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Image: Helene by Antti Jokinen (Finland)

Travel the world from your living room: Ottawa’s EU Film Festival—11.13.20 to 11.29.20

By Greggory Clark on November 6, 2020



Usually held at movie theatres in Ottawa, the local international film festival is… going national.

The Canadian Film Institute in Ottawa is teaming up with EUFF Toronto and The Cinematheque in Vancouver to present the first-ever online edition of the European Union Film Festival in Canada, continuing the decades-long tradition of presenting films curated by the Delegation of the European Union and the Embassies of EU Member States in Ottawa, despite the challenges of COVID-19.

This year’s virtual festival represents an unprecedented opportunity for cinéphiles around town, and now across Canada, to watch some of the best contemporary European cinema being made. In a normal year, many of these 27 film screenings would sell out at the National Gallery of Canada theatre in Ottawa.

“Extraordinary circumstances, such as those we are living in today, call for new and creative ways to experience life and the arts—and film festivals are no exception,” says the European Union Film Festival welcome message.

In this online edition of the EUFF, each film will be screened “live” online for a 48-hour period. All films are presented in their original languages with English subtitles, and, in some cases, French subtitles.

The 2020 program includes a collection of recent films from across the continent. Lovers of biopics are in luck, with five films examining the lives of interesting historical figures: Austria’s Angelo, about the life of Angelo Soliman, who was born into slavery and became a part of Vienna’s high society; Portugal’s Snu, in which one fearless female publisher takes on a whole country “for the sake of love and truth;” Finland’s Helene, a commentary on the role of women artists in the early 20th century; The Netherlands’ The Conductor, following the defiant Antonia Brico and her dream to become the first woman to conduct a symphony orchestra; and Germany’s All About Me, a wildly entertaining coming-of-age story about one of Germany’s most beloved comedians, Hape Kerkeling.

The feeling of uncertainty that permeates the current time is well-reflected in some challenging films that deal with the loss of innocence and control. The Czech Republic’s The Painted Bird is a grisly tale of one boy’s harrowing journey, taking him through war-ravaged villages as he’s confronted with brutal violence and perversity. Estonia’s Truth and Justice follows Andres, who must find a way to deal with malicious neighbours and harsh farming conditions in order to provide for his family. Latvia’s Blizzard of Souls, one of the most expensive productions in Latvian cinema history, is an account of an underage farm boy thrust into the trenches of World War I. Finally, there’s Denmark’s Before the Frost, wherein a struggling father must decide between a business offer that could save his family and his daughter’s happiness.

In Sweden’s Britt-Marie was Here, the 63-year-old titular character walks away from her repetitive neat and tidy life when she finds out her husband is having an affair. From Bulgaria, Attraction is the tale of a publicly underestimated teacher torn between her love of teaching and her recent past as a professional dancer.

“There are some compelling thematic strands evident in this year’s films,” says CFI Executive Director Tom McSorley. “No matter what your taste in movies is, there is something for you.”

Visit for the complete program and schedule. This virtual edition of the European Union Film Festival runs from November 13 to 29, 2020. A full festival pass costs $100, a 5-film pass costs $50, and individual tickets are $12 per movie.