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The 2004 Vancouver International Film Festival: It's A Wrap!

It's all over, baby red...
by Jason Whyte

11:03 am. Saturday, October 9th, 2004. My notebook is open and I am writing. I sit alone on an observation deck on a ferry connecting me from Vancouver to home. Three weeks have passed, a time that will live on in my mind as another chapter in the continuing saga known as film festival obsession. I’m burnt out at this time. Wiped out. Thrown through hellish emotions, anxiety, my friends – the close ones – hating me, getting a cold, losing sleep, eating horribly, I still went through a complete emotional breakdown to see three to five movies a day and visit places I normally couldn’t on my kind of budget. And despite that writing to you, I still had the time of my life and I write this to you, the reader, my reflections on this year’s 23rd Vancouver International Film Festival.

(As I write this into my little notebook, the sun has just peaked out of a cloud. Time to put on my sunglasses. *beat* I look into my bag and look for said sunglasses. I can’t find them. Better keep writing...)

Many film festivals run for just over a week, some even over a weekend or only evening shows during the week. The Vancouver International Film Festival runs 15 days (excluding press screenings, of which I was present four more days) from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with showtimes staggered so well that you could show up at almost any part of the day and have something start within half an hour (sounds just like those big new blockbusters that open up on 5-6 screens, doesn’t it?). Yet, it is impossible to see every last film, documentary, short film, panel and party offered by the VIFF schedule. Some try, especially the courageous volunteers who show up on the very first day of press screenings and stay all the way until the closing gala show on the very last day.

And yet, you still can’t see every last thing the VIFF has to offer. Can’t be done. Gary Guess, a festival veteran and proud express passholder, viewed 115 festival films by the time the festival had wrapped, all the way from that first early September press show at the Pacific Cinematheque. “I’ve had a lot of days where I can see six films in a row," Guess commented, "The first show starting just after 10 a.m. and my leaving for home well after midnight. But I could never manage seven films in a row. Seven would be perfection!”

Gary is far from crazy. Over the course of three weeks, I saw 74 of the films that VIFF had to offer (that’s not including the 15 “regular” films such as “Shark Tale,” “I [Heart] Huckabee’s” or “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”) and was up early each day, in a theatre for the rest of it, then walking home very late at night. I also was in attendance at five parties, covered a local Vancouver film called “Everyone” and made another addition to my Profile Interview Series (both of which you will be reading about in the coming week). I was busy. If you needed to find me for whatever reason, you didn’t need to call my cell phone, just simply show up at Ground Zero, also known as the area on Granville Mall where the Granville 7 Cinemas and the Vogue exist; these are the primary venues for the festival. I was there.

Where to begin…

“Did somebody say….party? Again?”

The VIFF ended pretty well with a screening of the delightful “Look at Me” by Agnes Jaoui, one of the most beautiful film directors I’ve ever seen. (More thoughts on the film below.) The closing-gala was hosted by none other than CBC’s Bill Richards dressed up in drag. The man led the awards ceremony which consisted of several awards designated by the VIFF staff along with the audience awards.

Chile’s “Machuca” about the Chilean political coup in the 1970’s won the International Audience Favourite Award. This comes as no surprise as every screening of the film (there were three to begin with, and two more were added later in the festival) were sold out. There were no mentions of runner-ups, but if I were a betting man, “Czech Dream,” “The Motorcycle Diaries,” and “The World According To Bush” were close.

Many Canadian films were fighting for the Most Popular Canadian Film award this year, with two documentaries in a tie for first place. “Being Caribou” and “What Remains of Us” took the top honours, with a triple-tie for the runner-up: “Everyone”, “Shake Hands With The Devil” and “Scaredsacred”. I’m a bit surprised at “Being Caribou” winning despite having smaller screening rooms than “Everyone,” but c’est la vie…

”Seven Times Lucky” was awarded for the Best Feature Award from Western Canada; Gary Yates’ grifter-film won $12,000 from CityTV and the award was accepted by Babz Chula and Aleks Paunovic, with Yates talking to the audience from Aleks’ speaker on his cell phone. God bless those little devices.

Jennifer Calvert was awarded for Best Young Canadian Director of a Short Film for “Riverburn”, which is on my Top 5 list for the best shorts of the festival (see below) and a good choice on VIFF’s part. Special mention was also given to Jason White’s “Of Burning Hills” and Steven Olsen’s “Judas’ Pane”, but oddly no mention of the much talked-about “The Porcelain Pussy” which received a loud, thunderous applause at a screening this year.

