The 2016 Victoria Film Festival (VFF) started off with a great bang with the screening of My Internship in Canada, a very funny political satire by Phillippe Falardeau (Congorama). This movie explores how democracy should really work instead of who can sway prevailing opinion.
In one microcosm of rural Quebec about MP Steve Guibord (Patrick Huard) trying to solve a local problem between miners and an Algonquin tribe over land use (it could have easily escalated to a fight) to the macrocosm of Canadian politics he is involved with — he holds the swinging vote to whether Canada (led by a Stephan Harper type of character) goes to war — just where he stands is beautifully examined by an idealistic Haitian, Souverain (Irdens Exantus). This young man arrives at Guibord’s office seeking work in the political arena. Souverain needs to earn his chops, and his observations to his family back home certainly tickles the funny bone. The chemistry these two leads share makes for great contrasts. And just how this movie handles the Cornelian dilemma in this film’s plot is cute. Exantus is a talent to keep track of and I think he carries the same kind of charm Eddie Murphy channeled in the 80’s. There’s a genius lurking in this talent just waiting to bust out.
CTV Arts Reporter Adam Sawatsky introduced this film and Exantus, who was present for this screening. Kathy Kay, festival chief, welcomed film enthusiasts who came down for this movie and party. In a blustery evening packed with many events around town (including a broader movie festival at Cineplex theatres and a Jim Brynes concert up in Sidney), competition is getting tough. The VFF is a fixture for cinema buffs to enjoy and I was here instead of anywhere else!
The night continued strong with a Gala party at a rented space off Government street. Filmmakers, performers and attendees of the festival mingled. Present at this event is Canada AM / CTV film critic Richard Crouse. He will be hosting VFF’s In Conversation series this weekend starting at 11am for early risers. This year, he’ll be interviewing Semi Chellas (Mad Men) and Larry Weinstein (Mozartballs, Beethoven’s Hair). Both will be talking about their careers and their present work. Weinstein will be introducing a work in progress, The Devil’s Horn, this year! For a preview, I recommend checking out the interview I conducted for Vivascene here.
Everyone got to party it up in a Freudian style world. People arriving at this venue had to choose, Alice in Wonderland-style, between going sweet or naughty as the entry-point before being welcomed by hugs of teddy bears which I received, or an entourage of blow-up dolls. Once inside, the highlight is the rousing performance of familiar musical hits by the R&B band, New Groovement.
Film enthusiasts had to be paying attention to notice the projections of silent films against the walls. The surreal mix (I noticed a few segments from Georges Méliès early works) of cinema is present, but not many folks were necessarily paying attention to this presentation. The band rocked the night and Camosun College’s Cooks Program fed the masses. I enjoyed the mix of hors-d’oeuvres offered but where’s the oysters?
Return visits were needed to fill anyone up and I hovered around those tables should new tastes pop up. The selection was nice, but I was starting to crave a proper meal. Fortunately, I did eat before going to the film and this after-party. The bar filled with drinks from De Vine Vineyards, Spinnakers Brewpub and Ampersand Distilling Company provided an endless supply of tasty booze, ranging from ciders to oyster stouts to keep everyone spirited, and I had to be careful since I was driving home.
Although this party felt scaled back (food-wise) when compared to previous years, the enthusiasm was infectious. Familiar faces were everywhere, and I was introduced to Connor Gaston, one of Victoria’s favourite filmmakers. He will be screening The Devout on Feb 13th. Other movies made in Victoria include The Girl in the Photographs, a movie that I found particularly thrilling. I got a chance to screen this in advance and also talk to Nick Simon, the writer/director and Thomas Mahoney, producer. His interview will be published later in the week and appear in Absolute Underground Magazine. This film is notable because of Wes Craven’s involvement prior to his sudden death and it will be screened Feb 12th.
Another notable product by Victoria-based documentarian, Patricia Sims, is When Elephants Were Young. This will play on Monday, Feb 8th at Star Cinema in Sidney, BC and a review and interview will be coming! I’m sad to report that the downtown Victoria show at Cineplex Odeon is sold out, but if people show up super early, a few tickets might get released for cash only sales.