Tag Archives: International

VIFF 2017 Wraps Up

Cinema

This year, I’m late again in wrapping up my experience at the VIFF. Actually I’m way earlier than last year. This time, I publish my wrap-up just three weeks after it ended.

The 2017 Vancouver Film Fest ended on Friday, October 12th. Crowds came again and again. There was a lot to offer with over 300 films from 69 countries. There were 19 films that are official entries for the Academy Awards category of Best Foreign Language Film for this year. Eleven films made their World Premiere at the Festival, nine their International Premiere, 37 their North American and 46 their Canadian Premiere.

The VIFF again offered Hub events and special lectures on film making topics from various professionals in its many fields. There was the Buffer Festival dedicated to the topic of online film making which included lectures on such filmmaking and even a Q&A featuring a lot of top Canadian YouTube personalities.

The award winners were announced at the closing gala on Friday:

BC Spotlight Awards

Sea To Sky Award

Presented by Telus
WINNER: Never Steady, Never Still (dir. Kathleen Hepburn)

Best BC Film Award
Presented by the Harold Greenberg Fund, Encore by Deluxe
WINNER: Luk’l Luk’l (dir. Wayne Wapeemukwa)

BC Emerging Filmmaker Award
Presented by UBCP/ACTRA & William F. White
WINNER: Never Steady, Never Still (dir. Kathleen Hepburn)

Canadian Film Awards

Narrative Features

Best Canadian Film
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Black Cop (dir. Cory Bowles)

Emerging Canadian Director
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Never Steady, Never Still (dir. Kathleen Hepburn)

Documentary Features

Best Canadian Documentary
Presented by the Rogers Documentary Fund
WINNER: Unarmed Verses (dir. Charles Office)

Short Film Awards
Best BC Short Film
Presented by CreativeBC
WINNER: Rupture (dir. Yassmina Karajah)

Best Canadian Short Film
Presented by Lexus
WINNER: Shadow Nettes (dir. Phillip Barker)

Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film
Presented by Delta Air Lines
WINNER: The Crying Conch (dir. Vincent Coi)

VIFF Impact Award
Presented by The Lochmaddy Foundation

WINNER: BLUE (dir. Karina Holden)

Audience Awards

Super Channel People’s Choice Award
WINNER: Indian Horse (dir. Stephen Campanelli)

VIFF Most Popular International Feature
WINNER: Loving Vincent – Poland & UK (dirs. Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman)

VIFF Most Popular International Documentary
WINNER: Faces Places – France (dir. Agnes Varda Jr.)

VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary
WINNER: Shut Up And Say Something (dir. Melanie Wood)

#mustseebc Presented by Storyhive
WINNER: Shut Up And Say Something (dir. Melanie Wood)

As for my volunteer experience, this was a unique experience in doing driving for the VIFF for a change. It wasn’t all about driving VIPs or those involved in film. There was one Friday just days before the VIFF where we had to bring two cars, an SUV, a moving van and a hauling truck from a Langley rental agency over to the VIFF theatre. It was crazy because this was my first time learning on how to drive an automatic car. All my life, I’ve started cars by turning the key. This was completely different and even had me freaked out. Nevertheless things got easier over time.

Our shifts were mostly simple. We’d wait at the Sutton Hotel to find out who we’d be picking up and from where. My first day was a Tuesday and it was confusing as I was getting used to driving the downtown Vancouver streets for the first time. Believe me, Burrard St. has very limited left-turn options and it was annoying. The second trip on my first day driving was crazier as we had to drop some people off at the back entrance of a hotel. The entrance is located at a ramp to a parkade and there was a car being us trying to enter the parkade as I was dropping the people off. vacating the hotel was a headache. The days after were easier as I mostly had to pick people up either at the Sutton Hotel or at the theatres and drive them to the airport. There were even a couple of times I had to pick people up from the airport and bring them to the Sutton Hotel. One of which I was transporting an orchestra’s musical instruments in the moving van. That was definitely interesting. On closing Friday, I was with five people who had to bring five of the ten vans back to the auto dealer’s headquarters. I thought I knew my way, but Surrey’s highway system is extremely confusing and I got lost. I did make it there, half an hour late.

As for films, I feel I saw a good variety of film. I saw thirteen feature-length films and at least one shorts segment. I was lucky to see at least three Canadian features. I saw a lot of foreign films. I saw two films that were official Oscar entries for the Best Foreign Language Feature category. I even saw an African film for the first time. I saw at least three Altered States films that were either bizarre or ridiculous. The biggest standout for this year’s films I saw had to be experimental films. I saw three such films: two Canadian. One was good while the two others came off as either a failed experiment or just something ridiculous. That’s one thing about experimental films. You have to welcome them first and then make your own judgement after.

