Tag Archives: Canadian

VIFF 2020 Review: Inconvenient Indian

Inconvenient Indian allows author Thomas King tell his side of history with his thoughts present, and showcase Indigenous artists paving their own self-controlled direction for the future.

“You have to be careful of the stories you tell, and you have to watch out for the stories you are told.”

-Thomas King

Inconvenient Indian is another documentary I saw at the VIFF. It was another documentary that had something to say.

The film begins with an Indigenous man wearing body makeup and a traditional headdress is on top of a horse in grassland just outside Toronto. He looks onto the buildings of the city. He is not happy. The story then goes to Thomas King in a vintage taxicab driven around downtown Toronto. The theme is the same in both scenes: stolen land. His driver wears a coyote headdress and occasionally glances at the camera. This is a scene that will return many times as the legend moves forward throughout the documentary. During its scenes, it will include King’s parable about a cunning coyote who envies a flock of ducks and plies them with promises, only to continuously ask for more.

We see King at his destination: a vintage cinema. King seats himself in the middle row alone, popcorn in hand. As King watches the screen diligently, many young Indigenous people also enter the theatre soon after. What they see on screen is beyond displeasing, but infuriating. They see past depictions of Indigenous people that are rude, mocking and insulting. They see Nanook Of The North, which was really a fake documentary where the Inuit played stereotypes. They see various scenes from old ‘Cowboys and Indians’ movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age where the Indigenous person is always seen as the bad guy to fight. The lines from the films are especially abhorrent to hear like ‘Indian on the warpath,’ or ‘The only good Indian is a dead Indian!’

King reminds us: “History is a story we tell about the past.” We’re reminded that elements of popular culture are part of a war against the white powers that be in North America. It’s a battle that goes back centuries when people left the ‘old country’ to create settlements in the New World. They set up their settlements often by fighting Indigenous tribes through wars over their land. I don’t have to explain what happened to their land. One thing to note is that various types of Indigenous people’s ways of life died off. Some tribes of Indigenous peoples died completely. King even regards Indigenous artifacts in museums as, “voiceless objects from the past, unthreatening and without agency.”

Even if it’s not the wars and stolen land, it’s also about a National Government’s past attempts to suppress Indigenous peoples’ identities, languages, heritages and ways of life. The most infamous being the Residential School system. For those outside Canada who don’t know, the Residential School system was a Government-run system where Indigenous children were taken from their homes and brought to white-run schools where they were taught to speak English and live the way of white Canadians. The schools were run by religious clergy: mostly priests and nuns. The children who didn’t do away with the Indigenous language or traits, or found it hard to, were subject to physical and verbal abuse by the teachers. Many children suffered neglect over their well-being (including fatal neglect) and many were also victims of sexual abuse. I myself have come to see residential schools as a form of apartheid.

Problems still continue. The Indian Wars and Residential Schools are a thing of the past, but we’re now dealing with the aftermath. Today you’ll see in the news stories of Indigenous peoples try to battle police and politicians over developments or plans to be done on their land with their protest blockades. Residential Schools created an aftermath of people unable to parent well because they were taken from their homes. The countless abuse they suffered led many of them to alcoholism, drug abuse, crime and suicides. The last twenty years have brought the past of Residential Schools to the forefront of national discussion and efforts for reconciliation to be made. Present problems still continue with lack of clean drinking water and additional poverty on reserves, continued high crime rates and substance abuse rates, and a higher-than-average dropout rate in schools. The documentary reminds you of this.

The documentary also shows you something else. It shows you young Indigenous people in the arts who are taking their culture and the pasts of their people, and even their own pasts, and adapting it into their own artistic expressions. The artists in focus are a Metis cultural painter, a Cree artistic painter, an Innu filmmaker and documentarian, an Inuit filmmaker and VR creator, and a rap duo of various First Nations:

  • Christi Belcourt – Metis artist who specializes in beadwork art and floral patterns. Her patterns carry on the traditions of the Metis and First Nations people, but they’re not all just to please eyes. Some of her art have political messages. She herself is the daughter of a Metis activist and has published some books on First Nations/Metis issues.
  • Kent Monkman – A Cree painter who specializes in painting historical narrative from his point of view. In the film, he speaks his anger of how his people have been treated since European settlements and especially of the creation of Canada in 1867. The paintings in his 2017 exhibition, a response to the Canada 150 celebrations, resemble Baroque or Renaissance Era paintings, but they speak of his anger and wrath of the past history and of the mistrust he has towards today’s powers that be.
  • Alethia Arnaquq-Baril – An Inuk filmmaker. Her films range from short animated films to feature-length documentaries to live-action storytelling. Her films speak volumes of the discrimination, struggles and hardships of the various Indigenous peoples. One of her films, The Grizzlies, played at the VIFF two years ago. Devoted to keeping tradition alive, the film shows her getting a traditional Inuk tattoo applied on her forehead.
  • Nyla Innuksuk – Inuit Film maker and VR creator. Past films include short fiction like a hunter using traditional skills to survive and a short documentary with singer Susan Aglukark. VR work includes work on a VR series allowing the viewer to envision Indigenous life in the future with futuristic characters. The film shows her working on her first feature-length film: a sci-fi story of teen Inuit girls fighting off an alien invasion.
  • A Tribe Called Red – A rap duo whose members are of the Mohawk and Cayuga nations. Rap has always had a reputation of being the voice of the voiceless and A Tribe Called Red use it to speak their voices. Their songs mix modern hip-hop and dance sounds with traditional Indigenous music and beats. Their songs also carry a political message. They themselves are also Indigenous activists who were part of the Canadian Pipeline and Railway Protests from February of this year.

The stories of the above artists and their works are mixed in with images of King’s tale of the coyote with the cab scenes, the images of the Indigenous man riding a horse into Toronto and an Inuit man hunting a seal and making use of everything from the seal he hunted including meat, blood, intestines and fur. A mix of screen narrative, storytelling and real life presented as one.

The final scene of the film shows the young adults and Thomas watching the Indigenous images created by Indigenous actors, directors and writers. They’re happy to an extent. The film then shifts to Indigenous issues and disputes that have happened in recent time. This represents the fight is still ongoing.

Thomas King wrote his narrative The Inconvenient Indian back in 2012. The film isn’t an exact adaptation of the book, but passages of what King says in the book are voiced over in the film. The book itself is an examination of North American history. King even presents the point of view as if Columbus didn’t discover America, America discovered Columbus. He also comes across an eyebrow-raising conclusion ‘White people want land.” Essentially the film reminds us that history seen from two different eyes will have two different points of views. Most white people have been taught the history of North America with the white Colonials looking like the good guys and the Indigenous looking like the savages. We’re reminded of that when we see the predominantly white crowd watch the re-enactment of the Battle Of Little Bighorn leading to Custer’s Last Stand. The film reminds you Indigenous people will see history from a very different outlook. That it’s really the white soldiers that are the savages.

