[VFF ’16] A Film Festival Weekend Recap, Insights and Picks of the Week

8 Feb

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

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After the fun-filled Gala at the 2016 Victoria Film Festival, I was ready to head to the aisles to view this show’s weekend selection in the best of what independent cinema has to offer. But first, one of the staples that is a must-attend for me, especially when I want to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work, is Springboard’s In Conversation series hosted by Richard Crouse. He’s the voice of Canada’s movie and entertainment scene. From the big blockbusters to the indies, he’s covered them all and his knowledge is vast. I was hooked about four years ago and I find it’s best not to miss these talks.

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

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

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

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

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

For the afternoon, I prepared for BC Family Day by going to a screening to McDull: Me and My Mum, a cute animated film from Hong Kong. Although I find the name odd, hardly Chinese-sounding and more Scottish, at least I discovered in the film that his real name is Nong Mak, a piglet with an affinity to aspire to great heights, but often failing. His attitude to persevere is what makes this character enduring, and in this latest product, he’s all grown up. Here, this film looks back at his life. A separate review will be coming.

The evening had Cinevic, a local society of filmmakers, celebrating 25 years in a special night looking back at their works and a documentary Al Purdy Was Here which looks at this poet’s influence upon the world-wide scene. He lived in North Saanich and passed in 2000. The mark he left is indelible. Feeling like Pink Floyd, I wished I was there for either screening, but sadly, I had other obligations to fulfill.

The week looks great with more films to go see. My picks include Rams on Monday, Miss India America on Tuesday, Hermits on Weds, The Lobster on Thurs and a double-bill of The Girl in the Photographs and The Smalls: Forever is a Long Time Friday. Some I will attempt to catch if it is not sold out (or seen already in advance) but when the film festival is in town, all other blockbuster movies do not matter anymore. Admittedly, I will have to catch Deadpool. I could not be a geek if I ignored it opening weekend.

I think the VFF programmers have decided to screen more one-time only films more than previous years. I do not mind, but sometimes to decide which one of the two, if not three, I must see on the big screen is tough. Thankfully the second weekend is loose. There will no doubt be a few added screenings to the empty theatre one at the Odeon, which I think is being saved for those hits. Al Purdy, I just may catch you yet!

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