; Fun! Fun! Vancouver!: Top 5 Film Festivals in Vancouver

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Top 5 Film Festivals in Vancouver

With all the TV shows and movies that film up here in Hollywood North, it’s no wonder that Vancouver is home to several film festivals. Sure the Toronto International Film Fest lures in all the big celebrities, but that’s not what Vancouver is about, is it? Here it’s more of an audience affair, celebrating the city’s diversity through international film and programming. With all the diverse communities in Vancouver, it’s no wonder there are so many fun film fests to attend but for the sake of being succinct, here’s a Top 5 for you to explore!

1. Vancouver International Film Festival

Hands down the biggest film fest that Vancouver has to offer is the annual Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). It’s gotten so big, it’s had to build its own theatre to show fun/obscure/international films all year round. Getting tickets or passes to this is a walk in the park compared to my friends in Toronto, who have to fight through a lottery system and pick out movies sight unseen for their glitzy gala. VIFF is here for the people, and in true Canadian fashion, will do what it takes to make sure the audience gets to see the films that they want. Each year brings a wonderful mix of films from all over the world, as well as showcasing homegrown movies from Canada. Themes that have been consistent over the years include the environment, queer cinema, the arts, and most notably, a fine selection of Asian films in the renowned Dragons and Tigers series.  What better way to kick off autumn every year in Vancouver than with VIFF?

2. Vancouver Queer Film Festival

Just when all the Pride festivities have faded away and you’ve finally gotten that last bit of glitter out of your hair, Vancouver’s summer continues its glbtq celebrations with the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, held every August and bringing to town some of the most innovative and sometimes shocking in the world of Queer Cinema. Yes, it’s true that VIFF also features a selection of queer films, but the VQFF hones in on local filmmakers and helps introduce their work to the masses alongside other queer films from around the world. As the second largest film fest in Vancouver, VQFF brings together folks from all colors of the rainbow, with great movies, awesome parties, guest speakers, and volunteer opportunities where you just might meet that special someone!

3. DOXA Documentary Film Festival

I know whenever I go to a film festival, some of the most intriguing and compelling films I am lucky enough to witness are documentaries that tell true stories of real life people and events. So why not have an entire film fest dedicated to just that? The DOXA Documentary Film Festival was incorporated in 1998 and has been satisfying the thirst of documentary buffs in Vancouver ever since! The festival is “comprised of public screenings, panel discussions, public forums and educational programs.”

4. Vancouver Asian Film Festival

Because Vancouver has a large Asian population, it would be remiss to not include the Vancouver Asian Film Festival here on the Top 5. With so many Asian Canadians caught between two cultures, this festival provides the perfect platform for them to express themselves through film. Perhaps what’s most inspiring about VAFF is their commitment to community, as seen through their annual contest, the Mighty Asian Moviemaking Marathon, which encourages filmmakers to create an 8-minute short film in a matter of 12 days! MAMM fosters friendly competition, while at the same time bridging communities and providing yet another platform for filmmakers to shine.

5. Vancouver Jewish Film Festival

Since 1988, Vancouver has been home to the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, which is now the longest running Jewish film fest in all of Canada.  The festival aims to showcase “the diversity of Jewish culture, heritage and identity through film.” They’ve got comedies to make you laugh, dramas that’ll make you exclaim, “Oy Vey!” and documentaries to make you verklempt. And before you kvetch about this festival being such a narrow focus, please note that many of the films are from all around the world, some of which may never get shown in a North American theatre otherwise, so mazel tov to that!

Honourable mentions: 

With the ever-increasing population in Vancouver, there’s no shortage of different cultures carving out its niche. New film festivals continue to sprout up all over the city, some still in their infancy while others just finding their footing. The Vancouver Latin American Film Festival is one good example of a film fest on the verge of becoming a fan favorite– having been up and running since 2003. It definitely deserves an honorable mention here on this list. There is also the South Asian Film Festival, formed most recently in 2012.  Other fresh faces to the scene include the Green Screen Film Fest and the Projecting Change Film Fest, both of which specialize in films about nature, as well as social and environmental issues. The Vancouver Short Film Festival focuses on local short films while the Vancouver International Mountain 
Film Festival features films about the outdoors and mountaineering. And don't forget the Vancouver International Women In Film Festival, which provides an arena for women film makers to show off their work. Head a few hours out of the city and you’ll be able to catch the Whistler Film Festival, or take a ferry over to Vancouver Island to see films at the Victoria Film Festival or Tofino Film Festival. We are surrounded by a multitude of creativity and choices – we just have to open our eyes and take a look!

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