In the world of film festivals, the Vancouver International Film Festival is a bit of an outlier. It’s internationally renowned, but it isn’t obsessed with stargazing and paparazzi flashbulbs. It can boast plenty of premieres, but A-list films are rolled out without A-list red carpets or after-party shenanigans.
VIFF is a film festival for people who love film and people who make it. And there are plenty of both here in the B.C. version of Hollywood North.
VIFF’s 2018 edition kicks off this week with The Hummingbird Project, a drama about the muddy world of high-frequency stock trading, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Salma Hayek and Alexander Skarsgård. Then it’s full steam ahead until Oct. 12, when the festival closes with one of the most highly anticipated films of the year: Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, starring a bewigged Hugh Jackman as failed Democratic presidential nominee Gary Hart.
In all, 380 narrative and documentary films from 78 countries will screen over the festival’s 16 days — including 10 feature-length films produced here in the 604 (like Bruce Sweeney’s Kingsway and Seung-Yup Lee’s The Darling) and the largest program of Canadian cinema on the planet.
This 37th edition of VIFF also serves up a packed schedule of ancillary events for people who want more from their film festival experience: more live music, more social commentary, more networking and, especially important in Hollywood North, more insight into how to bring their own projects to the screen.
Here are six such hot ticket events:
Totally Indie Day
Homegrown content creators are invited to hunker down and dream big at Totally Indie Day. Attendees will receive a crash course in pop culture documentaries, web series development, production design, first features, editing and audience feedback from industry pros such as Brent Hodge (Freaks & Geeks: The Documentary), Zach Lipovsky (Freaks), Kat Jayme (Finding Big Country), Chris Jones (Golden Globe Award-winning production designer of Lady Bird), Kate Green (NarcoLeap) and three-time Academy Award nominated editor Jay Cassidy (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook, and Into the Wild). Sept. 29
The future is now at VIFF Immersed, a conference and public exhibition dedicated to virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality storytelling. The two-day conference introduces attendees to the business of creating narrative-driven interactive content, while the three-day public exhibition features 14 VR, AR and MR experiences. Also on the bill: Lisa Jackson and the National Film Board of Canada’s Biidabaan: First Light, which had its world premiere at Tribeca and guides its viewers through a highly realistic future Toronto reclaimed by nature. Sept. 29 to 30
Meet the Showrunners
We’re living in what’s been called the “Golden Age of Television” — an era where the quality and quantity of scripted television series rivals that of the glory days of Hollywood. This creator talk brings together a sampling of veteran television showrunners to share war stories — about getting green-lit, hiring a writer’s room and working with directors — and pull back the curtain on what it takes to succeed in a competitive TV landscape. With Simon Barry (Ghost Wars), Veena Sud (Second Seconds), Graham Yost (Sneaky Pete), Sarah Dodd (Cardinal), Amy Berg (Counterpart), Hart Hanson (Bones), Dennis Heaton (The Order), Graeme Manson (Snowpiercer), Michelle Lovretta (Killjoys) and David Shore (The Good Doctor). Oct. 3
An Evening with Jane
Dr. Jane Goodall is known far beyond conservation circles for her groundbreaking work with primates, which began in earnest in 1960 when she travelled to Tanzania to work with chimpanzees. Oscar-nominated director Brett Morgen (On the Ropes) explores Goodall’s life and career in his new documentary, Jane. The Oct. 4 screening will be followed by a 45-minute Q&A with Goodall, who will discuss her work with chimps and her hopes for the future. Oct. 4
In Kid Koala’s latest live innovation, the master Canadian DJ draws his audience into a communal experience of light and sound. The audience collaborates in groups of four at stations equipped with a turntable, an effects box and a small crate of colour-coded records. Through subtly coloured lighting changes in the room, they’re cued to play along as DJs in a spontaneous collective, collaborating to create what VIFF describes as an “ambient vinyl orchestra.” Oct. 5-7
RZA: Live from the 36th Chamber of Shaolin
RZA — the award-winning musician, film director (The Man with the Iron Fists) and leader of famed rap group Wu-Tang Clan — checks into VIFF for one night only to live-score Lau Kar-leung’s 1978 kung-fu film The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Wielding a Wu-Tang catalogue more than two decades deep, RZA will drop beats from opening scene to closing credits to amplify the on-screen kung-fu action. (If you want to hear even more from RZA, he’ll discuss his career and process at the Rio Theatre earlier that day.) Oct. 9
The 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival runs Sept. 27 to Oct. 12 at venues across the city. Schedule and tickets at viff.org.