Vancouver's Golden Panda film fest welcomes the world

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      With 100-plus acting credits stretching all the way back to an episode of Flipper in 1965, Bo Svenson has enjoyed the kind of Hollywood career that they just don’t make anymore. Ten years after that debut, he was playing opposite Robert Redford in The Great Waldo Pepper, while his more recent work includes a couple of high-profile cameos for Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 and Inglourious Basterds—the latter taking its title from a 1978 spaghetti-war picture that starred Svenson.

      Next Thursday (December 7), the 76-year-old veteran will visit the Vancity Theatre for an actors’ and writers’ creative seminar, the very first masters’ workshop to be organized by the Vancouver Golden Panda International Film Festival. Besides the half-century of experience he brings both behind and in front of the camera, Svenson is also “a great guy”, according to GPIFF executive director Matthew Tang, who has seen the industry-focused event expand since its inception in 2013 to include, for the first time, four days of public screenings at the Vancity Theatre.

      “Our committee is formed by a group of successful Chinese entrepreneurs,” Tang explains in a call to the Georgia Straight, “and they have a passion to help facilitate collaboration between Canada and China. So we are bringing a lot of large companies from China, and we believe we offer a unique opportunity for local filmmakers in terms of getting to know what is going on in China—which is potentially becoming the largest consumer of movies in the world.”

      Among the parties visiting Vancouver is the Chinese giant Alibaba Pictures, an investor in such recent U.S. titles as Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation and Star Trek Beyond, along with the mammoth domestic blockbuster Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back. An industry forum and exhibition at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver next Saturday (December 9) brings Alibaba together with Creative B.C., Telefilm, and the distributor China Film Co.; the day includes a Project Pitch session for hungry young filmmakers with a screenplay or three to hawk. The whole event is capped with a red carpet and gala award ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Sunday (December 10).

      It’s the public screenings, however, that are likely to bring the biggest surge of new attention to GPIFF. Besides some 33 shorts, an eclectic schedule of 19 feature films includes the quirky Brit-com Akela; the highly touted American indie The Song of Sway Lake, starring Rory Culkin; an Iranian family drama, Dogs and Fools; the ambitious Colombian feature Land and Shade; plus a Chinese period comedy, Mr. Donkey (“A really, really good movie!” Tang promises), and the sweetly demented Canadian musical Princess Sparkly Butt and the Hot Dog Kid.

      Of particular interest to Vancouverites, “Longshot: The Brian Upson Story” tells the story of the basketball coach who, while fighting cancer, took the West Vancouver Highlanders to their first final in 1982. Remarkably, and true to GPIFF’s goal of encouraging new talent, the film was made by Grade 12 students from Rockridge secondary’s advanced film class. Alibaba, take note.

      The Vancouver Golden Panda International Film Festival takes place from Monday (December 4) to December 10, with screenings at the Vancity Theatre from Monday to Thursday (December 4 to 7). More information is at