Vancouver International Film Festival levels up in 2016 to venture beyond film

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      While this year's Vancouver International Film Festival has a new look, it's more of an updated makeover and expansion than a radical restructuring.

      Longtime festival devotees will be pleased to know that the changes are built upon the template of the core structure while embracing and incorporating new elements, all the while sheathed everything in shiny new packaging.

      "We've reimagined the festival-going experience and our new film-plus model sets us apart from other festivals, and brings with it the opportunity to explore and celebrate all forms of screen-based media from film to TV to new forms, such as virtual reality, and also brings a layer of experience to audiences through curated screenings, talks, workshops, and events," Dupuis said at a news conference at the Vancouver International Film Centre.

      As previously announced, the programming categories have been renamed as eight streams. While the new streams have flashier names, they are essentially upgrades of previous categories.

      For instance, the former domestic showcase Canadian Images is now True North, the East Asia–oriented Dragons and Tigers translates into Gateway, and Arts & Letters is now M/A/D, which stands for music, art, and design.

      In an interview with the Georgia Straight after the conference, Dupuis explained that this new format will enable them to program beyond just film.

      "Within the streams, we have an opportunity to explore new forms of storytelling," she said. "So within the Next stream, for example, we're looking at music, we're looking virtual reality. And so, it gives us flexibility. We don't need to be just about film anymore. We can be about screen-based industry in general and react to the reality…[of] where we live. We live in one of the most creative, innovative centres in the world so the people here want more than just film."

      While the new approach is helping VIFF to remain relevant in the here and now, it's also helping to ensure the organization's longevity by adapting to and evolving with constant changes within and outside the film industry.

      "The opportunity to put this model in place, which functions year-round and then the festival is a really potent version of it, allows us to bring in new partners, engage new audiences, and so it really helps to enforce the longterm sustainability of the organization," she said.

      The festival will open on September 29 with the Ireland-Canada coproduction Maudie, directed by Aisling Walsh. Sally Hawkins stars as Maud Lewis, a Nova Scotian woman who is hired as a housekeeper by a reclusive man (Ethan Hawke) and who overcomes her arthritis to become a famed folk artist.

      To celebrate the festival's 35th anniversary, the closing film will be the 35mm IMAX version of Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time, narrated by Brad Pitt (Cate Blanchett narrates the regular theatrical version), to be shown at Telus Science World.

      The online version of this year's catalogue will be available on Thursday (September 8) while the print guide will be available on Friday (September 9).

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