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The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova

2 Dec

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

This film played at the 2018 Whistler Film Festival on Nov 30th.

The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova is a hilarious and heartwarming film. When two estranged siblings are strangers in a strange land and they have to work together to honour their grandmother’s last request–to find the remains of her dog, Peter–what they discover about their family heritage just might help mend fences. What they dig up are their own skeletons in the closet, and not even the remains of a beloved canine will dare tear their lives apart

Aaron (Douglas Nyback) and Sarah (Katherine Fogler) Cotler are in Poland. This film is more about them bonding, much like how Buby (Polish: Busia) and Peter (the dog) were. No flashbacks are immediately offered to let me know just how much these two loved each other; though by the film’s end, we see brother and sister understand each other more.

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On Elves in Pop Culture & Uvic’s Beck Lecture Series Celebrating 30 Years

26 Nov

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

The Beck Lecture series at the University of Victoria (located in British Columbia, Canada) celebrated 30 years and concluded this year’s offerings with a look into the Icelandic occult world by Dr. Guðrún Björk Guðsteinsdóttir. She gave the curious a look at elves, ghosts, and trolls from a cultural and literary perspective. Of the former, I sometimes feel like I’m one of the Huldufólk. One slide presented describes how people can tell if one visited the elf world. “You can tell by their love of ‘beauty, art and writing’ and by their wistful look as if having gazed into a disappearing world.” I had days where I’m in that zone. When asleep, my Astral form visits that realm.

Elves hail from a Germanic culture and their appreciation for the arts is especially well known in many a fantasy product. I could resume academic studies to examine the lore. Some material is available online, but more is gained by hearing an educator talk about them than from the Internet. Academic libraries help, but unless you are a student or alumni, I can not borrow them to read off campus.

This program offers more than the flights of fantasy. It reminds Icelanders living abroad about life back home and how it has influenced popular culture. Because of this recent series of lectures, I realize why I love Guillermo del Toro’s Trollhunters and Cressida Cowell / DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon so much. The seeds which inspired both series hail from this region. When considering the final film to HTTYD is “The Hidden World,” respect to the traditions is made.

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The Vintage Tempest’s Picks of Whistler Film Festival 2018

24 Nov

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

The Whistler Film Festival is a jam-packed five-day event taking place north of Vancouver, British Columbia. Established in 2001, local talents and industry bigwigs are here not only to ski but also look at the spotlight of refreshing new talents. This show is not for star spotting. I visited this resort to marvel at the Milky Way and get back to Nature; though for others, to mingle with the likes of Kim Cattrall, Ryan Reynolds or Jason Priestley is more enticing. Even Hollywood’s elite might be here looking for the next big thing.

With no surprise, Mary: Queen of Scots is the gala film. Saoirse Ronan plays the title role, and Margot Robbie is Queen Elizabeth I. Both are rivals for the throne, and for who gets it, they can look at John Guy’s book Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, which posits the theory that Mary and Elizabeth actually met and planned how to rule. Their on-screen tête-à-tête is one to marvel at.

To revisit this mountain resort town has been on my list for a while, and this year has enough reasons for me to go. The following are my genre picks which caught my eye.

The summaries are from this event’s website:

Anna and the Apocalypse

Nov 29 8:30pm
Squamish Cultural Center

Sun, Dec 02, 9:00am
Rainbow Theatre

Okay, so you want to see something different at a film festival. How about a Scottish Christmas musical zombie movie? Yup. Shaun of the dead meets Glee. This is the wackiest premise for a film since Trey Parker’s Cannibal The Musical (1993) or Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Devil’s Carnival (2012). When a zombie apocalypse threatens the town of little haven at Christmas time, Anna and her teen friends have to slash, decapitate and sing their way through an assortment of undead snowmen, elves, Santas and Christmas shoppers just to make it across town to the safe haven of their high school. The singing and dancing are show-stoppingly good at times as if the players are auditioning for a Broadway play. And if you are a truly twisted soul, maybe this will even put you in the Christmas spirit.

[Editor’s note: This movie will play at select theatres beginning Dec 7 courtesy of Orion Pictures. Please check local listings]

Elijah and the Rock Creature

Dec 02 4:00pm
Village 8 Cinema

A delightful family film that structurally resembles E.T., but on a tiny fraction of the budget. It demonstrates what great costume design and luminescent photography can accomplish when filtered through the eyes of visual artist and painter Jennifer Walden in her first feature, shot near Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.

Elijah and his mother are grieving a loss when they decide to see the stars in Wood Buffalo National Park, the largest dark sky preserve in the world. Elijah gets separated from his party and wanders the beautiful but marker-less landscape, frightened and lost. Along the way, he encounters a mythological rock creature “from beyond the stars”, who is also trying to find his way home. Together, they become a team. But when Elijah tries to explain the existence of his extraterrestrial guide, the folks back home assume he is suffering from hallucinations.