In other awards, Joely Collins was awarded the annual Women In Film award for her performance in Bruce MacDonald’s “The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess.” On the documentary front, the VIFF staff have given Jessica Yu’s “In The Realms of the Unreal” the award, for an entertaining and visual (if slight) look into the head of a troubled artist. “Tarnation,” as noted below, is the winner in my eyes, but at least they didn’t choose another George Bush documentary. And finally, special mention was made to the VIFF ads “The Pants I Have Owned” and “Hail Storm”, with the directors on stage.

The gala then commenced, like last year, to the Vancouver Aquarium, which was a fun but celeb-free event. That said, Everyone from “Everyone” was in attendance as well as all of the award-winners. It was a fun event that played until about 1:00 A.M., and I then ran into many of my filmmaker friends at the lounge at Bosman’s, most of which were covered in cigarette smoke.

Onward and upward. It’s time to move onto my selections of the festival along with my awards and commentary about the festival in general. Without further ado…

The Ten Best Films of VIFF

#1. Tarnation: The best film of the festival was also the least-talked about. Hardly anyone knew about it, myself included, and I am thankful that a friend of mine recommended that I check this out. This is one of the most original documentaries I’ve seen, a telling look into the life of Jonathan Caouette, a gay man who survived beatings, humiliation and torture and lived to tell about it. Utilizing old film clips, recorded phone conversations and narration expressed not in voice-over but TITLES, the film cost next to nothing to make (only $218.32) and has an upcoming theatrical release. It is inspiring to see such a minimal-budget film have such an emotional impact.

#2. The Motorcycle Diaries: Walter Salles tells an incredible story about a man who makes a personal discovery while on a journey through South America. That this man is the legendary revolutionist Ernesto “Che” Guevara is only part of the trip. “The Motorcycle Diaries” tells the story of the path of Che and his best friend Alberto as they make a trip through hellish conditions on a beat-up motorcycle and find stories about the state of their culture that forever changes the man inside.

#3. Rhythm Is It!: This is a film about the teaching of arts and music to children, and is done in such a thrilling manner that my heart leapt during the final, bravura sequence where a group of 250 children dance to Stravinsky’s [i[The Rite of Spring by British composer Sir Simon Rattle and choreographed by Royston Maldoom. It is rare these days to have a documentary so motivational and inspiring as well as entertaining.

#4: Primer: This is one heck of a fascinating movie about time travel and chaos that was so challenging and so confusing that I wish there was another screening directly afterwards so I could make more notes. That said, this independent feature from Shane Carruth was shot for around $7,000 on the 16mm format, which is what I’d like to see more of these days in an era of digital this and high-definition that.

#5. Electric Shadows: Xiao Jiang has a complete love for cinema in telling a story of past and present where movies run through the blood of all of its characters. There is a character in the film that has no problem doing all-nighters of American blockbusters at the local Cineplex, and this character learns many life and love lessons as he comes across a story of an old movie-theater operator and the lives within. Jiang’s storytelling style takes a bit in getting used to, but it resonates more towards the wonderful finale.

#6. Czech Dream: This is a very creative documentary that follows two filmgoers who go out of their way to advertise a new “hypermarket” that is opening in the Czech Republic, a store of unparalleled supremacy, but there’s one catch: there’s no store. Rather, there is so much advertising and publicity put into the endeavour that thousands of people believe the event and show up and believe that massive billboard in the field is actually real. This is a hilarious example of society’s reaction to cheap consumerism. If you flip over the fact a new Wal-Mart is opening in your area, this movie is for you.

#7. Look at Me: Agnes Jaoui is a filmmaker I am hoplessly in love with, not just because she’s achingly beautiful but also a writer and an auteur that cares about people, flaws and all. Her followup to the excellent “Les Gout des Autres” is an ensemble piece that features a young opera singer who thinks she’s ugly, her novelist father, the singer’s teacher and a potential boyfriend who looks past face value. Like the films of Lawrence Kasdan, Jaoui puts people first in her story with sharp, perceptive writing and outstanding acting.

