Yes, it’s true. MAMM is back once again, continuously using its superhero theme which will never tire (as far as I know) and helping Asian filmmakers get the recognition they deserve. I have to give shoutouts to Lynne Lee for all she does to keep these VAFF events happening, Milton Ng for Emceeing the night, Mayumi Yoshida and Nach Dudsdeemaytha for their work as creative producers, the entire production team, the team of judges, and everyone who submitted this year, especially the team who won the most (I will get into that later). Here’s what happened that amazing Saturday Night.
Opening Reception – I don’t know what else to call this. Let’s just say everyone decided to come and settle in first. I spent most of that time interviewing filmmakers, and reconnecting with old friends. The line stretched out to an incredible length as there was a record attendance of possibly 600 people. The whole bottom level seemed to fill in smoothly, but oddly enough, the upstairs level seemed vaguely empty.
Screenings Pt. 1 – With an opening by Milton who was come quite a long way since his beginning of volunteering at this event, nothing introduced the program better than a new made up game with a sandbag and a chair called “Be a Dolly-Grip”. Contestants had to team up and the rules of the game were simple. One person had push a chair w/ wheels along with the other person while they had to throw the sand bag as close as they could to the mark. The winning team didn’t have a name due to the rushed nature, but I know one team member Amanda Wong who showed her strength which was due to her athletic nature and tough durable personality.
After that fun game, Milton took the microphone again, introduced friend and producer Lynne Lee who gave everyone many thanks for all their dedicated efforts. I could go on about all the things that happened for about 50 minutes, but I might as well go into what screened at this point. First off was the short film, Switcher Who which was a hilarious short film involving a break-in, a rubber duck, and a recipe for a lovely dish of dumplings. Coming after that was Rocking on Air, which focused on some Father/Daughter tension between a dad who wants his little girl to pursue work in being a lawyer but she wants to become a musician. This film was very deep and hard-hitting but it became super fun at the end. Showcases were a little different these year because short films had Ultra Short films squeezed in between. For the first Ultra Short, we got Welcome to Vancouver, the relatable story of what happens when you get off at YVR airport and try to get a taxi to a hotel/residential area. Next was Not Alone which was a scary film featuring a lady who experienced an unsettling phenomenon that has already frightened a good amount of people, except for maybe US residents with guns and an airhead I’m somehow friends with. Hopefully that wasn’t too much of a spoiler. Now to move on to a slightly more truthful film, Bad Ghosts where subjects talk about their heritage and express what it’s like in Vancouver. Sorry, but there wasn’t much to it. Anyways, the next Ultra Short was Checkmate which was about a game of chess between a man and well… I can’t say. Anyways, that was the Ultra Shorts, now back to the the shorts of this program. The next Short Film was Thirst, this one being a Mother/Daughter scenario about a mom who is concerned her daughter is getting too obsessed with the houseplants over watering them and losing her mentality. This one was extremely ominous. The final film of the first part was Grandma’s 80th Surprise, where a young adult decides to introduce his grandmother to his girlfriend as an 80th birthday surprise along with a delicious cake. Everyone in the family knows the granny (played by longtime friend and well-known Vancouver Actor Lillian Lim) is not exactly the most open-minded when it comes to skin colour, but she’s not the only one in for a surprising surprise. That one was truly both lovable and humorous. I always enjoy the roles Lillian gets and this one fit her perfectly. She did tell me she always seems to get roles like these.
Intermission – An Intermission of about 15 minutes, though I think it may have been less than that. I don’t know. During that time, it was a good time to get out of our seats, and mingle some more. Or at least try. I got to try out one of MAMM’s new additions AKA that new thing that – No, sorry. Not repeating that joke again. It was a VR exhibit. There were about 3 of those but thanks to time restraints, I only got to test out two. I’ve already walked the VR plank before, so I went for a movie themed one instead. There were 3 to choose from and I picked the Blade Runner Experience. The visuals were pretty cool, but I felt I had no control as I flew around holograms and got into a high speed chase with another flying car only to result in an accident. There goes my LAPD badge. It was still good though. Could’ve been worse. I could’ve chosen the Jurassic Park VR and got my head bitten off by a dinosaur. By the time it was done, everyone had to get back in anyway.
