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One Down, many to go… May 29, 2006

Posted by sunship in Festivals - Reviews.

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.



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