|by Jason Whyte
It is on a moist, slightly cold monday morning that I write this after being wrapped up in the entire 22nd Vancouver International Film Festival experience. The weather could be just reflecting my mood, perhaps, since as friday night rolled around and the hours were counting down until the end, I turned into "reflect" mode and suddenly a wave of memories hit over me. Even after 63 films, 24 cups of coffee, 15 bottles of soda, countless junk food and bottled water, fighting two colds, endless lines...it's going to be a heck of a wait until next year.
But let me catch my breath. While I have been to three film festivals before (two from Victoria, and one weekend in Vancouver last year; I only saw four films at the festival so it doesn't really count), this was my first complete, no-holds barred festival that I had such an amazing time with, and would recommend to anyone with a complete love of film. I had my vacation time booked from my other job and was fully prepared to take on day after day of film experiences, finding new experiences along the way.
Chris "Oz" Parry has covered the life and times down on Granville street quite admirably, so I will only add that I agree with him on Granville street, which was far too messy, riddled with panhandlers harassing you for money, and a very crowded entrance for the galas at the Vogue -- so much so that all of the video footage I've seen so far on the festival has taken place at the parties and not infront of the cavernous 1150 seat theater which has a lingering effect on many of the filmgoers, and not in a good way.
Films, films, films. Far too many films screened at this festival, and it was pretty much impossible to see them all. 234 feature films screened over 15 days! Even if one attended all of the press screenings, it would only have been possible to cover half of the screenings that the festival had to offer. One part of me wishes that the festival extended for another week, but the energy in my body disagrees with me.
The festival handed out their awards at the gala closing screening of Charles Martin Smith's "The Snow Walker" friday night to a packed audience at the Vogue, which really means that out of 1150 seats, 500 of them had a good view of the show. The terrific film Kamchatka, from Argentina, was voted the Most Popular Film Award, a pleasant surprise since I had an inkling that Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself, The Fog of War or even The Station Agent had a good shot. Still, I'm happy that the joyous, beautifully performed Kamchatka took home the award. The Most Popular Canadian Film award was, not surprisingly, awarded to the much discussed The Corporation which had three sold out screenings, and was sadly unseen by me. And it did not double win for Best Documentary Feature, which instead went to Los Angeles Plays Itself which spear-headed the "LA Plays Itself" series from the festival.
In other awards, Nathaniel Geary was deservedly awarded Best Canadian Film for his good film On The Corner, detailing all of the drugs, prostitution and violence around a small group of people who left their native reserves upisland to find a life in Vancouver. I was lucky enough to attend the premiere screening of the film, which recieved such an enthusiastic response, and should be released into Canadian cinemas sometime early next year. Gina Chiarelli took home the Women in Film and Video Vancouver Artistic Merit Award for her outstanding performance in See Grace Fly, a big festival hit, and, hopefully, one that will be released later on down the line. And finally, Jesse McKeown won The Keystone Award for Best Young Western Canadian Director of a Short Film, for his hilarious "The Big Charade", which was a short film designed as a theatrical trailer, with a hilarious performance by Vancouver's Brendan Fletcher in the lead.
With all of these awards, there were so many other areas of the festival, so many notable moments, that, I think, could benefit with awards on their own. Without further ado, I'd like to present my own...
Jason's 1st Annual Vancouver Film Festival Awards:
Best Film: This would have to be a triple tie between Gus Van Sant's brutal, experimental "Elephant" which won the Golden Palm at Caanes along with Sant recieving a Best Director award; Denys Arcan's wonderfully written and powerful "The Barbarian Invasions" which features some of the best structured dialogue of any film this year; and finally "Distant", from Turkey, a Tarkvosky-inspired drama focusing on the difficult relationship between a father and his son.
Coolest Filmmaker Award: This one is happily awarded to "Falling Angels" director Scott Smith, who is one of the most polite and outgoing filmmakers I've come across, with a very laid-back attitude and a good personality. I hope this guy goes places, and I think he will, since everyone I've talked to has also commented very well on Smith's persona and his film.
