Friday, August 23, 2019

Victoria Film Festival tackles comedy, drama, and more

February 3, 2016 by Jayden Grieve, contributing writer

The Victoria Film Festival is back for its 22nd year of screening films for local audiences. The festival has a very large and comprehensive line-up of movies; Victoria Film Festival communications coordinator Fulya Ozkul says that no matter who you are, you’re sure to find something you’ll love.

“You can expect 150 films over ten days, with a variety of short and long films from all over Canada and the world,” says Ozkul. “There’s something for everyone, really.”

Although there may be similarities in the festival’s line-up from year to year, the films shown are always very different; Ozkul says it’s hard to know what to expect. She explains that Victoria has such a varied audience that everything from Canadian to American to foreign films has a chance to do well.

“You kind of have an idea of what will sell well right off the bat, but it is always kind of interesting,” Ozkul explains. “Victoria is a different kind of demographic and a different kind of market than Vancouver or Toronto, and people in Victoria really like all the diverse stuff.”

Chloe Sosa-Sims is one of the co-directors of Dan and Margot, which deals with schizophrenia (photo provided).

Chloe Sosa-Sims is one of the co-directors of Dan and Margot, which deals with schizophrenia (photo provided).

One of the films that will be playing is Sandwich Nazi, a Vancouver-based documentary about deli owner Salam Kahil that follows his everyday comedic antics in the deli and delves deeper into his charity work and backstory (and is not related to the Seinfeld episode the doc takes its name from).

“I find it really interesting because there are all these people who we come across in our everyday lives who we don’t know anything about, and this is just one story of many,” Ozkul says. “It’s really nice to see the different sides of this average man.”

Sandwich Nazi director Lewis Bennett explains that they screened a shorter version of the film at the Victoria Film Festival in 2012, and that they were happy to come back.

“Last time we came out, we basically took the ferry over and were only able to stay for one screening,” says Bennett, “so I’m excited about spending a couple days in town and seeing a bunch more films.”

Bennett and his film are no strangers to festivals, and he says that, at the ones he’s visited, the film has been met with an interesting mix of reviews.

“I think we made a film that people were either going to love or hate,” says Bennett, “and we kind of got that response; some people will immediately dismiss it after the fact and some people will love it and champion it.”

Bennett was originally drawn to Kahil as a customer at his deli, where he is constantly making people laugh. They wanted to share this humour with the world.

“Maybe it’s teaching them about something new or giving them empathy for a different situation or different people,” says Bennett, explaining why he likes to make film. “But for me and the people I work with, we are always kind of drawn to comedy; that’s sort of our first love.”

In stark contrast to Bennett’s charming piece, Dan and Margot, another film screening at the festival, provides a window into the life of Margot, who has schizophrenia.

“I think that one will be interesting because it’s a topic that not a lot of people talk about,” says Ozkul. “Mental health is discussed pretty regularly, but not necessarily schizophrenia. The director and Margot will be here, so I think that will open the floor for a really interesting discussion after the film.”

The film was made in Toronto; the two co-directors and Margot are very excited to head out to the west coast.

“This is actually our first time attending Victoria both as a city and a festival,” says Chloe Sosa-Sims, one of the film’s co-directors. “We’re especially excited because it’s our world premiere and our whole team will be there.”

Sosa-Sims and her team are working hard to set up a big festival run and plan to do a grassroots screening tour at a handful of different universities in the fall.

“I’ve heard great things about the [Victoria] festival and, having looked at their program previously and this year, I think they do a very exceptional job at creating a Canadian and international line up,” says Sosa-Sims. “They are actually quite a large festival in the scheme of Canadian festivals.”

Sosa-Sims says she hasn’t seen the film with anyone except her co-director Jake Chirico and Margot, and she is excited to share it with the world and to see how people react to it. The subject matter is very near and dear to her, and she hopes people will take something away from it.

“The film should bring some light to schizophrenia and what it’s like to experience something like that and really humanize it for a lot of people who are unfamiliar,” says Sosa-Sims. “Schizophrenia is still really stigmatized. All the media coverage revolves around portraying people with schizophrenia who have committed really violent and atrocious crimes, and I really wanted to tell a story about a normal, kind-hearted individual who has to deal with it.”

Ozkul is happy that there is such a variety of exciting films at the fest.

“The film festival is always about seeing films that you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise,” says Ozkul, “and getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new.”

Victoria Film Festival
February 5 to 14
$2 membership required, see website for movie prices

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