The film does shed a lot of the negative moments of the past; moments many white people in North America still consider triumphs. The film shows how white North American’s and others still like to ‘toy around’ with Indigenous culture. We saw that almost a full year ago how the wealthy Park family in South Korea ‘toyed around’ with it in Parasite. However the film then shifts to Indigenous showing their side of the story and spreading their message through art. Seeing it leaves you convinced this is more than just Indigenous people creating their own art. It’s also them responding to the art and history told by white people in the past. Now they have the power to tell their stories. Now they can speak how they really feel. Now they can tell their version of history through their eyes. Now they can create characters that are a true example of their peoples. Now they can be empowered to create and manage their own media. Now they can create their own visions for the future.

You’re left convinced while watching the documentary that only Indigenous peoples can best create Indigenous stories and Indigenous characters. And understandably so. You watch all the insulting depictions of Indigenous peoples in past Hollywood movies and you’re reminded of this. Even getting an uncomfortable reminder you actually enjoyed seeing that. Even I was uncomfortably reminded of the days as a kid when I played ‘Cowboys And Indians.’ It’s no wonder Marlon Brando had Sacheen Littlefeather refuse the Oscar on his behalf back in 1973. When I think of how we no longer see ‘Cowboys And Indians’ movies anymore, I think Sacheen’s refusal has a lot to do with it. People won’t tolerate insulting or mocking depictions of their race anymore. They will be in the audience and they will let you know it if you dare try.

The film is unique that it blends the history of oppression and genocide with the mix of art created by the Indigenous peoples. A lot of feeling goes into what they create. It’s a lot of feeling that they have from what they’ve experienced in their own lives and what they’ve seen happen to their families and neighbors. The film also shows how art created by Indigenous people can lead to something better in the future for the people. You have the current generation of adults 20-50 who are reviving cultural heritages and languages past generations of their family were forbidden to have. You’ll have young people getting a positive image of Indigenous people instead of always seeing them vilified. The film is as much about hope as it is about outrage.

Top respect should go to Michelle Latimer with adapting King’s narrative and showcasing the various arts. Latimer herself is Metis/Algonquin. She mixed King’s narrative with the showcased arts and artists and the moments of history and infamy very well to create not just a documentary and an exhibition, but a vision for the future. Also I admire the National Film Board of Canada for contributing to this. Usually national film bords will only endorse films that only showcase the positive of their nation. NFB won’t shy away from a film that showcases the negative aspects of a nation, like racism. The film comes straight from the TIFF after winning the Best Canadian Feature Film Award and the Grolsch People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary.

In a year where racism is a hot topic, Inconvenient Indian is a documentary worth seeing. It shows what the powerful effect of a depiction of a race in entertainment media can do to a race. And how a race responds with their own art.

2019 Grey Cup Preview

Grey Cup

Sunday November 24th will be the 107th contesting of the Grey Cup: Canada’s big day of football. This will be another contesting of East vs. West, as it should be. This time East is represented by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and West will be represented by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

FIFTH TIME FOR CALGARY

This Grey Cup will mark the fifth time Calgary’s McMahon Stadium will host the Grey Cup. The stadium opened in 1960 and has undergone two renovations and four expansions. In addition to four previous Grey Cups (the last one being in 2009), the Stadium has also hosted the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games of Calgary and was part of the Ozzy Osbourne-led 2008 Monsters Of Rock tour. It normally seats 35,400 but can be expanded to 46,020. The CFL was originally planning to have the Grey Cup located to October two years ago, but that plan didn’t go through.

The four-day Grey Cup festival in Calgary started back on November 20th and is to continue until Saturday November 23rd. It will be centred in downtown Calgary and leading to McMahon Stadium. There will be forty festivities and events including a family-friendly festival, pancake breakfast and traditional team parties. There will be a special Grey Cup rodeo at the Stampede Corral and the Fusion Music Festival. The anthem will be sung by Lindsay Kelly with the Calgary Stampede Showband and the half-time show will have Keith Urban.

And Now For The Game

As I mentioned at the beginning, it will be Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Basically a rematch of the 1984 Grey Cup! The TiCats are the heavy favorites as they led the 2019 Season, but Winnipeg has been a team of surprises. Can they surprise at the Grey Cup too?

WEST: WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

Winnipeg BB

Winnipeg is the surprise of the Grey Cup. At the very end of the 2019 CFL season, Winnipeg was third in the West, but the rankings were very tight as Winnipeg was 11 wins and 7 losses while group-topper Calgary was 13-5.

Before the playoffs, started, the chances for Winnipeg looked glum as they lost four of their final six games, including Calgary 33-37. Calgary would be Winnipeg’s opponent in the first playoff game. This appeared to be Calgary’s for the taking as the Bombers lost both regular-season games against them, but Winnipeg pulled an upset with 35-14. For the Western final, they had to face Saskatchewan; another team that beat them in both regular-season games. Winnipeg seized control in the first quarter and maintained good enough attack and defense to deliver a 20-13 win.

Winnipeg has not won a Grey Cup since 1990. Here in the Grey Cup, they will be facing yet another team they lost to in both their regular-season games against them. They could pull off an upset if they start with Zach Collaros and Andrew Harris. Keep in mind Collaros led Saskatchewan to a win over Hamilton. So there’s plenty of chance for an upset over here. However it’s about having the right lineup at the start and the team to deliver.

EAST: HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

Hamilton TC

This year has been Hamilton’s year. They led the regular season with fifteen wins and three losses. They only had to play the Eastern final game in order to qualify for the Grey Cup and they did so in brilliant fashion: winning 36-16.

Like Winnipeg, Hamilton has had a long wait since their last Grey Cup: back in 1999. Hamilton beat Winnipeg in both regular-season games against them. Hamilton showed brilliant play in their win against Edmonton. Hamilton can do it again against Winnipeg. They have some of the best talent in the CFL. However some of their best players like Brandon Banks and Tevin Mitchell are injured. Winnipeg could use that as an advantage.

FINAL PREDICTION

Hamilton has been the team that’s been the most on all year and they show no signs of letting go. Winnipeg, on the other hand, appears to have arrived like never before at the playoffs and could carry their streak of success to a Grey Cup win. However I will have to go with my best instincts and pick Hamilton to win 35-19.

So there you have it. There’s my prediction for the 107th Grey Cup. However it will all be decided in McMahon Stadium on Sunday. Anything can happen.

2017 Grey Cup Preview

105th-Grey-Cup-Festival

It’s Canadian tradition during the last Sunday of November. It’s Grey Cup Sunday. This will mark the 105th contesting of this momentous event. Once again, the final is East vs. West. Interestingly it’s like a rematch of the 2012 Grey Cup. It will be the Calgary Stampeders vs. the Toronto Argonauts.

