VQFF is coming up next month and it’s sure to be amazing once again this year. 35 years and it gets better as it progressively continues. Instead of my usual festival summary which I’ve been doing for years, I decided to take a different pace and announce this to let everyone know what’s going on. What’s in store for this year? Well, VQFF will be going from August 10th to 20th both in-person as well as online. With 92 films (24 features and 68 shorts) and lots of them being Canadian premieres, the festival will also have some other great things going on. Like what, you may be asking? That’s what I figured out with Artistic Director Charlie Hidalgo as we had a chat about it last week and boy did he go into detail. Get ready to express yourself and wave your flag of many colours, because here’s what to expect this year.
HNMAG: It sounds like a lot is going on. What went into preparation?
Charlie Hidalgo: Well, we were working with a team of 4 or 5 programmers. We were centred on stories that were authentically originated in our community, stories told from Queer/Trans storytellers. Also stories that were central in joy. The stories that build toward a better understanding of who trans and queer people are, for people who are not within our community to get a better sense of how cool and wonderful we are. We are inundated by stories that are trauma-based and keep telling people that we are an issue or that we deserve experiences that are only of pain, not very positive stories which is what we get. We wanted to do something different and we wanted to bring a refreshing lineup of films that is more fitting for our community.
HNMAG: What other major differences will we see this year?
Charlie Hidalgo: This year, we also are bringing masters of ceremony into our screenings so we’re going to have performers from our community to introduce films and give a little bit of what they are doing with their own shows. It’s a little bit of bringing these artists and our communities a little bit closer, and we’ll have some screenings that will be followed by a bunch of performances, and have a bunch of visiting filmmakers and a few parties.
HNMAG: What are you most excited about?
Charlie Hidalgo: In terms of films, I’m really excited about our opening presentation because it is the first time our festival will open with a short collection and not a feature film. We were trying to decide on our opening night film and I kept bumping into having to choose a community to celebrate that night and to spotlight that night and we thought “Why don’t we do something that can bring the communities together and they can unite as all and also be a taster of what the festival has in store for everyone. I think that it’s a very fun one, it’s very moving and empowering, and I feel like everyone will come out feeling queerer. (laughs) I think it’s going to be a really fun night, most of the films in that program have never been screened in Canada. We’re going to be showing them for the first time, so that’s exciting. I’m super proud of our centrepiece film which is 1946: The Mistranslation that shifted Culture. That’s a film that tracks homophobia in the bible to 1946 being the year where it gets inserted. It’s a very important film and it’s going to be right in the middle of our festival and I’m super excited about it. There is something for everyone, a movie that follows a French writer going back to the town where he grew up and head to leave because he was gay, Big Boys which has been doing the rounds of festivals is a beautiful film for everyone to enjoy especially for bears but it’s a film that any family could go and enjoy, and for the first time, we’re bringing curation for episodic pilots which I’m really excited about. This is a really smart collection of pilots with different communities. Our Midnight Foreplay Shorts program is phenomenal, it’s a mix of a little bit of scary but also sexy films.
Charlie explained how this year most of the short films involving men were about fun, dating, and sex while the films about women were about breakups and recovering from them. VQFF embraced it this year by deciding to put together these films in topic showcases, like Breakup, which will also feature a therapist to talk about what it’s like dealing with breakups.
HNMAG: What was the process of choosing what films will be showcased?
Charlie Hidalgo: We received over a thousand submissions, and then we had our team of fellows who were running programming, and they’d make sure that the films were made by the people that the stories were about. Then they were also great films, and then those films would get moved and the rest of the programmers had discussions and decide that some people would like a certain film, while others had objections. It took us about 4 months to go through all the films, and then it is about creating the space for all of our community to see themselves on the screen. We try to make it very equal, we try to make sure we have the same amount of films for each different community team in VQFF’s vast community.
HNMAG: And how did the films for special presentations get chosen?
Charlie Hidalgo: Well, we wanted to have a program that was injecting good energy, a program that will allow different communities within our communities to see and hear each other. We wanted something uplifting and could feel celebratory because we’ve been hosting this festival for years. Choosing the centrepiece for this year was incredible because this film is one I’m obsessed with. I just find it is important for our society to know about the film and its facts. It deserved that space and recognition, the director and producer will be in attendance at the screening and will have a conversation with me. Our closing presentation, we very intentionally chose Runs in the Family which is a story about a trans-drag performer and their ex-con-artist dad who joins them on a road trip to go get their mother out of rehab, but in the middle of it, the father has to do drag in order to help his child to try to win the award for tough surgery. I just thought with all the political issues and attacks on our community, choosing a trans story and a drag story was a big statement and I wanted to use the opportunity to show this film as a way for our community as a whole to come and show support to the trans community, and the drag performers. I thought this film felt perfect with that but it’s also a film that has a lot of fun, is a road trip and it has comedy. It’s not all roses, but it’s certainly an uplifting film and people who come to watch will have a great time.
HNMAG: As the artistic director, what are your primary responsibilities?
Charlie Hidalgo: I kind of come up with the direction of the festival, and how we want people to experience our festival. For the industry and filmmakers, film festivals like this one have always been community-driven, and that needs to be embraced in a way that we are very aware of our role in how we can affect culture with things that we do or don’t in any way that we are affecting culture. Also what role we play in the ecosystem of our stories in the industry as a whole, that has a very important role to play and as artistic director my way is to find VQFF to get our audience having a hell of a great time. It’s fun in that way.
HNMAG: And you still do online digital screenings even with in-person. Do you find digital screenings bring in a wider audience?
Charlie Hidalgo: Digital screenings are geo-blocked to BC, the only people who can watch the films around the world are programmers and filmmakers who have gotten a pass or have a film at the festival. Other than that, we continue to do it because it’s definitely a way to give access to people who are in rural areas that have less opportunities than we do here. About 40% of the feature films will be online, and 100% of short films will be online, but there will be plenty of feature films that will play in person. This is not up to the festival, this is up to the distributor who is handling the film, so we bring as many films as we can. Not all of them will be online.
HNMAG: What do you hope people will take away from this year’s festival?
Charlie Hidalgo: I hope that they go with a renewed sense of what our lives are and can be. We deserve joy, we deserve beauty and freedom, and we deserve more than tragedy and triumph. We have normal lives and I hope that we can discover that we can find entertainment without re-traumatizing ourselves. I hope that people live with new friends, discover new artists, and they find themselves and whatever it is they are looking for will make them feel braver and less alone, more understood or seen. I hope through this collection of films, you get to understand yourself a little bit more but also and very importantly, you get to understand a little more about somebody else that is nothing like you.
Do you want to know more? Do you want to figure out more? Well guess what, everything you need and want to know can be found out here and you can grab some tickets for the festival as well. Don’t delay, purchase today!