#8. Mooladde From Senegal, this is a brutal story about female genital mutilation that is honest and real. The film’s title stands for “Protection”, and many of the young women in this story are trying to flee the ancient cultures of the land and a society that needs change from its past. Features some incredibly natural performances and subtle imagery, one of which is a small cloth placed near a door frame that curses anyone who crosses it.

#9. Mirage: A kind of dark horse of the festival, this is one of the haunting films I’ve seen in years about bullying, about a young, aspiring writer who falls victim to an abusive, uncaring family as well as painful and violent ridicule from kids at his school. As a victim of bullying (although not to this degree), this was a traumatizing experience of a child who has nowhere to turn but violence to solve his problems, and the film’s ending is shocking and powerful.

#10. The Machinist: I had some problems towards the finale where we get a play-by-play of the events, but what stands out is Christian Bale in one of the most daring performances I’ve ever seen on film as a man who hasn’t slept in a year and the results of his insomnia. Bale’s complete dedication to this role is unforgettable, not only in his complete mental and physical torture (he lost over one-third of his body weight and he wasn’t that chubby to begin with) but his mannerisms and lack of control which makes him terrifying to watch. This is the kind of acting work that the Oscar was made for.

The Five Best Short Subject Features of VIFF:

#1: Commentary: On: This is a brilliant short piece from Toronto about a man who laments over a lost relationship, but what sets it apart from the norm is the decision to tell the story in a unique and original style – by way of a special edition DVD, using menus and features to navigate the viewer through his head. Scene selections, storyboards, on-screen script notes and commentary over the action are just some of the devices used here, and at only 8 minutes it is one of the most creative shorts I’ve seen in years.

#2: The Porcelain Pussy: Also brilliant is this gender-reversed film noir where a lady detective searches for stolen diamonds. Beautifully made in black-and-white 35mm, this mini-noir is memorable for changing all of the old filmmaking ideals on its head.

#3. Elliot Smelliot: Remember “Tadpole” which featured Aaron Stanford as the youngest womanizer in history? Elliot is only 12 years old but he loves a chemistry student 8 years his senior, but doesn’t care. He’s smart and philosophical and therefore incredibly immature.

#4. Riverburn: While only about 20 minutes long, this is a beautiful, Terrence Malick-inspired short about a young city girl (Magda Apanowicz) who is left alone on a camping trip for a short while and meets a city boy who is interested in her. Apanowicz is wonderful as a girl on the cusp of adulthood, and director Jennifer Calvert shows incredible promise.

#5. Sink & Rise: Part of the South Korean “Twentidentity” package, this is a hilarious 10-minute piece about a father and daughter who makes a bet to a store merchant that eggs can float. If he wins the bet, he gets to keep the store. Very funny and insightful.

The Five Worst Films of VIFF

#1. George W. Bush: Faith in the White House: “I’m not a documentary, I just play one at the film festival.” Since there was an anti-bush documentary present at this year’s VIFF (William Karel’s disappointing “The World According to Bush”), it was not much of a surprise that the programmers tried to get a screening of something from The Other Side. This documentary plays more like a promotional video you’d see late-night on the PAX channel as hurried clips, bad research, poorly read quotes by narrators and hideous interviews (one involving a hospitalized boy who visited Bush close to the start of the war; his speech pattern is obviously rehearsed.) and a “host” who plugs her own book towards the finale. The screening at VIFF sold out, but as this dung-heap progressed, the theatre was nearly empty by the end credits. Getting to hear an audience erupt in laughter when a serious quote is made that says “Nobody spends more time on his knees than George W. Bush” was one of the highlights of the festival.

#2. Izo: The man known as Takashi Miike has created a disaster of a motion picture that is endless in its depiction of a time-travelling warrior who seeks revenge on those who attempted to kill him before. Or something like that. Featuring endless graphic violence that would nullify even the most passionate of gore hounds and some music interludes that I doubt would cause many to search for a soundtrack, Miike has stumbled off the face of the planet with this schlock-fest. One of the worst films of the year.

#3. Searching For The Wrong Eyed Jesus: Aren’t trailer trash purdy? This BBC documentary is one of the longest 85-minute films I’ve seen in recent memory, documenting aimless wanderers, barfly’s and country singers through the American south. The culture is certainly interesting at one level, but there isn’t a single interesting character or story here. The topper is an endless church sequence where the “power of god” moves through the churchgoers as they flail around like they’re having a spasmodic attack. Talk about the placebo effect.

