VIWFF – The Online Experience

I know I don’t do a whole lot of festival coverage these days, but I figured it was time I got back to it. So that’s what I did. Now I’m mentioning the films that didn’t get coverage yet, but there have already been a few as indicated by past articles written by Shaun, Darren, and me. They still stand strong to this day because the women who worked on them are just as strong. Anyways, without further ado, let’s take a look at what showed this year and continue to celebrate the power and creative talent of women, shall we?


Do You Remember Me? – The story of Sara who got erm, circumcised as a young lady. Yeah, she lived in Ethiopia where cutting the clit was done (and still is) for certain reasons. Sara takes a journey from Switzerland back to Ethiopia to confront her grandmother who was involved in giving her such a traumatic event in life. But as Sara learns, she wasn’t the only one in her family who felt highly uncomfortable about it, and many people who do it or have done it and even had it done to them speak up about their experiences. It was quite a disturbing subject to discuss, and it saddens me that mutilation like this still goes on today. In time I can only hope it stops and more things can change as well. Very well made film.


Granni-E-minem – Kang Seonggyun is a young rapper coming back home to his small town in Seoul for the first time in years. His father doesn’t quite approve of his hip-hop lifestyle but he comes across some elderly women who he fosters into the genre of rap and they start their own group of rapping grandmothers. They rap about their life stories, their families, and other interesting subjects. What will his father think? The doc was short and simple, but a lot of fun. I know quite a few elderly women myself who are very adventurous. A good example of some are two ladies who host a podcast I record and edit.


Incite Inclusion Panel – The first event of the first day (we’ve already covered the opening film anyway) which started with a discussion between film/tv organizations and how they support our industry financially in order to make everything more inclusive, especially for women and a lot more diversity. Moderated by Ana de Lara, the panel consisted of Barb Williams, Claude Joli-Coeur, Cathy Wong, Robert Wong, Doreen Manuel, Valerie Creighton, and Lisa Valencia-Svensson who gave quite a lot of details.


Mickey on the Road – A story about two delinquent girls, Gin Gin and Mickey. Gin Gin works as a go-go dancer attracting the attention of creepy guys and Mickey lives with her mentally unstable mother who seems to be having breakdowns every single day and night. Together they live as the best of friends causing trouble and having fun out late at night in Taiwan, and going about day to day hoping that soon, they’ll be somewhere else. Eventually the two best friends take a trip to Guangzhou for a vacation and to find some important people in their lives. For Gin Gin, it’s finding a handsome boy she considers her boyfriend, and for Mickey, it’s her long lost father.  Their trip gets kind of rough as they get their luggage stolen, then get kicked out of a bathhouse after lodging there for free, and Gin Gin discovering her so-called boyfriend Jay isn’t what she expected him to be. It’s a film that shows not everything goes as planned, and sometimes that leads to troubles, but it also there are ways to solving problems, even if they may be a bit unorthodox but whatever gets the job done.


Shorts Programs – There were about 4 of these. While I may have mentioned a couple of short films in quick simple tweets, I can definitely elaborate on each of these showcases the best I can. For Program 1, we got heartwarming short films, such as the Hairdresser (a film about a nurse who gives a little hair and makeup to patients before they die) and Charming (life of an elderly French lady living in a retirement home), we get dark and dramatic such as Impossible Decirte Adiós (focusing on a woman who cares about her ex-lover’s son but can’t be with him forever) and Housemaid #2 (A lady named Nora does acting at a theatre until her stage manager Peter gets fed up with her so Nora takes care of her personal problems), and then there’s surreal content like A Little Too Much.

Now Program 2 was a little more fixated on family matters and identities. The Isobel Imprint (Ali Grant talks about her older sister’s suicide), I am Leo (a 12-year old has her first period and an identity crisis at the same time), and Gift to Give (Erica Daniels gives her kidney to her dying father, even if he disapproves of her being Two-Spirit), are all mainly family focused. As for Parvis (Laurie is a young woman who learns to be at peace and take on her identity), Elle (an artistic styled film that shows all about women, no matter what they look like and their natural beauty) and On The Fence (individuals who each struggle with their identities given the families they’re from) focus mainly on identity. This was one of the more thought-provoking and deep programs.

Program 3 had a small mixture of films that seemed to be mostly about determination. For example, Red String of Fate (taking place in the future as an engineer working with robotics saves an android and brings an old alien friend back to life), Assets (a mom heads to a job interview and gets an interesting new job), and When She Was Good (a little girl discovers the truth about Santa, and questions other lies her parents made) Then there’s films once again, about family, like Perfect Daughter (a new family moves into a neighbourhood but there’s something strange about there daughter) and Birthday Party (Two sisters who used to bond but a family tradition tears them apart).

