The Vancouver International Film Festival enters its 31st year this September.
Why should movie buffs get out and see some of the programs at VIFF?
“We’re able to bring in films that a commercial theatre can’t,” festival director Alan Franey says. Operating a film festival, VIFF can show films that aren’t yet rated, or won’t be playing in theatres around the city.
The festival screens a wide range of films, chosen by many programmers. Different programmers have different specialties: some may specialize in documentaries, or have a specific interest in classical music. Many are volunteers, and because of the scope of the festival, there is also a year-round staff.
Franey says it’s something that takes up time off as well – as a programmer, you go home and stream a film, or put in a DVD. The programming team sees thousands of both feature-length and short films a year. Many films are scouted abroad at film festivals.
“I go to Berlin and Cannes and New York, and other members of the programming team travel extensively as well.” In addition, Franey says word-of-mouth has a lot of influence on programming.
Franey has been the festival director since 1988. In that time, he has seen thousands upon thousands of films. “I personally see 400 feature films a year,” he says. The festival has grown into one of North America’s top five largest film festivals, which is remarkable considering Vancouver is not one of North America’s largest cities, says Franey. “We have a great city to put on a film festival,” says Franey. He owes this to the fact that our city is multi-culturally populated, overall well educated and our government will invest in the arts. Franey says this is “not as true” in American cities (besides bustling metropolises such as New York and Los Angeles). There’s “something about Canada,” he says. “We look outwards, we’re interested in the rest of the world – all those things make the perfect environment for a film festival.
“I think people here are very interested in seeing the word through cinema,” says Franey. The unifying theme VIFF tries to express is the same as its slogan: Same Planet, Different Worlds.
“Good cinema that deserves the big screen transports you to another place,” says Franey. “You’re able to travel to another culture and be in another persons experience in a very vivid way.”
After all the films Franey has seen through the years, how is a new film able to demand his attention?
“Oftentimes the [films] that interest you the most are the ones that do something differently or tell you a story that hasn’t been told before … [with] a new vision or voice for expressing that,” says Franey. “Sometimes, a film comes along and tells a story much better than the ones before it.”
One of Franey’s personal favourites at the festival this year is Apocalypse: A Bill Callahan Tour Film. Bill Callahan, also known as Smog, is one of Franey’s favourite musical artists. He was looking forward to it going in because he’s seen Callahan live before, and says, “It’s so wonderfully made … fresh and surprising in a good way.”
If you don’t consider yourself a cinephile but feel the desire to dip your toes into the sometimes strange, exotic and artistic worlds the VIFF offers escape into, Franey recommends films screening at the Centre for Performing Arts. They’ve invested in state-of-the-art equipment and some of the most broadly accessible films will be screened there.
The Vancouver International Film Festival takes place Sept. 26 – Oct. 11. For a complete listing of theatres and show times, check out www.viff.org
By Carly Rhianna Smith
Images: Courtesy of Vancouver International Film Festival