#4. The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess: Mostly a film beloved by the Vancouver filmmakers crowd, Bruce MacDonald’s new film about the tabloid superstar/lover of a convict Gillian Guess looks cheaply made and oh so Canadian styled that it didn’t surprise me to learn that several different versions of the film were made before release. You can’t buy the film for a second, even if Joely Collins’ performance is very good, as is the music score by Broken Social Scene. It’s not enough.

#5. A Hole in my Heart: Never in a million years would I think that Lukas Moodysoon would ever appear on a “worst” list of mine since I have been a fan of his work for quite some time, and he has been mentioned him in many of my reviews of American teen films that are so fake and abysmal that they could certainly use his special touch. Here he directs an appalling film about lost souls making a fetish porno film in a dingy, crowded apartment. The initial idea is interesting, to tell a story of too many people in crowded surroundings looking for a way out, and yet the film substitutes pain for coherence. And vomit.

[u[Jason’s 2nd Annual Vancouver International Film Festival Awards:
Since I have already covered the films, I thought this year I would move directly to the people involved with the festival that ruled this year.

Coolest Filmmaker Award: Bill Marchant, director of “Everyone.” Here is such a respectable and busy man in the Vancouver industry that still had time to sit down with me and do an extended interview about not only the movie, but his ethics as a teacher at the Vancouver Film School (he heads up the acting department) and his support of all talented people that he meets. Marchant’s energy is infectous and is very inspiring and motivational to everyone he meets. I wish this guy a long and successful career, but he doesn’t need it. He’s already there.

Coolest Filmmaker Award Runner-Ups: Several mentions of great people this year: Actor and UBC honcho Dax Belanger for the frequent run in’s during the parties and Canadian films; producer/actor Tyman Stewart for his endless and friendly support (and the guy laughs at my jokes, so there’s something right there), always uber-producer Paul Armstrong for being a cool guy to run into a second year in a row, Benjamin Ratner who I ran into on several occasions, and actor Ryan Haneman for being great company at many of the parties.

Coolest Actor Award: Nicki Clyne, actress & Babz Chula, actress (tie). The first is a beautiful up-and-coming actor who is funny, likable and extremely talented, and the other is a beautiful veteran actress who is kind to everyone she meets. Nicki, a lead in the small Canadian film “Ill Fated,” is intelligent about her craft (watch for an upcoming Profile Interview Series on Nicki) and Babz is so passionate about her career that she inspires many in both her acting work but also in her teachings at UBC and the Vancouver Film School. (Also watch for a future interview.)

(Also: my hats off to the entire cast of “Everyone” for being supportive of my work and doing some very entertaining interviews.)

Best Line Award: This year I’m happily awarding a tie to both the Pacific Cinematheque and The Ridge for being out of the downtown core from beggars and also having cover in case it rains. It also benefits to have a pass here as the holders can go in first.

Best Party: This one goes to the pre-fest party at Cin Cin Ristorante held by Brighlight Pictures and publicist Rory Richards. This party was quoted by many others as the highlight of the entire film festival. And the absolutely beautiful Kristin Kreuk was spotted there, but not by me (see “The Bad” section below). And getting to meet “Andromeda” stars Kevin Sorbo (no, really!) and Laura Bertram were highlights, too.

Best Presentation/Venue Award: The Granville 7. While at first, the sound and picture were a bit “off” through many of the films, as the days went on I saw less and less technical errors and many in-frame, in-focus films with the subtitles easy to read. The use of the curtains was also a nice touch. I just wish more of their auditoriums were equipped for digital (see below).

Best Seat Award: The Seats at the Granville 7 are still comfy and wide to this very day, despite being over 17 years old. They aren’t along the lines of the new stadium-seating theatre seats, but they’ll do, especially after the bum-numbness of the seats at the Vogue.

Most Walked-Out Award: The shorts program “Deaths and Transfigurations,” will appeal to Tarkovsky fans and those who appreciate artistic imagery, and I enjoyed it, but not the audience I attended it with. While the short “Textism” from Japan received a good response, a good 100 of the 150 people left the cinema during the drawn-out “Light and Class,” from South Korea, which features nude models against images of light and sound but no dialogue. And several others left during “Lingchi: Echoes of a Historical Photograph” which is a silent (literally silent) film about public executions in yesteryear Dynsaty China. In other walkouts, the French “Ma Mere” had many walkouts, as did “A Hole in My Heart” by Lukas Moodysoon.

