Rachel Fox at the 16th Annual Victoria Film Festival
– Rachel Fox
If Toronto’s is the Marcia, Vancouver’s is the Jan, and Whistler’s is the Cindy Brady of the Canadian film festival circuit then surely Victoria’s annual film festival ought to be considered the cousin Oliver, coming as it does at the very tail end of the film season, in the midst of both the previous year’s awards ceremonies and in the (very) long shadow of that other (ostensibly) small indie-fest in Park City, Utah.
Running until Feb. 7, the 16th Victoria Film Festival is geared mostly towards the discerning festival-going cinephile, and features an interesting and varied line-up Canadian and international features, documentaries, and shorts.
The first weekend featured SpringBoard, a series of interactive and informative industry panels for those whose interests or ambitions were situated more in the craft and development and less with the final product. Speakers from all aspects of the industry were involved, including 88-year-old Victoria native, actress Madeleine Sherwood, whose moving talk left the crowd misty; actor and director Charles Martin Smith (American Graffiti, The Snow Walker); director Warren P. Sonoda (Cooper’s Camera); actor Matt Frewer (Darfur) and producer Nicholas Tabarrok (Defendor).
Held on Saturday, Feb. 6, ConVerge 2010 is an interactive, technologically innovative presentation of various short films. Presented in select venue spaces around the city, ConVerge celebrates and embraces the historic beauty of the city while pushing the conventional boundaries of the audience experience.
The festival got off to a glamorous start with a sold-out screening of the film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, followed by the exclusive Opening Gala Reception at the swanky Parkside Victoria Resort and Spa. The ambient waterfalls, rock formations, and weird wood-carved idols hiding among the lush greenery had me thinking about the notorious Grotto at the Playboy Mansion – an off-handed comment to Victoria Times Colonist reporter Michael D. Reid was on-point enough to land me a quote in the paper.
Among the revelers was actor and director Charles Martin Smith (American Graffiti, The Untouchables; The Snow Walker). We chatted briefly and I reminded him of that time he almost ran into my bike (or, err, maybe my bike may have almost rammed into his car) at English Bay a few years ago. He drew a blank but did acknowledge residing in the general area, so in an effort to mend fences he agreed to some photos for Guttersnipe. “I can’t believe you’re going to make me do this – I’m actually going to shill for you!” And shill he did!
In contrast to the staid and conservative reputation of Victorians, it must be noted that they are quietly more becoming than their antiquarian moniker implies. I found myself chatting freely to the locals, most of who were at the Parkside to engage and celebrate the festival in their community. Much to my delight the food and drink flowed freely, and judging by the rapid consumption of the beautiful platters of food upon their appearance on the table, I was not alone in my gastronomic pursuits.
What struck me most about the crowd, you ask? Their shoes. Victorians – male and female – like to rock their footwear.
In much the same way that burka-clad women in the Middle East have latched upon shoes as a means of defining themselves and asserting their individuality in a uniformed society, so too have the people of this quaint provincial capital. Throughout the course of the evening I found my head angled towards the ground, admiring the footwear. One woman paired classic grey Chuck Taylor high tops with a sleek, asymmetrical, long black body-hugging dress. We spoke of comfort and the importance of appropriate footwear, and I appreciated her choice in a fashion-forward, entirely unironic way.
Her male companion was also sporting Chucks, apparently based on her persuasion earlier in the evening. Chuck Taylors are egalitarian; cheap, cheerful, classic, comfortable, and if for some reason you find yourself having to run away, they will help not hinder. A strong proponent of them myself, we were quite a sight and as our enthusiastic conversation grew more effusive we managed to attract the interest of those around us.
If they were good enough for Joey Ramone, they’re good enough for anyone.