Tag Archives: Vancouver

VIFF 2017 Review: Forest Movie

ForestMovie

This year seems like the year I’ve seen more experimental film at the VIFF than ever before. The latest experimental feature I saw was Forest Movie. It was shot all in  Vancouver and it does a lot with the 65 minutes it has.

The film begins with images of a forest and then phases into a young woman sleeping. The young woman was actually dreaming of the forest. She sends a text message to her friend that she can’t meet up: she’s sick. The friend accepts.

What she does right after is put on a jacket and bring along her bag and portable chair. She simply leaves from her apartment suite near Powell St. and Nanaimo St. and walks to a forest inside the city. The visit is simple as she walks across the paved trails over the rocks and branches with her cellphone turned off. A complete getaway. There are times she takes breaks like for when she eats something or feels she needs to write poetry or prose in her notebook. Other than that, just simply walking through the forest.

Then she finds a grassy spot that’s open and surrounded by the trees. She uses that spot as a place to set up her chair and relax. There’s a twenty-minute shot of the area of the forest she witnesses from her chair. It just consists of that view, changes of sunshine or cloud, and the surrounding sounds of the outdoors or her dealing with her chair, bag or notebook.

Night soon falls. She actually fell asleep during her time sitting in the forest. Night approaches. She’s all alone in the dark relying on her cellphone as a flashlight. She rushes to find the exit to the forest, but is lost. Images of her attempt to exit consist of her cellphone light shining or complete darkness with nothing but sound. Morning breaks and we see her walking back to her apartment as if nothing dreadful happened.

No question this film can be defined as experimental. The film is what it is. It’s a story about a young woman seeking tranquility in a forest and is willing to deal with whatever comes to her. The director Matthew Taylor Blais was in the audience and would later hold a Q&A after. Before the film started, he said: “No two people will have the same impression of this film.”

I got what he was after in this film: he wanted us to create our own thoughts, impressions and opinions about this film. That explains why actress Ana Escorse is given no dialogue at all in this film. The film is all about what we see and what we hear. I was open to this. The film gives us images and scenes that try to get us to form our own opinions. For starters, I actually thought the woman really was sick from the texts she sent. I though she went to the forest possibly for natural healing therapy. That scene in her apartment that shows an Aboriginal dream catcher could may have made some, including myself,  believe she’s into Aboriginal spirituality and may see the forest as the medicine she needs. Even the scene where you see trees just outside a condo leads you to think this is an urban forest close to downtown Vancouver in Stanley Park, when it’s actually shot in Pacific Spirit Regional Park close to UBC.

Later shots add into the opinions we form about this film. The scenes where she takes out her notebook and writes or draws might get one to think she’s using the forest for creative inspiration. That twenty-minute shot of the forest’s view is an attempt to get us to rely on the background sounds to form our own opinions about what’s happening from this view. The end scene of her trying to leave the forest at night is also one that gets us to rely on our thoughts of what’s happening. The scene with the biggest impact is the scene where the camera makes like we see her escape through her eyes. It consists of the background sounds and the cellphone light cutting in and out. It’s actually the scene with the most drama as one would wonder will she make it? Will she get lost?

Matthew Taylor Blais does a very good job with this film. I was more welcoming with the experimentation in this film than I was in PROTOTYPE. I think Blais’ intro before it began helped me to be more welcoming.  It’s an experimental film that pays off and allows the audience to create their own impression. It allowed me to create mine. However it is to say that it does take some creative risks that would be questionable. I welcomed that twenty-minute shot of the forest scenery, but some were not so welcoming. In fact I saw a few people leave the theatre during that scene, including a group of four. That’s one of the risks of creating an experimental film like this. Not everyone is as welcoming as me to such experimentation.

Forest Movie is an experimental film that allows the audience to exercise their imagination and make their own judgements about what’s happening in the story. This is experimental film that pays off greatly.

Advertisements

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.

