This year’s Vancouver International Film Festival is riddled with productions linked to Vancouver, some apparent, others less so.
One of the more obvious Vancouver connections is gangster film Beeba Boys, by Canadian director Deepa Mehta, about an Indo-Sikh gang’s bid to control the Vancouver drug and arms trade. The cast features several local actors, including Jag Bal, former Much Music veejay Monika Deol, and Balinder Johal.
Johal is also listed as an extra in No Men Beyond This Point, a mockumentary by local filmmaker Mark Sawers set in an alternate-reality West Vancouver in which men face extinction as women no longer need them to procreate.
Meanwhile, Lewis Bennett’s The Sandwich Nazi profiles Surrey deli owner Salam Kahli who’s overly generous with his servings of sandwiches with a side of sexually explicit, foul-mouthed conversations. Anyone hungry?
In other Surrey connections, Alan Zweig’s documentary Hurt tells the story of Steve Fonyo, the fallen hero who raised $14 million for cancer research on his cross-Canada marathon but ran into troubles later in life, including crime, addiction, and a home invasion.
Jordan Paterson’s docudrama Tricks on the Dead: The Story of the Chinese Labour Corps in WWI reveals how 85,000 Chinese labourers were sent from Vancouver to the Western Front to dig trenches and remove the dead during the First World War.
In Ann Shin’s short documentary “My Enemy, My Brother”, two former enemies from the Iran-Iraq war encounter each other again, this time in Vancouver. During the war, when an Iranian solider discovered a critically injured Iraqi soldier, his humanity overrode political and national borders.
Jumbo Wild, having its world premiere at VIFF, documents the battle over a proposed year-round ski resort in the Purcell Range near Invermere, B.C. Vancouver-based architect Oberto Oberti’s dream is opposed by First Nations people, environmentalists, and recreationalists.
Local documentarian Charles Wilkinson completes his environmental trilogy (Peace Out, Oil Sands Karaoke) with Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World, an indepth look at the Haida Nation and the archipelago they live on.
Of course, numerous other local filmmakers can be found in the Canadian Images program. Among them are directors Mina Shum (Ninth Floor), Nick Citton (My Good Man’s Gone), Damien Gillis and Fiona Rayher (Fractured Land), Nicholas Humphries (Charlotte’s Song), and Tony Massil (Frank and the Wondercat).
Connor Gaston’s feature film debut, The Devout, about a Christian teacher who has a crisis of faith when his terminally ill daughter claims she was an astronaut in a former life, features a Vancouver-based cast. Another directorial debut is by Vancouver’s Kyle Rideout with the biopic Eadweard, about the British photographer Eadweard Muybridge who pioneered photographic studies of motion. Among the cast and crew is Vancouver actor/writer/producer Josh Epstein.
Among the international titles, a handful have local ties.
Taiwan’s Zinnia Flower features Hong Kong pop star and actor Karena Lam, who was born and raised in Vancouver. This Taipei-based story of loss follows two people, each of whom loses a spouse in the same car crash but each individual deals with grief and mourning differently.
The documentary Circus Without Borders: The Story of Artcirq and Kalabante takes a look at how two men, one in Nunavut and the other in Guinea, teach acrobatics to impoverished youth as a means to empower them, even culminating in performances at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
When Japanese filmmaker Matsubayashi Yoju visited last year’s VIFF with The Horses of Fukushima, he also captured images of our city, which he incorporated into Reflection, his cinematic collection of reflective surfaces shot in 17 cities.
Our city even gets a mention in Monty Python: The Meaning of Live, when comedy troupe members reveal how much Vancouver meant to them when they were enthusiastically welcomed here at our airport on their first trip to North America.
For full screening details, visit the VIFF website.