2015 Victoria Film Festival

Ron James will be joining the 2015 Victoria Films Festival's 'In Conversation With...' at The Vic Theatre on February 7th @ 11:30AM. Check out the article in the TIMES COLONIST:


Michael D. Reid / Times Colonist 
January 13, 2015 03:03 PM

The older the Victoria Film Festival gets, the further back in time its organizers seem to be going to celebrate its annual opening gala.

Last year, opening nighters celebrated at a 1960s-New York-themed bash that saw a building on Johnson Street transformed into a multi-levelled retro playground, with groovy costumed revellers moving past swing dancers and mini-skirted models through theme rooms.

For its 21st birthday celebration on Feb. 6, the festival is venturing back two decades earlier, to the era when stars such as Rita Hayworth, Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart were top draws at the cinema.

Festival director Kathy Kay admits the decision to transform the historic Promis Building at 1008 Government St. into a 1940s nightclub energized by a 35-piece big band was made on a whim.

“A while ago, I thought I’d try and theme these things to the opening movie, but it just became too hard to do that,” said Kay. “So this year, I just thought of what might be the most fun.”

Kay said she was thrilled the festival was able to book the Naden Band, which most recently packed the Royal Theatre with a series of three Christmas concerts benefiting the Salvation Army.

“[Businessman] Richard Holmes just renovated the space, with these amazing exposed brick walls and beams and high ceilings, and McLaren’s Lighting is putting chandeliers in, so it’s going to look pretty skookum,” she said.

Tuxedo-clad waiters, cigarette girls and other retro touches will complement the bash following the opening-gala film Boychoir, starring Dustin Hoffman as an East Coast choirmaster.

Kay confirmed guests so far include comedians Ron James and Mark McKinney, “who will both be smart and funny, I’m sure” when they take the stage for this year’s “In Conversation With” forums at the Vic; director Sturla Gunnarsson, here to present his new documentary Monsoon; Alberta filmmaker Kyle Thomas (The Valley Below); and Sydney Freeland, whose Sundance-featured film Drunktown’s Finest, about three young Navajo characters struggling to move beyond life on the reservation, makes its B.C. première.

Other guests include Nika Belianina, whose documentary Eccentric Eclectic makes its world première; and Tennis Pro, the Seattle indie band featured in John Jeffcoat’s documentary Big in Japan.

Organizers are also hoping Boychoir director Francois Girard, the Quebec director best known for The Red Violin, will be able to make the opening gala.

Significantly, the festival is expanding its horizons to Sidney this year — a move Kay says was driven by popular demand.

“We’ve been out there before but it’s been a while,” she said. “When we decided not to keep going there we got a lot of emails and people dropping by. They really did lobby us.”

Both Sidney’s Star Cinema and Mary Winspear Centre will be venues this year, for the screening of eight evening and four matinée films.

Family Day programs on Feb. 9, notably the Jammies and Cartoons event, will also take place at Mary Winspear Centre’s Charlie White Theatre.

The Victoria International Airport also got on board this year, said Kay, noting it is sponsoring the screening of Seventy-One Years, Nick Versteeg’s Avro Anson L 7056 aircraft documentary.

Other notable highlights, unveiled at the festival’s recent pre-fest launch at Parkside Hotel and Spa, include three new programs focusing on French Canadian, indigenous and South Asian films. Another is the new BravoFACT Pitch Contest hosted by industry pioneer Pat Ferns, with five filmmakers given an opportunity to pitch their short films and possibly receive $35,000.

The 2015 FilmCAN winners were also announced at the launch party. Olivia Wheeler collected the senior category grand prize for her documentary Expectations. In the junior category, Julie Robinson, Meaghan Power-Politt and Angelina Shandro accepted the grand prize for their group’s collaborative project 9 Lives.

Tickets to all festival films and programs are now available online, and at the festival’s box-office, 1215 Blanshard St. As always, a festival membership is required.

Many of the most popular attractions sell out quickly, especially the opening gala. For more information call 250-389-0444 or go to victoriafilmfestival.com