For the end of the VIFF, there was a volunteer party held the Saturday after closing. Volunteers were treated to films shown at this year’s VIFF. Three of the best. After that, they were treated to a Mexican buffet and to karaoke singing. It was fun and I even sang three numbers. I always sing at least one Elvis number at a karaoke party!

So there you go. The 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival ended very well and it was another good year of films and volunteering for me. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 27th to October 11th, 2018 and should offer a lot, if not more. I may end up being an usher or I may end up driving again next year. I’ll see what they have to offer me. In the meantime, see you next year!

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It’s VIFF Time Again

Cinema

Yes, the Vancouver International Film Festival is back for 2017. Today begins the 36th installment of the Film Festival. This year promises more excitement, more films and more events.

The biggest thing VIFF will have for this year is its Films+ talks. This is where there will be talks and lectures on film and its technicalities. The Creator Talk events promise big names and top experts in the field such as: Carlton Cuse, showrunner for Bates Motel; director Jeremy Podeswa and cinematographer Greg Middleton from Game Of Thrones; and costume designer Ane Crabtree from The Handmaid’s Tail. The festival also includes Industry Hub events which are full-day events focusing on industry activity and promoting film in the future. Such events include VR: Expanding frontiers In Storytelling, one day focused on the indie film industry, industry exchange events and a Buffer Festival.

As for volunteering, this year there were 1100 volunteers signing up. That is as big as it was during last year. Because of that, they’ve developed a new system for how volunteers can see a film for free. They would now have to wait in the rush line and wait until availability is know in order to get a seat for the film. Makes sense since it is quite common for volunteers to horde a lot of free showings during the fest. There is a plus: volunteers that serve their shift in its entirety can receive a voucher to get their own free ticket for certain films. It has to be done online. That makes better sense. I anticipate to see a lot of good films. I’m doing something new for volunteering. This year, I’ll be a driver. I am to drive people from the Sutton Hotel to the cinemas, the hotel to the airport, or pick people up from the airport to the Sutton Hotel or wherever they want to be dropped off. They will range from actors to directors to film crew to special guests. This is something new to look forward to. And I drive a Lexus SUV!

This year’s roster of films promises a lot of attractions This year’s VIFF claims to show over 300 shorts and feature films from 84 countries or regions. As of press time, 11 films are official submissions for the category of Best Foreign Language Film for this year’s Oscars. A footnote worth adding is Quit Staring At My Plate from last year’s VIFF is Croatia’s official entry in the category for this year. Canadian films will remain the focus as has been in past Festivals.

This year’s top sponsors include Telus, Telefilm Canada (which is celebrating its 50th year), Christie screens, Delta Airlines, Lexus and Creative BC. SuperChannel will take over the People’s Choice awards again.

As for highlights, here’s a list of some of the films headlining the VIFF:

  • OPENING GALA: Meditation park – Chinese Canadian director Mina Shum directs a live-action story set in Vancouver. Stars Sandra Oh..
  • CLOSING GALA:  Wonderstruck – Todd Haynes worked with Julianne Moore in 2002’s Far From Heaven. Here, Haynes and Moore return in a film that promises to be another delight.
  • Borg vs. McEnroe – A film starring Shia LaBeouf about one of the greatest tennis rivalries of all-time.
  • Breathe – Andy Serkis’ directorial debut about a young couple (Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy) whose young marriage is threatened by the husband’s sudden disability.
  • Call Me By Your Name – Stars Armie Hammer. A story about sexual awakening in the 1980’s.
  • A Fantastic Woman – A Spanish film of a trans woman dealing with life after losing the man she loves. won Best Screenplay at the Berlin Film Festival
  • The Florida Project – Willem Dafoe stars in this film about a hotel manager with a hard heart who changes thanks to a six year-old girl.
  • Happy End – Michael Haneke is back! This is a story of a privileged family living alone in their estate with their fortunes threatened over time.
  • The Hidden Sword– Considered to be the biggest highlight of Asian film in the festival. This promises a lot of sword action.
  • Indian Horse– This is a Canadian story that’s far-reaching. It focuses on a boy who’s a victim of the Canadian Residential School System but finds an escape in dance.
  • The Killing Of A Sacred Deer – Yorgos Lanthimos, director of The Lobster,  is back along with Colin Farrell to create another dark comedy. This time Nicole Kidman joins in this bizarre dark story. won Best Screenplay at Cannes.
  • Loving Vincent – An animated film with a focus on the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh. More than 120 paintings are involved in this film.
  • Okja–  A South Korean drama about a young girl who develops a friendship with a giant animal in the mountains.
  • The Square – Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, this is a bizarre comedy about an artist who creates his own eccentric world and bounds.
  • The Party – British film about a politician (Kristin Scott Thomas) who holds a dinner for her contemporaries, only to wreak a lot of verbal havoc.