VIFF 2016 Wrap-Up And Introduction To My New Blog

Cinema
I’ll admit I’ve been delaying my wrap-up to this year’s Vancouver Film Festival for the longest time. Heck, VIFF 2016 ended exactly two months ago! Hey I’ve been bogged down with work, school and this surprisingly blizzard-like weather which is extremely rare in Vancouver. On top of it, VIFF stats I was hoping to get after the Fest didn’t come. Nevertheless I feel a wrap-up is still worth publishing even if it’s this late.

The 2016 Vancouver Film Fest ended on Friday, October 13th. This was the first VIFF since 2011 that took place during Thanksgiving weekend. Crowds came again and again. There was a lot to offer with over 300 films from 70+ countries. There were even VIFF late night Hubs around the VIFF theatre held during the first ten days of the festival. I missed my chance because I was thinking of catching a hub during the second week. I didn’t know they ended that soon. Maybe next year.

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

BC Spotlight Awards

Best BC Film Award
Presented by the Harold Greenberg Fund, Encore by Deluxe
WINNER: Window Horses (dir. Ann Marie Fleming)

BC Emerging Filmmaker Award
Presented by UBCP/ACTRA & William F. White
WINNER: Hello Destroyer (dir. Kevan Funk)

Ignite Award
Recognizes the outstanding work of a female key creative on a BC-produced feature or short.
Presented by TELUS
WINNER: Cabbie (dirs. Jessica Parsons, Jennifer Chiu)
Honourable Mention: Here Nor There (dir. Julia Hutchings)

Canadian Film Awards

Narrative Features

Best Canadian Film
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Window Horses (dir. Ann Marie Fleming)

Emerging Canadian Director
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Never Eat Alone (dir. Sofia Bohdanowicz)

Documentary Features

Best Canadian Documentary
Presented by the Rogers Documentary Fund
WINNER: Living With Giants (dirs. Sebastien Rist, Aude Leroux-Lévesque)
Honourable Mention: Quebec My Country Mon Pays (dir. John Walker)

Short Film Awards
Best BC Short Film
Presented by CreativeBC
WINNER: Here Nor There (dir. Julia Hutchings)
Honourable Mention: Srorrim (dir. Wayne Wapeemukwa)

Best Canadian Short Film
Presented by Lexus
WINNER: Ceux qui restent/Those Who Remains (dir. Mathieu Vachon)
Honourable Mention: Fish (dir. Heather Young)

Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film
WINNER: Parent, Teacher (dir. Roman Tchjen)
Honourable Mention: Old Man (dir. Alicia Eisen)

Impact Awards

Radcliffe Foundation Refugee Crisis Awareness Short Film Competition
Presented by The Radcliffe Foundation
WINNER: Helpful Hand (dir. Alex Nagy)

VIFF Impact Award
Presented by Leonard Schein to one of the nine issue-oriented documentary films in the Impact Stream

WINNER: Power to Change – The Energy Rebellion (dir. Carl-A. Fechner)

VIFF Industry Builder Award
Presented by MPPIA to celebrate BC Creates with support from Western Economic Diversification and CreativeBC

2016 Honoree: Chris Carter

Audience Awards

Super Channel People’s Choice Award
WINNER: Maudie (dir. Aisling Walsh)

VIFF Most Popular International Feature
WINNER: I, Daniel Blake (dir. Ken Loach)
Runner up: The Salesman (dir. Asghar Farhadi)

VIFF Most Popular International Documentary
WINNER: Human (dir. Yann Arthus-Bertrand)

VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary
WINNER: Spirit Unforgettable (dir. Pete McCormack)

#mustseebc Presented by TELUS Optik Local
WINNER: Cadence (dir. Alex Lasheras)

As for my volunteer experience, it was all at the International Village this year and it was a good experience. I had a mix of shifts from early morning to late evening to middle of the day. I volunteered both during the Sunday and Monday of thanksgiving. I also volunteered all day Thursday the 12th. I had more chances this year to watch films than I did last year. Last year, I only had the luck of seeing one during my volunteer work. If you can ask me what my favorite film of the ones I saw was, I would have to say it was the first one I saw: Barakah Meets Barakah. It was entertaining and very intelligent.

