Canada International Film and Television Festival Awards opening ceremony

A couple weeks ago on November 6, I was lucky enough to attend the opening ceremony for the 2nd annual Canada International Film and Television Festival, held November 6 to November 8, 2015. This was a kickoff for a couple days of deliberation, which culminated in the final awards ceremony.

Canadian Senator Yonah Martin attended, and presented one of the prizes. You can see more on her website. The winners are listed here. You can see the truly international aspect of the festival from winners such as the actor Mr. Debebe Retta, whom I believe to be Ethiopian.

This posh event, held at the Marriott hotel in Richmond, was a pleasant and elegant reprieve on that very wet, dark night. After the opening remarks (mostly in English, but also in Mandarin) from several distinguished participants, including the mayor of Richmond and several internationally known members of the film industry, we partook of the delicious and well-presented hors d’oeuvres (not to mention wine).

Actor Jill Jaress was one of the speakers, and she talked about how she had maintained a career for herself as she became older and was called less often. She took on directing, producing, and scriptwriting. Her largest production is 1 Nighter, a romantic comedy for which she directed, produced, wrote, and acted (co-starring with her real-life boyfriend and Golden Globe nominee Timothy Bottoms).

(Jill Jaress speaking at CIFTA. Photo credit Raymond Chou)

I cannot find a press release for the 2015 version of this event, but this one for the 2014 event is accurate in its description. “One of the main goals of this Festival is to establish an interactive platform for film enthusiasts from both Eastern and Western cultures, and to promote the advantages of the Vancouver film industry.”

Let’s step back a bit and think about films (and television shows too, but I did feel there was an emphasis on films at this presentation). In Vancouver, and in most vibrant, multicultural cities, hearing a mix of languages in a typical day is unremarkable. If you are not multilingual (I struggle to be bilingual myself), just ask someone you know from Malaysia, India, or the Netherlands how many languages he or she speaks–I’ll bet a minimum of four. But even given the reality of a mixed linguistic landscape, many times films try to be all one language or culture (which admittedly is appropriate in some cases, but definitely not all).  The mandate of this festival, which looks at films from all around the world, is to encourage multiculturalism in film. Multicultural does not have to mean multilingual, but in many cases it will. Indeed, I have seen that a number of films at the Vancouver International Film Festival do use several languages, as that is what makes sense when the story moves through different locations and cultures.

I’m looking forward to Year 3! Here are a couple more pictures (photo credit Raymond Chou).


Review: ribcage: this wide passage, at Firehall Arts Centre


The most powerful image of this multimedia work, combining theatre, live viola, dance, and video, is when Heather Hermant, playing Esther Brandeau, sits down to bind her breasts so she can dress and live as a young man, Jacques, in 18th-century Quebec. With this severe constriction comes the freedom of being able to live and work and support herself and travel freely. Hermant is a spoken-word artist, so often this work does seem more like a recitation than traditional theatre.

I have participated only lightly in researching family history, but it is indeed thrilling to find an undiscovered connection (and I have the privilege of having relatives who have done a lot of work on this subject). Hermant started researching her own family line, and found that Esther was a collateral ancestor, a young woman who disguised herself as a young man and got work on a ship to New France (Quebec). On a historical note, in pre-Revolution France, Jews were banned from immigrating to French North America (some got around this, particularly in New Orleans, but Esther is thought to be the first Jew in Canadian New France). Thus, Esther faced two significant hurdles in getting to North America: religion and gender. Esther found a way to explore and escape her life, for whatever reasons she had for doing this. Hermant also touches on the dispersion of Portuguese Jews in Europe (who were also subject to the Inquisition and deported from their homeland).

It’s tempting to put modern constructions on centuries-old behavior. Was Esther transgender? Was she just taking the only means she could figure out to escape the life she had (for whatever reasons she wanted to escape it)? Hermant sees her work as a “queer story about displacement and identity”, although we know nothing about Esther’s self-construction and self-identity other than what we can guess from the scant historical records. The work belongs to the artist, and it becomes about more than Esther, so I understand Hermant’s casting of this work as “queer”.

When Esther is deported back to France, after being discovered for her religion and gender, nothing more is ever heard of her. What might have happened? I tend towards pessimism, but perhaps Esther lived a full and interesting life, maybe even crossing the boundary again to live as a man.

The music and video enhanced the often spooky, mysterious feeling I felt as I watched and listened to this work. On a technical note, the Hermant’s words were often difficult to hear above the music. For me, this was particularly noticeable with the French passages, as my lack of fluency makes me desperate to hear everything very clearly. However, I was thrilled to see another example of multilingual theatre–which I can’t help but feel is the future of theatre as we manage multiple hybrid identities in a multilingual world as part of everyday experience.

The constricted ribcage, the wideness of the open ocean. This work is full of imagery and I enjoyed seeing its debut.

The Firehall has brought two premieres of one-woman shows to the stage in the past month: The Village and ribcage: this wide passage. Both have fascinating themes and innovative use of music and film.

Images of My Territory: Rama and Kriol, at Lost N’ Found Cafe, March 11, 7:30 (free)

Get a full description here:

Facebook event here:

Images of My Territory: Ramas and Kriols

I am looking forward to seeing this film, particularly as I am going to Nicaragua in April. Nicaragua represents a blend of cultures, and this film will explore that. I’m looking forward to the post-film discussion for more insight.

