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One Down, many to go… May 29, 2006

Posted by sunship in Festivals - Reviews.
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Well, I just made it through the first of many festivals. I did ok, not great. I learned a few things. Getting into the rhythm of festival attendance is going to take a bit more training.

Things I learned:

  • Vancouver has an extreme sense of revenue collection regarding parking meters. 7 days a week till 8pm. Parking on the street was plentiful but at a loony per 30 minutes it’s a tad expensive. It ain’t exactly NYC so I’ll clip the whining. Interestingly they appear to not enforce it very diligently, so I let the meter run out several times to no ill effect.
  • I did a poor job of predicting what was going to be popular and therefore missed a film when it sold out. This film was definitely the highlight of the festival (rare inside look at N. Korea) and so I should have guessed.
  • I had a 4 hour layover between shows and didn’t bring anything to read or write with. I spent several hours in a Starbuck’s looking creepy by playing “jawbreaker” on my PDA…Not cool. Finally I went over to the Chapters Bookstore and browsed the map section for future bike riding adventures… duh.


  • Real pros were there with their own sandwiches. I was eating snack bar oatmeal bars. I smoked cigs outdoors and got a few odd looks. I saw no one smoking… filthy Americans! Then I remembered once during the Jazz festival years ago that when I had forgotten to bring a lighter I asked dozens of people for a light and got no where… finally I found a few guys smoking dope in back of the venue (no not the musicians) and got a light.

  • I brought nothing to make notes about my experiences.

So clearly I have to get in better shape. I promise to be a more organized person next outing.

Ok the highlights:

Remember this was the DOXA documentary film & video festival. DOXA Header

I managed to attend 3 out of the 7 I planned. I missed 3 from general lack of enthusiasm and the other because it sold out. In baseball I am killer, in festival attendance this is close to abysmal.

 First was Interval; a series of shorts. Highlights for me were Solitude and Afloat. Afloat was a quick look at the elderly using swimming as a means of staying active. It was very touching and real, and the short was very well produced with sweeping music to go with under and above water shots. Solitude while not technically as produced as Afloat was much more pointed in its subject. The synopsis of it on the website is ok, but a little inaccurate. First it’s entirely in French with subtitles (Canadians claim they are bilingual, so no mention of “in French” is needed I guess). Secondly you have two exposures; the first indeed is the viewing of people as they explain their reasons for living alone, some by choice, some not, some happy about it, some not. But the second exposure I thought was more to the point; how they lived. Each “interview” was done with a set-shot where the camera was placed either just right or left of the television, which was always on, back at the subjects. Most interviewees had the remote in their hands or right next to them. Occasionally the shot was changed to look at the TV itself, or sweep the room where they watched. You saw no other rooms or any other activity. The film-maker did a nice job of cutting from one interview to the next (there were 64) by often blending the sound of a specific program to the next television/interview session. This gave the effect that these people, alone in their homes, were often watching the same show and heightened the feeling of isolation. The comic relief, if there was any, were the cats, which got the audience laughing or cooing as the cats interacted with the interviewee. The film-maker was obviously making a point about the lifestyle being unhealthy, and yet more ubiquitous because you can now sustain a semi-social life using television and pets. Oh yeah, computers were frequently shown next to the television! Needless to say this one hits close to home.

I think the highlight for most other people was Symphony of Silence: A portrait of a deaf teenager preparing for a performance of ASL (sign language) poetry in front of a symphony. Personally I felt the film was a bit too staged to be called a documentary. She never intended to set her work to music (which she obviously can’t hear), it was the film-makers “idea”. It was much more interesting when the young lady in the film was there for Q&A afterwards and tried to describe, along with her teacher/coach, what ASL poetry means to the deaf, and how you cannot (as I did think you could during the film) translate it into English.  How it is for them a series of ideas greatly embellished with the style of your signing ability and flair, if that is the right word. The young lady told us that written poetry (words on paper) have little interest to her and that is NOT how she creates her works. Definitely using the term ‘disability’ with her was meaningless.

