Who Needs a Sexy Party Anyway?

Gauging the zest of Vancouver's film fest fests.

By Steve Burgess 17 Oct 2005 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess is a freelance writer and the author of Who Killed Mom?, published in 2011 by Greystone Books.

Born in Norwalk Ohio, home of the famous virus, Steve was raised in Regina, SK, and Brandon, MB. He writes a regular column for The Tyee, often reviewing films but also, sometimes, detailing his hilarious world travels for Tyee readers. Steve is a former CBC Radio host and has won two National Magazine Awards. He has also won three Western Magazine Awards.

Reporting Beat: Travel, pop culture, politics, cobbling, knife sharpening, furnace repair.

Twitter: @steveburgess1

Website: Steve Burgess

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Granted, it's probably very uncool to start worrying about how our film festival compares to Toronto's. But damn.

"At one of the private parties at a Toronto nightclub, they were playing soft-core porn on the walls," says a local publicist who was there. "And they had hired these models to make out, basically. Everybody who wasn't there started getting the same text message: 'Live sex!'"

And they get Kirsten Dunst and stuff, too.

The Vancouver International Film Festival does have parties of its own, of course. The mid-fest Anniversary Gala at the Law Courts building featured the music of Kenny Colman, who thankfully waited until he was offstage to engage in sexual activity. There were celebs there. But you were more likely to see Gloria Macarenko than Gwyneth Paltrow. The paparazzi took the night off.

Gonzo Toronto

There is no doubt that our festival is a different beast than Toronto's. We do not carry the impressive industry clout enjoyed by the Toronto festival, admits Vancouver International Film Festival board chairman Michael Francis. "Neither does New York's, neither does San Francisco's," he points out. "There's a unique confluence of circumstances that have given the Toronto festival such prominence."

Vancouver concentrates on Asian film premieres and the finest independent cinema. As for the battle of the Hollywood royalty, well, there's no sense picking a fight you can't win. Toronto has indeed become arguably the number one industry event, surpassing even Cannes as the most important launch pad for Hollywood releases. Besides, nine-and-a-half out of ten Vancouver cinephiles would proclaim their absolute indifference to the presence of Lindsey Lohan and her tasteless entourage. Right?

Right, mostly. At least one publicist I spoke with would like to see some more glitz at the festival (it wasn't the one who watched the live sex-I didn't ask whether she was aroused or appalled). More celebs would mean a higher profile for the festival, more high rollers in town creating potential spin-off benefits for the local film industry. In this publicist's view, the film festival could play a bigger role in boosting Hollywood North.

To get those bonus celebs however, you would need more mainstream film premieres, which Vancouver is simply not in the running to get. And even the pro-celeb publicist admits that the festival is not exactly hurting at the grass-roots level: "The attendance figures are great."

The celeb-less fest

Charles Martin Smith is one bona fide celeb who ambled about the Law Courts at the Anniversary bash. The actor who was immortalized as Toad in American Graffiti and stood in for Farley Mowat in Never Cry Wolf is now a director, and one of the many industry types who have adopted Vancouver as home. The Vancouver festival, he feels, has found its niche. "Every festival needs to have a raison d'etre," he says. "Toronto is certainly bigger. But what Vancouver offers is simply good cinema-Canadian, Asian, local."

Two years ago, Smith had the honour of closing the festival with his movie Snow Walker, starring Barry Pepper. "Celebrities?" he says. "I don't think they help. Why not just honour merit? You have community support, good films. What more do you need?"

Well, it's true; no one actually needs live sex shows and Keira Knightley. But isn't it nice to be asked?

Steve Burgess flogs his Tyee credential to get into cool events.  [Tyee]

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