Top Picks to see at the 2021 Victoria Film Festival

Victoria Film Festival LOGOFeb 5 to 14th, 2021
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The Victoria Film Festival is back, and online! It’s no surprise that this event has gone digital. The pandemic and regional restrictions on what events can continue forced many celebrations of any kind world-wide to continue this trend. On this list includes who can view the films this year; those living outside of British Columbia are out of luck, and my recommendation is to check your local art house theatre or film festival to see if they will be offered.

Suspiciously missing in this virtual edition is Jammies and Toons. Whatever the reason is for dropping this annual tradition for kids, my foreign animated pick Wolfwalkers, available to stream on Apple TV+. It has everything a child can enjoy and my review can be found here.

Deciding on what to see this year was tough. I offer a Top Ten (minus one since I always include an animated entry). Thankfully, there’s material in the shorts program, but it’s not quite the same.

When the physical events are permitted to run, I’m sure it’ll be back.

All-In Madonna (2020) - IMDbAll-In Madonna

This movie made by local up and coming talent, Arnold Lim, is a drama and murder mystery.

Against her hard-edged father’s wishes, 17-year-old Maddie (Melanie Rose Wilson) decides to leave the seclusion of homeschooling to attend high school in person. As her world expands, she starts to hear stories about her father’s past and must begin to reconcile the difference between the dad she thought she knew and her small town’s perceptions of him. Between helping raise and protect her younger sister and resolving the mysteries surrounding her family’s past, all the while facing bullying in her new school, Maddie is forced to mature and decide the path she wants to take.

Animate Me | SHORTS

Grab My Hand: A Letter to My Dad

Camrus Johnson, Pedro Piccinini I United States I 5 minutes

A personal story of grief, those we look up to, and how the interactions we may deem insignificant may play a huge part in how we live our lives.

The Great Malaise

Catherine Lepage I Canada I 5 minutes

A young woman describes herself and her life in glowing terms, but the visual narrative tells a different story: with heart-rending power it illustrates the heavy burden of anxiety carried by this worried overachiever.


Andreas Hykade I Canada I 11 minutes

“You know, when I was a boy, I fell in love with the Virgin Mary. It happened in a little Bavarian town called Altötting.” Mesmerizing, haunting, and deeply personal, Altötting is a coming-of-age story about love, faith, mortality, and shattered illusions.

Song Sparrow

Farzaneh Omidvarnia I Denmark I 12 minutes

“Song Sparrow” is about immigration. People of different color and race and culture, old and young, embark on journeys, eager to find some place they can call home, or just some place they can live in.

I, Barnabé

Jean-François Lévesque I Canada I 15 minutes

Barnabé can’t take it anymore! Tormented by doubt and feelings of inner emptiness, he questions the fundamentals of his existence; drunk with misery, he defies the skies above.

Girls Can't Surf | Release date, movie session times & tickets, trailers |

Girls Can’t Surf

Surf culture went mainstream in the 80s, professionalizing a counterculture sport and attracting major sponsorship deals. However, the free spirits riding this wave weren’t all full of peace, love, and empathy. Beneath the surface was a murky world of archaic male egos and bigotry.

Women were paid a tenth of the prize money, pressured to compete in bikinis and relegated to holding professional contests during mens’ lunch breaks. Girls Can’t Surf shares the untold story of a ragtag bunch of inspired, renegade Australian, American, and South African women surfers who battled against inequality, homophobia, and chauvinism of their fellow sportsmen, sponsors, and institutions. As the sea ebbed and flowed, so did their struggle, fortunes, and notoriety of these pioneering surfers, but nothing kept these radical women from catching their own waves.—Luke Moody

Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something

It seems to be the year for documentaries that go beyond the dry retelling of someone’s life and Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something vibrates with the warmth and charm that was this remarkable singer-songwriter’s life. Chapin’s ability to create great songs that told insightful defining stories (“Taxi,” “A Better Place to Be”) made him a household name, with “Cat’s In The Cradle” (written with his wife, Sandy) being his most memorable. Director Rick Korn traces its cultural impact from DMC to Bruce Springsteen to The Simpsons to Modern Family. The song is as relevant now as the day it was written. Chapin is revealed to be not only a musician but also an effective advocate for ending world hunger. Co-founding WhyHunger, a global non-profit organization active to this day, Chapin performed over half of his concerts for no profit so that the box office proceeds could go to the charity. A woke man who acted rather than merely talking a good game. It’s wonderful to have this remarkable man brought to life again.