Fado Camané at VanCity Theatre: A great film and evening

Fado Camané official trailer: 

First, remember that VanCity Theatre has Music Mondays. Keep an eye on their schedule. Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Joan Baez, and numerous other luminaries have featured in documentaries. Last night’s film was $7, including the complimentary food and wine described below, although you will have to get an annual $2 membership if you don’t have one.

When I saw that VanCity Theatre was showing Fado Camané, I had to see it. As you might guess, Camané is a Portuguese singer who performs fado. The film focuses on the process of making an album. It’s about collaboration, and the creativity of technicians, the singer, supporting musicians, the poet/songwriter, the producer all juxtaposed in a state of pleasant tension as they work through artistic dilemmas. Much has been written how the work of the individual “genius” is highlighted above all others, when in fact almost any innovation or invention  you can think of has been a collaboration, even if hidden. This film demonstrates that creative fact very well.

Before the film, the Portuguese consulate generously provided us with cod fritters, shrimp dumplings, and egg tarts, all delicious and enjoyable. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the port, the red wine, the white wine all from Portugal either. This reception provided a lovely start to the evening.

Listen to Camané for yourself!

South Africa is happening in Vancouver: dance, theatre, film!

Vincent Mantsoe, an acclaimed South African dance artist, is performing at Firehall Arts Centre until February 14. The show is called NTU/SKWATTA.

Valley Song is on now at Gateway Theatre until February 21. This is a play about land ownership and connection to the land and dealing with the aftermath of state-entrenched apartheid.

Cadre is coming to the Cultch, starting February 24. This play is about the new South Africa.

And the Vancouver South African Film Festival returns to Vancouver April 10.

We are always lucky in Vancouver to have such excellent multicultural offerings, and I really look forward to seeing as many  of these as I can.

Hurry up, catch the end of the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival

Keeping up with Vancouver cultural events is particularly difficult around September. There’s the Fringe, VLAFF, VIFF, the Accordion Noir Festival, and I know there are lots of other events too.

Nonetheless, I recommend getting to some of the VLAFF films. I have enjoyed several so far, and I hope to try to get in some more this weekend. So many great ones, it is hard to single out any, so take a look.

Luckily, VLAFF often shows films throughout the year too, so I recommend getting on their mailing list so you don’t miss out.

BC Buds Spring Art Fair, Firehall Arts Centre, May 7-11

BC Buds Spring Art Fair, Firehall Arts Centre, May 7-11

By Donation 
May 11 to 13, 2012 
Friday 6 to 10:30pm 
Saturday 4 to 11:30pm 
Sunday 4 to 8pm 
Sat & Sun – KidStuff 1 to 4pm

This yearly event showcases some up-and-coming theatrical work, and it provides some family-friendly programming as well. Check out the program–something is sure to interest you.

P.S. The name refers to the nascent characteristics of the young artists’ work, rather than some other meaning of “bud”. What were you thinking?

Vancouver South African Film Festival, April 5-6 (and Mies Julie at the Cultch) (and Nelson the Seagull coffeeshop too)

As mentioned before in this blog, Vancouver has an endless array of film festivals featuring all different regions and subjects. I have enjoyed the Vancouver South African Film Festival in the past, and there’s a great lineup this year too.

In addition to the film lineup, this festival is also co-sponsoring a production of Mies Julie, an adaptation of 19th-century Swedish playwright August Strindberg’s play that we know as Miss Julie in English (Fröken Julie in the original Swedish). It’s still a story of forbidden love between a wealthy woman and a lower-class man, but it’s been transposed to South Africa.

While mentioning all things South African, I would be remiss not to mention the very nice coffee-shop Nelson the Seagull, founded by three South Africans, at 318 Carrall Street. This is a cozy, pleasant place with vinyl records and interesting magazines, not to mention good coffee, superb sandwiches, tasty confections, and homemade bread (very high-quality) for sale.

Knowledge Network: The Tipping Points with Bernice Notenboom

Bernice Notenboom is a climate journalist and adventurer. She does things like ski to the North and South Poles, climb Mount Everest, and a host of other challenging physical and mental feats that involve intensive geographical challenges. Her adventures allow her to meet up with climate scientists in remote locations and find out what is happening. Her recent film The Tipping Points combines her adventure travels with climate science investigations.
Trailer: The Tipping Points

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New Spanish Cinema Week 2014, Vancouver (February 21-27, VanCity Theatre)

Vancouver always seems to have some film festival or another running. Whether it is the Vancouver International Film Festival (a 3-week extravaganza in the fall), the Serbian film festival, the Venezuelan film festival, the EU film festival, DOXA (a documentary film festival), and so on, some film festival is bound to interest you sooner or later.

Next up is New Spanish Cinema Week 2014, from February 21-27 at VanCity Theatre.

Gala screening Feb 21 includes a performance by Flamenco Rosario & special guests, a glass of wine and FREE ADMISSION to 9.30 show Serrat y Sabina: Two for the Road. Tickets only $20



Note that these films are from Spain. You can see plenty of Latin American films at the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival, which I highly recommend, and which occurs in the fall with occasional events throughout the year.