VIFF – Personal Highlights (So Far)

I know, it seems like every writer here is doing something like this. But then VIFF is the main focus of what’s happening locally. I haven’t gotten as much of a chance as the other two, but I still got some opportunities at this year’s VIFF.

VIFF Totally Indie Day – A day of seminars and workshops, VIFF Totally Indie Day was a great event for students and upcoming filmmakers to learn some insider tips of the industry. The day started off with Expand The Frame, where many mentors described the process and perspective of writing. After that, came a storyboarding workshop hosted by Sam Hudecki, who talked about his history in drawing, the difference between storyboards and live-action, and how he discusses things with the crew members. Next came Indie Spirits, a panel where special guests talked about their hardships of making features including inexperienced actors, finance and so much more. But despite those, their movies were still pretty well made. They also shared advice. Speaking of advice, Meet The Distributors was another great panel discussing how to properly make a marketing plan for a good future. Details included being good friends with producers, having done a couple good films for a start, rate of reaction, high social media presence and good motivation were key factors to getting a movie properly distributed. The final panel of the day was Short Form Documentary, where the panel walked about the structure of short docs, interview subjects, unexpected changes, and the backstories that go into them. It was recommended that directors have a focus group to watch the original cut then consider a recut based on suggestions for change. VIFF Totally Indie Day was great and insightful, even providing free food. A small glimpse of the day can be viewed here.

VIFF Immersed – I learned two things at this exhibit. The first being you have to pre-register somehow before attendance. Secondly, you’re not allowed to bring a camera into the exhibit. (Sorry, no video). I was lucky that not all registered attendees could make it giving me access but this exhibit’s time was unusually short. VIFF Immersed features a lot of Virtual Reality Exhibits and a special cover-type mask to go with the headsets. Due to the time restraint, I could only check out 5 of these among the 20-ish. First I checked out Mr. Buddha, where the viewer gets to experience themselves as some kind of Buddha statue in a museum and during a heist between several different thieves. That one was questionable for me. Following that was Aripi, a very strange VR exhibit about an astronaut in space who has to fix his satellite only for the whole thing to break down. I don’t know the fact that the animation moved around more than I did gave me motion sickness and stomach churns. But then, nothing is very stationary in zero gravity. 11:11 had an interesting title sounding like the time I was born and had an interesting futuristic concept about people fleeing a planet from a supposed apocalypse caused by higher ranks. I really enjoyed checking this one out. Kind of wish I had time to see all of the stories though. Speaking of future, (how many times am I going to make THIS joke?) another cool VR exhibit was Bonfire, a showcase where the viewer and their personal robot assistant get stranded on a strange planet populated by weird creatures. That one was pretty entertaining to be a part of. Finally, the 100% was a beautiful and inspiring story about a ballerina with cancer who continues to defy all boundaries and keep dancing no matter what repercussions come over her. VIFF Immersed was a cool experience provided even better with the help of MSI which has recently created a new content creation laptop with a gaming graphic for designers who are looking to make interesting new artwork.


Red Snow One of the things I’m so relieved about is the fact that I’m currently not fighting overseas… yet. Who knows what could happen? Every soldier his their stories. In the case of a young soldier named Dylan (Asivak Koostachin), he is currently out somewhere in Afghanistan trying to take out somebody named Aman (Shafin Karim). But before he can, Dylan somehow sees relatives of his family from the past. This distracts him and he gets held hostage by the Taliban. As Dylan sits in the prison, he gets flashbacks of his past, including a broken romance after being with his cousin Asana (Miika Whiskeyjack) who killed herself, witnessing the death of a wild animal, seeing his younger brother commit suicide (also) and moving out of his land to become a soldier. But Dylan isn’t the only one feeling upset, Aman also frets about his wife whom he has lost that were very close to him. In fact, despite being in a different place than home, there are a lot of interesting similarities that he doesn’t realize. So while Dylan is held hostage for ransom, Aman’s daughter Khatira (Moshdah Jamalzadah) does some top secret business to help bust down Dylan, Aman and her little brother Tahir (Ishaan Vasdev). But will anyone truly make it out alive? Red Snow is one of the darkest yet most amazing films ever made. Setup and composition of the shots makes the film even more ominous but slowly some colour comes in as Dylan bonds with the family. The characters are people you feel you can’t familiarize with but are somehow able to given how many rough struggles they have had. The story is emotional and really gets to someone, the characters are well developed and way more than anyone would expect, and the whole film really grinds out feeling. It’s an extremely edgy thrilling film that takes place in an extremely edgy thrilling country where conditions are mixed but deadly. Truly a sinister chill that any Canadian should see, but don’t let it make you too uncomfortable.



Red Snow will be screening October 6th and 8th at Cineplex Odeon In International Village.


Haida Modern A very special screening that I got the pleasure of attending, Haida Modern told the story of an artist named Robert Davidson who talks about his humble beginnings and how he was the first person in years to carve a totem pole to bring back indigenous celebration of art despite the anxiety of the locals. Other topics in the documentary were the family discussing their own viewpoints, how animals get carved, how being a native is now viewed as cool, and culture being provided through art. Not only did viewers learn about how Indigenous art is made, they also learned about the comeback of Indigenous art, and what kind of person Robert is, with his skills in carving he learned from his father, his colourful and interesting fashion sense, and those who know him personally. Director Charles Wilkinson met Robert through a picnic on a beach, and got inspired to cover him. Wilkinson said “The honour of being able to witness a master at work, was truly amazing.” Having gotten to travel to some cool locations around Haida Gwaii and exhibits at the States, Wilkinson enjoyed every moment of being able to cover Davidson’s journey and learn about his backstory. There were barely any struggles except for Davidson’s patience, something he is still learning to control. This documentary about a great artist was remarkable, inspiring, moving, and even kind of funny. Now that Indigenous Art has finally gotten more recognition and no longer being shut out by Canada’s society, things are definitely on the right track for Robert Davidson and many more aspiring Indigenous artists who may wish to follow the same path. As an artist myself, I thoroughly enjoy it. 



Haida Modern will be screening October 11th at Vancouver Playhouse.


There’s sure to be much more to VIFF than I just mentioned, like the closing gala and a lot more films, but I’m sure Darren and/or Shaun will have something to say about that. In the meantime, it’s best to keep an eye on the festival and see what other great things come out of it. 

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