By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
It was my first time visiting the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). Frustratingly for me as a minor, many of the films are shown at the Vancity Theatre, a licenced venue. This means alcohol is freely served and nobody under 19 is admitted. I understand many like to enjoy a drink at a film festival, but this excluded me from seeing most of the films at VIFF. I suppose it’s the fault of the BC drinking laws and not VIFF itself, but it was nevertheless frustrating.
Fortunately, after some searching, I was able to find a film that looked interesting and was being shown in an all-ages venue—in this case, the Vancouver Playhouse. I’ve seen many plays at this venue, but was unaware it was able to be used as a movie theatre. I bought a membership and my first VIFF ticket ever and headed in.
The best part about seeing a VIFF movie is the incredibly respectful tone of the audience. I’ve never been to a movie where there wasn’t at least one person using their phone, eating and drinking loudly, talking, wandering in and out, elbowing me in the face, or other rude things moviegoers tend to do. This venue had none of it—even the staff was incredibly formal and nice. It’s a nice change and one of the top reasons I’d recommend VIFF, along with the chance to see unique movies not normally in theatres, of course.
The movie itself, Gabrielle, directed by Louise Archambault, was excellent, and a welcome alternative to most of the movies I see—which typically include loud pre-show trailers, explosions, gratuitous sex, and A-list actors (not that any of these are a bad thing).
This film was a touchingly realistic look at the challenges faced by mentally handicapped adults and their families today.
Filmed and set in Quebec, in French with English subtitles, Gabrielle follows the story of the titular young woman who has Williams syndrome, a disability that includes notable musical ability, lower intellect, and a highly social personality.
She meets another mentally challenged boy, Martin, in the choir at their day centre. An unusual romance follows, along with the challenges associated with their relationship: how to be alone together, independence from their families, and how their relationship affects their performance in the choir.
In addition to the romantic storyline, Gabrielle seeks more independence from her mother and caregivers. Her sister, who wants to join her husband teaching in India, is held back by her concern for Gabrielle.
The film featured some fairly well-known Québécois actors—including a cameo from famous singer Robert Charlebois—but also includes newcomers like the title actor, Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, who also has Williams syndrome.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the VIFF experience. I’m glad I chose something a little different to see in the theatre, as this drama does not disappoint. In fact, it has been selected as Canada’s candidate for Best Foreign Language Film in the 2014 Academy Awards nominations, and is well-deserved.