Finally Program 4 had a focus on ageism. I say that because the films in it such as Living All of Life (Two female neighbours with different personalities team up and create a friendship), Militant Mother (A documentary about a mom and 24 more who blockaded CN rail in order for safety measures to be put in effect), and The Ancestral Tree (A quick animation about family culture and history in Metis) all had talked about aging or showed what it’s like being in a certain demographic. However for other things like Clinch (A violin player learns self defence in order to overcome her twisted past) and Wild Seed (Illegally pregnant mother flees from the police and a one-child policy and lives off the essentials of the forest and wildlife) focused more on women overcoming problems through very tough battles. 

All in all, these short programs were very interesting to watch and I enjoyed each of them. Now back to some features. 


Kimmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy – Sure sounds like a lot to say. My opinions can be found in this article, but as for the Q & the A that happened live for one night, that was even more insightful. Director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and her mother Esther got engaged with Alex Lazarowich who asked some great questions about the film and what it was like advocating for the health care system. Some pretty dark disturbing facts given what happens when addictions get out of hand. But the whole thing ended rather quite quickly. If I hadn’t already known so much, I probably would’ve been the only one asking questions since nobody in the audience said anything. Oh well.


Querencia Live Screening and Panel – While I did do an interview with the writer and lead actor, sometimes I feel the need to go further. Now I’m taking a chance to review it. As we have figured out from earlier coverage, it’s a series about 2 young ladies. The first is an Indigenous girl named Daka who has moved to Vancouver pursuing a dream in dancing but struggles to adjust to her new place as she feels miserable after a big breakup in her hometown. The other is a musician named Abe who is totally broke and also struggling through life because of other reasons. At first they meet on the street by chance, but after that, Daka just so happens to come across Abe on her dating app. Despite having no experience in dating women, Daka decides to take a chance with Abe and on their first date together, they manage to get along after some awkward conversation. But of course, it also goes rocky. Ultimately, Abe and Daka go on a quest of discovering themselves and each other, in a great story about heartwarming hope. I’m always one for watching locally made content so I enjoyed the use of Vancouver landmarks, but I also like how this is such a powerful story not just about two girls in a relationship, but they’re also native so that’s always refreshing to watch. The Q&A gave a lot of information, as there were quite a few people asking questions. I learned more about this film than I did through the interview. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…


Screenplay Competition Panel – It felt like I was the only guy here. That was interesting. Anyways, this panel consisted of female screenwriters who explained their origins, some interesting stories, and what they’re up to now. These female screenwriters were the ten finalists of the Screenplay Competition for this year at VIWFF. I really enjoyed these woman’s stories and their creative ideas. As a writer myself, I was fascinated for the whole panel. Even amidst the freezings, Internet blackouts, and other errors, nothing stopped the women from telling their stories, both in real life, and in transcripts. Also some worthwhile lessons in monologue style (thanks, Felicity Wren), and maintaining a healthy relationship with a manager.


Run Woman Run (Closing Film) – I didn’t watch this one. And Shaun already covered it anyway. By the judging of his review, it seems like a good closer film. Moving on!


Awards Ceremony – Hosted by Rhona Rees, and accompanied with speeches by Grace Lore, Eli Morris, Anaisa Visser, and Marena Dix. Finally after 20 minutes, we got to the awards. Tonight’s ceremony was pretty short actually. But this isn’t VSFF, so no short jokes happening here. I will say however in categories of winning, Clinch won two films (Best Editing and Best Performance) and so did I am Leo (Impact Award and Best Short). As for the best screenplay in the Screenplay competition that was The Professor written by Sandra Fox-Sohner and Maria Sigrist. As for the features that won awards, Run Woman Run got three (Best Screenplay, Best Performance, and Best Feature) while Kimmapiiyipitssini got two awards (Best Musical Score and the Impact Award) and Do You Remember Me? got two as well (Best Cinematography and Best Feature). A worthwhile hour of my time and a perfect way to close off the virtual event.


Well, that was it for this year. It seemed to knock the wind out of me even for an online festival, but it was still great to be able to attend, even if virtually. Now with things changing here around Vancouver, it seems we’ll finally be seeing live festivals, hopefully within a few months. As per usual, the VIWFF was extraordinary. And I really can’t wait for next year’s. It may even be in a theatre again.

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