So this is what this year’s VIFF has in store. It all starts September 28th and it all ends October 13th. Looking forward to it.

It’s VIFF Time Again

Cinema

Yes, the Vancouver International Film Festival starts again. Today begins the 35th installment of the Film Festival. This year will not only be exciting because of what to see but also what new additions are happening.

This year’s theme is: “Expand the frame.” Part of the aim of this year’s VIFF is to make the Festival more accessible and more creative. One of the new additions is the VIFF Hub. The Hub and surrounding area will be the location for lectures and exhibitions surrounding film and art. There will even be art exhibitions, virtual reality exhibits and music performances from DJs, local performers and performers from around the world. Some events are free of charge as long as you’re a VIFF member while some may be ticketed events. The VIFF website will explain it all.

Film is still the centre of it all. There will not only be films shown but lectures from industry professionals as well. Directors, producers and actors will appear at some showings for Q&A’s including an appearance of Tatiana Maslany. Deal-making will also be included in the process. This year, for the first time, there will be an IMAX film shown over at the Telus World of Science for the Closing Gala.

As for volunteering, this year there were 1100 volunteers signing up. Way higher than the usual 800 that serve the required 32 hours of work. Because of that, volunteer seating will be limited during many films or not allotted at all. Nevertheless I should be able to get in to see a lot of good films. This year promises to have hundreds of shorts and feature films from 73 countries, including five ‘globetrotting’ films. As of press time, 13 films are official submissions for  the category of Best Foreign Language Film for this year’s Oscars. A footnote worth adding is A Flickering Truth from last year’s VIFF is New Zealand’s official entry in the category for this year. Canadian films will remain the focus as has been in past Festivals. This year’s top sponsor is no longer Rogers but a more local big name in telecommunications: Telus. SuperChannel will take over the People’s Choice awards.

As for highlights, here’s a list of some of the films headlining the VIFF:

  • OPENING GALA: Maudie – A biographic film of Canadian folk artist Maude Lewis starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke.
  • CLOSING GALA:  Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience – An IMAX spectacle of the universe from the beginning of time to today. Written and directed by Terrence Malick and narrated by Brad Pitt.
  • American Honey – A drama about a teenage orphan trying to grow up. Directed by Andrea Arnold and stars Shia LaBeouf.
  • The Birth Of A Nation – This Sundance’s hot ticket and the hottest thing to come from the fest in years. Nate Parker writes, directs and stars in this drama of a slave rebellion that occurred decades before the Civil War.
  • Elle – The latest black comedy from controversy-causing director Paul Verhoeven. Isabelle Huppert plays a video game CEO with a lust for power and revenge.
  • The Girl With All The Gifts – A British zombie drama directed by Colm McCarthy and stars Gemma Arterton and Glenn Close.
  • Graduation – A Romanian drama of a doctor doing what he can to insure his daughter gets into a presigious university. Director Cristian Mungiu won Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Fest for this.
  • The Handmaiden – A Korean drama of a pickpocket who plays a Japanese maid of an heiress whose fortunes he plans to steal. Divided by chapters and loaded with sensuality.
  • Human – A documentary by French director Yann Arthus-Bertrand. It focuses on the world from on high from positive things like love to even negative things like murder.
  • I, Daniel Blake – This year’s Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, this film focuses on a man getting his disability status reassesses and denied benefits. Ken Loach’s look at one man rivaling the system.
  • Julieta – Pedro Almodovar is back! Spain’s submission for the Best Foreign Language film for this year’s Oscars, Almodovar returns to the heart-on-the sleeve melodramas with female lead characters he’s most famous for.
  • Manchester By The Sea – Another highlight from this year’s Sundance. Director Kenneth Lonergan showcases a story of a man (Casey Affleck) returning to his Massachusetts home after the death of his brother and trying to sort out his family’s past.
  • Milton’s Secret – A Canadian hot ticket directed by Barnet Bain, it’s a unique story of how a troubled 12 year-old teenager finds relief from the frustrations of his life through his grandfather. Stars Donald Sutherland and Michelle Rodriguez.
  • Moonlight – Director Barry Jenkins showcases a drama of an African-American man struggling to come out despite the past troubles that haunt him.
  • Toni Erdmann – Germany’s submission for the Best Foreign Language film for this year’s Oscars, the film tells the story of a woman frustrated with her conniving father and his female disguise that irritates her to the point of leaving him behind after her promotion.

