News from Hollywood North
Chinese-language films rise at VIFF
Although the Vancouver International Film Festival has had a special program for Asian films since 1985, the VIFF will place special emphasis on Chinese cinema with an expanded Dragons & Tigers series this year.
Dragons & Tigers programming will be divided between long-time D&T programmer Tony Rayns, who will handle non Chinese language East Asian films, and newcomer Shelly Kraicer, who will oversee Chinese-language film programming. Kraicer is a Canadian film scholar who speaks Mandarin and has lived in Beijing for five years.
In a phone interview from Toronto, Kraicer spoke about how Chinese cinema is flourishing. "One of our focuses is on new documentaries because there's an incredible amount of vitality and creativity in the indie Chinese Mainland documentary scene." One such discovery was Bing Ai , an eight-year project by female director Feng Yan about a Chinese woman farmer living near the Yangtze River's Three Gorges dam project who refuses to move when ordered to. The film will have its world premiere at the VIFF.
The Chinese-language program will feature numerous North American and Canadian premieres and will include selections from Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Kraicer says films will range from big-budget features like The Sun Also Rises to zero-budget wonder (shot with a crew of four) Little Moth , about a young girl forced to beg on city streets.
Kraicer also spoke highly of Taiwanese film. "For a long time, people have been saying the Taiwan film industry is stuck, dead, and just producing a few famous art-house films for international audiences. And this year I was excited when I went to Taipei that there are all sorts of signs of revival in the Taiwanese commercial-film industry and among independent young filmmakers."
Chinese North American content includes Arthur Dong's documentary Hollywood Chinese and the Canada-China thriller/horror coproduction They Wait , starring Vancouver's Terry Chen.
Final garden show of Riot in Vancouver
Anniversaries of Change ( www.anniversaries07.ca/ ), a coalition of organizations commemorating four significant anniversaries in Vancouver's Asian Canadian history, will present The Back Page, the fourth and final installment of its free outdoor Riot in Vancouver program, at the east entrance of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Carrall and Keefer streets) on Friday (August 31) at 8:30 p.m. This final presentation focuses on the anti-Asian riots in Chinatown and Japantown on September 7, 1907. Programmed by local filmmaker Nilesh Patel ( Brocket 99 Rockin' the Country ), films will include works by Richard Fung, Tadashi H. Nakamura, Ho Tam, and Paul Wong.
Karin Lee, artistic director for the Anniversaries of Change steering committee, said by phone that the screenings have "done what we were hoping [they] would do, which is to draw a very diverse crowd", including Chinatown Night Market shoppers, tourists, and locals.
Lee said it is important "to have that public intervention by using art and culture to deal with politics and activism, and in this case recalling the various anniversaries that are so important in the history of Asian migration to Canada". She pointed out that "most of the works are personal works that refer to the effects that these immigration laws or these anniversaries have had on their families."
An encore screening of highlights from the four programs will be held at the Pacific Cinémathí¨que on September 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 ($5 for Cineworks members).
Local fest honours queer films
Out On Screen's 19th annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival wrapped up with a closing gala and awards on August 26. The $1,500 people's choice award for best feature went to U.S. writer-director Jonah Markowitz's Shelter , about a gay California surfer torn between love, coming out, and family responsibilities. Matthew Long's 14-minute science-fiction video Trans Neptune part of the Coast is Queer program, which spotlights B.C. work won the Gerry Brunet Memorial Award. The award includes $500 cash and $1,000 in Technicolor production services.
According to Out on Screen spokesperson Lauryn Hayden, this year's festival surpassed the previous year, with 14 sold-out screenings.
Program calls for fresh filmmakers
Writers, producers, and directors looking to make their first or second feature film can apply to take part in a professional-development program conducted by the National Screen Institute. The NSI Features First program, now a decade old, is accepting up to five Canadian teams for a 10-month, three-phase program.
Canadian film professionals supply instruction about script development, pitching, finances, legalities, marketing, distribution, and sales. The deadline is September 28, 2007. Guidelines and application forms can be found at www.nsi-canada.ca/featuresfirst/ .