By Glenn Alderson
The Rio Theatre is a magical independent hub for film, music and culture in the Vancouver arts community and this month they are celebrating the fourth annual Rio Grind Film Festival. Genre film festivals happen around the world — Fantasia in Montreal, Sitges in Spain, Fantastic Fest in Austin, Beyond Fest in LA, Morbido in Mexico — and they all shine a light on eclectic, arthouse fare that often gets overlooked by contemporary fests, not to mention theatrically. The Grind Film Fest is the Rio’s toast to those films and the spirit of those fests, albeit on a smaller scale.
From cult-classics to contemporary thrillers, Rachel Fox, Senior Programmer at the Rio Theatre has put in a great deal of time and energy to curating an action packed weekend of cinematic genius.
“This is our fourth year doing the fest, and probably our most interesting lineup thus far,” Fox says. “It’s a fun excuse to play some really solid titles that may not otherwise get big screen time.”
Fox encourages moviegoers to make a day of it, take in multiple films and just get your grind on. Of course, this is all made even easier to do with the adult beverages and tasty snacks that the Rio serves up at their concession.
We caught up with Fox to chat about the Grind Film Festival and what it’s like working at one of Vancouver’s only independent art houses.
BeatRoute:How did the Rio Grind Film Festival come to be?
Rachel Fox: I knew Corinne (Lea, Rio owner) and we were friendly. I was at the time writing for local blogs in Vancouver about city life, film, etc. The conversation about film festivals and specifically genre fests grew from there and it was like, “Well, we have this amazing art-deco venue that needs to get programmed at our fingertips – let’s get this done and make the kind of event that happens everywhere else except Vancouver.”
BR: Genre film festivals are celebrated all over the world, what is the focus of the Rio’s Grind Film Fest that makes it unique?
RF: Everything at the Rio is a labour of love. We’re not a non-profit and we don’t have any funding. We do this because we want to, and because we earnestly believe people in this city want and need events like this. And also, filmmakers recognize that we’re kinda off-grid, and they want their films to reach an audience too. We’re an outlet for that. We always strive to provide a communal experience in a city that is becoming ever-more challenging for regular people to enjoy. We’re a respite from the chaos. (Or we are the chaos, who knows?) Also, who doesn’t like to get day drunk with friends and watch some highly curated, kick-ass movies on a big screen you’ll probably never see again? We make that magic, baby.
BR: The focus of this festival is on features and short films that are traditionally overlooked by the regular festival circuit. Can you please explain why that is important?
RF: It’s about variety and a dedicated audience of movie-lovers looking for a great cinematic experience. Film festivals are a business, first and foremost. Not every movie can make the “cut,” and often times, really solid or worthy films miss being seen entirely. It’s frustrating. I have known countless really great, deserving films go under the radar for stupid reasons having to do with timing, distribution mishaps, and armchair decision-makers at the top who pull the strings and who probably never actually go to the movies. Fuck all that. Let’s shine a light on some gems and bang the drum for people who strive to make art.
BR: If you don’t like blood, guts and horror, is there still something for those with weak stomachs at this festival?
RF: For sure! Blood, guts, and horror is just a part of what goes on here. We’re about a-ha moments. (Which sometimes are bloody, sure.)
BR: What are some of the challenges you’re faced with when curating an event like this?
RF: Dealing with armchair decision-makers who are less concerned with actually “supporting” their product and more concerned with their own egos? OR something. Usually it’s a timing thing – movies I’d really like to screen aren’t always “available.” That being said I’ve had amazing luck with films. Bodied is, hands down, the biggest and highest-profile film we’ve ever had in the Fest. Joseph Kahn (director) and I had a relatively short conversation on the phone and he’s a maverick, a total bad-ass. He was like, “Fuck it, let’s do this, I wanna bring Bodied to Vancouver.” He was on the same page as me about getting the right audience in front of films, about celebrating worthy cinema with the audience that wants to consume it. That’s the energy I want to see happen. When he agreed to do it I thought I was going to cry and unicorns would fall from the ceiling. Massive respect to him.
BR: What are some other films you are excited about bringing to festivalgoers this year?
RF: Bodied, for sure. Top Knot Detective is insanely laugh-out-loud funny; it’s a love-letter to Asian cinema that needs to be seen to be believed. Issa Lopez’ Tigers Are Not Afraid is probably the most important work of fantasy-horror this year, easily one of the most surprising, special and poignant. And Let The Corpses Tan is so goddamn stylish. Also: Secret Screening!
BR: The Rio is a very unique art house in Vancouver, can you please tell me a bit about the venue’s mandate when it comes to upholding arts and culture in the city?
RF: If we play it, they will come? Our mandate is to have something for everyone. We know that “horror nerds” aren’t coming out to see movies 7 days a week, so it’s our job to try and provide something for everyone. Everyone wants a slice of the pie, but not everyone has the same tastes. I want us to reach a broad audience with everything that we do – everyone has a place here and a reason to visit us and re-connect with an old school, big screen experience.
BR: Are there any other cool things on the horizon for the Rio that we should be looking out for?
RF: Our calendar is constantly changing… We’re like the Potpourri category on Jeopardy.
The Rio Grind Film Festival takes place November 16 to 19. For more info visit www.riotheatre.ca