The Good:

Granville Cinema #7: I planned most of my schedule around this gorgeous, 664 seat behemoth with a gigantic wide screen (note: sit in the very back for the best view), incredible digital surround sound with a great bass level. Some highlights: The enveloping six-channel thrill of “Rhythm Is It!” during the Stravinsky pieces; the thumping of the soundtrack in “Kontroll” from Hungary; the musical numbers in “Being Julia” and the eerie presence of sound in “The Machinist,” which was also gorgeously photographed in widescreen.

A Very Cool Program: The $8 program book is worth every penny, even if it isn’t technically accurate as many screenings were added and some were cancelled. Still, everything within the book was great to help decide which films to see and which ones to avoid like the plague.

The Line-Up system at the Granville 7: This year, the VIFF staff were planning to forgo last year’s door entry ticket system for pass-holders and instead have all pass-bearers join a common line, and the ticket people would come to you. The first morning of the festival was disastarous, with staffers passing by people who wanted tickets, then getting different directions from different people on where to go from there. As I left an afternoon screening that day, I discovered that they had reverted back to last year’s line system, and the rest of the system went very smoothly from there on. My thanks to the hard-working staffers down there for going back to the system that works.

The Pre-Screening Ads: The interesting thing this year is that they didn’t grate on my nerves as much as last year. There were three AGF ads, one of which featured the hilarious Toronto comic Mike Beaver (from Warren P. Sonoda’s “Ham and Cheese” which screened at this year’s Victoria Film Festival) as a boom operator who despises the director. There were also a few different ads from VanCity about stereotyped films that garnered some laughs. And the VIFF sponsor trailer featured clips from movies that didn’t make the VIFF cut. What I liked about these ads is that they’re not as relentlessly loud as last year, and it was easy to tune out if you didn’t care for them.

The Weather: With the exception of the first few days and the last, Vancouver was blessed with warm, summer-like temperature and clear skies for the majority of the festival. Several days I ventured out into Vancouver without a jacket and emerged late at night to a crisp but not cold evening. This was better than last year where festival-goers were hit with several days of rain throughout.

The Not-So-Good:

Where’s The Digital?: Only Granville theatres #2 and #7 along with the Ridge have a digital sound system, and all of the films I saw on those screens were alive and booming with great sound, even the smaller ones. I’m not sure the reason for the other Granville theatres having to remove their digital equipment (they used to have Dolby Digital sound on all of their auditoriums), but it would be a great addition to their excellent projection quality.

The Latecomers: Riddle me this. Why is it that people who show up late get special treatment? Show up twenty minutes late and you will have an usher guide you with a flashlight, and said usher will shine his or her flashlight all over the auditorium, even on people, to find an empty seat, normally the one right next to you. What’s worse is that these people are simply killing time in-between shows. Either stand in the back or get out.

The Talkers and the High School Outreach Program: Not only are latecomers annoying, but the people who endlessly talk and need explanation of a particular film are flat-out annoying. And don’t get me wrong, I admire that local schools are working with the VIFF to teach the arts to younger students, but high school students didn’t behave at screenings last year, they didn’t this year, and therefore don’t have a place at the VIFF which is normally adults-only. One comment was overheard by a teenager that complained they “Had to come all the way downtown” to see a movie that they didn’t have to pay for, and thought that the whole festival should have been held at one of those suburban stadium-seating megaplexes. Uh-huh.

How I Almost Met Kristin Kreuk: If you know “Smallville,” you know of Kristin, who I consider a great actress and a spectacular beauty, and this is now the second year in a row where I have missed meeting her. She attended a screening of “My Life Without Me” at VIFF 2003, and I was off at another show. This year I was in the same room as her at a pre-fest party yet she left so quickly in a sea of people. Here’s hoping for VIFF 2005.

The Ugly:

The Visa Screening Room at the Vogue: I hate to sound like a broken record, but this is not a place to show movies. Concerts are perfect for this venue, because you aren’t twitching around in painfully uncomfortable seats. The film projection was out of frame on 90% of the screenings I saw and the sound was pretty much mono (where’s the digital?). Toronto gets the Roy Thomson Hall. Seattle gets the Cinerama and the Egyptian. Why does Vancouver have to settle for a gala venue where its only benefit is the seat count (1150 seats)? A colleague of mine remarked that the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts would be a fine place for a feature venue. I couldn’t agree more.