Using mostly local talent, with a particular nod to costume designer Adrienne Cartwright, this is proof that resonant stories can be made in any part of this country, and it marks the arrival of a major new directorial talent on the Canadian scene.

At Eternity’s Gate

Nov 28, 9:00pm
Nov 30, 12:00pm
Rainbow Theatre

Willem Dafoe is Vincent van Gogh. With his sunken cheeks and haunted eyes, it is difficult to imagine any other actor in the role. The film, directed by acclaimed artist Julian Schnabel (Basquiat, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly), focuses on Van Gogh’s final months, living hand to mouth in the south of France. He drinks too much, is extremely productive, but fails to connect with the locals, who taunt him and tease him. His artistic response to the beauty of the country around him continues to inspire him, even as his daily life and very survival become more difficult. Using lighting and natural settings, Schnabel successfully evokes the artist’s unique way of seeing the world around him. The nature of genius, and of artistic obsession is captured with deep insight in this oft-told story, but it is Dafoe’s performance as Van Gogh that will stay with you, long after the final images from the film have faded. This is the film’s first festival showing in Canada.

Treeline

Nov 30, 9:45pm
Dec 02, 9:45pm
Maury Young Arts Center

Trees are the oldest living beings humans have encountered since our time on Earth. They provide us with sustenance, shelter, fuel, and materials that we cannot live without. This year’s winter film from Patagonia takes us on a journey through the enshrined cypress groves of Japan, into the ancient bristlecones of Nevada and through British Columbia’s own towering red cedar forests. We follow skiers, snowboarders, scientists and healers as they each explore their relationship with the silent giants. Vancouver filmmaker Jordan Manley breathes life into these forests with his stunning cinematography. A unique look into the power of nature, treeline is as visually encapsulating as it is spiritually moving.

Shortwork Series

Up to nine short films make up this unique set of screenings. Beginning November 28th, each day will offer something special. Of note, Girl in the Galactic Sun (see below) and Cedar Tree of Life will certainly sate the sci-fi enthusiast and hedgewitch in me. Guy Maddin is one of three directors in Accidence (Day 2, Nov 30 12pm)

The following make up unit four, of student’s works, (playing Dec 3, 1:30pm). Of these pickings from this category, I find the shorts offered in this collection may well traverse beyond the line of what fantasy, a thriller or science fiction means. Rod Serling must be proud!

EGG – A surreal animation about a woman locked in her home with an egg, towards which she feels both attraction and fear. She eats the egg, she repents; she kills the egg; she lets the egg die of hunger. The woman controls the egg… or does the egg control the woman?

Fantasmagoria – Struggling to cope with the loss of her daughter, a grieving mother embarks on a surrealist journey filled with bizarre characters in search of peace in the realm of lucid dreams. As she gets closer to her daughter, Mara comes to realize what she needed all along.

Girl in the Galactic Sun – A genderless alien who longs for a different life decides to transform into a woman in order to reproduce and save the species. G944 arrives at the Galactic Sun Facility unaware of the risks, and its desperation to understand what it is to be a woman leads it down a dangerous path with unnerving consequences.

Take Me Home to This Place I Belong, This Mountain Life

12 Nov

Plays November 14, at the Capitol 6 theatres, at 7pm and 9:30pm, in Victoria, B.C. Tickets can be bought online hereFor upcoming screenings nationwide, please visit MountainLifeFilm.com

Coming soon to Knowledge Network. Please check local listings. The local showing includes the NFB’s Mountain of SGaana.

  • Spoiler Alert

This Mountain Life is a beautiful documentary about staying positive. For those aspiring to climb high enough, communion with Nature can be found. Though tuning into the cosmos natural vibration is not everyone’s goal, these huge rocky ranges people find latticed around the world offer than meets the eye. At least for those folks who wonder what it’s like to live off the grid, or spend time away from the concrete jungle—whether it’s at a cabin, a monastery or a small community in the woods—this film reveals plenty.

At the same time, we are reminded Supernatural British Columbia is three-quarters mountainous terrain. Life within the Coast Mountains (sic. Cascades) is the focus. To live life with the outdoors as your backyard is not limited. Those willing to explore these alpine ranges can reveal a bounty of medicines and new discoveries, if not reconnecting with a higher force. Small towns tucked within the valleys enjoy the benefits. In the Lower Mainland, some folks can visit Whistler, BC to go skiing. I am brave enough to venture deeper to discover other treasures, if not get spirited away—lest the wildlife have other plans for me.

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