iHuman (2019) - IMDb


Are robots going to take over the world and replace humans? Will your microwave be your best friend in the future? Or your worst enemy? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? If so, keep reading. If not, keep reading. iHuman, is a documentary thriller that explores the most powerful and far-reaching technology of our time – Artificial Intelligence. With a unique access to pioneers at the frontline of the AI revolution, it explores opportunities and challenges that it can bring and its impact on the global community. How is AI changing our lives? What role will play in the future? iHuman will give you real chills and perhaps encourage taking that technology-free weekend to the cabin you have always dreamt of.

Jukebox: The American Dream

Jukebox recounts the beginnings of the record industry. As you tap your feet and dance in your seat, you will discover in Jukebox: The American Dream, one of Quebec’s most remarkable figures of popular culture. In the mid-fifties, Denis Pantis, the son of a Greek immigrant, had a passion for rock ’n’ roll. He dreamed of becoming the next Elvis but instead became the most important record producer of the 1960s. Jukebox retraces the steps of the man nicknamed the “King of the 45 record.” A new generation of stars, producers, musicians and lyricists emerged around him, forming together an “independent” record industry unlike any other in the world. Due to Pantis’ contributions to work Quebec-made records sold more than American and European records combined: this was the other great accomplishment of 1967, the year of Expo.

Labyrinth of Cinema (2019) - IMDb

Labyrinth of Cinema
(海辺の映画館 キネマの玉手箱)

Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s final film of his prolific career culminates with Labyrinth of Cinema, a kaleidoscope of colourful writing, unique editing, and unconventional story structures that feel every bit its namesake. The darkly comedic story follows three men who get trapped within a movie, battling through the narrative of a rotating gauntlet of war films where they are forced to fight, negotiate, and run for their lives, while experiencing battles, romantic trysts, and touching dramatic intersections.

Poetry is reflected within the narrative as a metaphor for the men and their adventures as they strive to save the individuals they had sworn to protect, making this feature feel as much like a collection of poems as it does a film. At a hearty 179 minutes, those who make the effort will find in it, an ode to cinema. Clad in powerful anti-war regalia, Labyrinth of Cinema ironically breaks many of the traditional structures within the films it has set out to celebrate. The duality of its narrative shines both a scathing and painful spotlight on the tragedy of Japanese history. Like many poems, it is as much or more about the feeling as it is the message. Or perhaps the feeling is the message.

Queen of the Andes

Between Elon Musk’s SpaceX innovations and the ill-fated 2013 Mars One initiative, the red planet continues to consume our collective imagination about life on another planet. New Brunswick filmmaker Jillian Acreman sets her feature debut in the not-too-distant future when the government has drafted exceptional young adults to participate in its experimental and highly controversial Mars colonization plan. Pilar (Bhreagh MacNeil) has been selected thanks to her groundbreaking biology research, and now she must face the task of preparing for her last few days on earth.

The science fiction premise gains its gravitas from MacNeil’s breakthrough performance as a twenty-something navigating the perils of adulthood. Torn between her duty to science and personal relationships, she has kept the mission a secret from those closest to her. As the clock ticks down, she attempts to avoid the messy emotional confrontations of saying a final goodbye while looking for an escape.
Skyfire (2019) Movie Poster


If 2020 were a movie it would be Skyfire. From the director of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Con Air, we bring you Skyfire – a Chinese disaster action mega-production. Tianhuo Island, located in the world-famous Pacific Rim volcanic belt, is as beautiful as a paradise. The idyllic location almost makes people forget that it’s in the area also infamously called the “Ring of Fire.” When the volcano erupts, the fate of the people on the island is in the hands of a geologist and her father. The film has Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter series, Peter Pan, The Death of Stalin), Chinese superstars and is filled with action shots. So, get yourself some popcorn, maybe a good drink or two and enjoy some giant explosions. Because what else is there to do in life?

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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