A Nerd’s & Safety Guide to the 2022 Victoria Film Festival

8 Jan

Film festivals are continuing to be half in-person and half online as the world enters into year three of the pandemic. Sundance cancelled their physical edition and will be fully digital. It’s tough to say if smaller events in cities like Victoria, British Columbia will follow suit. As long as there’s no huge spike in hospitalizations, all anyone can do is stay informed to what the policies are should they want to attend in-person.

People going to a Victoria Film Festival screening must present their vaccination card and id. The check-in process should be even more machine-operated/contactless. When patrons are not eating or drinking, a mask must be always on. Additionally, there’s no advanced booking of seats for distancing between groups. This organisation isn’t likely to have enough volunteer power to enforce by doing high temperature checks, so everyone has to do their part to keep others safe. 

Thankfully, I’ve seen a few works already, so I won’t be braving the crowds. Where appropriate, a link to my movie review (or interview) is included to this list. As a lover of many documentaries, history and the fantastic, there’s other works I’d love to attend but will have to consider closer to the date. For those unable to see, I suggest checking your nearest film festival for possible screenings.

(links go to purchasing tickets for in-person screenings unless stated as online)

Compartment No. 6 - Wikipedia

Compartment #6
Feb 8, 4:15pm
Vic Theatre

Great train films like Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, Tony Scott’s Unstoppable, Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, and Bong Joon Ho’s SnowPiercer seem to be a rarity these days. Now, put those out of your mind because Compartment #6 is an entirely different journey and you will be disappointed if you were hoping for people leaping from trains or mysterious disappearances solved.  

Until her girlfriend dumps her and she ends up quartered with a boozy Russian miner, Laura, a Finnish archaeologist, is excited to be taking a train journey from Moscow to see petroglyphs in the far north. It can be difficult to make a film that’s set on a train – the close quarters can feel constrained but, in this case, it provides a perfect setting for a serio-comic look at a secretive romance between Laura and Ljoha played by Seidi Haarla and Yuriy Borisov who perfectly embody the inherent normality of their characters.  

You may know of the director, Juho Kuosmanen’, from his acclaimed The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki. Here for his second outing, he has a steady hand on the helm as he explores the nuances of an odd pairing that should not work but does.

– Kathy Kay 

I'm Wanita (2021) - IMDbI’m Wanita
Feb 7, 9:30pm
The Vic Theatre

Wanita’s outrageous life is straight out of the lyrics of the country music that she sings. Hard partying, drugs, motherhood, sex work, and a huge heart that opens her up to helping anyone who crosses her path in need, means that Wanita is often struggling to focus and bring her dreams into reality.

I’m Wanita is the story of a renegade country music singer from Tamworth, Australia, hell-bent on realising her childhood ambitions of stardom. Self-crowned as “Australia’s Queen of Honky Tonk,” Wanita is still waiting for the recognition she knows she deserves, as she embarks on a quest to record an album in the country music epicentre of Nashville. Having bulldozed every opportunity she has received, estranged from her daughter, and barely tolerated by her Turkish husband whom she has moulded into her cowboy dream, Wanita doesn’t have many options left for success.

Without question, Wanita’s talent shines bright as she lays down blazing vocals full of the gritty life she has lived. With the help of two musicians, she has one last chance to achieve the fame that she has longed for. But will she spin out of control and burn it all down? Or can she hold it all together to keep her date with destiny?

— Kimber Sider

Official Competition
Feb 7 & 11, 6:45pm
The Vic Theatre

This meta film biz comedy from Argentina duo Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat serves big laughs while providing sharp insight into many of the considerations behind the art and business of getting movies made.

When a billionaire entrepreneur impulsively decides to resuscitate his suspect legacy by financing an iconic movie, he hires renowned and somewhat pretentious filmmaker Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz) to direct this redemptive effort. Bringing some star-power to the proceedings are two actors with massive talent and even more massive egos: Hollywood heartthrob Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) and theatre actor Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez).

While they may be acting legends, they certainly cannot act in step with one another. Through a series of increasingly bizarre rehearsal demands by Lola, the two actors confront each other and their individual legacies. But Lola’s manipulations, meant to spur performative creativity, may instead usher in a descent into chaos.

— Bryan Skinner

Esluna: The Crown of Babylon (2021) - IMDb

Esluna: The Crown of Babylon
Feb 6 1:45
The Vic Theatre

In this action-packed animated feature set in the retro-futuristic world of Esluna, a relic hunter and her crew must track down an ancient artifact known as the Crown of Babylon. After her mentor is abducted, young Maeve sets out on an epic journey filled with peril and pitfalls. She and her team are in a race against nefarious characters also seeking the crown that legend says has the power to bring back the dead for those who possess it.

In a rare and admirable creative achievement for his first feature film, director Denver Jackson drew and animated the entire film independently, blending visual styles seamlessly with homage to the Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki.

This self-taught filmmaker developed his own technique of applying hand-drawn two-dimensional images over 3D backgrounds which result in action sequences that pop off the screen in this thrilling adventure that will appeal to audiences of all ages.

— Alex Rogalski

For more information:
An Interview with Denver Jackson & Esluna: Crown of Babylon’s World Debut!

