Women in Film fest shows Vancouver as Vancouver in romantic series called Date Night

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      It's a bit surreal sitting at the Vancity Theatre watching a movie inspired by the newspaper that employs you.

      Last night, the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival screened the touching When I Saw You in a series of seven short films by female directors entitled Date Night.

      Directed and written by Jane Hancock, a cast of 15 acted out and narrated their thoughts as though they were writing an "I Saw You" post in the Georgia Straight.

      Like those behind real messages in the Straight and on this website, these characters often didn't act on their secret attraction to others in coffee shops, on the bus, and at social gatherings.

      Hancock packed her film with plenty of close-ups, which helped inject jolts of intimacy.

      I was struck by the authenticity of the acting as well as cinematographer Dan Dumochel's superb images, which made our city look more attractive than it really is. Kudos to editor Aaron May for seamlessly weaving together so many disparate stories in such a short period of time. The film clocks in at under eight minutes.

      Afterward in a discussion with the audience, Hancock admitted that she loves reading the I Saw You section in the Georgia Straight.

      She also revealed that most of the cast members had auditioned for different roles than the ones they ended up playing.

      Watch the trailer for When I Saw You.

      Hancock was joined by two other B.C. directors, Vancouverite Julia Larmour and Marly Reed, an SFU grad from Ladysmith.

      Their conversation was moderated by noted actor, producer, and director Mackenzie Gray, who often had the audience laughing uproariously with his amusing asides.

      As a student at Capilano University, Larmour created Pretty Shy City, an often comedic 10-minute documentary exploring how Vancouver women see Vancouver men, and vice versa. It made its world premiere at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, and it didn't disappoint.

      She told the audience at the Vancity Theatre that most of the people who offered up the film's raw and honest observations were her friends.

      Watch the trailer for Pretty Shy City.

      Larmour said that during filming, she ran into Gray in a bar at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. She confessed that she wanted to include him in her picture—and he blurted out to the crowd that he would have appeared had he been asked.

      Then Gray told an amusing tale about a female actor who revealed to him that it was easier to get laid in Toronto than in Vancouver. He quickly added that she also told him that it was easier to fall in love on the West Coast than in Toronto.

      For me, it was such a pleasure to see Pretty Shy City and When I Saw You showing Vancouver as Vancouver—and not as a stand-in for some nameless American metropolis.

      Mimi & Me, a 15-minute comedy about a shy 16-year-old girl receiving sex advice from her drunken grandma, was also shot in Vancouver. 

      The director, Reed, told the audience that it was not autobiographical. But she then quipped that she wished it were, drawing guffaws from the audience.

      Gray raved about the acting talent of Patti Allan, who held nothing back in Mimi & Me, before also praising the performance of Genevieve Buechner.

      Her more understated role as the teenage Em Dash gave plenty of room for Allan to shine as her reckless mentor in love.

      Mimi & Me featured strong performances from Genevieve Buechner and Patti Allan.

      The four other short films last night also dealt with romantic themes.

      Am I Not Your Girl, a German film directed by Xavery Robin, featured a young woman whose parents walk out of her home on the day of her wedding. The bride, played by Elena O'Connor, is consoled by an earnest young man (Korbinian Schlosser) who remains with her.

      Also from Germany, Zi Dir? brought forth an unusual premise: what if a woman and a man met in a steamy scene in a bar and rather than going home together, decided to hand over the keys to each other's apartment? Directed by Sylvia Borges, the 29-minute film shows how people can learn more about one another by not spending their first night together.

      Two Penny Road Kill, a Canadian film directed by Lisa Rose Snow, is a tale about an animal-control officer who discovers a dead racoon and women's shoe on the side of the road.

      Saba, directed by Roqiye Tavakoli, is a 15-minute Iranian short, about a woman's struggle to come to terms with loss, tradition, and modernity.

      The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival continues through the weekend at the Vancity Theatre. For a schedule of events, go here