Fall Arts Preview: Vancouver festivals sprinkle magic of arts and culture over the city

The arrival of vaccine passports means that some can welcome people back to live events

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      Many Vancouverites probably don’t realize that they live in one of North America’s premier festival towns. In fact, there could be more arts, film, and music festivals per capita in this city than anywhere else in English-speaking Canada.

      Guess what? Vaccine passports will make it possible for many of them to return to live events. Here are a few to look forward to in the coming months. (Click the headline to visit the festival's website for more information.)


      (online until September 12)

      This festival’s YouTube channel has a wide variety of videos from this year’s festival, including artists’ talks, musical presentations, comedy, culinary tips, and discussions related to South Korea arising out of the annual Dialogue With Asia Series. (For more, see the Georgia Straight Guide to TAIWANfest.)

      The author of A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, Seth Klein, will be at Word Vancouver.

      Word Vancouver

      (online, September 10 to 26)

      All events are free at this wide-ranging celebration of writing, which is putting diversity at the forefront this year. Whether it’s Chinese poetry, LGBT+ writing, Indigenous comedy, Italian literature, or fiction’s role in addressing disability, it’s all here. Plus, Word Vancouver delves into important public policies on such things as the climate with Seth Klein and the overdose crisis with Gabor Maté and Benjamin Perrin.

      Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival

      (online, September 10 to 19)

      This year’s lineup includes eight films, opening with John Hsu’s martial-law–era thriller Detention and closing with Chen-nian Ko’s The Silent Forest, adapted from real-life abuse at a school for the deaf, and Yu-chieh Cheng’s family drama Dear Tenant.

      Vancouver International Film Festival

      (online and at the Vancouver International Film Centre, October 1 to 11)

      The 40th edition of the city’s grandest film festival will show more than 100 features and 77 shorts from around the world. It will also include talks, conferences, and other events to offer insights and expand understanding of the filmmaking and storytelling processes. Two high-achieving women in music, composer Laura Karpman and songwriter Linda Perry, will speak at the 2021 VIFF AMP Music in Film Summit, which runs online from October 8 to 10. (For more on VIFF, see this article.)

      Vancouver Improv Festival

      (The Cultch, October 12 to 17)

      Enjoy six days of improv-comedy shows and workshops at a festival that has shown more than 1,300 local and international performers since it was created in 1999.

      M.G. Vassanji, author of The Gunny Sack and A Delhi Obsession, is among the novelists at this year's Whistler Writers Festival.
      Derek Shapton

      Whistler Writers Festival

      (online, October 14 to 17)

      Amanda Betts, George Elliott Clarke, Ivan Coyote, Omar El Akkad, Camilla Gibb, Tomson Highway, Linden McIntyre, Eden Robinson, M. G. Vassanji, and Howard White are just some of the writers and editors in this year’s impressive lineup. The headliner for the Saturday Night Gala is Thomas King (The Inconvenient Indian) in conversation with Anishinaabe journalist Tanya Talaga.

      Vancouver Writers Fest

      (online and at Granville Island, October 18 to 24)

      Now in its 34th year, this festival has presented scores of celebrated and award-winning writers. As the Straight went to the printer, this year’s lineup hadn’t been unveiled. But here are two hors d’oeuvres: former MP Jody Wilson-Raybould will speak about her new book, Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power, on September 15, followed by a September 26 discussion with Harlem Shuffle author Colson Whitehead. (For more on the Vancouver Writers Fest lineup, see this article.)

      Heart of the City Festival

      (various venues and online, October 27 to November 7)

      Vancouver Moving Theatre’s tribute to the Downtown Eastside is centred around the theme of “Stories We Need to Hear”. It features a wide range of live and online events encompassing music, stories, poetry, theatre, ceremony, films, readings, forums, workshops, discussions, and visual arts. One of the highlights of this event, organized by Terry Hunter and Savannah Walling, is the launch of a two-year project called Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey, by Further We Rise Collective with Sacred Rock.

      Eastside Culture Crawl

      (various venues and online, November 12 to 14 and 18 to 21)

      In normal years, tens of thousands of people flock to galleries and studios across East Vancouver for this celebration of painting, sculpture, crafts, and other art forms.

      Chutzpah! Festival

      (Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre, Wosk Auditorium, and Sidney & Gertrude Zack Gallery at the JCC and online, November 4 to 24)

      Also known as the Lisa Nemetz International Jewish Performing Arts Festival, it features concerts, new dance works, film, theatre, and storytelling. Plus comedy. Lots of comedy, including Israel-American writer, actor, and director Iris Bahr, who will perform her new solo show. Israeli-American standup comedian Avi Liberman and Canadian-born, New York–based standup comedian Ophira Eisenberg will also perform. Plus, the Guy Mintus Trio will play songs from A Gershwin Playground live, with a digital stream available.

      Modulus Festival

      (various venues and online, November 4 to 10)

      With live music, behind-the-scenes artist talks, and an extension of Music on Main’s digital offerings, the Modulus features flutist Mark Takeshi McGregor with a program that includes the world premiere of Keiko Devaux’s “Hōrai”, along with music by Alfredo Santa Ana, James O’Callaghan, and Nicole Lizée.