Local movies, relevant work, and resurrected videotapes
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
It was mind-blowing and it can be used as laugh medicine to heal from devastating discoveries while also showing the hardships of living in a reserve.
Another edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival is now in the books, and this year was very special being the 40th anniversary of the festival. With in-person screenings coming back, the many venues were almost filled, and audiences were able to engage in Q&As with the cast and crew of some of the films. I watched a few films—mainly Canadian films and mainly in-person—during the festival this year. While there, I got to talk to movie lovers as I was volunteering during the festival; many told me about what they watched and liked. I also spent time talking with the organizers about their pandemic experiences.
When my family and I were cleaning up our house recently, I was able to look at the video cameras that we have including a vintage one from the 1990s. Both use old VHS tapes and the picture quality of these tapes is reminiscent of scenes from the local BC film Portraits from a Fire.
The film is kind of autobiographical for first-time director Trevor Mack making homemade movies in his reserve of TI’etinqox where a boy named Tyler (William Magnus Lulua) finds a video recording tape containing footage of his mother whom he barely knew. He uses it to make his most personal film departing from his other low-budget science-fiction efforts. It was mind-blowing and it can be used as laugh medicine to heal from devastating discoveries while also showing the hardships of living in a reserve.
One documentary that also uses video camera footage is Daughter of a Lost Bird, a film like Boyhood in that it was shot over seven years, and it involves a reunion. In it, an Indigenous actress named Kendra Mylnechuk Potter tries to answer hard questions about her identity while reuniting with her birth mother, April. The process was both filmed and helped by director and frequent collaborator Brooke Pepion Swaney. It showed the wrongs of kidnapping Indigenous children from their parents and putting them up for adoption and the way it impacted Kendra and April.
Then, I watched another Indigenous documentary related to the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation called Returning Home which explains the history of Orange Shirt Day as created by Phyllis Jack-Webstad. Orange Shirt Day later become a national holiday with its inaugural day occurring last month. The movie also spends time addressing the salmon shortages in the Fraser River and victims of residential schools.
The film that got Best Canadian Film in the festival this year was Kaveh Nabatian’s Sin La Habana. The movie involves a Cuban ballet dancer trying to make his dreams come true in Montreal. The film was shot beautifully and made good use of cultural exchanges but ended up being an international affair. Nabatian, who is also a music video director made the score for the film as well.
During the last day of the festival on Thanksgiving, I watched two films at the same time on VIFF Connect. The first one was Spaghetti Code Love which was essentially an ensemble comedy about stories of everyday people in Tokyo and the Vinyl sequel Records which made me appreciate collecting music even if they are CDs. While most of the films in the festival will be released in movie theatres and available on digital and streaming services, you still have a chance to see some of them right now at the VIFF Centre as part of the VIFF Repeats series.
Despite the pandemic still happening, this year’s VIFF was a success and maybe next year when international travel is open again, the real celebration happens.