The Vancouver International Film Festival's signs of change under their new leadership became evident at their launch party held on September 3 at the Vancouver International Film Centre.
The transition of festival director from Alan Franey to Jacqueline Dupuis was officially announced in August, even though Dupuis had been with the organization for the 2013 edition. (Franey has moved into the position of director of programming.)
A somewhat glossier sheen, in what appears to be an attempt to broaden the festival's reach, became evident in everything from the red carpet rolled out for filmmaking guests at the event to a festival trailer that appealed to audiences' desire for "more entertainment".
Here's a rundown of some of the notable changes that were revealed for this year's festival:
"This is the first year in our history that we're not actually showing a film," Franey announced.
Franey explained that this will be the first year that none of the selections will be presented on celluloid—all the films are digital.
"That doesn't really matter though," he said, "because what we're here for is great storytelling on the big screen and most people in the audience do not know or care whether it's shot digitally or on celluloid."
Meanwhile, he added that there are a number of 3D offerings this year, including the 50-frames-per-second feature Above Us All, about a half-aboriginal girl who moves from Australia to Belgium.
In previous years, a free, brief preview guide was released prior to the official print guide, which was available for purchase.
This year, the two have been amalgamated into one free guide.
The new guide (which is square rather than rectangular) is thinner than the official print guides of the past. Eight film selections are listed on each page (with the exception of special presentations), rather than the traditional two descriptions per page in past catalogues.
Also, the descriptions are shorter: only one paragraph, rather than several, is given to each film (with the exception of special presentations) and filmographies have been eliminated.
Best New Director award
For 20 years, the Dragons and Tigers Award for Young Cinema was given to an emerging director from Pacific Asia who had not yet won significant international recognition.
This year, that award has been expanded to the Best New Director (International) award.
Directors from Pacific Asia will still be eligible. However, first- and second-time directors from around the world, who have not gained notable international recognition, will also be eligible.
The D&T Award, sponsored by Brad Birarda, included a $5,000 award. The new Best New Director award has no cash prize.
"We have been trying to build the award component of the festival," Franey told the Georgia Straight. "We decided to freshen it this year, broaden the category, but to maintain the spirit of the award. I'm hoping that the competition will get larger over the years….It would be nice for it to flourish and for the award to make more and more of a difference to a broader group of filmmakers."
Franey also asserted that this change will not affect the Dragons and Tigers series.
"The program from East Asia is still quite large," he said. "It's very important that this stays a part of the festival. It's a good idea on all accounts: a) the cinema's very strong; b) it's distinctive. We, in Vancouver, have that outward look, interest in Asia and knowledge of East Asia, not just because there are so many Asians who are Vancouverites but because we travel there a lot. It's a natural thing, and I don't think our fundamentals of our focus on East Asia has changed. So I certainly hope we will not see that lost in changes in the future."
Dupuis announced that a new series, Style in Film, will showcase six films covering the themes of fashion, style, art, iconoclasts, and aesthetics.
She said that VIFF will be partnering with Eco Fashion Week to produce Q&As and events, such as a VIP post-event screening at Holt Renfrew (October 5).
Among the films are Advanced Style, about seven aging New York City women with eccentric fashion sense; Looking for Light: Jane Bown, which captures the life and work of a gifted photographer of celebrities; and Handmade With Love From France, about haute-couture artisans who practise a dying art.
A new Style in Film passport will be available for $99 that will provide one ticket to each of the films and Q&As.
Like the 2013 edition, a shift from international films to American ones will once again bookend the festival, including Wild, directed by Quebec's Jean-Marc Vallée.
For an overview of some of the gala films that will be presented at the festival, see this article.