Coolest Filmmaker Award, Runner-up: This goes to Uber-Producer Paul Armstrong, who produced "Moving Malcolm" and "See Grace Fly", and who always seemed to be at the same parties as I was. He seems like a very busy guy, but like Scott, he's very kind and approachable.
Best Interview Award: I only did two interviews this year, one with "Moving Malcolm" director Ben Ratner and "A Problem With Fear" director Gary Burns, and I like both equally, so there is no winner this year. However, I fully intend to talk to more celebs next year, so I will happily have a winner by then.
Best Party Award: Since I only attended three total parties at the fest this year, I have no choice but to award it to Scott Smith's Unofficial Party at Bosman's in downtown Vancouver, the only party that didn't force us out at an early hour. While I was completely burnt out from all 15 days, I had a great time chatting and socalizing in a REAL place without super serious party-folk forcing us out of a party at a super early hour. (1am? Some people never sleep!)
Best Line Award: The Granville 7 Door Entry Ticket program is the most fair system going at the festival, with the simple idea of showing up early enough, showing your pass and collecting entry tickets for every show you wish to see. If you have consecutive shows in the same auditorium, stay in your seat or move to a better one. And if your next show starts in a different theater but in less than 30 minutes, simply walk from one theater to the next.
Note: If you were a passholder, you probably had even more fun at line at the Vogue, which lets passholders in first and does not even require a door entry ticket. Granville 7 certainly can't do this, hence the tickets.
Best Seats Award: I have much love for the semi-plush Seats at the Granville 7, although the sight-line award went to the ultra-cozy Pacific Cinematheque, which was not stadium raked but tiered enough for everyone to see comnfortably.
Best Presentation Award: For the sake of it, I am going to tie this award to Granville 7, Screen 7 and The Ridge for best overall projection and sound quality. Granville 7, Screen 7 has a large screen, is THX certified and with a fully-loaded Dolby Digital sound system, all with towering loudspeakers. The film projections were all in frame and focus (except for one instance where "Zatoichi" was not presented in the correct aspect ratio), and the digital-sound presentations of classic-music fueled "The Death of Klinghoffer", the dramatic yet spacious sounding "The Barbarian Invasions" and especially the bombastic sound of "El Alamein" or "Zatoichi" were enough to give goosebumps. And the Ridge was certainly up to the task: a very good sized theater for 825 seats, the projection was extremely sharp and focused, with a powerful Dolby Digital sound system that even packed a punch for the smaller films "On The Corner" and "Jagoda in the Supermarket", the latter containing some of the most fun sound effects involving gunshots and parade bands.
Most-Walked-Out-Of-Film Award: The honor would go to "Twentynine Palms", Bruno Dumont's horrific, endless, porno-lite drama about an english-speaking man and a french-speaking woman loudly screwing around and getting into trouble just outside of Los Angeles. It features some of the most cringe-inducing and laughable moments of any film at the festival, let alone the year.
All of these festivies ended at the Gala Closing Party, which took place at the Vancouver Aquarium at Stanley Park, a beautiful and hypnotic way to end it all. Move around into different rooms and outside, and there was an interesting conversation to be found in every corner. Among the many people spotted: Barry Pepper attended the party after the screening of "The Snow Walker" along with directors Charles Martin Smith and the lovely Anabella Piugattuk, and were mostly hanging around the outside tanks. "Moving Malcolm" talent Ben Ratner, Babz Chaluha, Tom Schlote and Jay Brazeau were moving all over, and I saw them frequently. I caught Brendan Fletcher with a few cigarettes outside, chatting it up with everybody.
In the end, the thing I will remember from the festival, the thing that brings a tear to my eye every time, are the amazing friends and relationships that came out of simply talking to the next person in line, which develops into name exchanging, which develops further into meeting for the same screenings. I met so many interesting people from different backgrounds, age groups and film interests, and I even learned about a film or two that I should check out. (For example, one of my festival friends told me that if I liked "The Event", I should also check out a film from Australia called "Walking on Water", which played at last year's festival, and I certainly will.) This will be my most cherished memory of my 16 days in Vancouver, and it makes it that much more difficult waiting a year to see everyone again.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=818
originally posted: 10/14/03 07:22:06
last updated: 12/31/03 14:02:30