Canada's 150th anniversary arrives amid a period of heightened national concerns about immigration, racism, and diversity, not to mention while local debates about real estate and homelessness continue on.
Selections at this year's Vancouver Asian Film Festival offer several opportunities to learn more about and reflect upon all of these subjects.
To take a look at the relationship between immigration and our city, the We Heart Canada video project, created to celebrate Canada 150 and Vancouver immigrants, will premiere on Thursday (November 2).
The short videos highlight several local organizations and institutions including Little Mountain Neighbourhood House, Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, MOSAIC, Pacific Immigrant Resources Society, SFU, Vancouver Community College, the Vancouver Foundation, the Vancouver Police Department, and the YMCA.
Diversity, both local and national, is further explored in the Canadian Shorts: Life in Multiculture program on Sunday (November 5).
Among the local short films are Sanjay Jit's comedy "Bulgogi", about a Korean student exploring Vancouver's nightlife; Mimi Nguyen's "Flagged", about social fragmentation and political tensions among Vancouver's Vietnamese youth; and Natalie Murao's "Floating Light", about two Japanese Canadian sisters struggling to understand their grandfather's death and Buddhist traditions.
Diversity on screen will be the focus of an industry panel discussion on Saturday (November 4) that will include Telefilm Canada national project lead John Dippong, UBC intercultural understanding senior advisor Alden Habacon, NFB producer Selwyn Jacob, filmmaker Michelle Kim, and Blood and Water producer Ben Lu.
Several other selections explore particularly contentious issues.
Amid debates and concerns about housing and gentrification in Vancouver, Eva Cohen's "Paint It Red" is especially topical.
This short documentary follows efforts by activist Beverly Ho to save Vancouver's Chinatown from development as seniors face eviction and homelessness. The screening on Sunday (November 5) will be followed by a panel discussion that will include Cohen, Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia president John Atkin, Youth Collaborative for Chinatown cofounder Doris Chow, and Sai Woo owner Salli Pateman.
Kacey Cox's documentary short "Anastasia Lin: The Crown", screening on Sunday (November 5), chronicles what happens after the human-rights activist was crowned Miss World Canada in 2015 (who has lived in Vancouver and Toronto), including authorities threatening Lin's father due to her criticism of religious persecution in China.
Meanwhile, the centerpiece presentation on November 4 heads straight into the heart of interracial conflict.
Justin Chon's Los Angeles–set drama feature Gook follows two Korean American brothers, who are running a struggling shoe store, who befriend an 11-year old African American girl skipping school just as the Rodney King verdict is announced. As riots erupt in the streets, the three individuals are forced to defend the store.
As previously mentioned, the festival opens with Columbus, starring John Cho. The festival wraps up on Sunday (November 5) with Joyce Wong's dark comedy Wexford Plaza, about a lonely female security guard whose sexual encounter with a makeup salesman results in her life falling apart.
Screenings take place at Cineplex Odeon International Village theatres, with the exception of the opening gala at Richmond's River Rock.
For more information about the 2017 edition of the festival, visit the VAFF website.