* * *

Firestarter (2020) - IMDb

Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra
Feb 11, 1:45am
The Vic Theatre

Once there were three exuberant, creative, and talented brothers of Aboriginal heritage growing up in Queensland, Australia – carrying with them generations of inherited trauma and their own experiences with racism. Stephen, Russell and David Page turned that pain into cutting edge choreography (Stephen), athletic dance (Russell) and original music (David) as part of the Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Now, 30 years after the group’s founding, Firestarter illustrates how Bangarra has become a beloved part of the arts landscape in Australia, breaking barriers in the perception of what can be successful down under, celebrating indigenous forms of expression heretofore unseen in Australia. Their works are multi-layered, multi-ethnic, stunning productions that push modern dance to new heights and their numerous world tours have cemented their reputation as one of the top dance companies in the world.

Directors Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin thread archival footage from past Bangarra productions and home videos from the family, as well as key interviews with collaborators, illustrating the path from their initial struggles to their great successes as brothers and individuals. The aforementioned inherited trauma, however, is a tall hurdle for the brothers and the film takes on an even more important role as a way for their success to be understood amidst personal tragedies. A remarkable achievement in the burgeoning genre of dance-on-film.

— Jane Julian

SUMODO ~The Successors of Samurai~ | Free Stone Productions Co., Ltd.

Sumodo: The Successors of Samurai
Feb 9, 9:00pm
Capital 6

Sumo wrestling has long been misunderstood (even joked about) outside of Japan, but Eiji Sakata’s earnest documentary takes a peek behind the curtain to show us the intense training and mental fortitude required for the sport.

With unique access to the Sakaigawa stable – one of Japan’s noted training grounds for wrestlers – we first meet Goeido, the stoic rikishi who struggles with a torn bicep as he attempts to defend his position for yet another year in the country’s highest division of professional sumo. He’s contrasted with Ryuden Goshi a bubbly personality from another stable as he regains form after a broken hip that saw him fall through the ranks. We follow both as they take different approaches to fortifying themselves against their opponents – a vital aspect of their preparation, because as one of the wrestlers confesses “Everyday is a traffic accident”.

Instead of getting bogged down by the technicalities of competition, Sumodo focuses on the journey these men take through a year of bouts, with details on their lives at the stable where they eat, train and form friendships with one another. When you get to know their stories, the signature thunderclap of their bodies slamming into each other in the ring becomes all the more dramatic.

— Ammar Keshodia

One Pint at a Time (2021) - IMDbOne Pint at a Time
Feb 13 1:45pm
The Vic Theatre

The first five minutes of One Pint at a Time will have you doing three things. One, make you wonder how many microbreweries of colour there are in your area and how you can support them. Two, try to deal with the fact that less than 1% of microbreweries are black and what has caused that. Three, and this is arguably the most important, ask where you can get an ice cold brewski.

One Pint at a Time is a delight from start to finish. We watch the homegrown efforts of brewers of colour navigating what it will take to become relevant in an industry overwhelmingly white. We witness firsthand the difficulties they face from community leaders and neighbourhoods who are afraid of what a black-owned brewery might do to their area. We follow a firecracker of a woman who hustles her beer from festival to festival and store to store, sharing her story and passion for the amber gold liquid. The tenacity of these individuals will lift your spirits – their hope is that one day, you might lift theirs. One Pint at a Time is a must see but you’ve been warned…you will want a beer. Grab me one too. Cheers!

— William F. Reed

Tzouhalem (2021) - IMDbTzouhalem!
Feb 13, 7:30pm and online
Empress Hotel

Through interviews and creative re-enactments, this documentary examines the near-mythic figure of Cowichan Chief Tzouhalem, the account of his life from both historians and First Nations Elders, the folkloric tales concerning him, his impact on the modern relationship between the Crown and First Nations, and how his legend remains alive to this day, examining critically how his story has been told and passed down to us.

Strawberry Mansion (2021) - IMDb

Strawberry Mansion
Feb 12 9:30pm
The Vic Theatre

Movie reviewed at Fantasia 2021

A comedic fantasy that’s quirky in all the right places. James Preble (writer/director Kentucker Audley) is a tax auditor who scans citizens’ recorded dreams and taxes them on any excessive fantasies.

As he scans Bella’s dreams, James, a mild-mannered bloke, becomes infatuated with a younger version of this elderly eccentric artist. The elderly Bella, has shelves of unprocessed recorded dreams, and has some insight into the economic overlords and their dream manipulations that will set James on an unexpected journey….

Wolfwalkers (2020) - IMDb

Wolfwalkers
Feb 13 11:00am
The Vic Theatre

Movie reviewed at TIFF 2020
(spoiler alert)

From streaming on Apple TV Plus to film festivals to home video release, this movie has done the tour! It’s part of the Irish Folklore trilogy which expertly deals with more than the history of this country, but also just how intregral local beliefs and maintaining a social order manners.

Tomm Moore’s latest work introduces audiences to Robyn Goodfellowe, a young girl, who disapproves of what her father has been hired to do – hunt down a pack of wolves said to be terrorizing a local town. But, there’s a lot more going on when she meets one and is ‘smitten.’ She can transforms into one herself. Not even her father recognizes her, and the story is as magical as well as ecological in regards to who is considered right in an age of man that’s shunning its pagan past. 

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