For the end of the VIFF, there was a volunteer party held the Saturday before Halloween. Volunteers were treated to films shown at this year’s VIFF. Three of the best. After that, they were treated to a Jackrabbit Slims party which consisted of the VanCity Theatre turned into a 1950’s diner, like in Pulp Fiction, and people treated to hamburgers, cupcakes, a complimentary drink and dancing to a jukebox. It was fun and it had me looking forward to next year.

My New Blog

One of the things I’ve been thinking about this year is the way I do blogging. This is nearing my sixth year. I’m not getting the amount of hits I was hoping to this year. Blog topics that normally get a lot of hits on my site didn’t this time. In fact this year is set to have the least amount of total hits for the year since 2011. I won’t quit blogging but the lack of hits have taken away from my ambition and I don’t post as often as I normally do, as you may have noticed.

One thing I’ve thought of doing is setting up one blog focused on a single topic. The first single-topic blog I’m starting is about the Vancouver Film Festival and it’s called VIFFin’ It Up. It will consist of reviews I’ve seen at the VIFF and reviews of VIFF films I saw after the fest. It will also consist of news related to the Fest and the usual annual previews and wrap-ups. If you want to follow it or enter your email to subscribe, just click here. Right now I just have the intro. Over the days, I will post reviews and previews of past VIFFs starting with 2011: the first VIFF I blogged about.

So there you go. The 2016 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 28th to October 12th, 2017 and should be bigger and better. Hopefully next year I’ll attend a hub. See you next year!

 

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.

 

 

Movie Review: Beeba Boys

Randeep Hooda plays Jeet Johar, a leader of an organized crime syndicate in Beeba Boys.

Randeep Hooda plays Jeet Johar, a leader of an organized crime syndicate in Beeba Boys.

Back at this year’s VIFF, I was hoping to see at least one Canadian live-action feature. I didn’t have the luck. I was actually luckier after the VIFF ended as Beeba Boys hit theatres just a week after. I had the chance to finally see it for myself.

The story is about Jeet Johar, a Punjabi-Canadian mob boss who is seen as the big man in Greater Vancouver, especially Surrey. He’s seen by many in the Indo-Canadian community what many would see of a mob boss: a father figure, a leader, a man who helps his community and a man who tells other not to mess with their own.

However there’s another side to Jeet. Despite having a set of loyal men who carry out his actions, he’s a loyal father who’s concerned about his well-being. He’s very upset when his father drinks in front of his son and he’s concerned how his mother feels about him, even though he acts like it doesn’t bother him.

One time, Jeet is arrested for murder. The jury finds him not guilty and he wins the attraction of one of the jurors, the daughter of Polish immigrants. However the police know he’s guilty and they set up a man to join Jeet’s gang and have him set up for what they hope will be his capture.

Jeet faces a load of rivalry from other mob leaders, an Indo-Canadian business leader who has become hugely successful and various other Indo-Canadians trying to get a piece of their own crime action for their own gain. Meanwhile his love for Katya is growing despite her family’s opposition to her love to Jeet.

However with Jeet’s lust for power comes incidents along the way that send him a message he’s doomed to downfall. This comes from members of his gang being killed to even a shootout at his place, endangering his own family. This leads to an ending that is far from predictable but doesn’t make a lot of sense in retrospect.

The film has a lot of of good elements and ingredients brought by writer/director Deepa Mehta: the separation of the values held by the older Punjabis from the younger Punjabis who question and can even ridicule the values and loyalty held by older Punjabis. There’s even the perceived jealousy felt by a lot of young Punjabis towards those who have made it successfully and feel that they have to kill them to get ahead. There’s even the scene of how some children of those who have made it feel a distance from their parents and even feel neglected because of their parents’ focus on making it.

There’s also how one looks at the leader of organized crime as a positive thing, especially the young. That was especially seen in that young Punjabi boy at the beginning talking how Jeet tells others not to mess with them the same way Bruce Lee showed others not to mess with the Chinese. Typical young male with a ‘might is right’ attitude. There’s the feel of power associated by many with the might of the gun. That was shown when one of Jeet’s men gets a young boy to feel what a ‘real gun feels like.’ Even though he unloaded the gun before, it sends a message about how addicting the power of the gun can get. There’s even the feeling they have to rule the night club scenes as shown in many scenes in the film.