First Time For TD Place; Seventh Time For Lansdowne Field

This will be the first time the TD Place Stadium, which was completed in 2014, will host the Grey Cup. This will be the seventh time for the field. It hosted five times before as Lansdowne Park between 1925 and 1988. It hosted once as Frank Clair Stadium in 2004. The older stadium was able to field more spectators in the past. TD Place normally has a capacity of 24,000 but it will expand to 36,000 for the Grey Cup. Shaw Cable is the main sponsor for the event. Freedom Mobile will be sponsoring the halftime show which Shania Twain is slated to perform.

And Now The Game

For the second straight year, the Calgary Stampeders will represent the West while Toronto will represent the East. It’s easy to predict the Stampeders to win, but don’t forget they were the heavy favorites last year. The Argonauts could pull the same upset the RedBlacks pulled last year.

stampedersWEST: CALGARY STAMPEDERS

Last year, the Stampeders led the CFL in game stats and entered the Grey Cup as the clear favorites, only to be surprised by the Ottawa RedBlacks in overtime. That’s considered by many to be the biggest upset in Grey Cup history.

This year, they find themselves in the same position: the best team in the regular season and the favorites to win.

Despite leading the regular season, they did show some weakness in the team such as losing the last three season games. Some say they simply gave it away since they knew they’d be tops anyways. Even their 32-28 win in their West Final against the Edmonton Eskimos would be in question as they had a convincing lead at the start of the final quarter only to give nine points away.

Calgary has their strengths and their weaknesses. Their strengths were the most present throughout the season. On top of that, they won both their games against the Toronto Argonauts. I know there are no guarantees in sport, but it’s hard to see Calgary losing the Cup this time around.

Toronto ArgosEAST: TORONTO ARGONAUTS

Calgary had the best performance this CFL season. Toronto’s, on the other hand, was nine wins and nine losses. Actually all but one team from the West had better win-loss stats than Toronto. It’s hard to believe Toronto came out on top of the East. That just goes to show how far ahead most of the West was this season.

Many people predicted that the Grey Cup would be an all-West game, but Toronto prevented this from happening by beating the Saskatchewan RoughRiders 25-21 in the East Final. Admit it. We all want the Grey Cup to be an East vs. West affair.

Even Toronto’s win in the East Final showed they do have some issues as they almost gave it away thanks to some strong last-quarter play from Saskatchewan. It took a last-minute touchdown from Cody Fajardo to save the Argos. If they look to win against the Stampeders, they can’t give anything away and play like they’ve never played before this year.

My Prediction

I feel that Calgary will win the Cup 40-15. They’ve been the best team this season. Plus I feel after the shock and humiliation of losing to the RedBlacks last year, I think they will want this more than ever. Plus I feel winning on the RedBlack’s home field will make this extra-sweet.

And there you go. That’s my preview of the 105th Grey Cup. Kickoff is 6pm Ottawa-time Sunday. May the best team win!

2015 VIFF Wrap-Up: An Excellent Year

CinemaDISCLAIMER: Okay, I know this is a month late but I’ve had some busy times and two colds plus I was waiting for some certain facts that took forever to come. Nevertheless I decided to finally publish this VIFF wrap-up today.

The Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped itself up the night of Friday, October 9th. The sixteen days were full of excitement throughout the city. It was also quite warm which allowed for some people to pass up films in favor of savoring whatever sunny weather we’ll have left for the year. Nevertheless this year’s VIFF was still bustling.  The format that worked the two previous years continued to work again this year. The three Tinseltown theatres gave the VIFF four extra days.

Volunteering was also good this year. Funny thing is this year we were only to do a single theatre this time around. I originally requested to volunteer for the VanCity theatre. Thing is it was loaded with volunteer requests. They asked me to do one of the other theatres. I obliged to do Tinseltown. That worked for the most part but the thing with me is I like to volunteer on both opening day and closing day: the two days Tinseltown isn’t part of the VIFF. That led me during the volunteer training to negotiate with one of the heads of volunteering and she gave me the option of doing Cinematheque those two days. I was happy with that, especially since I could get free popcorn.

Volunteering started off somewhat easy on opening day at the Cinematheque. Things became a bit more difficult when I worked the Tinseltown theatres. There one would have to deal with big crowds. Almost reminding me how busy it was over at the late Granville 7. There was even one time Tinseltown was so booked with volunteers, I was asked to volunteer the Sunday at the nearby SFU theatre. One film was a special event film where one corporate sponsor was giving people popcorn. Problem was food couldn’t be allowed in the theatre. You can imagine how peeved the people were. I also remember how busy closing Friday was. I had to do something over at the Centre for Performing Arts in between volunteering at the Cinematheque. Hey, film fests are busy things.

As for films I watched, I saw fourteen including the Reel Youth shorts fest. The feature-length films I saw came from Canada, USA, UK, Germany, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Greece, Ireland, India and Denmark. I saw a lot of good live-action movies as well as some good documentaries. I think the edgiest film I saw was Nina Forever. Hard to say what my favorite was. I found 100 Yen Love the most entertaining and A Flickering Truth to the the most eye-opening documentary I saw. I was hoping to see some Canadian live-action but it just wasn’t to be this year.

Anyways here is the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival by the numbers:

140,000: estimated gated attendance

710+: Film and Television forum delegates

930+: hours of film screened

900+: volunteers

-520+ accredited industry guests

549: public screenings

370: films shown (shorts and feature length)

99: Canadian Films and shorts shown

85: countries entering films

114: Canadian premieres

  • 35: North American premieres
  • 24: International premieres (first screening outside home country)
  • 11: World Premieres

-198:  meetings with industry leaders and delegates at VIFF Industry Exchange

104: guest speakers

14: entries in the Best Foreign Language Film category for this year’s Oscars shown

16: days of showing films

9: screens showing films

7: theatres participating in the VIFF

Now I know some of you want to know the award winners. Here they are:

ROGERS PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

-BROOKLYN (UK/Ireland/Canada), dir. John Crowley

VIFF MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARD

-INGRID BERGMAN: IN HER OWN (Sweden), dir. Stig Bjorkman

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN DOCUMENTARY AWARD

-HAIDA GWAII: ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, dir. Charles Wilkinson

VIFF IMPACT: CANADIAN AUDIENCE AWARD

-FRACTURED LAND, dirs. Damien Gillis & Fiona Rayher

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN FILM AWARD

-ROOM (shared with Ireland), dir. Lenny Abrahamson

VIFF IMPACT: INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE AWARD

-LANDFILL HARMONIC (USA, Paraguay), dir. Brad Algood

#mustseeBC Award (for most anticipated BC film)

-TRICKS ON THE DEAD, dir. Jordan Paterson

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM AWARD

-SLEEPING GIANT, dir. Andrew Cividino

EMERGING CANADIAN DIRECTOR AWARD:

