Reel Events: Whistler Film Fest, VAFF, and Crazy8s

Reel Events: Whistler Film Fest, VAFF, and Crazy8s


The 2018 edition of the Whistler Film Festival is shaping up to be a can’t-miss destination event for lovers of Canadian film. The self-described (and rightly so) “Canada’s coolest film festival” recently released the titles of nine feature films that will screen between November 28 and December 2 at venues around Whistler Village – these in addition to the five films that had previously been announced.

Carmen Aguirre in  Bella Ciao!

Carmen Aguirre in Bella Ciao!

BELLA CIAO! (World Premiere; directed by Carolyn Combs) Carmen Aguirre and Tony Nardi star in a remarkable story about all manner of relationships. Set at the intersection of the Latin American, First Nations, and Italian communities, Bella Ciao! captures the struggle towards solidarity in East Vancouver’s urban mix.

IN GOD I TRUST (World Premiere; directed by Maja Zdanowski) Marc Senior, John Cassini, Steven Roberts, Melissa Roxburgh, and Grammy award-winning artist Bilal Oliver star in this multi-character drama from Vancouver filmmaker Maja Zdanowski. A distressed young Black man, a reckless white nationalist, and a pair of travelling vacationers intertwine in three tales of redemption, violence and faith during a random encounter in Northern Idaho.

INTO INVISIBLE LIGHT (World Premiere; directed by Shelagh Carter) Director Shelagh Carter delivers a powerful story of grief, longing, and one woman’s path to healing. Conceived under the sway of both love and art, Into Invisible Light is a story of forgiveness, second chances, and the revitalizing power of self-expression.

HONEY BEE (World Premiere; directed by Rama Rau) Julia Sarah Stone astounds as an underage truck stop sex worker under the sway of a manipulative pimp, sent by authorities to a working farm run by a no-nonsense character played by Martha Plimpton. Director Rama Rau explores the many facets of female sexuality, as she did with her documentary look at burlesque queens, The League of Exotique Dancers.

NEVER BE DONE: THE RICHARD GLEN LETT STORY (World Premiere; directed by Roy Tighe) This raw and immersive documentary reveals how controversial Vancouver stand-up comedian Richard Lett sabotaged his own promising career, lost everything, and lived to tell the tale.

THIS IS NORTH PRESTON (World Premiere; directed by Jaren Hayman) Director Jaren Hayman provides an intimate glimpse into the country’s largest Black community, painted in recent years as one of Canada’s most established human trafficking hubs. With poignant interviews and stories from residents of all kinds, from pimps and their victims to politicians and the citizens they serve, This is North Preston explores one community’s struggle against crime, economic adversity, and systemic racism, and their ardent desire to change the narrative.

RED ROVER (World Premiere, directed by Shane Belcourt) Métis director Shane Belcourt directs a wistful story about a socially awkward geologist who is encouraged to apply for a one-way manned mission to Mars by an extroverted musician he meets in the park. Cara Gee (Strange Empire) shines as a muse with her own issues who inspires our unhappy would-be space traveler.

WOODLAND (World Premiere, directed by Jon Silverberg) Set in 1989, Jake (Richard Harmon), an out-of-work photojournalist who struggles with addiction and a troubled past, takes a job as watchman of a wilderness lodge on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest, alongside veteran handyman Sparky (Philip Granger). Jake sets up a darkroom to develop the photos he shoots, which begin to reveal disturbing premonitions of their future.

2018 Whistler Film Festival will close with the Canadian premiere of Momentum Generation, the latest documentary from award-winning filmmakers (and brothers) Jeff and Michael Zimbalist that showcases some of the biggest names in the surf world, including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Kalani Robb and the late Todd Chesser.

Full details at


A still from  For Izzy .

A still from For Izzy.

The countdown is on to the 22nd Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF). The 2018 edition of this annual celebration of Asian diaspora and diversity in film takes place November 1 to 4 at Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas (AKA Tinseltown), and this year, the theme is INFUSIAN – which (according to the press release) translates into a spotlight on “the diverse artists, agitators, thinkers, and innovators who shape the living experience of contemporary Canadians and the array of influences that inform their work.”

“This has been a momentous year in the film industry when we’ve seen hopeful progress in diversity and representation in Hollywood,” says Festival Director Lynne Lee in that same release. “We are proud that our voices are finally heard, and cannot wait to share unique Asian stories from around the world with local audiences, many premiering for the first time in Canada” – half of which, she notes, were directed by women.  

The lineup is comprised of 35 feature-length and short films – narrative and documentary, from an array of genres – presented over 13 programs. Our must-watch list includes the opening night film Dead Pigs (from Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan), in which the intertwining fates of five individuals shine a light on class struggle in modern China; Alexandra Cuerdo’s ULAM: Main Dish, a documentary following the rise of the Filipino food movement; S. Louisa Wei’s documentary Havana Davis, about two stage sisters living in an era of revolution; Harleen Singh’s documentary, Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes, which traces the fascinating journey of three comic creators who challenge stereotypes about race, appearance, and gender through cartoons, comics, and cosplay; Badass Beauty Queen: The Story of Anastasia Lin, about the Miss World contestant who stood up to an oppressive regime; and Alex Chu’s For Izzy, about a queer recovering addict and her single mother who move in next door to a widowed father and his adult daughter with autism.

Details and tickets at


A still from  I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them .

A still from I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them.

Do you have what it takes to make a slickly produced short film in just eight days? That particular brand of craziness is the Crazy8s recipe, and over its 19 previous editions, the filmmaking competition has facilitated a long list of entertaining, exciting, and evocative short films (including Cypher, I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them, and One Last Ride) – and now it’s looking for applicants for its milestone 20th edition.

Intrigued but want to get the 411 before submitting an application? Consider attending the Crazy8s 2019 Information and Registration Session at the Rio Theatre on October 14. Event producers and previous Crazy8s filmmakers and judges will pull back the curtain on the application and selection process, and discuss what to expect in terms of support if your project is selected as one of the final six. Also on the schedule: a screening of videotaped pitches and finished films for several past Crazy8s projects.

Last year, a record 227 people applied to participate in Crazy8s, and only six received the $1000 and production package worth tens of thousands of dollars to make their films. For 2019, pre-production, filming, and post-production will take place between February 8 and 15; the winning films will screen at the Crazy8s Gala on February 23.

For details about Crazy8s and the free (but priceless!) information session, visit


Beverley Elliott cabaret fundraiser
October 12

Fan Expo Vancouver
October 12-14

Blood N Guts 2018 Screening & Awards Gala
October 14

Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival
October 15-19

Pictured above: a still from VAFF’s opening night film, ‘Dead Pigs.’

Martin Wood on the past and future of the ‘Stargate’ franchise

Martin Wood on the past and future of the ‘Stargate’ franchise

Norm Li leads audiences ‘Under the Viaduct’

Norm Li leads audiences ‘Under the Viaduct’