The film also includes many other unique and vital ingredients. One unique ingredients to the film include the mix of languages as it goes from English to Punjabi to ‘Punglish.’ Another good ingredient is not just the focus on Punjabi immigrants but also some minor focus on the Ukrainian aquacize teacher and Katya Drobot. Sometimes I think the film is not just showing the struggle of Punjabi-Canadians to exist socially in Canada but the struggles of many immigrants. I found it surprising since I live in Vancouver that is one of the most immigrant-friendly cities in the world.

There’s also the character of Jeet who’s trying to make like he’s the boss but struggles to be a responsible father and is easily infuriated when his father drinks. Soon Jeet would have to fess up as his son now thinks violence is cool.

However the main problem is that the film does not put it all together in a well-constructed manner. The film shows a lot of potential as it features a story within a topic that rarely gets proper focus and has offered few effective solutions in the past. However there are times in which the news stories and even the newscaster herself come off as too cartoonish. There are times when the story goes from telling a story of an Indo-Canadian mob boss turns into ‘preaching’ about the problem. I’ve seen other gangster films before that told a story that reflected a common problem in society without resorting to ‘preaching’ methods. There were even parts that came off as ridiculous such as mob rival Jamie being intruded upon during a fellatio by one of Jeet’s men. All I can say is for each Canadian gangster film like this, there are at least 50 American gangster films that are better.

Mehta brings an ambitious project with Beeba Boys however the problem is it’s not done in a well-edited, well-pieced manner and it comes off as unsteady, sometimes preachy and even confusing at times. I will however give Mehta credit. It’s obvious Mehta, whose 2005 film Water was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category, is presenting a topic very close to her concern: the rise in crime among young Indo-Canadians, especially around Surrey and other part of Greater Vancouver. Being a resident of Greater Vancouver myself, I often hear the news stories and concerns however I myself can’t really make a statement about this topic because I don’t have direct involvement with the Indo-Canadian communities in Greater Vancouver. Mehta however is very knowledgeable about this and she feels she has something to say about this. I give Mehta credit for presenting a topic on the big-screen that gets so little focus but I feel that it could have been done better as a big-screen film.

The acting was good but it wasn’t stellar. Randeep Hooda did a good job as playing Jeet Johar: a gangster leader who’s art tough guy, part concerned father and part troubled man. Balinder Johal was the best supporting player as the concerned mother. The mix of IndoPop or IndoRock were some of the best music that could have been added to the score while the more synthesized parts of the score didn’t fit well and took away from the professionalism.

Beeba Boys is an ambitions movie that attempt to send a message as it tells a story. However it makes a lot of noticeable mistakes and it doesn’t compare to many of the crime dramas before it.

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

Movie (640x306)

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.

2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup: My Prediction For The Final

Womens CupIt took 50 matches to round the 24 contenders to the two finalists for the Women’s World Cup on Sunday. It was decided to be the United States and Japan, same as at the 2011 WWC. It was an interesting match where the game ended 1-1 in regulation and 2-2 after extra time. Penalty kicks gave Japan the win. Anyways Japan have a chance to repeat or the USA can get their revenge and their third Women’s World Cup in the process. However I will make my prediction here for who I feel will win the final.

Third-Place Match: Germany vs. England

Of course I have to make a prediction for who I think will win the bronze medals. We have two teams that are broken-hearted and you can’t blame them. Germany was ranked #1 in the world and sure played like it during the tournament until they got to the semifinals. There the Americans came alive and had their best win over the Germans 2-0. Especially biting for Celia Sasic as she has been the WWC’s top scorer and miss a penalty during that game. The German team was hoping for this World Cup to be the one where they can make a comeback. Even though it’s a big improvement over their quarterfinal exit from four years ago, the loss still bites.

