The non-gawkers’ film festival


On Monday,the tenth of September, 2012, The Globe and Mail, a Toronto newspaper, featured a story headlined “Why We Gawk”. The story, which plumbed the shallows of celebrity obsession, ran with a picture of paparazzi at the annual Toronto International Film Festival cornering a bimbo in evening dress.

I have never attended TIFF, but from what I hear it is expensive, inconvenient, and rude. It is a place for gawkers, not film-lovers. But the media love it. For two weeks every year, the Globe and Mail’s arts section foams with stories about it. And somewhere towards the end of TIFF in the middle of September, the paper runs a few paragraphs about the upcoming Vancouver International Film Festival. Then . . . . nothing. You see, there are no film stars at VIFF, not a bimbo in sight. Just films. Lots of films, running from the last week in September through to the middle of October, every year. It’s the best film festival in the world. To see why this is so, read my answers to some common questions about VIFF.

  • Will I get to see fabulous stars on the red carpet? Answer: No. If you want that, go to the TIFF. There’s nothing worth snapping at VIFF, unless you find film-buffs in rain-slickers and jeans fine lens fodder.
  • Will I have to line up for hours with a wad of cash to get a lousy seat? Answer. No. Tickets are $11 or $13 for single showings. But you can get a pass for between $175 and $400 that will get you in to as many of the 350 films showing over the 16 days of the festival as you can manage. And your seat? That depends on how early you get there. There are never more than half a dozen seats reserved: and they open up for general occupation five minutes before movie time.
  • Do I get treated like dirt if I am not wearing evening dress? Answer: This is Vancouver, remember. Evening dress is the same as day dress — something to keep the rain off.
  • Will I have to chase over town to pick up the movie I want to see? Answer: Probably not. Most of the films are shown in a seven-screen cineplex in the downtown core. There are three one-screen theatres within a ten-minute stroll of the main venue. And there are two outlying theatres, each a half-hour bus ride away, that show films in the evenings only.
  • How many films can I see? Answer: Some fanatics have managed to cram in over 100 (but that includes some from the pre-festival media screenings open to certain pass holders). If you are not so devoted, just get there early. Screenings start between 10 and 11 a.m., so you can take in three in the day time and two more in the evening. Multiply that by 16 days and you get, hm, 80.
  • How much choice do I have? Answer: Well, the downtown cineplex usually runs five films simultaneously, morning to evening; count in the other downtown screens and you have enough choice to present you with a scheduling problem.
  • What about variety? Answer: Lots. Every genre from all over the world. Japanese animation? Yes. Iranian drama? Finnish documentary? Spanish horror film? Brazilian romance? Russian comedy? Yes, yes, yes, yes and, surprisingly, yes.
  • Will I be lonely? Answer: What are you? Party girl? People who go to film fests tend to the introverted end of the scale. But they are vocal about film.So you will pick up tips about what’s good and what’s not.
  • How many times do they show the films? Every film  gets at least two showings; so the word gets out after the first screening and you can decide what to see. Popular films get an extra screening or two at the end of the festival.
  • Will it rain? Answer: Of course it will rain. This is Vancouver for Thor’s sake. Many of us choose to live here precisely because it does rain. We like it.  If you want sun, go to some parched country where they behead film directors for needling religion.
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About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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