So this is what this year’s VIFF has in store. It all starts September 29th and it all ends October 14th. Lots of excitement to come.

 

 

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: Reel Youth Film Festival

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I’ve been to the Reel Youth Film Festivals of 2013 and 2014. I went to this Year’s Reel Youth Film Festival to see what they had to offer. I was impressed.

2013 was a focus more on young film makers. 2014 was still a majority of young filmmakers but did more focus on film directed to young people rather than focus on the age of the directors. Films made for young people by directors 20+ in age were more welcome that year than the previous one. This year was return to more focus on filmmakers up to age 19 and less focus on films by directors 20 or older.

This year there were 19 films. Seven were from Canada with four from BC. Six were from the United States with entries from Latvia, Kosovo, Iran, Georgia, India and Australia. Films focused on issues but they also had some fun too. The fun films included an animated short of a man and his dog on a stranded island, a boy asking another boy out and redoing it until he gets it right, a dating situation that can best be described as ‘a gas,’ human life from a dog’s eye view, life that starts in a smalltown and takes you back there, an animated film of a mantis’ first date and a simple task of getting a selfie with a 20 foot pink elephant that’s not so simple.

Issues however was the top focus of the festival and the shorts did speak about their issues. Issues included homelessness, bullying, missing indigenous women in Canada that often go overlooked, harassment at work, youth poverty in Canada and young disabled people.

Some of the films included dramatic settings such as a friendship between a man and a dog in tough times, emotional states relating to colors, a young person’s journey through life and the unfriendliness of our modern times, especially in urban India. There were some films that were biographical or focal like the homeless shelter cook from San Antonio, teenage musicians from BC with dreams that seem ignored by the school system and an 85 year-old woman with the self-confidence of a movie star.

Despite a lot of issues, there were films with messages of hope. Messages focused on homelessness in San Antonio, finding joy in pain the way Charlie Chaplin did, being comfortable in your own skin and making a disabled child feel like they’re not a misfit. Even a plotless short from Iran of a young grandson in a house with a leaky roof trying to keep the rain off his sleeping grandmother seemed like it had a message to say.

I think that was the point of this year’s selected shorts. These were films that focused on life, on emotions, on issues of concern, on problems and on hope. They all had something to say whether it be humorous or whether it be serious. Some had top-notch cameras or animation quality. Some were amateurish in writing, acting or even conveying their issue. Nevertheless all had their qualities that made it worth showing to the audience.

Once again, we were given our ballots to select our three favorite films and our favorite local film. Here were my picks:

  1. Love On Wheels – A Georgian film of a wheelchair-bound boy who’s accompanied by his father (actually played by his brother) who’s also in a wheelchair so that he doesn’t feel cut off from the world.
  2. Priorities – An animated short from Latvia of a man and his dog stranded on a deserted island during a rainstorm. Excellent animation quality.
  3. The Second Right Off Main Street – An Ontario short of an adolescent growing up in a small town, moving away to pursue bigger and better things and finding himself back in his town.
  • Local1 in 5 – About a bully a teen girl can’t seem to stand up for herself against: poverty. Title reflects the statistic of youth poverty in BC. Filmed in New Westminster.

And there you go. That’s my look at this year’s selection of shorts at the Reel Youth Film Festival. If you know a young filmmaker, I recommend you let them know of the Reel Youth film society.

It’s VIFF Time Once Again

CinemaYes, it’s that time when I volunteer for the Vancouver International Film Festival and see movies for free. At least when I have that lucky chance during my usher duties.

The festival opens Thursday September 24th and runs until Friday October 9th. This year’s festival looks full of energy. If you remember last year, it set a per-screen attendance record. Hopefully they can break it again or even break the total attendance record this year too. This is especially relieving since the future of the VIFF was questioned when the Granville 7 theatre closed. The last two VIFFs have been able to run very successfully under the new format and set-up. Having many theatres within various areas of the downtown and even including the Rio has not hurt attendance.