I don’t think I need to explain the frustration England is going through. This World Cup was to be the WWC where the Three Lionesses finally came of age and they did in their quarterfinal win against Canada. Cheers came from all over including the most lauded male players in England. In their semifinal against Japan, they appeared like they had the advantage as they did most of the attacking and shooting. Then just in injury time in the second half came the heartbreaking own-goal from Laura Bassett. That ended it for them as Japan would win 2-1 and become the finalist instead.

Head-to-head play undoubtedly favors Germany as England has never won against Germany in their seven previous matches. Their last duel together was a year ago and Germany won 3-0. However anything can happen and this game could go to whichever team is the least disheartened.

My Verdict:

As heartbroken I am for Bassett, I will have to say that Germany will take it 3-1. The Germans just have that much of an advantage.

WWC FinalWOMEN’S WORLD CUP FINAL: United States vs. Japan

Team Overview

The United States- What can I say? The Americans have been the best performers of the Cup so far. They may have drawn against Sweden but they’ve had convincing wins elsewhere. Their wins have mostly been conservative but they’ve known how to deliver each time. It was their 2-0 win against Germany however where the Americans were finally starting to show their brilliance.

It’s not to say they’re a 100% bet to win the World Cup. We shouldn’t forget the US lost to Japan at the last World Cup final on penalty kicks. Also the two tied 1-1 in their most recent duel last year. It’s all up to the Americans to deliver.

Japan- Until 2011, the furthest Japan ever got at a WWC was a single quarterfinal. 2011 changed everything as they became Women’s World Cup champions. Nadeshiko has continued their success since with an Olympic silver medal and a Women’s Asian Cup victory. Here they appear on fire as they’ve won every single match they’ve played in Canada.

However there’s one thing about Japan people have noticed. They’ve noticed that they’re not always all together. In fact some even noticed some errors in their game against England. A lot of people are saying Japan’s just lucky. They will have to perform solidly and strongly in the final if they want to repeat as Women’s World Cup holders. Also in terms of head-to-head stats, Japan has lost to the US more often than won.

My Verdict:

Okay this is going to be a tight one but I think the USA will win 2-1 in extra time. Actually it could be possible the US’s winning goal could be during injury time after 90 minutes or even in the last five minutes of regulation. Do you know how many game-winning goals have been scored here in Canada either after the 85th minute or in injury time?

And there you have it. My predictions for who will win the Women’s World Cup and the bronze medals. Now all I have to do is find a place to see the game. Can you believe tickets for the final were sold out months ago?

My World Cup Experience: Game Day

Yep, I had my ticket ready!

Yep, I had my ticket ready!

Normally you’d expect me to make quarterfinal predictions today. I made my quarterfinal predictions same time as my Round of 16 predictions. Actually I made a recent edit on my quarterfinal predictions since I got two wrong. Check the edits here. In the meantime I’ll tell you all about my experience seeing a Women’s World Cup game. It was Sunday, June 21st–Father’s Day in North America– and I was to see the Canada vs. Switzerland game live at BC Place.

This day was three weeks in the waiting for me. I bought the ticket during the Trophy Tour with the hopes that Canada would be the team to play. It seemed right. The berth was to go to the team that finished atop Group A and Canada looked like it had excellent chances. However I know there are no guarantees in sport. When I bought the ticket, I had the attitude that if Canada doesn’t play this, I’d still see it as this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I paid very close attention to how Canada was playing here. Yes, I was nervous after the draws but Canada did top their group and did become the team I wanted to see.

It was also a chore to see who Canada’s rival was. I knew it would be the third-place team from either Groups C, D or E. Wikipedia explained the match allotment for the third-place teams. Over time it was decided it would be Switzerland. I was confident Canada would win this. I heard two different sides of things as far as stats go. One was from Wikipedia; Canada has played Switzerland five times and won four. Another was from FIFA.com; Canada never played Switzerland before. What’s up with that?

