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Working For the Weekend: With VIFF executive director Jacqueline Dupuis

By Willem Thomas
VIFF executive director Jacqueline Dupuis. Photo: Sarah Whitlam

VIFF executive director Jacqueline Dupuis.
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

VANCOUVER — Get your butts ready because the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is celebrating its 35th birthday and this year they’ve truly gone the extra mile with their programming. Looking back 35 rotations of the sun, VIFF has grown with remarkable grace. While it’s become one of the top five largest film festivals in North America, VIFF has done so without reneging on the ideals it was founded on. With submissions from 70+ countries, the festival has continued to showcase not only the best, most engaging and culturally-significant films from across the globe, but also the greatest selection of Canadian content as well.

Under executive director Jacqueline Dupuis’s experienced guidance, the festival has undergone a rebranding and restructuring; a focus on interactive multimedia has been implemented with the VIFF Hub, and the festival is aiming to offer attendees more than just the regular film-viewing experience.

We tracked down Dupuis to discuss the festival, her role and the art of film itself.

BeatRoute: First off, congrats on VIFF’s 35th birthday! What does your role at VIFF entail?

Jacqueline Dupuis: As the executive director of the Vancouver International Film Festival Society (VIFF) my role is to oversee the entire organization and its year-round festival and industry programming.

BR: With Vancouver’s film industry in a healthy state, does that boost VIFF Theatre?

JD: We have a symbiotic relationship with the industry around us, and we are lucky to be in a city that is so dynamic and vibrant. It’s not just the general public who attends the festival, but those in the industry as well. We do lots of talks, panel discussions and workshops that foster the growth and development of the industry and those working in it. It’s an exchange of ideas and learning that is born at the local level, and I think it’s really fantastic that VIFF can provide this platform and connect these people together.

BR: How is VIFF shaping up for 2016 thus far?

JD: The festival is about a month away [as of this interview first taking place] and I think I speak for everyone working on it that we’re all eagerly anticipating the opening day of the festival (September 29th!). There are so many big changes this year, from our bold new structuring, the wider spectrum of what we’re offering, to even our branding. We’re finalizing the lineup of films for this year, and we’re all working hard to pull off another successful festival while implementing these changes. I think festival-goers are going to respond positively to these changes because we’re offering a more complete package than we ever have before, but breaking away from tradition can be a delicate matter.

BR: How do you ride the line fairly in selecting the best films from around the world for VIFF, while still showcasing as much Canadian filmmaking as possible as well?

JD: Our curatorial goal is to bring the best stories from around the world to Vancouver. This most certainly does not exclude Canadian and local content; in fact, it represents a significant percentage. Canadian stories represent the diversity of our nation, which we are keen to showcase and helps to foster the talent right here in our own country.

BR: What kind of music do you listen to when working at VIFF?

JD: It depends on what I’m working on. When I need a burst of energy I blast a pop favourite like “Happy” from my office and dance down the hall. People can’t help but get into it too. Totally weird, I know, but it makes us laugh and it’s so important to have fun at work!

BR: With modern media and culture operating in such a disposable, rapidly-changing fashion, do you worry that the integrity of film as an art form has been eroded?

JD: Not at all! Modern media and our society in general has been tremendously disrupted by current and ever-accelerating technologies, there’s no denying that. But I don’t buy into the pessimistic view that we’re devolving because of it. It’s allowed for a democratization of the arts and that just means more awesome content to choose from. Art shouldn’t be exclusive, and that’s why we have the festival, to bring people together to collectively experience art and take something away from that experience.

BR: What is one of your first and fondest film memories?

JD: When I first started watching “films,” I was amazed by the quality and unique ways of storytelling that go beyond what we see in traditional blockbusters. To find these films, I would go to my local video store and search out titles with laurels from festivals on the cover. It eventually evolved into weekend marathons of greats such as Fellini to riskier wares like Von Trier. I have fond memories of these formative film years as my mind was blown and opened up to the vast world of storytelling on screen. But hey, it’s all about balance. I always love a good rom-com too. The Notebook, anyone?

VIFF 2016 happens Sept. 29 – Oct. 14.

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