Friday, December 15, 2017

Victoria Film Fest brings films from around the globe to town

February 1, 2017 by Finlay Pogue, contributing writer

The Victoria Film Festival (VFF) is a city-wide event, with different movie houses pulling their own weight, taking on showings; it’s a silent culture of film that takes hold of the town, enthralling those in the know. The fest is host to a multicultural cast of players, with films from around the world—Japan, Australia, France, Denmark, Canada—on display, all converging, bringing new perspectives, shining new light on an old town so that its good qualities may be seen anew.

The smaller size of the festival and its location, at the centre of a smaller town, actually serves to foster anticipation for the event; larger film festivals are often swallowed whole by their cities.

“In big cities the festivals are invisible, but in smaller places the festival is everywhere and it creates a unique feeling,” says Finnish filmmaker Juho Kuosmanen, whose movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is playing at the VFF. “At their best, they feel like family meeting, not like a festival.”

Burn Your Maps is about a boy who wants to be a Mongolian goat herder (photo provided).

Regardless of location and statistics, it’s the films that are the beating heart of any festival; they’re vehicles of emotion, good and bad, and a chance for people to be together witnessing something beautiful. In that regard, VFF is bigger than life, offering films such as Jordan Roberts’ Burn Your Maps, about a boy with the dream of living as a Mongolian goat-herder.

“I wanted to tell a story that was about the potential for human evolution, about how to move forward when you don’t know where you are,” says Roberts.

It’s films like Roberts’—ones exploring themes of identity and human relationships—that make film festivals so important. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki too is greater than the sum of its parts.

“[The movie] deals with the expectations and the fear of being a failure,” says Kuosmanen, adding that it could be seen as “an allegory for filmmaking—if you want.”

When discussing budding filmmakers, Roberts says that they “need to pay attention to what stories are, go read good ones, go watch great films; tell stories that are about human beings.” And it’s this approach that both Roberts and Kuosmanen have taken, valuing the story—and what the story says—over the glamour of big studios and big names.

“It’s not about the high budgets,” says Kuosmanen. “It’s about the amount of freedom. That’s the priority.”

As for the fest, it’s the communication that a small festival can offer, and that independent films can bring, that makes film fests so valuable; when people stay cloistered in their Netflix worlds, they lose the acuteness and intensity that films can offer.

“Cinema is communication,” says Kuosmanen. “It happens between people, not inside individuals.”

Victoria Film Fest
Friday, February 3 to Sunday, February 12
various prices and venues

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