-THE SOUND OF TREES, dir. Francois Peloquin

BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM AWARD

-BLUE-EYED BLONDE, dir. Pascal Plante

MOST PROMISING DIRECTOR OF A CANADIAN SHORT FILM:

-NEVER STEADY, NEVER STILL, dir. Kathleen Hepburn

BEST BC FILM:

-FRACTURED LAND, dirs. Damien Gillis & Fiona Rayher

BC EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD:

-THE DEVOUT, dir. Connor Gaston

Those were awarded at Friday’s closing gala. After the VIFF closed, VIFF repeats happened at the VanCity theatre until Thursday the 15th. The volunteer party went from being held close to the end of the fest to being held on Halloween. It all started at the VanCity theatre as volunteers were treated to three circus-themed thriller films. The first one was held at 10 in the morning and was 1933’s Freaks which is frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies. The second was the 1960 British film Circus Of Horrors. The third and last was 1966’s Berserk starring Joan Crawford. Goodies and pastries were around for us to much on. Of course there were candies. There were prizes given away as well as prizes for costumes. Then the festivities ended with a three-hour dinner and dance at a nearby cabaret. It was a fun Halloween, that’s for sure. Great to see this year’s VIFF end on an exciting note.

So there you go. The 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival ended with continued success if not a record and fun for all volunteers. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 23rd to October 8th, 2015 and should be bigger and better. It’s 10 months away but I still can’t wait. Anyways we’ll see how things go for next year’s VIFF. See you next year!

VIFF 2015 Review – Painted Land: In Search Of The Group Of Seven

The artwork of the Group Of Seven, like the Sketch Of The Lovely North as seen above, is looked at and tracked over a trip through a group of people in Painted Land.

The artwork of the Group Of Seven, like the Sketch Of The Lovely North as seen above, is looked at and tracked over a trip through a group of people in Painted Land.

Seeing the documentary Painted Land reminded me just how much we Canadians lack the knowledge of our artistic history.

The film is more than a documentary of art. It’s also a documentary of three adventurers retracing the trips taken by the seven Canadian artists known as the Group of Seven. For those who don’t know, the Group Of Seven were a group of seven Canadian artists from Ontario whom in the 20’s and 30’s visited landscapes of Ontario and painted images of what they saw in their own way. Many can say they were the first artists to define Canadian art. The Seven still rank among Canada’s most renowned artists.

In this documentary are three adventurers: author Joanie McGuffin, photographer Gary McGuffin and art historian Michael Burtch. They go on a journey along the various trails, coastlines and waterlines to retrace the route taken by the Seven and even see for themselves the natural places of Canada depicted in their paintings. The trip would involve many years of research, canoeing, portaging, mountain climbing and bushwhacking to retrace their steps and learn of their inspiration. At times, they’d even bring people along like the McGuffin’s daughter or other teens interested in art.

Group-of-Seven

The Group Of Seven artists were the first artists to define Canada artistically although their art was not completely accepted at the time.

The documentary is a documentation of their trip as well as a history lesson of the Group of Seven. We’re introduced to Tom Thomson who influenced the Seven shortly before he died mysteriously in 1919. We’re taken on the same journey the Seven took as they took their art from place to place and painted what they saw in their own unique way. Frequently we see images of the landscapes and how they match the paintings they painted. We learn of how each of the Seven dealt with each part of the journey and each town or camp area they took up. We occasionally see some moments of the Seven re-enacted by actors. We’re even taken to a cabin they once held during their journey. It’s an interesting tale as we learn from each story, each trail, each visit and each assimilation of the landscape with the painting that would become the ‘painted land.’

We even learn about the negative reception they received as their art premiered. Some people were unhappy with what they saw. Oddly some thought Canada was not ready to have what defined Canadian Art. Keep in mind Canada was just slightly over 50 years old at the time. The most fascinating comment I heard from one art pundit was she hated the paintings so much, she was afraid if she looked any longer, she might love them! Odd.

I found this documentary very valuable. I feel this is a great lesson for anyone who’s into art, Canadian or not. I especially feel that Canadian artists should see this as this will give them a good sense of their artistic history, even if the painting style of the Group Of Seven is not their style at all. I feel we as Canadians lack the knowledge of our renowned artists. I myself only learned of the Group Of Seven just as I was watching this documentary. Here in B.C., we’re mostly familiar with Emily Carr, who is one of Canada’s best artists in her own right. Nevertheless I found learning of the Group Of Seven very valuable and informative. I give the documentary big kudos for that.

For the most part, I feel this is not really a big screen documentary. Even seeing TVO, which is for the educational channel TV Ontario, at the end credits makes it obvious this is a documentary meant for television airing. I think if it were to be aired on the big screen, it would have to be in an art gallery that has a theatre screen or a performance stage, like the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It’s possible to show it on an art gallery theatre screen whether or not there’s a Group Of Seven exhibit.

Painted Land: In Search Of The Group Of Seven may be more of a television documentary than a big screen documentary. Nevertheless it’s a good educational documentary for both art and history.

A VIFF 2014 Wrap-Up: A Record Year

CinemaDISCLAIMER: Okay, I know this is a month late but I’ve had some computer problems plus I was waiting for some certain facts that still have not yet come. Nevertheless I decided to publish this VIFF wrap-up as is today. Especially since I want to get my review of Mommy out soon.

The Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped itself up the night of Friday, October 10th. It was quite the sixteen days of films, discussions, films, events, films. You get the point. Nevertheless the end gave lots for people at the VIFF to smile about.

You may remember last year was about getting used to a new system of theatres with the closure of both the Granville 7 and the Ridge. This led to two new smaller theatres, a back-theatre to a mainstage and temporary use of three theatres in a downtown megaplex. It worked out well in the end in more ways than one.  Firstly it helped the VIFF have a very good per-screen average of attended. Secondly it was an opportunity to learn and make improvements for the following year. This year was really excellent both in terms of attendance and festivities. I’ll get to the numbers later in my blog. One thing is that the film festival heads were now more familiar with the new format and could make it work better this time.

It seems like each year is a new adventure both in watching films and volunteering. Volunteering was a unique thing this year as people could now schedule their shifts electronically via an online booking system. Nevertheless things were the same that we all still had to sign in and sign out via a paper sheet. Yep, they still keep a total of hours through that method. One of the good things about the electronic system is that it expected people to trade shifts if they couldn’t make it or call in to cancel. A confirmation e-mail would be sent to them with a number for them to call and cancel if they couldn’t make it. If they didn’t, they risked being dropped and having their volunteer card cancelled if they had free movies in mind.

Another unique thing this year was we were not all confined to a single theatre. We could book shifts to as many theatres as we wanted. The commitment level was still expected as we were still expected to meet up with the theatre manager at all our shifts. I was able to book for SFU Woodwards, Cinematheque, The Rio, International Village (Tinseltown) and the Centre for Performing Arts. I think the only ones I didn’t do were the VanCity and the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse. Nevertheless it made for some good times. It made for some frustrations too in the case of scanners that delayed their use at times or didn’t scan passes or iPhones well.