 Secondly I saw Real Cartoons: Animated Documentaries. I like animation quite a bit so I made sure to attend this. The idea of doing this set of features was to remove the idea that animation by its nature is fiction-based. So, what you have is a set of animations where the narrations are “true stories” and the animation embellishes or creatively comments by casting a different focus on the narrative. I wasn’t concerned with the “controversy” and I don’t think most anyone there was either. Highlights for me: MET State and Bike Ride. I enjoyed all the films in the set but these two were favs. MET State is described on the website as: “A visual portrait of an abandoned insane asylum”. That’s like calling a rollercoaster ride some “ups and downs”.  The film combined several techniques: Macro-photography, black&white video with noise distortion, stop action animation of materials in the asylum, and fast-motion “spelunking” of the asylum interiors. All this was set to Saint-Saens composition “Dance Macabre”, which if you know the piece is not exactly a happy waltz. The film-maker did a great job of syncing his effects and shots to the music without tearing the composition to pieces. Bike Ride was enjoyable for me because it combined a personal story of a hard bike ride the narrator had never done, (5 hours), with a “free jazz” sound track (which wasn’t by any means free, but more a drummer playing interpretive trap-kit to the film, and clearly he hit markers so it was definitely rehearsed) and simple black&white stick drawings that were very clever. Bob Sabiston’s Roadhead was there, which I had seen years before and is a good foreshadow of his work (via his own PC software) on Richard Linklater’s Waking Life. Which I recommend if you haven’t seen it.

Ok so this blog is getting overly long. Last film was the best one I saw. Very, very well done and reminded me a bit of Être et avoir (To be and To Have).  It is called Village Life (Directors: Nick O’Dwyer & Rachel Bliss, UK, 2005, 61 minutes) An excellent documentary of the mentally and emotionally disabled in an “institution” of a rural UK farm setting (remote Yorkshire moors). Very nicely done, sweet, touching, and inspiring. Apparently it is a bit unconventional, the type of program they have for the folks. If you can see this I would make an effort to do so. It is quoted as “This is the radically different director’s cut of the Channel 4 (UK) documentary The Strangest Village in Britain”

Ok that’s it for the first festival outing. As an old co-worker would say, Thank the Maker, I live near Vancouver now so I can see all this great stuff.

Next up: AIR: NEELAMJIT DHILLON – THIMAR & SANGHA –  Tuesday night 5/30 at RIME.


My Day Job… May 29, 2006

Posted by sunship in Festivals - Reviews.
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It’s not all fun and games here at the ranch. Sure thing, the joys of weeding and brush burning can’t last forever and it’s unavoidable that the real work has to get underway.

So it’s time to get rolling, and get on the job:

First up:

2006 DOXA Documentary Film and Video Festival – May 23 – 28.  Their blurb: Join us for six days of innovative and groundbreaking documentaries from Canada and the world and discover a whole cast of renegades, dreamers, lovers, outcasts, inventors, escapees and insomniacs.

I’m not sure I can take the grueling grind for six whole days. This is the first festival warm-up for me so gotta pace myself a bit. Let’s see… Bombay Calling, Into the Night, The Swenkas, A State of Mind, Real Cartoons, Village Life and then Escape to Canada. That’s it! Come on… I mean that’s the swag anyway. We’ll see if I can deliver the goods. I refuse to eat popcorn at the movies so that should lighten the load a bit.

I get a break after that and just to keep in shape a few outings. RIME looks like a good club to aerobize (sic) in and they have some local folks banging on pots and pans and such… Strictly to stay in shape you know…

Next up:

Vancouver International Digital Festival – (VidFest) – June 14-16.  Hmmm this is a bit pricey. Not sure I have the stamina to listen to talking heads for three days but the cats insist I attend and try to make pleasant. Lots of speakers and maybe I’ll get some swag. Lord knows I need a good baseball hat and a few more refrigerator magnets.

The pace picks up now and the slave drivers have slammed two festivals into the calendar!

World Urban (Music) Festival – June 21 – 25. At least it’s FREE to get in (some shows require payment). The program is packed… it’s going to take all my powers to decide what shows to see. I know you all will be rooting for me (Australians please ignore the verb) and wishing me the best.

To make matters difficult this above festival slams into the next and overlaps by a few days.

In fact Sunday June 25th is insane with three programs crashing down on me. The pain!!!

Vancouver International Jazz Festival – June 23 – July 2

This one I am pretty used to attending since it’s probably my 20th time. But still the effort can be enormous… usually there are painful schedule conflicts and so always some regrets. Just parsing the festivals lists of artists and keeping the schedules straight requires keen note taking skills. I was considering volunteering this year but I just can’t do it, maybe next year.

