Local film lives!

A bounty hunter must deal with zombies that have taken over a western town in a locally-grown short film to be shown as part of Red Deer’s second annual CAFE Film Festival.

Michael Shepherd

A bounty hunter must deal with zombies that have taken over a western town in a locally-grown short film to be shown as part of Red Deer’s second annual CAFE Film Festival.

The campy thriller Deadwalkers, by Red Deer-raised filmmaker Spencer Estabrooks, is part of 12 Alberta short films that will be aired from 7 p.m. on Friday — the first night of the three-day Central Alberta Film Experience (CAFE).

The CAFE festival, which goes to Sunday at The Matchbox, will also give local audiences the opportunity to see two feature-length Alberta films, an evening of national and international shorts, and a free afternoon family film festival at the public library.

But the festival will open with zombies.

And why not zombies? says Estabrooks, who loves the ever-popular undead genre, in part, because it can lend itself to all sorts of plot-lines.

His 12-actor film features a cowboy twist because Estabrooks got access to Western sets that had been left behind by Hollywood film crews on the privately owned Bow Valley Ranch near Calgary. “Since all these Hollywood sets were just sitting idle, I thought, why not make a zombie Western?” said Estabrooks, with a chuckle.

The Calgary resident had initially thought his 13-minute film, made with a $7,000 Alberta Foundation of the Arts film grant and about $80,000 of donations-in-kind, would be the first zombie Western, but he was mistaken. “There are already a couple out there” — one called Gallowswalker, and a new Hollywood feature film coming out called Jonah Hex, based on a DC Comics character.

Deadwalkers has already gone over “huge” at Toronto’s After Dark Film Festivals and the Film4 Frightfest, the U.K.’s premiere horror films festival. Estabrooks is also planning to show it at the prestigious Los Angeles Screamfest next month.

The director believes films related to the walking undead are endlessly popular because “there’s something so indestructible about (zombies). You have to be creative about how you kill them.”

They also say a lot about confronting death and overcoming it, added Estabrooks, who studied at the University of Alberta, then the Victoria Film School.

On Saturday night, two different but compelling full-length films will be screened at Red Deer’s CAFE festival. The first showing, at 6:30 p.m., is the world premiere of Eddies: A Documentary and Hope for the Contender.

Eddies is a light-hearted documentary, directed by Michael Peterson, that examines at the near-fanatical competition that arises between proven and amateur filmmakers vying for a $10,000 prize given annually to whoever makes the top 30-minute commercial for Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery.

“It’s a comedy that’s meant to examine the cult-like atmosphere surrounding this event in Calgary and some of the interesting characters taking part,” said CAFE festival programmer James Reckseidler.

Hope for the Contender, showing from 9 p.m. Saturday, is directed by Chris Scheurman and is the fictional story of a man who’s mixed up in the drug trade, but who longs to return to the boxing ring in the hope of turning his life around. This $10,000 film was completely financed by Scheurman, who went to work on the oil rigs to save money. It won the People’s Choice Award at the 2008 Calgary International Film Festival.

On Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Matchbox, a program of Canadian and international short films will run — including Sundance winner Attack of the Robots from Nebula 5 from Spain, and another Canadian zombie film, Deadspiel, this time involving curling.

Tickets for these film festival events are $10 for each program from The Matchbox box office.

There are also two free festival-related events: a panel discussion at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Black Knight Inn, involving independent film producers and directors, who will answer questions about what it takes to make films in Alberta, and a free family film fest of animated shorts from the National Film Board of Canada from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday in the Snell Auditorium of the Red Deer Public Library.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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