Screenings Pt. 2 – Without any delay, the screeners resumed amidst people still chattering, and we got introduced to a film that focused on the subject of Hare Krishnas. Rhyme & Riza is about a girl named Riza who is expected to get involved with her mother and aunt for their evening plans in the temple but her friend encourages her to take part in a rap-off against one of the greatest rappers of all time. It’s a great film, which brings two different cultures together and makes them into an interesting blend. Stuff like this would make modern rap sound so much better. After that came the deep and hopeful film, Leo, about a girl with a past history of ballet dancing until her instructor tries to get her back in so she can win a competition. Now onto the final three Ultra Shorts. The first of those was The Conversation, made by several friends of mine about a man on a beach asking for help in his time of dying. It was vague, but since I like vague (and people even say my wording is vague), that’s a good thing. Next was Sprout, a very simple and minimal film about two people and plants. I don’t have an awful lot to say on this one. Lastly of the Ultra Shorts was Day Break, another nightmare type film that was disturbingly amazing. Or amazingly disturbing. I never thought a Robbins twin would make me jump in fright. There were a couple of technical difficulties with this screener though. As such, the next short to show was Deep Take, a tough and emotional film about a director who trains an actor to portray an executive and show some feeling. Sadly, the ending got cut off. Gotta love tech-NO-logy these days. The final screener was Thicker Than Water, a heartwarming film about a brother and sister who clean up their deceased father’s belongings. Everything was pretty swell but since nobody saw the ending to Deep Take (we were asked to just imagine the best ending ever), they got treated to a repeat of Grandma’s 80th Surprise, much to everyone’s delight.
Q&A/Awards Presentation – Inviting the Writers/Directors/Team Leaders to the stage, Milton asked them the most simplistic questions for the most simplistic films. I feel like the audience may have gotten a little more complex with their questions though. I’m not going into full detail because there were lots of stories. But I will talk about the awards. The winner in the Ultra Short category was Day Break, made by Louisa Phung and her team CBE Inc. Louisa said it was a challenge as any short film is difficult especially due to a matter of time, given the story. The best part for her was getting the actors for it, and it worked out well for her. The runner-up for that category was The Conversation, by Brian Nguyen (well known for his Improv meetups) with Team Dynamite (featuring several friends including Simon Nader, Amanda Wong, Alesandria Mentari, and Mia Zhou). Brian said that he treated the concept as a modern day parable on weakness. Compared to his entry last year, this one was seemingly more difficult due to how he had to cut out more story parts to fit in the 1-minute range. Now moving on to the 10 minute films, the winner of the shorts was Grandma’s 80th Surprise made by Curtis Lum, Fola Evans-Akingbola and their team, Arrival of The Fittest. Speaking of surprises, this film also won fan favourite film AND performance, due to the lovely Lillian Lim who got into it after Curtis reached out to her daughter, Megan. Lillian said “I read the script and said ‘Yeah, I’m in.’ It’s such a wonderful script. It’s so well written and so well directed by Curtis and Fola, and the crew was amazing.” She certainly has gotten pretty far since the olden days of VBMF. The runner-up for best short was Thicker Than Water, made by Joshua Lam and his team MTR. Joshua explained this story was inspired by his own father who was featured in the film, but he definitely won’t follow his father’s word on raising his son like he’s poor and his daughter like she’s rich. The fan favourite Ultra-Short was Checkmate, a film that director Sebastian Ortiz had trouble coming up with such a good quick story. It’s interesting because one of last year’s winning films was also about a Chess Piece. I think I know what people should consider for award-winning story concepts in this competition. Anyways, it should come as no surprise that the website broke down again thanks to voting. My guess is that this year, tech-NO-logy refused to cooperate. Or maybe it was night terrors. Or maybe some corrupted individual? Over 600 people probably know what I’m referencing.
Afterparty – That seemed to be getting started rather quickly. There was quite the supply of free Vietnamese food, some great live music for people to dance around to, and a great chance to talk and mingle some more if there wasn’t enough of that done already. MAMM14 has certainly had a bit more variety than just Asian concepts this year and the films were extremely compelling. There was an even bigger sense of familiarity getting more people outside of VAFF’s circle and spreading the word. This is only just the start of what’s to come for VAFF. Especially given their new look and slogan, No Limitasians. Sure to be exciting.