2016 Victoria Film Festival Opening Weekend Recap & What’s Coming

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The 2016 Victoria Film Festival (VFF) started off with a great bang with the Friday night screening of My Internship in Canada, a very funny political satire by Philippe Falardeau (Congorama). This movie explores how democracy should really work instead of who can sway prevailing opinion.

CTV Arts Reporter Adam Sawatsky introduced this film and Exantus, one of the two leads. He was present for this screening. Kathy Kay, festival chief, welcomed film enthusiasts who came down for this movie and party. On a blustery evening packed with many events around town (including a broader movie festival at Cineplex theatres and a Jim Brynes concert up in Sidney), competition is getting tough. The VFF is a fixture for cinema buffs to enjoy and I was here instead of anywhere else!

The night continued strong with a Gala party at the historic Promis building, located off Government street. Filmmakers, performers and attendees of the festival mingled.

IMG_3645Everyone got to party it up in a Freudian style world that’s supposed to be dream-like. People arriving at this venue had to choose, Alice in Wonderland-style, between three veils instead of vials to enter a dream-world. There’s a chance to visit the stuff of nightmares, going sweet or being naughty as the entry-point before being welcomed by hugs of teddy bears (which I received) or an entourage of blow-up dolls. I should have chosen the scary route since I love horror, and hardly get scared even when ghosts permeate my dream-world. Once inside, my friend Charles did give me a pill container with bourbon. Did I shrink? Nope. Sigmund Freud is supposed to be explored at this theme party, but shouldn’t Salvador Dali be included too? Yes, my dreams get surreal — as I walked around, my visions blended into a musical world with a rousing performance of familiar musical hits by R&B band, The New Groovement. The band rocked the night and Camosun College’s Cooks Program fed the masses. I enjoyed the mix of hors-d’oeuvres offered but where’s the oysters? Return visits were needed to fill anyone up and I hovered around those tables should new tastes pop up. The selection was nice, but I was starting to crave a proper meal. Fortunately, I did eat before going to the film and this after-party. The bar had drinks from De Vine Vineyards, Spinnakers Brewpub and Ampersand Distilling Company by provided an endless supply of tasty booze, ranging from ciders to oyster stouts to keep everyone spirited, and I had to be careful since I was driving home.

Although this partyIMG_3631 felt scaled back (food-wise) when compared to previous years, the enthusiasm was infectious. Familiar faces were everywhere, and I was introduced to Connor Gaston, one of Victoria’s favourite filmmakers. He will be screening The Devout on Feb 13th. Other movies made in Victoria include The Girl in the Photographs, a movie that I found particularly thrilling. I got a chance to screen this in advance and also talk to Nick Simon, the writer/director and Thomas Mahoney, producer. His interview will be published later in the week and appear in Absolute Underground Magazine. This film is notable because of Wes Craven’s involvement prior to his sudden death and it will be screened Feb 12th.

Another notable product by Victoria-based documentarian, Patricia Sims, is When Elephants Were Young. This feature will be playing on Monday, Feb 8th at Star Cinema in Sidney, BC and on Weds, Feb 10th at the Odeon downtown at 6:30. The downtown showing is sold out, but if you’re curious about this product, a review and interview can be read on Otakunoculture.com because of its Star Trek connection.

For the weekend, I was running around like a chicken who woke up far too early. I did not want to miss Canada AM / CTV film critic Richard Crouse‘s In Conversation series. He’s the voice of Canada’s movie and entertainment scene. From the big blockbusters to the indies, he’s covered them all and his knowledge of the scene is vast. I was hooked about four years ago and find it’s best not to miss these talks.

He began Saturday’s schedule with a very delightful and informative chat with Semi Chellas Like a well crafted movie, the opening dialogue recounted her life and what motivated her to become a storyteller. By second, glimpses into how she became hired to write for Mad Men fell second and the climax is a very insightful look into what goes on in the writer’s room. A Q&A followed, and I’m not surprised at this discussion’s focus on the seminal show that helped make her a big name in the industry. I was interested in her works for youths. Technically, she’s only done one product which just happened to fit into the category quite well. Since she’s raising two children herself, I did ask if any more is planned. She’s definitely interested. She’s said to me that it’s a genre she wants to revisit.

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Semi Chellas talks about her work with Richard Crouse at Victoria Film Festival’s Springboard “In Conversation” series.

After this talk, I was hungry enough to wish I had a TARDIS so I can make it to Surrey, BC to get a sandwich. The evening had two films. One I could go see again, The Sandwich Nazi, or I could see where Ellen Page has advanced in her career. I will always think of her more as the lovely Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand and Days of Future Past (I wished she had more of a role in this though because the comics had her travel back in time instead of Wolverine in the movie!), and I know she’s done an amazing body of work outside of the comic book movie realm. Into the Forest is a genre film based on the book of the same name. It’s very light on the science fiction elements, but the world is definitely there. Patricia Rozema tells me this movie is more like speculative science fiction than hardcore, and I agree. In the Q&A after this film, she revealed that Page brought the idea of the book to her to develop, and from the start, she knew what would be this movie’s focus — to look at the lives of two young women and have it be a coming of age story instead of one with Hollywood-style appeal (i.e. big explosions and killer zombies). She’s not that type of filmmaker.

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Larry Weinstein Plays “Daredevil” with Philips Orange Crush Cream Soda.

Sunday, I returned to town to check out Mr. Crouse’s talk with Larry Weinstein. He recounted his early days prior to being a filmmaker. The amusing part of his life story is that he was a teen with finer tastes in music. His love for Classical artists is well-known and that’s what led him to make such fine films like Mozartballs, Beethoven’s Hair, Ravel and Ravel’s Brain. He’s also crafted a wonderful series of shorts like Burnt Toast. Of these composers, he said Maurice Ravel is his favourite. During this talk, showed segments from two of his latest works. One should not be announced just yet, but The Devil’s Horn (History of the Saxophone) was the highlight. It played later that day. The film is quite solid as is, but in my interview with him, he says it’s still a work in progress. I look forward to watching the finished product when it’s released. For a preview, I recommend checking out the interview I conducted for Vivascene here.

For the afternoon, I prepared for BC Family Day by going to a screening of McDull: Me and My Mum, a cute animated film from Hong Kong. Although I find the name odd, hardly Chinese-sounding, at least I discovered in the film that his real name is Nong Mak, a piglet with an affinity to aspire to great heights, but often failing. His attitude to persevere is what makes this character enduring, and in this latest product, he’s all grown up. To recall the products prior of the younger version, the tales recounted looks back at his life. A separate review will be coming. The evening spotlight included the poet and rock star retrospective on Al Purdy Was Here. Feeling like Pink Floyd, I wished I was there for that screening, but sadly, I had obligations to fulfill.

The week looks great with more films to go see. In addition to special programming offered on this holiday, The Amazing Wipala and Oddball, my picks include Rams on Monday, Miss India America on Tuesday, Hermits on Weds, The Lobster on Thurs and a double-bill of The Girl in the Photographs and The Smalls: Forever is a Long Time Friday. Some I will attempt to catch if it is not sold out, but when the film festival is in town, all other movies does not matter anymore. Admittedly, I will have to catch Deadpool. I would not be a geek if I ignored it opening weekend.

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