THIRD ACTION Film Festival wants to shed a positive light on aging

The TERCERA ACCION Film Festival showcases rich and diverse stories of older people on screen

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The portrayal of older people and aging in movies and on television is often plagued by negative stereotypes.

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Calgarian Mitzi Murray wanted to find a way to break these representations with rich and varied stories, showing that aging is not something to be feared, but something to be embraced and celebrated.

Murray was moved to create the THIRD ACTION Film Festival after selling assisted living at nursing homes and seeing firsthand how avoiding talking about aging affects people across the age spectrum.

“There is a detrimental impact on individuals and families who are afraid of aging due to the beautiful world of film and media, and certainly the world of marketing, which predominantly portrays older adults in a negative light. And it’s been going on for decades,” says Murray.

The reaction from the city’s older people and others of all ages has been resoundingly positive, and the festival is now in its fifth year.

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The name of the festival refers to the “third act” of life: the last three decades. Murray, CEO of the growing festival, wanted an event that would help drive age-positive cultural change and empower people to envision their best third act, while also educating and entertaining.

“We want to show people the possibilities of aging and get them to see people like them on screen, because they are underrepresented.”

Murray attended the Cannes Film Festival online last year and notes that out of 2,000 movies, only three percent had an older adult in a lead role.

The tide is slowly turning, Murray notes, with streaming services beginning to portray baby boomers in a more realistic light on shows like Grace and Frankie and The Kominsky Method.

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During COVID-19, the festival took a new step, turning to the online world and growing its community through monthly screenings and simulcasts with hosts, guest speakers and online discussions.

Film submissions hail from around the world for the three-day festival, which takes place the last weekend of Alberta Seniors Week, which is June 6-12 this year.

The festival works with the Brenda Strafford Center on Aging to find subject matter experts to join filmmakers to discuss the accuracy of content in screenings.

There were 170 submissions for this year’s festival, from 90-second shorts to feature films, with topics ranging from positive age, work, housing and sexuality to heavier topics like age discrimination, death and the duel.

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Since its launch in 2018, the festival has hired a lead programmer, Toby Taylor, to fulfill the goals of the event’s social and artistic mandates and spread awareness of the festival in film markets in countries around the world.

This year’s lineup also features five Canadian films, including one made in our own backyard.

Murray says that he hopes that people will think that the third act is similar to the first.

“You dream of growing up and going to college and getting married…all these stages of life. You take action to carry them out. We should be doing that about the third act of life. You can revel in your last act, and a lot of older people do.”

The TERCERA ACCION Film Festival takes place June 10-12 with in-person screenings at the Central Library that are simulcast online. Both audiences can interact with volunteer speakers and “questioners.”

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For more information and to purchase tickets to attend in person or online, go to

Four films to be presented

There are 36 movies from countries like Canada, Australia, France, Malaysia, Austria, Iran, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, India and many others this year.

Film genres include documentary, drama, animation, music, and dance.

Here is a snapshot of four films that will be featured:

  1. The Minor road by Calgary photographer Robert Scott is a journey of history, memories and self-discovery. Scott tracks down the descendants of the abandoned houses and talks to the elders about their stories.
  2. From New Zealand, Daddy’s Little Girl is the story of a Maori daughter forced to face a painful truth by accepting her father’s insanity.
  3. Added years is a short American documentary about an aging man’s love and devotion to his horses, and the joy and optimism they bring him.
  4. maude, an 18-minute UK drama, follows a retired housewife who wins a cruise for two. Her hope of escaping her stale marriage is pinned on Henry, the local merchant.

This story was created by Content Works, the commercial content division of Postmedia.

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