Death-defying feats and diversity: Vancouver mountain film festival, East Van feature Bella Ciao!, and queer film fest

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      Whether it’s sunny weather or a Raincouver special, pandemic conditions make this summer a perfect time to hole up at home while watching films online. Here are a few upcoming local selections to keep you entertained, informed, inspired, and connected.

      Mountains at home

      Although we’ve been encouraged to spend time outdoors during the pandemic, if the weather’s not that great or you’re remaining indoors for other reasons, here’s one way to watch some awe-inspiring and death-defying feats—which most of us would be unable to do even if we were outside—from the comfort of your own home.

      The Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF) is launching its weeklong Best of Climbing Online show, a curated selection of highlights from the February festival, to be held from Friday (June 19) until June 26.

      The lineup includes the 2020 VIMFF best climbing film, Climbing Blind, about blind mountaineer Jesse Dufton; “On the Verge”, about how outdoor culture is being threatened by logging near Powell River on the Sunshine Coast; and “The Trilogy”, about the first woman attempting to complete three of the most challenging walls in the Canadian Rockies.

      Tickets and details are available at Proceeds support both VIMFF and the filmmakers.

      Viva East Van

      Local film production company Commercial Drive Productions and Reel Causes, a nonprofit organization that addresses Canadian social-justice issues through film, are teaming up bring a feature film inspired by East Vancouver to home audiences.

      The ensemble drama Bella Ciao! will have a three-week digital run from June 25 to July 16.

      Vancouver actor Carmen Aguirre stars as a cancer-stricken refugee who fled violence in Chile to establish a new home in East Vancouver, where her friends and neighbours—including artists and activists from various cultures and communities—have stories of their own to share.

      The cast includes Tony Nardi, Alexandra Lainfiesta, Taran Kootenhayoo, Marie Clements, Frank Ferrucci, Leonardo Tenisci, April Telek, John Emmet Tracy, Billy Marchenski, Alison Denham, and Amanda Burke.

      The film is directed by Carolyn Combs, who is leaving her position as executive director of Women in Film and Television Vancouver (WIFTV). She will step down in August, after eight years at the helm, to relocate to Toronto to be with her family.

      Combs, in a news release, described her film as “an urban tale set at the interface of the Latin American, Indigenous, and Italian communities in my neighbourhood”.

      An online Q & A session with Combs and select cast members will be held at 5 p.m. on July 9.

      Tickets, available from June 11 to July 16, can be purchased online and details are available at

      Portions of the ticket sales will support two organizations: Downtown Eastside–based Watari Counselling and Support Services, for street-involved youth and families; and Casa Salvador Allende Toronto, an activist grassroots Chilean-Canadian organization.

      Meanwhile, as Combs prepares for her departure, WIFTV is seeking an interim managing director to begin on July 1. The deadline for application is Friday (June 19) and detail are available at

      The Vancouver Queer Film Festival screens Breaking Fast.

      Still here, still queer

      The pandemic hasn’t stopped numerous LGBT organizations from continuing on. Likewise, Out on Screen announced that the show must go on for the annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival, which will be up and running from August 13 to 23 with the theme of “Still Here” as it adapts to the online landscape.

      This year’s gala film, Lingua Franca, revolves around the experiences of a trans Filipina migrant as she ventures through Trump-era America, and trans actress Isabel Sandoval (who both directs and stars) will participate in a virtual Q & A.

      The documentary Changing the Game, spotlighted in a youth-gala screening, follows three young trans athletes in the United States who are challenging sports in their communities.

      Once again, B.C. talent is featured in the Coast is Queer series and the festival will close with queer Muslim romcom Breaking Fast. The event will also feature online workshops, panels, and parties. Tickets will be available starting July 13 at the VQFF website.

      Meanwhile, Brandon Yan, who was previously Out in School’s education director and Out on Screen’s deputy executive director, has been named Out on Screen’s interim executive director. In March, Stephanie Goodwin announced that she would be stepping down as executive director after five years in the position and will depart at the end of June.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.