I got off at the Stadium Skytrain station 45 minutes before the start of the game. Just as I was walking up Beatty St. to the stadium, you could tell the crowds were getting bigger. The streets had banners of the WWC. BC Place had decorated their walls with the WWC images. By the time I arrived at the main entrance at Gate A, there was already a load of people trying to get in. Of course there were a lot of Canadian flags and people with their faces all painted. The most I wore that day was a Canada shirt that said ‘Strong And Free.’ Yeah, I kept my fanfare conservative.

Despite the long lineups there, I tried making my way to Gate F as my ticket said ‘Enter Gate F.’ I made it past the lineups at Gate H and Gate G but saw any access to Gate F blocked off. Fortunately I saw someone in the lineup of Gate G who said they also had the same instruction as mine did. I took Gate G instead. Security wasn’t too much of an issue. They did have to check bags. It was a typical routine stadium check. It’s not like the Olympics where entering the event is like going through an airport.

Once inside BC Place, I wanted to do some looking around and see what they had up for the World Cup. Not too much except they did have WWC images in the walls and they had the WWC take over the stadium confectioneries charging their own prices which were way higher than during any Lions game. This was the first time I had to spend over $5 on a pretzel. I didn’t even have to spend that much during the Olympics. There were even WWC souvenir vendors. It was mostly T-shirts and scarves. I was hoping there would be something like glassware or spoons to give my parents as gifts. I wanted to look around, see the shops, see the fanfare. I even wanted to spot a few Swiss in the crowd. I was fortunate to do so.

The crowd was packed full of Canada fans.

The crowd was packed full of Canadian fans.

I made my way to my seat in good time: 25 minutes before kickoff. At first the stadium didn’t look all that filled but it would build over time. Both the Canadian and Swiss teams were training on the field. Then they had to make way as someone was driving a sprayer over the field to spray water. I thought that was odd. Spraying water on artificial turf? Actually I think they did that so that players wouldn’t sustain the dreaded injuries feared before the start of the WWC.

Then the game began. The FIFA flags came out, the flags of Canada and Switzerland came out, the FIFA Anthem played and then the ref and the teams came out. As tradition at all FIFA games, the national anthems of both countries were played. The Canadian crowd was respectful during the playing of the Swiss national anthem but of course they erupted into singing to ‘Oh Canada.’

Yes, there were some Swiss fans there too.

Yes, there were some Swiss fans there too.

Then it was game time. Interesting how you’re trying to watch a game and take a lot of pictures at the same time. I was seated near a net. During the first half, it was Canada’s to save and Switzerland’s to challenge. During that time, I was able to watch some good defensive skills from Canada but I was also watching in fear. Any miss could lead to a goal from Switzerland. Over at the other end, it was Canada’s domain to score and it was hard to watch from where I was sitting. Often I had to look up to the jumbotrons to see what was happening. One thing I did remember seeing from that far away was Christine Sinclair getting a yellow card. The ref’s yellow card was enough to notice from 80 metres away. One thing to note is that I heard a lot of people saying that there was a lot of terrible reffing in this game. It was interesting trying to take pictures. I didn’t have my mode set on Sport so I ended up shooting a lot of pictures that were blurrier than they should be. I did get some good action shots.

The game always had me nerwous whenever the Swiss (in white) were on the attack.

The game always had me nervous whenever the Swiss (in white) were on the attack.

At the end of the first half, the game was scoreless. Canada and Switzerland did attack and did challenge at times. I decided to remain in my seat. There were some players out to train. The sprayer came out again. And Shueme came out to greet the crowds and get pictures from fans.

Then the second half started. Things switched around this time. The net I was near was now Canada’s to score and Switzerland’s to defend. However it was only a matter of seven minutes when I was able to witness the goal from Josee Belanger. The crowd erupted! Actually it was hard to see with everyone standing up to cheer. Even I did. The crazy thing is that right after I sat down, I accidentally put my hand on top of the covered beer of the person next to me, causing a puncture and some spilled beer. She didn’t complain. She even gave me some popcorn to munch on. As for the goal, it was hard to see the actual goal so I had to rely on video replay to see it performed. Belanger delivered when it mattered. Belanger was also the most active Canadian striker that night delivering five of Canada’s seven shots. That goal gave the crowd enough positive energy to start a wave!