There aren’t that many changes in terms of screening of films. One minor change for the Rio is that they will be showing films on five nights at 11pm instead of 11:30. Another difference is that there’s an increase in the number of days films at the three screens of the International Village will be shown. It used to end on the last Sunday of the fest. Instead it will end the day before the fest closes: four more days. That will allow for more showings.

As for this year’s lineup, there will be 375 films shown over nine screens and sixteen days. Films with big buzz include:

Brooklyn – John Crowley directs this drama/comedy starring Saoirse Ronan that is loaded with buzz. Opening Gala film.

I Saw The Light – Tom Hiddleston takes a break from playing Loki and plays Hank Williams in this biopic. Closing Gala film.

Arabian Nights – Portuguese director Miguel Gomes directs a trilogy of films inspired by, but not adapted from, the novel.

Beeba Boys – Deepa Mehta directs a crime drama. Definitely one to raise eyebrows, especially among Indo-Canadian communities.

Dheepan – This year’s Palme d’Or winner from Cannes. Spotlights Sri Lankan refugees trying to make a living in Paris.

High-Rise – Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel that seems like a 70’s version of 50 Shades Of Grey.

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words – Ingrid Bergman like you’ve never seen her before in rare film footage and an intimate look at the legend.

Louder Than Bombs – A family melodrama starring Jesse Eisenberg and Amy Ryan that can get overheated but touches on human emotions.

Room – Stars Brie Larson and William H. Macy. This Irish-Canadian drama may seem like a focus on one family until you learn its ugly truth.

A Tale Of Three Cities – A Chinese romance/drama directed by Mabel Cheung that is based on the real life story of Jackie Chan’s parents.

This Changes Everything – a documentary where Naomi Klein puts the right-wing pundit and other global warming critics in their place.

Youth – Remember how I did The Great Beauty? Director Paolo Sorrentino makes his English-language debut of a retiring director reflecting on his past. Stars Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda and Paul Dano.

As for volunteering this year, we’re now back to doing a single venue. However there are exceptions such as advertised jobs at certain venues such as in the case of disassembling and various other duties. Or my case where I work the International Village but want to volunteer on the two days it’s not operating such as yesterday. Fortunately I was given the bonus option of volunteering for Cinematheque. It was a good first night where I ushered and I was able to see a film. Review coming soon.

Anyways the VIFF has begun again. Be prepared for more films, fun and excitement.

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!

VIFF 2014 Review: Reel Youth Film Festival

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You may remember at last year’s VIFF, I saw the Reel Youth Film Festival. The Reel Youth Fest was back again at this year’s VIFF. Again it was entertaining and creative.

Last year the main focus was to get the works of a lot of young filmmakers on screen. It didn’t matter if the quality was amateurish or professional. Its focus was to get the filmmaking images of the youth–whether it was making a point or just having fun– and get them on the big screen. This year did feature a lot of films done by the young. However it also featured a lot of productions by professional companies with a message to give to the young.

One of the top themes of the short films was bullying. This was especially the case as the United Way showcased the top three anti-bullying films by students. It was also focused on in a short film by a young Scottish director. Environmentalism was also a top theme of focus. With the controversial subject of shipping LNG’s, that was reflected in a BC film of three girls who have what starts as an innocent water balloon fight. There was the theme of youth representation which was focused on in a film done by five Hamilton teens. There was also the theme of digital media overkill that was shown in one young man’s film. There was also the theme of pressures young people face today–both socially and academically–as seen through the eyes of a young teen girl. Even teen love triangles were also focused. The theme of sexuality was included in a few films too including one on the topic of transgenderism from Portugal of a girl who always felt she was a boy.

The standout theme amongst the short films was to do about the promise and hope of a better tomorrow. That was reflected in one short film from Mexico about a boy who has to vacate his home to a new home. Another film showing the daily life of a Mexican-American girl’s mother while the  daughter narrates in the background shows hope for her family. It was also reflected in an Iranian film of a young boy who sees hope in a piece of trash. It was even focused creatively in one film of a Bengali boy doing pretend filming. There was even one film from ex-street youth from Sierra Leone who showed what happens when they get $2000 handed to them immediately. The outcome isn’t what they expected but they all learned from it. I felt the message of hope for the future was best reflected in a film about a Peruvian youth orchestra where the orchestra is their escape from the poverty and harsh lives.

