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Weekend One at the Victoria Independent Film and Video Festival

VIFVF 2006 - Now playing thru February 5th
by Jason Whyte

In previous years at the Victoria Independent Film and Video Festival, I have tried to balance my film viewing time with interviews and parties. This year, however, I have been cursed with a cold PRIOR to the festival, so my time was more balanced to seeing more of the films and panel discussions that the festival had to offer. I was still up late and running between venues, mind you, but I had somewhat of a relaxed time as I went back and forth between the screening venues and the Laurel Point Inn, where activity was running strong (if a bit lighter than years previous).

In quote-by-quote format, I give you my perspective of this year’s Victoria Film Festival which had its share of fun events and films:

“You think you’re into independent music? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Prior to the opening gala festivities, I visited my friend Robin Davies, who was performing with his cohort Adam R. Tindale as the partnership I Send Data Live as part of the Interactive Futures Conference, which runs alongside the first weekend of the festival and focuses on new media in relation to new art forms and audio. I have heard Robin’s work in the past and have enjoyed his experimental nature, and the live performance on friday focused on a audio story that was programmed through two Mac laptops. Their performance lasted just a little bit over half an hour, and it was interesting to also note the captive audience as the show progressed, and how many had their eyes closed as Davies and Tindale performed. You can check out their website by clicking HERE.

“The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire!”

And on I went into the festival. Everything kicked off with at the gala screening of “Mozartballs” and “The Tale of the Magic Flute” to celebrate Mozart’s 250th birthday. Surprisingly, a delicious looking, oversized cake was rolled out to the front of screen #2 at the Odeon 7 to help celebrate. As AChannel host Adam Sawatsky, festival director Kathy Kay and other festival crew blew out the candles, the resulting smoke triggered the fire alarm and as a result, the building automation switched off all of the other projectors in the cinema. It is tradition for the Victoria Film Festival to start off with a glitch, it seems, but at least it happened before the screening.

“All party and free beer make happy The Jay Man.”

The party commenced afterwards at the Laurel Point Inn, where I first run into Robin Davies and Adam Tindale, fresh from their performance at Open Space as they are hanging around a table serving free glasses of beer. I quickly joined in, naturally, as free beer is hard to turn down and I had some partying to do!

A few moments later, up walks Times Colonist film critic Michael D. Reid who is someone I always tend to run into when films are involved. Michael is a busy man during this festival; not only did he host a tribute screening of Coal Miner’s Daughter for Beverly D’Angelo (who spent the weekend at the festival), but he is also the host of Sips ‘n Cinema where he chats up festivalgoers after two assigned films playing at the festival. It’s a really great idea for people to connect to a film critic in this way; and so much so that I’d love to steal it and do something along these lines at VIFVF 2007.

After I was finished talking with Mr. Reid, I quickly ran into Mozartballs director Larry Weinstein rather quickly, and not only is this guy a talented filmmaker who also has the wonderfully enjoyable “Burnt Toast Operas” playing at the fest, he also has such a positive energy about him that makes him very easy to approach and talk to. I can say the same for his lovely business partner Barbara Willis Sweete (who directed Tale of the Magic Flute) who was also a strong presence at the festival.

I also shook hands and made friends with producer Marc Halperin (good friend of Chris Parry, my wacky efilmcritic.com editor) who visited Victoria for the weekend to take part in the Trigger Points Pacific meetings where local producers and industry can connect with larger players in the business. Marc, decked out in a leather jacket that made him look like an ex-biker (this isn’t just me talking; apparently others commented on this as well!), was in town to do one-on-one conferencing on behalf of his distribution company Magic Lamp Productions. Marc reminded me of the time I spent with Laszlo Kovacs back at VIFVF 2005…the man has many great stories and anecdotes on his filmmaking and political background and had no problem sharing them.

“This guy likes to talk a lot, but listen to this guy talk!”

As the gala ended and the screenings began, I decided at the last minute to check out the screening of Going Through Splat: The Life and Works of Stewart Stern on Saturday night, if for no other reason to check out famed screenwriter Stewart Stern discussing the film at the screening. I had met Stern briefly at the gala screening, shook his hand and was eager to see how an audience reacted to the Splat documentary, which I found a more rewarding experience the second time around. And as many stories as Mr. Stern told during the documentary, he continued after the screening with director Jon Ward to a completely captivated audience. My thanks to the festival staff for arranging this great writer to attend the festival.

”Film? That’s so old school, man.”