One unique duty as far as volunteering was surveying. This was something new as I’ve never seen surveying done before. It wasn’t an easy thing to do as there wasn’t that huge of a number of people willing to do it at first. When incentives for entry into a contest came up, I made myself willing. There were three times I did it: a Saturday and a Sunday at Tinseltown and closing day at the Centre for Performing Arts including the gala. It was a good focus on attendees with the prime focus on people from out of town.

Filmwatching opportunities were good for me as you can tell by my reviews. However this year was not the year I gave the most reviews. Last year was with 16. This year I was able to review 14 even though I saw 15 in their entirety or close enough. The only one I chose not to review was In Search Of Chopin because it was more a DVD biography of Chopin simply played in front of a big screen. I saw films from France, Canada, the UK, the US, New Zealand, Mexico, the Netherlands and South Korea. I saw comedies, dramas, documentaries, shorts, feature-length films, television shows brought to the screen, independent films and big production company films. It was a good mix though I wish I could see more variety but I’m not complaining. They were all unique and had their own styles. I don’t think I saw anything really bad this year. Also I don’t think any of the movies I saw pushed the envelope in a big way unlike in the past. I think El Incidente was probably the edgiest because it told a unique story of the supernatural.

The most interesting thing that happened on screen was the unexpected airing of a short before some films showed. The short was called Echoes and I saw it three times: only once in its entirety. The first time I saw it, it was as it was ending and I thought I walked into the theatre just as a film was finishing. I tried looking in my VIFF guide for it but couldn’t find it. All I knew was that it was produced by the Weinstein brothers. Then I saw it again just before I saw Haemoo. Once again I walked in long after the short started and it didn’t make much sense at first. Also this time it was at the Centre and they had a tent from Lexus where they were signing people up for a Lexus contest, in which I entered. Later on I learned of the title and researched it online. I saw some Youtube videos and write ups about it and how both Lexus and the Weinstein Group are involved in its promotion. It caught my interest but still left me confused what the short was all about. I finally did have a chance to see it in its entirety when I was in my seat long before I saw El Incidente. I finally got what it was all about and the point of airing it before the show. Funny how it wasn’t until the very last show when it all made sense.

The number of films I saw could have been higher especially with the Rio having their 11:30 at night screenings for seven of those days. However I would only be willing to see such a late-night film if it was worth it and I was guaranteed to return home in decent time that night. I only saw two 11:30 shows. There were some I passed up: the one the first Friday because of its late start time, the one the second Friday because I was ticket scanning and only finished scanning long after the film started, two because I already saw one film while ushering and that was enough, and the one on the Thursday before closing because I fell ill. Weird how I was still ill but saw the 11:30 Rio show on the last night of the VIFF. Hey, it’s a personal tradition of mine I either see the last VIFF movie or volunteer on closing day.

As for the festival itself, the Festival had its third-highest number in terms of flat ticket entries: 144,000. 2011 and 2010 had higher numbers but this year’s VIFF of 144,000 entries over 349 films exceeded 2011’s record for per-screen attendance of 150,000 over 386 films. The results are especially impressive when you compare it 2012 which had more films and with last year under the new format. Last year’s total entries were 130,000: an increase this year by more than 10%. Great job, VIFF!

Anyways here is the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival by the numbers:

 

144,000: estimated gated attendance

1000+: Film and Television forum delegates

700+: volunteers

549: public screenings

349: films shown

  • 219: feature length (60+ minutes)
  • 130: short or mid-length films (less than 60 minutes)

76: Canadian Films shown

68: countries entering films

83: Canadian premieres

  • 45: North American premieres
  • 24: International premieres (first screening outside home country)
  • 11: World Premieres

24: Media Screenings

19: entries in the Best Foreign Language Film category for this year’s Oscars shown

18: percentage increase of visitors from the US

17: panels featuring 73 speakers

16: days of showing films

9: screens showing films

7: theatres participating in the VIFF

 

Now I know some of you want to know the award winners. Here they are:

ROGERS PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

-THE VANCOUVER ASAHI (Canada), dir. Ishii Yuya

VIFF MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARD

-GLEN CAMPBELL: I’LL BE ME (USA), dir. James Keach

BEST NEW DIRECTOR AWARD (tie)

-MISS AND THE DOCTORS, dir. Axelle Ropert

-REKORDER, dir. Mikhail Red

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN DOCUMENTARY AWARD

-ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, dir. Suzanne Crocker

Runners-Up: MARINONI, dir. Tony Girardin

-JUST EAT IT: A FOOD WASTE STORY, dir. Grant Baldwin

VIFF IMPACT AWARD

-JUST EAT IT: A FOOD WASTE STORY, dir. Grant Baldwin

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN FILM AWARD

-PREGGOLAND, dir. Jacob Tierney

WOMEN IN FILM AND TELEVISION ARTISTIC MERIT AWARD

-SITTING ON THE EDGE OF MARLENE, dir. Ana Valine

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM AWARD

-VIOLENT, dir. Andrew Huculak

MOST PROMISING DIRECTOR OF A CANADIAN SHORT FILM

-THE CUT, dir. Geneviève Dulude-Decelles

Honorable Mention:

BEST BC FILM:

-VIOLENT, dir. Andrew Huculak

MUST SEE BC AWARD:

-JUST EAT IT: A FOOD WASTE STORY, dir. Grant Baldwin

BC EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD:

-SITTING ON THE EDGE OF MARLENE, dir. Ana Valine

Those were awarded at Friday’s closing gala. After the VIFF closed, VIFF repeats happened at select theatres for three more days. I helped volunteer two of those days at the SFU. Then it was the volunteer party on Sunday. I was able to get there right after seeing Still Life. The party was at the Rickshaw Theatre and it started with a showing of the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure which not only consisted of the movie being shown but a cast re-enacting and spoofing the movie. There were even times they had people from the audience including myself participate. After the showing, it was a feast on appetizers, drinks and dancing to two of the VIFF’s favorite bands. Of course there were prizes given away and this year’s posters being given out. Great to see this year’s VIFF end on an exciting note.

So there you go. The 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival ended with record success and fun for all volunteers. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 24th to October 9th, 2015 and should be bigger and better. I know last year I said I hoped the VIFF would be one Film Festival added to the FIAPF: the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. However some people prefer that it’s not as they feel VIFF not being part of the FIAPF-associated film fests would add to the VIFF’s reputation being an unspoiled celebration of film. We’ll see in the future. Anyways things look optimistic already and the VIFF’s reputation improves over time. See you next year!

A VIFF 2013 Wrap-Up: Better Year Than Expected

Cinema

The 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped up show on Friday, October 11th. Almost 350 films were shown on nine different screens in seven movie venues over the sixteen days. This year was expected to be a nervous one as it was trying to fit a new venue format but it worked out well in the end.

