Spectacle: Victoria Film Festival turns 20

Big names in Canadian cinema fill the speaker series, including Guy Maddin, Atom Egoyan, Don McKellor and the former ambassador to Iran

Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge, the title character of the Victoria Film Festival's 2014 opening gala film.

With 20 years of bringing the best in international and local film to the silver screen, the Victoria Film Festival is ready for a cinematic celebration worthy of the occasion.

Notable names in Canadian cinema and the usual lineup of acclaimed international and local films will converge in Victoria for the 10-day event, held in venues throughout downtown.

A crowd-pleaser will open the 2014 festival, with Steve Coogan’s beloved BBC character taking to the big screen in Alan Partridge. The opening gala also features a reception with three parties all themed around 1960s culture, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Andy Warhol’s Factory. Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub caters the $65 event, which includes the film.

The Women in the Director Chair series will bring three female-directed Canadian features to the festival, including Alanis Obomsawin’s Hi-Ho Mistahey!, a documentary following Shannen Kootachin’s fight to improve conditions in her First Nations reserve.

One of festival director Kathy Kay’s favourites is the USA documentary Finding Vivian Maier, about an unknown-in-her-time photographer whose talent is revealed when unsuspecting director John Maloof buys a box of Maier’s negatives.

“It’s just so compelling,” Kay said. “It’s such a great story.”

Local filmmaker Andrew Naysmith is bringing his in-part Kickstarter-funded documentary Tide Lines to the festival, in which brothers Ryan and Bryson Robertson set sail from Mexico to travel and surf the world, learning about cultures and environmental issues along the way.

The In Conversation With speaker series will see some of the cream of Canadian cinema coming to Victoria to discuss with audiences their careers, inspirations and works.

“Because it’s our 20th, it makes is particularly special,” Kay said of the lineup of speakers. “I feel it’s really an exciting thing we’ve been able to put together this year.”

Victoria-raised Atom Egoyan will present his new film Devil’s Knot starring Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon on Saturday, Feb. 8, preceded by a talk with the acclaimed director of The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica and Chloe.

King of Canadian avant-garde film Guy Maddin (Tales From the Gimli Hospital, My Winnipeg) will come to town on Sunday, Feb. 9 for a talk, bringing some of his career-spanning short films with him.

“He’s just such an icon for that more out-there, challenging work,” Kay said.

Actor/filmmaker Don McKellor (Blindness, eXistenZ) and writer/comedian Bob Martin (Slings and Arrows, Puppets Who Kill) have joined forces for new comedy TV series Sensitive Skin, starring Kim Cattrall. The pair will present sneak peeks of the series and discuss the project.

Former ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor will join first-time director Drew Taylor (no relation) to discuss his new documentary Our Man in Tehran, about Ken’s role in the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979. The talk will look at the challenges for first-time filmmakers, the inspiration behind the project and the facts and fiction of Argo, Hollywood’s Oscar-winning take on the crisis.

“It’s fascinating to hear what’s true and what was embellished upon,” Kay said. “Getting that inside look.”

In Conversation With tickets are $35 per event.

For full lineup and ticket information visit victoriafilmfestival.com.

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