Yes, this is how I saw Belanger's goal.

Yes, this is how I saw Belanger’s goal.

One thing about the game is that I was able to see some crazy injuries from where I was. I saw on where Christine Sinclair was lying on the ground. Fortunately she was able to get up. However Melissa Tancredi was less fortunate. She was lying on the ground in pain and yes, she got up but she was limping around and a substitution was needed. Actually both teams went all out and used all three of their substitutions.

Canada (in red) hasn't been scoring an awful lot of goals but their defence has delivered each and every time.

Canada (in red) hasn’t been scoring an awful lot of goals but their defence has delivered each and every time.

Seeing the Swiss action at the other end would make me nervous as I would want Canada to win as would most of the 53,000 others in attendance. Each time the Swiss team posed a challenge, Canada delivered. My biggest memory from that was right into stoppage time, a Swiss player attempted a goal but goalkeeper Erin McLeod caught it and refused to let go, even as she was lying on the ground. It was like she was saying: “No, Canada is going to win this!”

Then the final whistle blew. Canada won! Their first win of a WWC knockout game since 2003 and it made Canada the only other host nation of a WWC besides the US to win a knockout game. The whole stadium was cheering. The whole team gathered to celebrate. Coach Herdman of course was happy. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod was declared the Woman Of The Match. Then the whole Canadian team took their victory lap. This was a great day for Canadians to be happy.

Canada wins! They'll be staying in Vancouver for their quarterfinal.

Canada wins! They’ll be staying in Vancouver for their quarterfinal.

I have to say that watching a football game live is different than watching it on television. It’s exciting to see the action close at you but when it’s far away, it’s hard to tell what’s happening and you have to rely on watching the jumbotron to know what exactly is happening. There were many times I wanted to get some pictures of Coach Herdman and his reactions but my zoom lens wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t even good enough when the action made its way to the other end of the stadium. I’m just glad Canada’s goal happened when I was close by.

The interesting thing I noticed about the crowd during the whole game is that you didn’t see the typical lunatic fringe type of crowd you’d normally see during soccer games in Europe or South America. Makes you wonder what the difference was. Was it because it was a woman’s game? Or because it was held in Canada? Sure there were people cheering loudly, the whole stadium was cheering for Canada and there were the occasional musicians in the crowd but there wasn’t that loud boisterous fanfare you’d normally hear at men’s World Cup games. I even watched the final of the U-20 World Cup that was contested in New Zealand and even there you heard the loud boisterous cheering you’d come to expect from a soccer match.

The Canadian team took their victory lap around BC Place.

The Canadian team took their victory lap around BC Place.

Nevertheless it was still a good event. The cheering may not have been loud or full of musicians but it was very supportive and passionate enough. That’s especially what I like best about this Women’s World Cup. Every men’s World Cup, Canadians always cheer for another country; most likely the one of their ethnic background. Canada has only qualified for the men’s World Cup in 1986. I don’t think there’s anything bad about what we do but it got on my nerves when I saw tweets and videos from Americans cheering for the USA. They’re not cheering for the country of their ancestry. They’re cheering for the USA! Knowing that cheesed me off. Here we can finally cheer for Canada!

Now when I bought the ticket back three weeks ago, I bought it as my best chance to see Canada play. I did not buy a ticket for the quarterfinal her in Vancouver which the winner of the match I saw would play in. I have to say I don’t mind. Sure, it would have been nice to have a ticket to see Canada play England in tomorrow’s game but I still have the satisfaction knowing I saw Canada play at the World Cup. Even better satisfaction that I saw Canada win. If they win tomorrow, great. I won’t be jealous of those who do have tickets. I had my time on Sunday and tomorrow will be their time.

So that was it. My very first World Cup game of any kind.You can forget about me having a ticket for the final. They all sold out long ago. Nevertheless it was a good experience and I’m glad I had the chance. That’s one item to cross off of my life’s ‘To Do List’ and hopefully chase a ticket or two for the men’s World Cup in the future.