Getting used to new venues was part of this year’s VIFF. It was with that with us volunteers, the supervisors and the VIFF heads. The theater I volunteered at, the SFU Woodwards, was unique that it was located in the Woodwards Square of Gastown. It’s also a campus for film and theatre students of Simon Fraser University. The theatre itself was very good. It’s both a screen and a classroom with a seating capacity of 350. Also the theatre didn’t have concessions but the shopping square had no shortage of eating facilities.

One of the challenges of this year was separating moviegoers from students. Another was knowing how to set up lines. The venue consisted of the main floor, second floor and theatre on the third floor. On the first day we had the box office on the main floor and throughout the VIFF. Thus we’d have the ticketholders on that floor. We’d organize passholders in a line in the outdoor area of the second floor. On the third day we’d have ticketholder and passholder lines all outside. That became a concern because of the rain. After that we returned to having ticketholders indoors on the first and passholders indoors on the second. A bit of getting used to.

I was able to take advantage of my film viewing opportunities as often as I could. One highlight was the Rio Theatre showing films at 11:30 in the evening. That was actually one of my best chances to see films. Yes, I’d be very tired the following morning but it was worth it for my VIFF fix.  This year featured an additional treat for volunteers however it would have to wait until after the Festival was officially finished. The treat was free films for the repeat screenings in the week that followed the Festival. Volunteers were allowed only 5% of the seats during the actual Festival but repeats allowed for 20% of the seats up for volunteers. That explains why you see so many of my reviews coming late. It was great for me because it allowed me to see three more films and do some more volunteering at the SFU Woodwards Theatre. Oh yeah, that’s another thing. VIFF repeats were not strictly limited to the Vancity theatre this year. They also added in repeat screenings at both the Rio and the SFU Theatre on Saturday and Sunday. I volunteered at SFU that Sunday and finished the night taking stuff from both SFU and the Rio back to the storage of the main VIFF office downtown.

Those who’ve followed my blog may have noticed I saw sixteen films in total both at this year’s VIFF and the week of repeats. They came from many countries around the world like the US, Australia, South Africa, Israel, Iceland, Mexico, Poland, Croatia, I could go on. The list could even be extended if I add in filming locations like Laos, Cambodia, Cuba or India. The films ranged from dramas, to comedies to thrillers to documentaries to horror films. The quality ranged anywhere from film for art’s sake to moviemaking to getting their message across. The material ranged from entertainment-driven to message-driven to envelope-pushing to family friendly. I also saw two nation’s official entries for Best Foreign Language Film category at this year’s Oscars: Heli and The Rocket. One thing I felt I missed out on this year was my fix of short films. I did get a fix of it over at the reel Youth Film Festival but I would have liked to have seen more shorts shows. Also I only saw two Canadian films. Hopefully I’ll see more next year. If you want to see all my reviews of VIFF films, just click here.

The Festival also ended on a positive note for us volunteers. We were all given a volunteer screening at the Vancity Theatre to attend. Actually the VIFF organizers had to do two volunteer screenings of the film in order to accommodate the 700 volunteers for this year. I went to the one that was held late Friday evening. It was a good occasion. Out in the lobby there was your typical party food and we were all treated to at least one free drink. I was able to meet with people I volunteered with. There were door prizes given to people before the movie was shown. Then we were treated to The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I actually saw it four years ago but I was cool with seeing it again. Also have you ever noticed the things you see in a movie the second time you forgot you saw the first time?

As for the Festival itself, the Festival films attracted a total of 130,000 in gated admission. As a flat number, that’s 7% lower than last year  and 20,000 shy of 2011’s record but that’s actually a very optimistic number to the VIFF staff. The reason being the new theatre facilities had less total capacity than those of last year and the VIFF staff were anticipating a smaller number. Don’t forget there were some facilities that took some time off from showing VIFF films. Like the SFU theatre had all of Monday the 6th off and the evening off on the 7th. Also the three screens at the International Village stopped showing movies on Sunday the 6th. Media coverage was extensive and mostly positive. Audience and filmmaker feedback was also very good regarding the films shown and the facilities. The VIFF wrap-up report called the ticket numbers ‘a record year.’ I assume that ‘record’ would be based on a per-screening analysis which is a good estimate of over 250 per screening.

Here is this year’s VIFF by the numbers:

-130,000+: gated attendance
-1000+: Film and Television forum delegates
-700+: volunteers
-515: public screenings
-341: films shown

  • 212: feature length (60+ minutes)

-92: Canadian Films shown

  • 31: feature length
  • 55: shorts
  • 6: mid-length

-85: non-fiction films shown

  • 73: feature length
  • 17: Canadian

-75: countries entering films
-64: Canadian premieres
-41: North American premieres
-27: International premieres (first screening outside home country)
-26: World Premieres
-16: days of showing films
-15: entries in the Best Foreign Language Film category for this year’s Oscars shown
-9: screens showing films
-7: theatres participating in the VIFF

Bonus Stats:

-27: media screenings

-26: VIFF repeats

Another year of good numbers. Now I know some of you want to know what were the award winners, right? Here they are:

ROGERS PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

-LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON  (Japan) dir. Koreeda Hirokazu,

VIFF MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARD

-DESERT RUNNERS (USA) dir. Jenifer Steinman

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN DOCUMENTARY AWARD

WHEN I WALK, dir. Jason da Silva

VIFF MOST POPULAR ENVIRONMENTAL FILM AWARD

-SALMON CONFIDENTIAL(Canada) dir. Twyla Roscovich

VIFF MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL FIRST FEATURE

-WADJDA (Saudi Arabia/Germany), dir. Haifaa Al Mansour

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN FILM AWARD

-DOWN RIVER, dir. Ben Ratner

WOMEN IN FILM AND TELEVISION ARTISTIC MERIT AWARD

-SARAH PREFERS TO RUN (Canada) dir. Chloe Robichaud

DRAGONS & TIGERS AWARD for YOUNG CINEMA

-ANATOMY OF A PAPERCLIP (Japan) dir. Ikeda Akira

Runner-Up: TRAP STREET (China), dir. Vivian Qu

Special Mention: FOUR WAYS TO DIE IN MY HOMETOWN (China), dir. Chai Chunya

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM AWARD

– (tie)RHYMES WITH YOUNG GHOULS, dir. Jeff Barnaby

THAT BURNING FEELING, dir. Jason James

MOST PROMISING DIRECTOR OF A CANADIAN SHORT FILM

-Matthieu Arsenault for NATHAN

Honorable Mention: Timothy Yeung for 90 DAYS

BEST BC FILM:

-THE DICK KNOST SHOW, dir. Bruce Sweeney

MUST SEE BC AWARD:

-LEAP 4 OUR LIFE, dir. Gary Hawes

BC EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD:

-Matthew Kowalchuk for LAWRENCE & HOLLOMAN

So there you go. Those are the winners of the 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival. A good end to a great VIFF. I know this year was a nervous year as we didn’t know what to expect with a new set of theatres to work with. Nevertheless it turned out great and we had our best per-screening rate ever. Next year’s VIFF is scheduled from September 25th to October 10th, 2014 and should be bigger and better. Also I hope one year the VIFF grows to achieve accreditation from the FIAPF: the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. Most of the big Film Festivals are accredited and the VIFF being accredited should definitely add to its attraction. Anyways see you next VIFF!