·         DMC DJ Battle (Vancouver)June 25th!! – What are they trying to do to me? If the jazz festival wasn’t enough, Sunday the 25th has three festivals colliding. Urban, Jazz, and this beast. Apparently someone thought it would be cool to have an International DJ battle/run-off to see who can make people sweat the most or something… So I guess I have to drag myself out to cheer the local folks at the Vancouver edition. It looks like this happens all over Canada, so I guess in the states too. It all ends here for the big showdown.

A bit of a breather now as July tosses up some easy work. By now you’d think I was in good shape.

Vancouver Folk Festival – July 14-16 – This should be good from what I hear but they haven’t listed the performers yet… It’s just three days so it can’t hurt right? Besides I mean it’s Folk music… it should just be lemonade in the grass. But don’t worry I will be on my toes, unless the previous June has killed me and I am dead. In which case I will send the cats (last will) to review it.

Mission Folk Festival – July 21 – 23 – This looks easy also; another picnic, even the website looks relaxed. I’ve just got to mind the sun-lotion and the inevitable FOLK ART booths selling rough hand-dyed itchy fabrics. But I will say that folk fests grant the opportunity to buy a little shaky, squeaky, clicky music toys to take back, play poorly, abuse and hang on the wall.

Good thing July was easy huh? Cause now we get to some SERIOUS effort… in August.

Festival VancouverFestival Vancouver? Never heard of it, but it appears to be the mother lode. Again it’s too early to see the schedule and perhaps by now I will have spent my life savings, but this looks BIG. On the other hand it’s “only” 48 events spread over two weeks. This must be just evenings and matinees I guess. This also looks like a wealthy person festival with lots of government support. So my real challenge here will be to look presentable and have that self contained bit of amused demeanor so important for high culture. I’ll have to install more mirrors at home in July to practice the look.

What could be left you ask? You’re tired of reading this and you can’t believe there’s more right? You haven’t really clicked on all the links have you (be honest!)? You haven’t looked at all the schedules and artists appearing at all these festivals… have you?? See… that’s what I’m talking about. This is work kiddos. Don’t fool yourselves; this takes dedication and stamina. How about planning, huh? Complexity, logistics, health issues, safety which comes first as you all know. Ha, August was just a head-fake…. On to September!!!

September has three, possibly four festivals for me, and then I must rest… really.

Vancouver Fringe Festival – September 7 – 17  This is where people need to prove they are weird, or not “main stream” or whatever alternate thing they think is happening. I’ve been to a similar thing in Seattle so I expect the same type of crowd and scene. None-the-less there is usually great stuff to be witnessed if you can punch through the self-consciousness “fringe factor”. Ten days of fringing should properly set me in the mood for Fall.

After about a week on the Fringe this little gem pops up

Vancouver Student Film Festival 2006 – September 15th and 16th.  I’d like to go but we’ll see since I might have to hit the road for this next festival. And they haven’t announced yet what films are showing.

Can you believe it? All this work and still I haven’t had to travel, but now the work turns out to take me on the road. I’m going to be nearly dead from eye and ear rot and now I have to travel too. Jeeez. At this point I will have nothing left, nothing. I will probably just be working off of fumes and sucking Ricola for energy (hmmmm menthol). If you see me in Seattle don’t try and talk with me because I will be an empty hollow shell. Also watch out for lit cigarettes being flicked aimlessly.

Decibel Festival (in Seattle). Sept 14- 17. When going to festivals was fun and not the grueling professional chore it is now this was a good ride. This one runs the gamut from sitting in an auditorium listening to talking heads to the club scene in the wee hours. I’ll be the guy in the backpack and the dark circles under the eyes. I may be getting too old for this…

Finally we reach the END. One last thing to do and then off to bed. If I survive all of this summer then this last one will loosen me up and prepare me for the gruesome northwest winter.

Vancouver International Comedy Festival Sept 18 – 24th. That’s right. Decibel ends on the 17th and I have to hightail it back to this.  I’ve actually never been to a comedy festival before so this should be novel for me. I like to laugh, honestly, and I hope this works out, because I will need to see the humor of this long grueling summer of festivals.

That’s it. If you made to the end of this blog entry then you have a feeling of 1% of my misery. But as they say: someone has to do it. And I am compelled.

Think I missed anything? Think I have to go places and see things that you demand me to? Think I can honestly take anymore? Write me if you know of more Vancouver area madness. Think you smarty pants people have to get me to the VIFF? (Sept 28th). Is there no rest for the wicked?? Ok fine! Then add the VIFF if I am still alive.

May the force be with me.