he was refused from the festival because his film was difficult to categorise,so he isnt' taking the rejection too personally. He reasons that festival juries aren't objective, so a refusal doesn't necessarily means your film isn't any good. Of course, the reverse holds true: if you are accepted, if doesn't necessarily mean your film is good. That's why Grant says he's happy to screen his video anywhere.
"If any film has been conceived, executed, duplicated and distributed, it deserves to be seen," he says. "I don't need people to tell me my film is good."
This kind of thick skin is necessary if you work in the arts, and May says he's no stranger to rejection. "I think all my experience has perpared me for doing the salon," he says. "I had this big-time producer tell me, after I'd pitched an idea to him, 'Steven, it sounds like you want us to roll the dice on you. We can't do that.' So I'm going to roll the dice on these people. I say that a lot-roll the dice. But that's what it is. Rolling the dice. I have to trust these filmmakers. If you decide you want to make a film, and you go out, and you write it, and you shoot it, and you edit it and you say, 'Here it is; I did it,'that earns you the right to have it seen."

"Filmmakers invited to Salon des Refuses"
The Herald. August 29, 2002.
Filmmakers who have been rejected by the jury of the 22nd Atlantic Film Festival can apply to the Salon des Refuses Atlantique.
Applications must be received by Friday at 5pm, for the Salon, to be held at the Khyber, 1588 Barrington St. on Sept 12.
The first Salon des Refuses was held in France in 1863 for painters works.
Works which failed to satisfy the accepted definition of art at that time were deemed dangerously subversive by the cultural elite and excluded from art exhibits.
Applications are available at E-mail, or phone 446-3669.
A volunteer meeting will be held at 6:30pm on Sept. 4 at the Paper Chase Cafe (above the magazine shop).
"Reduce, Refuse, Recycle"
PLAYBACK. September 2, 2002
First, the bad news. Your movie did not get into the Toronto International Film Festival. You will not get to schmooze buyers or scarf down plates of free risotto at the parties. But on the bright side, maybe your under-appreciated masterpiece got into the National Salon des Refuses, the annual mini-festival made up of Canadian movies that didn't make the cut for TIFF.
Back for its ninth year, the Salon presents two programs of nixed 16mm, 35mm and DV shorts on Sept. 10 at Toronto's Innis Town Hall - including the 13-minute drama Blueberry by Regina filmmaker Brett Bell.
Out east, Steven James May is also screening films rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival. He started the Salon des Refuses Atlantique last year as a "feel-good reject pride kind of thing" when his film The Festival is Gravy was left out of the East Coast fete. Atlantique screens its new crop of rejected films at Halifax's Khyber Club on Sept. 12.
Both Salons are programmed by a lottery draw. Films are shown in the order that they are picked out of the hat.
September 5, 2002
"Second best in fest" The Coast.
Feeling rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival? Did your magnum opus, the product of your blood, sweat and tears become victim of a cold letter stating "We're sorry, your film has not been accepted"? Welcome to the Salon des Refuses Atlantique. In 1863, Napoleon III set up the first Salon des Refuses for artists whoe work had been rejected from the official "salon" for deviating from the status quo. Artists such as Cezanne, Monet, and Pissaro were among those who exhibited in the Salon des Refuses. That's some good company. Of course, 19th centuary Paris, this ain't.
This Salon, to be held at the Khyber Club on September 12, is in its second year. The Salon's program is determined randomly: Atlantic Film Festival rejection letters are put in a barrel and drawn in a sort of reject lottery. Last year's Salon films include The Skunk Whisperer, the harrowing tale of what happened when 16 skunks were discovered living under a house on the eastern shor of Nova Scotia, Keep on Shucking, about professional oyster shuckers, and The Great American Office Worker.
"Film fest for Khyberites"
The Daily News  September 9th, 2002

Get a head start on the Atlantic Film Festival this week, with a couple of
warmups at the Khyber Club.
The second annual Salon des Refuses Atlantique happens Thursday, with 11 films and videos rejected by the bigger festival.
Salon organizer Steven James May received 32 entries, and programmed his screening by drawing filmfest reject letters at random. The Salon starts at 6:50 p.m. Thursday, and is open to Khyber members and guests ages 19 and older. Admission is $5.
For details, visit
First in the lineup is Gone For a Week, about a woman on a chaotic business trip, by U.S. director Erik Reo, followed by Samuel Dales British drama Euphoria Black Out, about a photographer named Caitlin setting out to document the end of the world. Then its Mr. Pirc by Halifaxs Matt Grant, a humourous look at an eccentric chess player.
Other films include Star Dreams, about crop circles; My Bubba, about a girl and her grandmothers chores; Vagina Dentata, a comedy about a man winning back his lovers affection; Captive, a thriller about a man who wakes up caged in a dark basement; Minor Adjustments, about a model willing to go to extreme measures in her pursuit of success; Doppio Po, about the northern Adriatic sea; Tous Les Deux, about the meeting of two would-be lovers; and Lazy Days...Crazy Nights, about a singer undergoing a grueling transformation.
On Wednesday at 8 p.m., the Khyber presents the Jane Friggin Kansas Film Festival. The Daily News columnist hosts screenings of Beefcake, Lexx, Black Harbour and How Lesbians Kiss.

The Herald
Saturday, August 25, 2001
Salon des Refuses 2001 seeks fringe films
The Salon des Refuses Atlantique 2001, to be held on Sept. 13 - the eve of the 21st Atlantic Film Festival - will provide an opportunity for video and filmmakers, rejected by the Atlantic Film Festival, to screen their work in Halifax.
There will be no official selection of work to be included in the Salon line-up. Instead, the Salon will be "programmed" by randomly drawing submitted Atlantic Film Festival rejection letters from a lottery. The pile of letters drawn at the end of the day will be the works to be screened at the Salon, taking place at the Khyber Club.

August 11, 2001

Daily News, 2001