The Homeless: I hate all of you. I hate the fact you won’t leave us alone and constantly ask us for change, cigarettes or weed while waiting on line on Granville Street. I hate the fact that at one point during the festival, there were over half a dozen of you WAITING outside of the Granville 7’s main exit doors for us to come out so you can surround and harass us for money you don’t deserve. There were many points during the festival where I stayed inside of Granville’s mezzanine so I wouldn’t have to put up with all of this.

The Defining Question

As per tradition of my film festival coverage, I was out there at the fest getting the answer to the very difficult question:

“What is your favourite film of all time?”

• “I really loved all the “Lord of the Rings” films. – Paul Duchart, photographer for VIFF
• “The Jerk.” Ryan Haneman; actor and filmmaker
• “Taxi Driver.” Leela Savasta; actress
• “Moulin Rouge.” Lisa Mazzotta; actress
• “All The Mornings in the World,” or in French; “Tous les matins du monde.” – Laura Bertram; actress (“Andromeda”; “Ready or Not”)
• “I absolutely love “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” – Kevin Sorbo, actor (“Andromeda”)
• “The films of Harmony Korine like “Gummo” and “Julien Donky Boy” – Nicki Clyne, actress (“Ill Fated”)
• “Top Gun all the way!” -- Larry W. Campbell, Mayor of Vancouver
• “The Rules of the Game.” – Jack Verrmee; Cinemascope Magazine; festival programmer
• “Raging Bull” – Josh Sternfeld, director (“Winter Solstice”)
• “My favourite movie has to be the old westerns; “The Dirty Dozen” and the earlier westerns of Clint Eastwood.” -- Petra Moorhouse of VanCity Banks.
• “”Hear My Song” with the awesome Ned Beatty.” – Sebastian Balon, volunteer
• “2001: A Space Odyssey” – Mark Timko, volunteer
• “2001: A Space Odyssey” – Shah Manshadi, volunteer
• “Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven” is amazing.” – Cassandra Nicolaou, director (“Show Me”)
• “I love the films of Terry Zwigoff, most notably “Ghost World”.” – Howard Fraiberg, producer (“Show Me”)
• “Touch of Evil.” – Justine Whyte (no relation), producer (“Show Me”)
• “”Xanadu”, and make sure you also write down “He adds with a laugh.” – James Butler, festivalgoer
• “”Come and See” and “Once Were Warriors” are my favourite dramas, and my favourite comedies are “Attack of the Gas Station” and “The Blues Brothers.” – Gary Guess, Uber-festivalgoer.
• “The Godfather Part One.” – Robert Glatzer, Spokane Film Festival director
• “A Clockwork Orange.” – Omar Mouallem, festivalgoer
• “The early comedies of Woody Allen like “Bananas,” “Sleeper” and “Love & Death.” – Paul Armstrong, producer (“Ill Fated,” “Moving Malcolm”)
• “”A Woman Under the Influence” by the great John Cassavetes” – Babz Chula, actress (“Seven Times Lucky,” “Moving Malcolm”)
• “Fellini’s “Intervista” for sure.” – Elan Mastai, screenwriter
• “I absolutely can’t think of one of all time, but my favourite film of this year’s festival has to be “Tango Salon.” – Alice Low, festivalgoer
• “Baran Baran.” – Alice’s sister
• “Apocalypse Now, the original 1979 version.” – Dianne Cook, volunteer
• “One of my favourite movies is Jan Sverak’s “Kolya”” – Katarina Marcin, volunteer
• “The original 1977 classic known as “Star Wars”” – Rudolf Mammitzsch, director (“Commentary: On”)
• “”Jaws” still creeps me out to this very day.” – Andrea Hazard, producer (“Commentary: On”)
• “”The Year of Living Dangerously” and “Diva,” hands down.” Dax Belanger, actor
• “The Parent Trap, the version with the red-heads.” – Teaghan Belanger, actress
• “Classics-wise, I must say that Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” and “Written on the Wind” by Douglas Sirk are my favourite. I also absolutely adored “Lost in Translation” which I think will be a classic.” – Heidi Taylor, volunteer
• “The original “Star Wars: A New Hope” is my favourite, along with “The Sound of Music.” – Greg Seid, volunteer
• “”Once Upon A Time in America” by Sergio Leone, easily.” – Xiao Jiang, director (“Electric Shadows”)
• ”A Clockwork Orange” – Vince Miller, festivalgoer
• “Diva.” – Diana Knauf, festivalgoer
• “Dr. Strangelove.” – Dan Roben, festivalgoer
• “Withnail & I” – Bill Marchant, director of “Everyone”
• “Ditto.” – Tyman Stewart, producer of “Everyone”; agent
• “Also ditto, but let me also add “Apocalypse Now”, and I love both versions equally.” – Steve Park, “Everyone” actor and producer
• “”The Thin Red Line” and “Eyes Wide Shut”.” – Anna Williams, “Everyone” actress
• “Wuthering Heights.” – Cara McDowell, “Everyone” actress
• “Ridley Scott’s director’s cut of “Blade Runner”.” -- Andrew Moxham, “Everyone” actor
• “2001: A Space Odyssey,” a landmark film, and “Glengarry Glen Ross” for the outstanding writing.” – Mark Hildreth, “Everyone” actor
• “Vincent,” a film on Van Gogh.” – Debrah Thorne, “Everyone” actress
• “I just watched this today and it is one of my favourites: “Cry Baby.” Sir Ian McKellan, Uber-Actor

