Fall film festivals from B.C. offer Asian, European, and South African cinema—and more

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      Film festivals offer a number of opportunities for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      If you’ve exhausted your streaming options while being holed up at home, there's plenty of fresh content to choose from.

      If you're unaware of how the system works, selections that are on the film festival circuit are usually ones that haven't yet had a theatrical run in cinemas or been released by a streaming company, which would follow afterward. 

      In addition, the real gems at festivals are the obscure or little known titles that may not have a distrbution deal or may be difficult to access in some parts of the world.

      And not only can you maintain your physical distancing, but you can snuggle up in the comfort of your own place, instead of venturing out and trekking out to theatres and getting into a lineup amid the chill of Raincouver.

      With many a travel plan kiboshed, these screen-based festivals can also provide views of foreign locales, cultures, and lives that you may not otherwise have access to, even if you did visit those destinations in person.

      Here are a number of Vancouver- or B.C.–based festivals coming our way to take into consideration for your viewing pleasure.

      "Where Were You? (¿Dónde estabas tú?)" (Spain)

      Spark Animation

      Until November 8

      The 12th edition of this British Columbian animation festival, which started on October 29, is available to view from around the world for its first time.

      There’s a rich array of offerings to choose from, including a bevy of feature films and shorts, talks and panel discussion by filmmakers and industry professionals, and indepth explorations of how specific films were made, such as Over the Moon, The Croods: A New Age, and Wolfwalkers.

      Visit the Spark Animation website for the full program and further details. 

      The Closet (클로젯) (South Korea)

      Vancouver Asian Film Festival

      October 31 to November 9

      Since this festival launches tonight on All Hallow’s Eve (October 31), it’s only appropriate that the opening film is Kim Kwang-Bin’s The Closet (클로젯). In this K-horror, a man and his daughter grow apart after the death of her mother. But when his daughter disappears, a mysterious exorcist claims he can help him find her.

      The festival concludes with the Hong Kong romance-drama Beyond the Dream, about a schizophrenic guy who falls in love with a woman without knowing that she is a counsellor.

      Beyond the Dream (Hong Kong)

      In addition to feature films from Thailand, South Korea, Canada, and the U.S., there are also shorts programs as well as panel discussions addressing represent-asian, racism, and more—the importance of all of which is underscored by the anti-Asian sentiment and attacks heightened by the pandemic.

      There’s also the timely documentary First Vote, which follows four very different Asian Americans from the 2016 presidential election to the 2018 midterms.

      Visit the VAFF website for the full program and information.

      South African Film Festival

      November 1 to 12

      Postponed from March due to the pandemic, this year’s South African Film Festival (SAFF) will kicks off online tomorrow (November 1) and keeps going until November 12.

      Previous attendees may have noticed there’s also a name change—the Vancouver South African Film Festival has teamed up this year with the Toronto South African Film Festival to form one Canada-wide festival.

      Beyond Moving (Canada)

      This year’s programs offers numerous documentaries, including the opening feature—the Canadian non-fiction feature Beyond Moving follows a dancer who leaves his South African township to pursue his aspirations at Canada's National Ballet School.

      Other documentaries include Buddha in Africa, about a Malawian boy struggling to reconcile his African culture with the Confucian values he grew up with in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage, and Stroop, about how the Asian demand for rhino horns is impacting African countries.

      Izulu Lami (South Africa)
      Izulu Lami

      But there are also feature dramas, including Izulu Lami (My Secret Sky), about two orphans in the countryside who struggle to deliver the mat their late mother wove to the craft competition in the city she wanted to enter it into, and Fiela Se Kind, in which a Black woman and the abandoned white boy she took care of attempt for years to reunite after being separated by the government.

      There are also panel discussions and conversations with filmmakers to check out as well.

      Visit the VSAFF website for a full program and schedule information about streaming dates and viewing periods.


      Vancouver Polish Film Festival

      November 8

      The ninth annual festival has a short but sweet one-day program this time around, and will be held at the Rio Theatre.

      There’s the drama-thriller Supernova, about three men in rural Poland whose lives are impacted by a disaster. Meanwhile, the Dramedy Jak najdalej stąd (I never cry) follows a young woman bringing her father’s body back to Poland from Ireland.

      These will be paired with presentations of the best documentary and best short film respectively, as chosen by online audiences. For details, visit the VPFF website

      The Barefoot Emperor (Belgium)

      European Union Film Festival

      November 13 to 29

      Touted in previous years as “Europe without the jet lag”, that tagline is more apt than ever, with international travel plans on hold and the need to stay close to home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

      This year’s European cinematic expedition offers a wide-ranging variety of 27 titles from 27 countries—all of which can be viewed online from home—spanning from Austria, Croatia, and Latvia to Estonia, Luxembourg, and Slovakia.

      Each film will be available for a 48-hour period so make sure you take note of viewing dates.

      Check out the European Union Film Festival or Cinematheque websites for a full program and information.

      Whistler Film Festival

      Whistler Film Festival

      December 1 to 20

      Founder Shauna Hardy Mishaw announced on October 5 that she is stepping down as executive director. But, of course, the show must go on—newly promoted managing director Angela Heck will head up this year’s festival.

      As one of the biggest film festivals in B.C. during the winter season, this year’s edition will be a hybrid of in-cinema and online screenings and events.

      There’ll also be talks by filmmakers and talent, awards presentations, and an opening gala and auction.

      For industry professionals, there’s also the concurrent Content Summit, featuring presentations, discussions, workshops, one-on-one meetings, and more.

      The film lineup and full details will be unveiled on Thursday (November 5) so stay tuned.

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