The Grey Cup Plays Its 100th Game

This Sunday will have the 100th contesting of the Grey Cup, the most prestigious prize of Canadian football. It will be an exciting time not just for fans of Canadian football but fans of the Cup itself.

A CUP FULL OF HISTORY

I’ve already talked about the Grey Cup partially back in a post from last year but I’ll elaborate more here. The Grey Cup has more history than the Super Bowl: 58 more years to be exact. Before there was a CFL, the Grey Cup was open to Canadian football teams from all sorts of leagues. The very first Grey Cup was played in 1909 by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club at Toronto’s Rosedale Field to a crowd of just over 3,800. Yeah, that small. The winner was the Blues 26-6. From 1909 to 1915 the Grey Cup was often a contest between Toronto and Hamilton teams. World War I led to the postponement of four straight Grey Cups until it was revised back in 1920. Those would be the only years the Grey Cup was not contested.

It wasn’t until 1921 that the Grey Cup stopped being a contest strictly of Ontario teams when the Edmonton Eskimos qualified for the final. It would pave the way for teams from Regina and Winnipeg to qualify for the final. 1931 was a history-maker for the Grey Cup as it was contested in Montreal’s Molson Stadium: the first time ever the Grey Cup was contested outside of Ontario. Just as historic was the match as it featured two teams outside of Ontario: the Regina Roughriders and the Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers. Montreal won 22-0, making them the first team outside of Ontario to win the Grey Cup. The first team from Western Canada to win the Grey Cup was the Winnipeg ‘Pegs back in 1935. While the Grey Cup was cancelled during World War I, it was not cancelled during World War II where teams from branches of Canada’s armed forces qualified for the finals.

The Grey Cup’s popularity grew after World War II as 1948 saw the first Grey Cup with a crowd of 20,000 in attendance for the first time. Then the Canadian Football Council (CFC) became the Canadian Football League (CFL) in 1958 which would propel the Grey Cup to further popularity. Since then, Grey Cup Sunday has become a permanent fixture in Canadiana with the top team from the East competing against the top team from the West. An average crowd of over 50,000 gather to watch the big final in the stadium and millions more watch from their house.

A MILESTONE WORTH CELEBRATING

This year marks the 100th contesting of the Grey Cup. To celebrate, there has been a Grey Cup 100 Train Tour with the Cup touring various cities of Canada with three CFL themed railway coaches: a museum car, a railcar with contemporary memorabilia, and a car containing the Grey Cup itself. It started September 9th in an official ceremony in Vancouver, traveled across Canada for ten weeks visiting various Canadian cities including all cities with CFL teams, and ended in Toronto on November 17th. The 100th Grey Cup has also been celebrated through Canada Post. Canada Post has issued commemorative stamps of all the teams and the Cup itself. It has also issued 8*10 pictures of the various Grey Cup stamps and many other gift sets. Rosedale Field–which has had its spectator seats removed years ago and now functions as a field for festivals and community events as part of Rosedale Park– was commemorated during the celebrations in Toronto with a commemorative plaque from Heritage Toronto for its role as host field for the first-ever Grey Cup.

THIS YEAR’S CUP

As for this year’s Cup, the event will be held at the Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, tomorrow night. This is the 46th time Toronto will host it. There will be a fan parade from Varsity Stadium to Rogers Centre. The coin toss of the game will consist of the first 100th commemorative Grey Cup coin struck by the Royal Canadian Mint executed by Governor General David Johnston. There will be various musical acts for both the pre-game show and the halftime show. Pre-game show acts include the Guess Who’s Burton Cummings and country singer Johnny Reid. Halftime show performers include Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Marianas Trench and Gordon Lightfoot.

As for game itself, it will be a face-off between the Toronto Argonauts representing the East and the Calgary Stampeders representing the West. So who will win? Here’s the breakdown:

EAST – Toronto Argonauts: The Argonauts have not looked like the team most likely to win the berth for the East. They have both won and lost nine games during regular season play and it was looked to be Montreal that would represent the East. Nevertheless Toronto has played brilliantly in their Division playoff games firstly against the Eskimos 42-26 and recently against the Allouettes 27-20. Toronto has an advantage leading into the Cup having won both its regular season games against Calgary. Their veteran quarterback Ricky Ray has been consistently strong and looks strong leading into tomorrow’s game. Nevertheless Toronto knows Calgary has a strong defense and they won’t overlook it for tomorrow’s game. Kevin Huntley even admitted their game against Saskatchewan, which I will talk about later, sent them the message. Nevertheless they have been taking note on Calgary’s strengths and weaknesses. They know that Kevin Glenn and Jon Cornish are the ones they have to maintain if they want to win tomorrow. Will they win it again or will it be a change in the game plan?

WEST – Calgary Stampeders: Like Toronto, Calgary was second in their division leading up to the playoffs. The Stampeders have has a better season with twelve wins and six losses. They too have been brilliant in the playoff games winning against Saskatchewan 36-30 and BC 34-29. Their consistency has been their biggest strength. They’re not flashy showmen, just a strong team. One important statistic to remember is that Calgary lost both of its regular season games against Toronto. Nevertheless they showed they can come from behind by winning a game against Saskatchewan where they were originally trailing by 17 points with six minutes to go. Quarterback Kevin Glenn has been getting better and stronger as of recent. Their other strong players have played well. Nevertheless they know the Argo’s star quarterback Ricky Ray has returned from surgery back in October and is playing strong. Also the Stamps know the Argos have been good at holding Cornish back. Tomorrow could go either way for the Stamps.

MY PREDICTION:

So what’s my say? This is a hard one to call. both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both have shown they know how to perform when it matters. I have to give the win to Toronto. It’s not just about their play against Calgary this year but also balancing things out. Kevin Glenn has become a stronger quarterback but Ricky Ray has returned in a strong way. Also Toronto knows how to hold down Cornish and they have a special edge with Chad Owens winning the CFL award for Most Outstanding Player. So I have to hand it to Toronto. They have the edge but it’s going to be a tight game.

Anyways everything will be decided tomorrow in Rogers Centre and it promises to be a great game and a great show. In the end, one city will be left smiling. So may the best team win!

