Summer film festivals are a feast for the eyes

From open-air family fare to global film-festival favourites, this season offers something for cineastes of all stripes

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      Back in the roaring ’90s, a bunch of yahoos projected the original Planet of the Apes onto a huge brick wall for another bunch of yahoos, at the so-called “Granville Beach”, which was really just an empty construction lot between Robson and Georgia. It was an idea before its time. In the last few years, outdoor cinema has become a minor craze round these parts. In other words, playoff season is over, a different season has begun, and Vancouver is now invited to turn its attention from Lord Stanley’s cup to three-storey, inflatable movie screens (among other things).

      Moon tans, grass stains, and strangely aromatic slurpees
      Not forgetting the classic experience and weekly turnover of first-run features offered amid the intoxicating reek of hot dogs, fried doughnuts, and exhaust fumes at the gloriously old-school Twilight Drive-In, in Langley (260th Street and the Fraser Highway), the FreshAirCinema Outdoor Movie Company is the most visible (but not the only) player in this growing caper. Its mobile movie units are popping up everywhere these days, with a raft of events already in the planning stages across the Lower Mainland for the 2011 summer season.

      We’ve rounded up a few of them below, although you can always go right to the source and visit the FreshAirCinema Facebook page, where you’ll find, for instance, that the lovely Audrey Hepburn classic Roman Holiday is screening at Beaconsfield Park (3705 Slocan Street), at 9 p.m. on June 29. But these things also tend to happen fast and dirty, so keep your eyes peeled.

      Naturally, the trend is toward family fare. The Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association has Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, Ramona and Beezus, Tangled, and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never lined up for its Movies Under the Stars series, every Saturday in August in Holland Park.

      Other outdoor screening locations yet to announce their programs include a July 16 show at Killarney Park; four baseball-themed Movie Nights at the Nat on June 24, July 22, August 12, and September 2; and screenings every Tuesday night at Ceperley Meadow (near Second Beach in Stanley Park) starting July 5, courtesy of the West End Business Improvement Association and its Dinner and a Movie series.

      LUNAFLIKS tends to present edgier fare for the 18-plus crowd that’s been gathering at Whistler’s picturesque Lost Lake for just under a decade. Past screenings have included Donnie Darko, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Oldboy. This year’s schedule, starting July 6 and taking place every other Wednesday until the end of August, once again includes ambient DJ sets, popcorn, and a sunset barbecue, plus the introduction of two Pecha Kucha mini pr esentations before every screening. LUNA coordinator Kiran Pal-Pross is keeping mum on actual titles, but as she told the Straight, “This year’s feature films will be from North and South America, and Europe, and will feature scandals, fisherman, pregnant ladies, love, drugs, and actors playing multiple roles.” Check the website for updates.

      Festival Town
      There’s barely a time when there isn’t a film festival happening somewhere in the Lower Mainland. Among the more notable is the inaugural (and ambitious) Richmond International Film & Media Arts Festival, coming to the Richmond Cultural Centre and Plaza from July 21 to 24. Details are still to come, although an outdoor screening officially opens the festival on July 22. Until then, discerning cineastes can travel the world without leaving their seat, from Formosa to India to Central and South America, with three festivals, starting with the Fifth Annual Taiwanese Film Festival, happening July 1 to 3 at the Vancouver International Film Centre. Subtitled “Venture Through 100 Years”, the 2011 edition is presenting classics like Ang Lee’s 1994 breakthrough Eat Drink Man Woman, along with the 2010 blockbuster Monga (a Scorsese-esque gangster film set at the end of Taiwan’s military rule in the ’80s), and the classic 1963 drama Our Neighbor.

      Actor Agam Darshi is one of the organizers of the second Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival, taking place from July 15 to 17. Darshi’s success in the Sanctuary TV series is only a small part of the buzz surrounding VISAFF. From the website’s sterling comic-book image of a mythically proportioned Indian superheroine riding a tiger to certain victory, down to the choice of films, and its location at the SFU Woodward’s building, VISAFF has undeniable cool-kid cachet.

      “There’s been nothing like it before,” Darshi told the Straight. “There’s never been this marriage of two huge cultures that are part of Vancouver, which is the film industry and the South Asian culture. But we have nothing to do with Bollywood, really. We’re just trying to show that a South Asian director can create really great films that thematically could be or couldn’t be relevant to South Asian culture. We’re not trying to promote South Asian culture per se.”

      To that end, VISAFF opens this year with West Is West, the sequel to 1999’s outrageously popular East Is East. Closing night brings the “not typically Bollywood” satire Peepli Live, which scored raves for first-time director Anusha Rizvi. Darshi added that this year’s VISAFF also includes a panel discussion “and parties every night”.

      A special presentation of the sexy Peruvian film Pantaleón y las visitadoras (Captain Pantoja and the Special Services) at Pacific Cinémathí¨que on Tuesday (June 21) serves as a preview of the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival. Taking place during the first 11 days of September, largely at Pacific Cinémathí¨que (with opening and closing nights at the Granville 7), this year’s VLAFF brings roughly 25 features to town. Included among them is Even the Rain with Gael Garcí­a Bernal, and a Canadian-Mexican effort, Summer of Goliath, which premiered last year at the Toronto and Venice film festivals.

      Festival director Christian Sida-Valenzuela told the Straight that VLAFF usually attracts about 10,000 people. “Our goal is to bring everybody in Vancouver,” he said, adding that only 40 percent of the crowd is traditionally Latin American. Given that it’s in its ninth year, the festival is evidently doing very well. “Evidently!” affirmed Sida-Valenzuela.

      Eye-slicing delights
      The Vancity Theatre continues its run of visionary classics throughout the next few months, under the title The Surreelists. Programmed alongside the Vancouver Art Gallery’s summerlong exhibition The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art, the roster is packed with heavy hitters like Luis Buñuel, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowski, and Peter Greenaway, and features staunch favourites such as El Topo (June 27 and 30), A Zed and Two Noughts (June 28 and 30), Mulholland Drive (July 4), and The Exterminating Angel (July 6 and 7). Program director Tom Charity excitedly confirmed to the Straight that he’d also just scored a 35mm print of Hitchcock’s Vertigo (July 29 and 30). “People don’t automatically connect Hitchcock with surrealism,” Charity said, “but Vertigo is actually a very strange film once you think about it. It’s a film where a guy falls in love with what he believes is a reincarnation of a dead woman. The power of the film is that it draws you into this strange, alternative reality where love is stronger than death, and that’s a very surrealistic ethos, I think.”

      With more oddball fare like a series of shorts by the likes of Buñuel, the Quay brothers, and Jan Svankmajer (June 29), the Vancity is looking like a great place to take refuge when either the radioactive rain won’t let up or the sun is hot enough to melt your clock. (Check the website for times )