Director Karen Lam channels anger into 'Evangeline'

Female vigilante horror film screens at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival Nov. 7

When some people get angry, they send off heated tweets or throw coffee mugs at fireplaces. When Karen Lam gets angry, she makes movies. A few years ago, the Vancouver-based filmmaker’s rage had reached a boiling point.

She’d long been angered by the posters for missing women she encountered on her travels through the 604. She'd grown tired of watching movies and television shows where women were murdered and discarded like trash simply to launch the heroic journey of some charismatic man. 

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“I started to get really angry with the idea that women could just be disposed of,” says the lawyer-turned-director in a recent phone interview.

And so Lam sketched out a cinematic tale where a discarded female protagonist would get her sweet revenge.

“I thought, ‘How could I create almost like a vigilante hero for young women? What if there was a supernatural Dexter or the Crow who basically would hunt these rapists and pursue justice?’”

The result is Evangeline, a no-holds-barred supernatural horror flick starring Kat de Lieva as the titular justice-seeker and Richard Harmon as a teenaged rapist and murderer.

This is the first time Lam’s work has been programmed into a North American Asian film festival (although it has screened in film festivals in Asia). Evangeline is right at home in VAFF for reasons beyond its filmmaker’s cultural heritage, according to Lam.

“I think a lot of times because I don’t cast all Asian actors or characters, festivals think, ‘Oh, it’s not Asian,’ but if you look at how we cover a scene and how it’s cut and the rhythm of it, it’s actually very much what I see in modern Asian cinema,” says Lam, who was raised in Brandon, Manitoba. “When I watch Korean serial killer films, I realize that my shot list is their shot list."

While Evangeline and her previous films (including 2010’s Stained and 2011’s Doll Parts) are easily categorized as horror, Lam considers herself a genre filmmaker.

“To me, the thing that makes horror ‘horror’ is this creation of suspense and dread,” she says. “It’s everything from action films and thrillers to supernatural dark fantasy and sci-fi.”

And it isn’t necessarily ugly. “Sometimes when you think of horror, you think it’s ugly and brutal, but I always wanted to find that intersection so that it’s beautiful and horrible at the same time,” says Lam.

Lam’s goal with Evangeline is to inflame a strong reaction – be it beautiful or horrible or both – in its viewers.

“I’m less interested in people seeing the film and saying, ‘This is great,’” says Lam, who is in the midst of creating a web series based on the Evangeline mythology for Telus Optik TV. “I would rather people come out of it and maybe feel just as angry as I have, or just want to talk about it.”

Evangeline screens Nov. 7 as part of the 18th annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival, which runs Nov. 6-9 at Cineplex Odeon International Cinemas and features 38 films by local, national and international filmmakers. 

Highlights include the Canadian premiere of Dave Boyle’s Man from Reno, a neo-noir thriller set in the back streets of San Francisco; M Cream, a college road movie by Indian indie director Agneya Singh; the Canadian premiere of a Leading Man, in which a blacklisted Asian American actor in LA sleeps his way to the top of the biz; a web shorts program and panel; and a retrospective of 18 years of short works by Asian and Asian Canadian animators.

For tickets and schedule information, visit VAFF.org.

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