Hank Williams biopic, I Saw the Light, to open Calgary International Film Festival

An American biopic about country legend Hank Williams will open the Calgary International Film Festival, one of five gala films announced Tuesday morning that include Paul Gross’ modern war film Hyena Road and a documentary about Edmonton act The Smalls.

I Saw the Light, starring British actor Tom Hiddleston as the troubled country pioneer, is already being positioned as an Oscar contender by Sony Picture Classics

It’s the first time in years that a non-Canadian film will open the festival, which will run from Sept. 23 to Oct. 4 at various downtown theatres. It will be shown at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, a first for the festival, and a day earlier than normal. I Saw the Light will screen Wednesday, Sept. 23, stretching the festival to 12 days.

On Thursday, Sept. 24 a gala screening of Hyena Road will take place at the Grand. Calgary native Paul Gross, who wrote, directed and stars in the film, will be in attendance.

No other guests have been confirmed for the galas yet, but executive director Steve Schroeder says the festival has invited I Saw The Light cast and writer-director Marc Abraham for the opening gala.

“We are very excited about this one,” Schroeder says. “It’s one of the bigger films, from an American or International standpoint, that we’ve ever had the privilege to open the festival with.”