WORK CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: List Of Grey Cup Champions. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Grey_Cup_champions>

VIFF 2012 Review: The Disappeared

The Disappeared is a story about six men in two boats in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic and nothing else. To your surprise, it succeeds in being entertaining.

The film begins with the six men in two boats just waking up. They range from a young twentysomething like Little Dickie to an older man like Captain Gerald. They get up and they row along to shore together. It isn’t until later we learn that the men are in lifeboats having survived a shipwreck from their fishing boat hundreds of miles from shore. In fact one is badly injured in the arm. All six stick together and row together even tying a rope to each other’s boats. They survive with little food and whatever to drink. They have to rely on fishing and hunting skills for any extra food. Sometimes the weather is unpredictable and even dangerous. Any chances of hope are either missed, a mirage or less hopeful than expected.

Things change as the wounded man becomes sicker and then dies. They first leave him in the boat with the two others but eventually becomes just one boat with the five. There are moments of closeness between some but moments of friction too even as Merv becomes downright angry and has a miserable attitude. Eventually all come to terms with what has happened and what may be. They’re still willing to chance it back to coast but they all put their last thoughts in writings in a bottle. They still continue rowing despite all hope waning. The ending ends as it does with the men rowing and still missing. It leaves imagery unclear exactly what happened to the five men. I guess that was the point of the film: for the audience to draw their own conclusion.

I have to commend the filmmakers for succeeding in making an entertaining story taking place between one or two boats, six men and nothing else but the vast ocean. The story had a lot of elements in it: humor, tragedy, drama, tense moments, moments of hope, moments that define the human spirit, sea shanties of both fun and pain, basically a lot with what they present.  It was not an easy task to do, especially with it being 86 minutes in length, but it does.

I will have to admit that while watching it, I questioned the circumstances with modern thinking. Like would any of them have some sort of cellphone communication with help? Also since they’re in lifeboats, wouldn’t there be coast guard helicopters circling the ocean area looking for survivors? Yes, thoughts like those did cross my mind. Despite my modern thinking, I will admit it didn’t affect my feelings of how well played out the film was. I guess the point of the film was about human emotions during times of crises.

I have to commend writer/director Shandi Mitchell for succeeding in making a watchable entertaining film with such limits. Well done, especially since this is her first feature-length film: Yes, her! It’s also great to see a female director succeed in conveying the thoughts and emotions of Nova Scotia men on screen. She was as good at having Nova Scotia machismo down to a tee as she was at giving the male characters their own deep sensitive feelings. Great job. Also good were the acting efforts of all six men. It’s hard to say if there was one actor that stood out from the six. None of them looked like they were trying to steal the show, even though the most well-known was Billy Campbell. All of them did a very good effort in creating dimension and including character and emotion in their roles from the beginning to the end. The characters and their feelings could say a lot about us as they do about the six men. Another set of efforts worth commending.

I went to see The Disappeared on the second-last day of the VIFF. I was hoping to see a Canadian live-action feature during the festival and hadn’t yet. I’ve seen many Canadian documentaries and shorts programs but no live-action feature. This caught my attention in the VIFF programme not just for that reason but also because it was listed being from Nova Scotia. Great to see some of the smaller provinces making a contribution to Canada’s film industry this year and The Disappeared is an excellent work. It was filmed off the coast of Lunenberg and filed with financial assistance from Film Nova Scotia, TeleFilm Canada and The Movie Network/MovieCentral. It is now making its way in the Canadian film festival circuit. How much further it goes is yet to be determined.

The Disappeared accomplishes a lot with what little it has. It brings six characters in the same local into a story that’s entertaining and thought provoking. Excellent effort from all those involved.

VIFF 2012 Review – Shorts Program: Break Even

Once again it was my goal at the VIFF to see at least one program of shorts. I had the good opportunity to see one during my ushering duties. You remember how the four programs of Canadian shorts were given names of the earth’s natural resources: Earth, Air, Fire and Water? This year the theme is about breaks. The program I saw was titled Break Even and featured nine shorts done by Canadian filmmakers. So here’s the rundown:

-Barefoot-In a Cree community, Alyssa is the third girl in her class expecting to be a mother. She has a supportive boyfriend and a supportive family but she has secrets. The story was meant to be a drama but I think this was a statement to do about teen pregnancy in First Nations reserves. An upsetting story but important as it will hit you with some hard truths.

-Peach Juice-An amusing animated movie using dolls and wrapping paper for the animating. Not the most professional but it succeeded in entertaining. This was another teenage story that has a charming outlook on a certain curiosity.

-OMG-A teenage daughter moves in with her grandmother after a spat over her phone use. Grandma handles her granddaughter’s annoying habit well both in her cellphone use and her relationship with her mother. Very clever ability to have a great entertaining story within the same location. Funny and charming.

-Liar-Tara believes her boyfriend Brian lied about being gay when he broke up with her. She and her two girlfriends attempt revenge on Brian but when it goes too far, what will Tara decide? Very good story but it leaves one wondering if it was meant to be a story or a message about violence on gay teens, especially since the bullies were all female?

-First Snow-Siblings and their mother reunite but not in the happiest settings. It’s in a hospital and it’s to decide who will donate their kidney to save their father’s life and it has to be immediate. Who will go forward, especially with all this squabbling? Very comedic with a surprise ending that ends the story well.

-Canoejacked-Two escaped prisoners try to escape across a river with a metal canoe. Only problem is the canoeist is inside with him, and he’s a ‘canudist’. How will they all escape with them in full view of the officer. They find a way. Quite funny, despite the bizarre situation.

-Hollow Bones-Boy bird loses girl bird in this live-action–yes, it’s live-action–short. However he does see hope along the way. Didn’t see the point of showing a break-up scene with the actors having birdheads. Wasn’t that amused.

-With Jeff-Nydia is in love with Jeff but wants to be a strong teenage girl. She receives a lot of advise from friends but loses herself whenever Jeff takes her on his motorcycle. The story appeared to be a good thoughtful story but the ending didn’t make a lot of sense.

-The Worst Day Ever-Bernard is one hard-luck kid. He has one bad incident after one bad incident happen this day. You think things couldn’t get any worse for that tyke until…It was a bit shocking to see all this happen to Bernard but it was funny and easy to find comical.

As for the whole segment, I have to say I first had the sense I was watching a program of shorts about teens after the first four shorts. It wasn’t until First Snow was showed that I got more of a sense of variety. Sure five of the nine shorts had teen subject matter but the mix of more adult shorts evened it out. Many of the shorts either charmed me or made me think. I’d say five of the nine were both entertaining and professional.

Some of the shorts were filmed by BC companies, some by Ontario companies and others by Quebec. I don’t know any of the filmmakers who filmed these shorts but I hope this leads on to bigger projects for them in the future.

The shorts program of Break Even was great to watch. Director wannabes often use short films to try to launch their careers for bigger things in the future. I’d have to say most of them show potential for both the director and even some of the actors involved.