The little film festival that could

Having attended the Vancouver Film Festival several times, I am all too familiar with overwhelming lineups, packed theatres and the utter disappointment of recurring signs telling me that the show I hope to see is, in fact, sold out. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t all bad. As a festival-goer attending one of the world’s premier festivals, you experience breathtaking cinema before the rest of the world gets a peek. Legends are born and careers are sprung at film festivals, which is why the masses continue to flock back despite the enormity of it all. But what if there was a festival that could provide the chance to see blooming stars in a unique setting, without the calamity of the landmark festivals? After attending several shows at this year’s Victoria Film Festival, I believe the VFF team has collaborated with filmmakers and producers to establish a happy medium between Goliath festivals like Sundance or Cannes and smaller ones, such as the Whistler Film Festival.

After volunteering in the Victoria festival in 2011, I was amazed to see how far the event had come in those two short years. In 2011, the festival lacked publicity and community interest. Many of the shows were not sold out and nearly no big-name stars were in any of the films. This year, I was amazed by the turnout. More than a few shows were filled to capacity, surely a reflection of the calibre of this year’s films. Stars like Pierce Brosnan (former James Bond actor, Tailor of Panama) and Jamie Kennedy (Malibu’s Most Wanted) filled the program, helping give the festival the kind of buzz it clearly deserves.

Despite all of the 2013 festival’s great qualities and continued growth, it remains true to its origins as a smaller festival and has remained accessible to the everyday Victorian. Tickets are easily available for order at the festival’s office downtown or online at their website, victoriafilmfestival.com. Volunteers are friendly and seem genuinely happy to help. Lines only form a little while before showings and chances are good that you will be able to find a decent seat if you arrive 20 minutes early. As if all of this wasn’t good enough, the festival offers more than just the films.

Springboard 2013 is a portion of the festival dedicated to lectures and talks given by industry professionals on topics ranging from pitching your own film ideas to drama, transmedia and documentary workshops. Other segments of the festival include Sips ‘n’ Cinema, Feast and Film and of course the magnificent Opening Gala Film & Reception, which has more delectable food and drink than one could ask for. All of these events, in keeping with tradition, are presented at manageable prices and open to anybody. What the staff at the VFF has accomplished is remarkable; less funding and manpower than the juggernauts, but in many ways a more enjoyable experience. I would strongly encourage any and all readers to attend the festival in 2014. Since the festival’s inception in 1995, its management and volunteers have worked together to establish an experience unique to the VFF that I guarantee you will enjoy.

To give you an idea of the calibre of films you might see at the festival, I have included reviews of three of the films that I viewed this year.

Lunarcy!, Canada
Genre: Documentary
Director: Simon Ennis

Lunarcy! is a Canadian documentary about different men and the relationships they share with the moon. One character believes his destiny is to be the first human being to leave earth for the moon and never return. Another character is former moon-landing astronaut Alan Bean, who expresses his successful trip to the moon through painting. And then there is the self-proclaimed “owner of the moon,” who sells plots of lands on the moon for approximately $20. I’m serious — visit his website if you don’t believe me (lunarregistry.com). Don’t let the oddity of this film fool you; this is one of the most hilarious, well-made documentaries I have seen in a long time. Ennis has the unique ability to blend comic relief with a serious narrative and had me hooked from the opening credits.
Rating: 5/5

Dead Man’s Burden, United States
Genre: Drama/Western
Director: Jared Moshe

It has been weeks since I saw Dead Man’s Burden and I am still not entirely sure how I felt about it. On the one hand, its awe-inspiring cinematography and landscapes were a marvel for the eye. Unfortunately these backdrops were quite often paired with cheesy dialogue and banal acting. At the very least however, the film was quite entertaining and visually stunning.
Rating: 3.5/5

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, United States
Genre: Documentary
Directors: Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Frédéric Tcheng

Diana Vreeland was the iconic and outspoken fashion editor who helped take magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue to prominence throughout her career, which stretched well over half a century. As someone not too fascinated by women’s fashion, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see the film. I was happily surprised by Vreeland’s polarizing character and spectacular career. The filmmakers were able to produce a striking, colourful film, which suddenly had me wishing I were an avid Vogue reader circa 1965.
Rating: 4/5

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