Tulips and the Netherlands make for a colurful backdrop and central theme for the film Tulipani: Love, Honour and a Bicycle, showing in September at The Vic Theatre. Courtesy Victoria Film Festival

KATHY KAY: A gem of film fest season arrives in September

Tulipani: Love, Honour and a Bicycle was a smash hit at the 2017 TIFF and Vic Film Festvival

Kathy Kay

Monday Magazine columnist

For those of us who can’t fly to Venice, the Film Festival season kicks off in Canada with the Toronto Film Festival in early September. Vancouver takes the spotlight at the end of that month and there are a multitude of fall fests that include Calgary, Atlantic, and Sudbury (more fun than you’d imagine) while Victoria sticks out for its February date.

Festival season offers a great opportunity to get an early taste of the films that are going to dominate the theatres over the next year. You can see everything from an expected mainstream hit like Bradley Cooper’s take on A Star is Born (remake #4) to the latest from the director of the Academy Award winning Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, a romance set in postwar Eastern Europe.

A goodly number of films premiere at Toronto and often get lost in the mix. It goes to other festivals to sort through and champion smaller films that might otherwise get missed, even though they are so worthy of attention. It breaks your heart when they don’t find an audience.

One breakout film from 2017 TIFF and the 2018 Victoria Film Fest is finally making its return, after being a smash hit replete with lineups and repeated requests for more screenings.

Sometimes I think the producers are their own worst enemies, but The Vic Theatre has finally wrangled more screenings and so at long last Tulipani: Love, Honour and a Bicycle makes its return to Victoria.

Director Mike Van Diem’s film is old-fashioned, refreshing and creates a wonderfully engaging tale that travels across three countries to reveal a fantastical family history.

Anna (Ksenia Solo) has arrived in Italy to return her guardian’s ashes to her hometown. What she didn’t count on was learning the story of her parents, which, with years of retelling, has taken on shall we say, a certain exaggerated flair.

About to be arrested for murder by the police inspector (the ever so charming Giancarlo Giannini), Anna and two neighbours begin the tale of how Anna’s father Gauke (Gijs Naber) biked from the Netherlands to Italy, introduced Dutch irrigation practices to Puglia, built a successful business growing and selling tulips, and bravely fended off armed extortionists with epic kung fu moves (yes, really).

There are also much darker moments, ones that will prompt Anna to settle some old scores on her parents’ behalf.

Tulipani is a triumph of imagination and the use of the surreal creates an other-worldliness which makes for a downright playful film.

Kathy Kay is director of the Victoria Film Festival.

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