By Kyle Wells
Monday Magazine contributor
The Victoria Film Festival is back and ready to celebrate an impressive milestone: 25 years of bringing features, shorts, docs and more from around the world to Victoria audiences.
Executive director Kathy Kay has been at the helm of the festival for 22 of those years. She started in 1997 as a volunteer then took over as director the following year.
In 1998 the festival screened around 20 feature films to an audience of a few hundred. When all was said and done, the organization wound up with $856 in the bank.
|Victoria Film Festival director Kathy Kay is excited about celebrating the event’s 25th anniversary with local film fans. Photo by Randy Waldie|
“It really was insane,” Kay says of the early days. “There’s nothing that can prepare you for it … It really was crazy, all the things that would pop up, people who would cancel at the last minute.”
These days the festival sees over 25,000 people each year getting their tickets torn. It celebrates this year’s important milestone through the Feb. 1 opening gala theme of Studio 25, an appropriate take on the legendary Studio 54 nightclub.
The celebrations continue with an anniversary installation of short films from each era of the festival’s history, at The Atrium building on Yates Street. This free, public exhibition will consist of nine different stations, featuring such elements as a cocoon and an eight-screen panorama showing the shorts.
“There are other ones where you pop your head into a box and get totally immersed in the film,” Kay says. “They’re all kind of playful ways to show short films. I think it will be really fun.”
An anniversary screening of Smoke Signals will see director Chris Eyre and actors Tantoo Cardinal and Evan Adams on hand to introduce the film and talk about its legacy. The film had its Canadian premiere at VFF in 1998 and inspired a mandate of the festival that is still running strong to this day.
“It made me realize that it’s not just about trying to find those popular films that a traditional audience would go to,” says Kay, “it’s about finding those films for audiences that are underserved. That put us on a track.”
Join the celebration of the 25th annual Victoria Film Festival from Feb. 1 to 10. More information and tickets are available at victoriafilmfestival.com or at the festival office at 1215 Blanshard St.
A GUIDE TO SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS
|That Higher Level, which follows talented young musicians with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, makes its premiere at this year’s Victoria Fim Festival.|
Sink or Swim – BC Premiere – Directed by Gilles Lellouche – France
Kicking off the festival is a gala screening of this French comedy about a group of 40-something men trying to shake off their midlife malaise by forming a synchronized swimming team. Starring Mathieu Amalric (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Guillaume Canet.
That Higher Level – World Premiere – Directed by John Bolton – BC
Victoria-born director Bolton dives into the world of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada with this inspiring documentary. Following the lives of these prodigious teenagers as they learn and perform a 128-year-old Strauss tone poem, the film offers a rich portrait of these remarkable individuals.
The Hummingbird Project – Directed by Kim Nguyen – Quebec/Belgium
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and Alexander Skarsgard (Big Little Lies) star in director Nguyen’s (War Witch) tale of two cousins embarking on an ambitious plan to lay a fibre-optic cable from Kansas City to New York in order to trade stocks a millisecond sooner than their competitors.
|Toronto International Film Fest favourite Mouthpiece comes to the Victoria festival this year.|
Mouthpiece – Directed by Patricia Rozema – Ontario
The latest from renowned Canadian director Rozema (Mansfield Park) centres on a young writer whose mother’s sudden death forces her to confront their troubled relationship. Named one of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Top Ten Canadian Films of 2018.
Edge of the Knife – Directed by Helen Haig-Brown (Tsilhqot’in) and Gwaai Edenshaw (Haida) – BC
Winner of best BC film and best Canadian film at the Vancouver International Film Festival, this gripping drama is shot in the rainforests of the Haida Gwaii archipelago and is told entirely in Haida dialects, contributing to the preservation of the Haida language.