Sometimes the films weren’t always thematic. Sometimes they were reflections of people. There were two films which were of two different elderly people living in Greater Vancouver. One was the first black quarterback in professional football. Another was of a woman who just turned 91. Both were nice stories to hear. There was even a film about children in a small town in the Northwest Territories. It was just them playing in the background as the stories they tell of themselves and their family are told. It was a simple film that’s a nice eye opener.

Then there were films that try to get creative. This is where the young directors started to have fun. One was a story of a hitman’s murder attempt with poisonous muffins gone wrong. Another of a toy car getting lost and going on an adventurous trip. Another an animated adventure of a polar bear. Even an animated story of a fish dinner gone awry. No major point to it. Just a chance to have some fun and even possibly make a future out of it.

The films either came from all over the world or were shot in many places around the world. It made for an eclectic look at the lives of young people from a global perspective. Needs and concerns differ from one place to the next but they all share that common desire for hope for the future. There were at least eight films from Canadian filmmakers. There were six of which that were done locally. There was even one that was done by New Westminster youth and shot in areas I frequently visit. That was the film where it appears they’re giving adults a glove. Then they show they’re spreading the love. It left me wondering when it was filmed and how I wasn’t there at the time. I’m sure if they gave me the glove at first, I too would think: “What on earth is this?”

Just like last year, they gave all the attendees a ballot to fill out of their Top 3 films and favorite local. It’s hard to play favorites but here’s what I voted for:

  1. Orchestra For A Dream – I rated it first because it had the best message of hope by showing a way out for disadvantaged youth.
  2. Sin Madre – The film of the young girls’ mother and the daughter’s admiration for her really made me like this a lot.
  3. What If There Was A Place? – Five Hamilton youth make their message heard that they demand to be taken seriously. Excellent two-minute film.
  • Best Local: And That’s Remarkable – A creative film that sends the message that you can either let bullying comments hurt you or you can defy them.

And there you go. That was the Reel Youth Film festival for this year. If you want to learn more about the Reel Youth Fest coming to your town or if you want to book a showing of your own, just go to the Reel Youth website.

It’s VIFF Time Again

CinemaYes, it’s that time of year again. The Vancouver International Film Festival will be back up and running. It will open Thursday September 25th and run until Friday October 10th.

This year’s festival looks to be optimistic. As you may remember, last year’s festival could be considered a test pilot for the new way of doing the VIFF. They had no choice. The Granville 7–our main venue for years–closed in 2012 and a whole new system had to be created. It took finding new venues like the Vancouver Playhouse, the SFU Arts Centre, three cinemas of the International Village and the Rio Theatre and relocate their gala shows from the Vogue Theatre to the Centre for the Performing Arts. The end result was a success as it had one of the best per-screening averages. Sure there was a slight decrease in the number of films shown and the number of screenings but it payed off and kept the VIFF in a very healthy state.

There are not too many changes as far as screenings of films. One cool thing is that there will again be 11:30 showings at the Rio Theatre during certain nights. The festival promises to show 365 films from 70 countries during its duration. Some of the hot ticket films include:

  • Mommy– The latest film from 25 year-old Quebec directing phenom Xavier Dolan
  • Wild- A film starring Reese Witherspoon from Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee
  • Maps To The Stars – A film by David Cronenberg with an excellent performance from Julianne Moore
  • Whiplash– a musical drama featuring drumming phenom Miles Teller
  • Welcome To Me– A dramedy starring Kristen Wiig that’s surprisingly very personal
  • Clouds of Sils Maria– A humorous but personal story starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart
  • Foxcatcher– An Olympic story directed by Bennett Miller that ends up being far from the Olympic dream
  • Men, Women and Children– The latest Jason Reitman film that shows relationships of teenagers and their parents’ relationships and the complications coming with it
  • The Riot Club– An intriguing look at special clubs and establishments in England in the 1800’s
  • Winter Sleep– Cannes’ Palme d’Or winner this year from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  • Goodbye To Language 3D– The latest from Jean-Luc Godard that caught the attention of crowds at Cannes.

The biggest change would be in the case of volunteering. In the past, volunteers would be kept strictly to a single theatre throughout the running of the festival. This time they can volunteer at any theatre or theatres they want. I myself have chosen to volunteer at three theatres so far. Yesterday at the volunteer orientation, all volunteers had to learn the five different duties which they will be assigned. This was the first time ever that the VIFF has given us instruction during the volunteer orientation. Nevertheless it’s a good thing for when they have to do their duty.

Anyways the festival begins tomorrow. Expect a lot of excitement. And expect to see a good number of reviews from me. For more information or to purchase your own tickets, go to the VIFF website.

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!