I am in full support of as many films being accessible to Victoria as possible, especially through the film festival. You have no idea how much I want this city to watch more independent, foreign and smaller fare, which this festival generously supplies. With that said, I am not in favour of some of the delivery methods that the festival is providing. Two of the first weekends’ films, Kamataki and Le Neuvaine, were not screened in 35mm, as stated in the program, but rather from DVD copies that are not nearly in the same ballpark as their 35mm counterparts. I did not watch Kamataki (which apparently was a fault of the producers and not the festival), but I did watch Le Neuvaine which was dim, washed out and clearly not representative of the original 35mm photography, of which I saw in full grandeur last fall at the Vancouver Film Festival. Later on in the week, the festival is screening Machuca, Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic and Fateless by way of a digibeta, even though the first two have 35mm prints available and the last one is opening in 35mm in Vancouver on Friday and is also currently in Toronto. One part of me thinks it is great that we get a chance to see these films, but we should be allowed to watch them in the best format possible.

“The attack of Sarah Lind.”

I have also noticed this while attending the Vancouver Film Festival from time to time, where a particular actor just keeps showing up in several films playing at the same festival (Brendan Fletcher immediately comes to mind). Vancouver-based actress Sarah Lind, who is best known for her work on the famed TV show Edgemont, is featured in three films at this festival; A Simple Curve, Severed and Fetching Cody. She is solid in all of them, even if the movies are so-so (“Curve” is the only one I’d give a recommend, and a friend tells me the Sunday night screening was packed). Ms. Lind has some work on Smallville coming up, and I’m quite sure that we’ll see more of her, not just at the film festivals.

“Dave’s REALLY not here, man!”

It was somewhat sad to see a slight attendance for the festival hit “a/k/a Tommy Chong” which screened at the Victoria Conference Centre on Saturday night (which I was forced to run directly to after watching the Stewart Stern documentary). I had missed this when it played in Vancouver last fall (and Mr. Chong showed up to the screening along with director Josh Gilbert) and was thrilled to hear the film had been booked for Victoria. The film itself is a very entertaining look at the complete stupidity the American government went to put Tommy Chong behind bars for selling bongs, as well as showing how lovable and caring Mr. Chong is as a person. I am not sure if this film has a release schedule for television, but this was one of the highlights of the festival.

”Have I just met the Canadian Napoleon Dynamite?

One of the more successful screenings this weekend was for Amnon Buchbinder’s Whole New Thing, an entertaining look a smart hippie kid (Aaron Webber) as he falls for his teacher, all the while going through puberty quite quickly. Buchbinder, who I met on Saturday and found out was a fellow projectionist (we therefore talked “shop” about print quality, photography and projection faults we’ve seen in our day) was on hand to provide an entertaining Q&A to the audience. “We shot this in 15 days at the absolute lowest possible point for a “big” film,” Buchbinder told the audience after the screening, and to me the film looks pretty good. And it was projected properly, which I’m sure Mr. Buchbinder was happy about.

What else to look forward to at the fest: I recently viewed the great, solid Overlookers from director Christopher Warre Smets, which is one of the most interesting multiple character studies I’ve seen in quite a long time. The film’s main topic is the search for love and shows it through stalkers, prostitutes, businessmen and investigators all surrounding an agency that will help you meet the love of your life…for a rather expensive fee. Although filmed on a small budget, the film looks and feels larger than life, thanks to an excellent cast and some really sharp writing on relationships. The film screens the last night of the festival (Sunday, February 5th at 9:30 @ Odeon), and is worth checking out.

At the same time, the Closing Gala will be taking place at the Reef Restaurant. I’ll be there to check out which films won the major awards at the festival and hopefully snap a few pictures of the festivities. Like the closing Volunteer gala at last year’s Vancouver Film Festival, the closing party here is usually the most fun.

In summation, the first weekend of the Victoria Film Festival had a few problems, a few glitches here and there (what festival doesn’t?) and things seemed a bit quieter than usual, but that is one of the charms of the festival, in my opinion; that any curious filmgoer can come to this event and freely move around from one film to the next and get wrapped up in what makes festivalgoing so unique. I still love visiting this festival every year, the little festival that could, and this year is no different.

Check back next week to hear my final thoughts on the festival, coverage of the awards and my picks for best and worst of the festival. For more information on the festival including tickets, films and events, point your browser to the official website located HERE

(Pictures, from top to bottom: Robin Davies and Adam R. Tindale of I Send Data Live at their Interactive Futures performance; Jason Whyte and Marc Halperin pictured at Laurel Point Inn; Stewart Stern introducing a screening of "Going Through Splat"; and Barbara Willis Sweete, Beverly D'Angelo & Larry Weinstein partaking in a film forum discussion on screenwriting at the Laurel Point Inn Terrace Room. All pictures were taken on my piddling little digital camera and are therefore my property. If you would like to see more pictures of the Victoria Film Festival point your browser HERE

Jason Whyte; jasonwhyte@efilmcritic.com

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1702
originally posted: 02/02/06 01:58:36
last updated: 02/02/06 14:58:58
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