The following had to abstain from my question, but my thanks for trying to answer: Don McKellar of “Childstar,” Carly Pope from “Everyone,” “The X-Files” smoker William B. Davis, festivalgoer Krystal Harris and Michelle Nolden from “Show Me.”

The Final Thoughts:

Why do we do all of this? Despite ridicule from some of my friends who simply don’t understand me, I attended a majority of this festival and was able to visit Senegal, England, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Croatia, Scotland, Spain, Iran, Taiwan, Portugal, China, Finland, Denmark, France, Egypt, Brazil, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Russia, Palestine, Macedonia, Malaysia, Italy, India, Czech Republic, Chile, Germany, Morocco, & many parts of the US and Canada all for next to nothing. When’s the last time you went on a trip on this kind of pass?

I had an interesting conversation with Krystal Harris late into the festival (a festivalgoer who saw nearly as many films as I did) in regards to conversations she has with fellow co-workers about her filmgoing habits. She told me she was being ridiculed for doing what she does. Says Harris: “I always ask these people, ‘What do you love to do?’ and I then tell them that I’ve found a passion in my life and I make the decision to do this and stick with it.” It sounds like me speaking. Although many of us got colds and lost sleep by seeing 50+ films, it didn’t matter. We love doing what we do, and to hell with those who oppose. For many, the VIFF is a vacation from the strains of work, and I think it is a definite choice for those who wish to explore the world but don’t want to leave the rainy city.

While many commented to me that the line-up of films this year wasn’t as good as last year’s, and I agree slightly (“The Barbarian Invasions,” “Distant” and “Elephant” I found superior to any film in the festival this year), this year had such an amazing selection of foreign, offbeat and documentary fare that it was solid for the most part. I could have done without the Bush documentaries after having several already this year, especially with one by Michael Moore recently released on DVD, but that’s okay.

2005 will be another eventful year for VIFF, with the new Film Centre opening in the spring, which will contain the full media office along with being the main press screening venue as well as another screening room for the festival. Located at Seymour and Davie, it’s a few blocks out of the way of the Granville theatre section, but not too far from the Cinematheque.

So that’s about it from my end. The 2004 VIFF had only a few rough areas but is overall a solid fest for the world and a very memorable time. I’ll never forget the filmmakers and friends I met while in the VIFF community, and I can’t wait to experience it all again in September 2005. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to catch up on my sleep before I go back to reviewing the Hollywood Garbage. “Ladder 49” and “Taxi,” here I come…

Special Thanks: Vicky Jones and Jennifer Wesanko of VIFF, the staff and volunteers of the festival, and the many friendly festivalgoers I have met over the course of the last three weeks. Also thanks to Tyman Stewart, Bill Marchant & the cast of “Everyone,” Paul Armstrong, Nicki Clyne, Babz Chula, Lisa McVeigh, Jennifer Calvert, Dax Belanger, Paul Duchart, Rory Richards, Greg Ursic and Chris Parry for their kind assistance. See you all in 2005!

If you have any comments or questions about this article you may contact Jason at

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originally posted: 10/11/04 15:45:58
last updated: 11/20/04 06:05:40
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