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Flashbacks as the 21st Victoria Film Festival wraps us

It’s amazing how Victoria Film Festival flashbacks make the 10-day event that wraps tonight seem so much like a movie itself, complete with snappy one-liners.

It’s amazing how Victoria Film Festival flashbacks make the 10-day event that wraps tonight seem so much like a movie itself, complete with snappy one-liners.

Take, for instance, a remark made to Ken Kelly, Downtown Victoria Business Association’s perennially upbeat manager who apparently didn’t get the memo about the opening gala’s swing-era theme.

“We’re celebrating the ’40s, not the ’70s, Ken,” quipped one wag when Kelly showed up wearing a dressy all-white suit that evoked memories of Saturday Night Fever.

1001 Grams, the wryly affecting Norwegian comedy-drama focusing on an uptight Scandinavian scientist, keeper of Norway’s national kilogram prototype, also prompted some zingers.

While I agree with Victoria poet Linda Rogers’ assessment that the colourful, impeccably designed film was “exquisite,” it clearly divided audiences.

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“Cloverdale Paint must have sponsored this film because it was like watching paint dry,” remarked one detractor.

Nova Scotia-born comedian Ron James also made us laugh while commenting on his popularity: “Having notoriety in Canada for me means I’m drinking for free north of the tree line.”

“Festivals like this make people aware there are things other than superhero and comic book movies,” said Richard Crouse, CTV’s Canada AM film critic, back for his fifth time.

“Hollywood is only in the business of giving people what they want, so every time you buy a ticket to Guardians of the Galaxy after seeing it 25 times you’re tacitly saying ‘This is all I want to go and see.’ What you need to do is support smaller, more interesting films, particularly if you’re ever going to complain that Hollywood’s all out of ideas.”

Before Crouse interviewed James and Mark McKinney onstage last weekend, he did the extensive research he’s known for.

“By the time I get onstage I’ll know more about Whoopi Goldberg than Whoopi Goldberg does,” said Crouse, who’s reading books and watching her movies before interviewing the actress and comedian at the Banff Centre next weekend.

Patricia Sims, the globe-trotting Victoria filmmaker now in post-production on Elephants Never Forget, was another familiar face at industry events.

Indeed, the World Elephant Day co-founder deserves her own award after what she endured last summer shooting her feature-length documentary narrated by William Shatner.

Sims was laid up for several weeks with fractured ribs and herniated discs after the vehicle transporting her and fellow Canadian filmmaker Michael Clark to the Sublangka Wildlife Sanctuary in central Thailand plunged 120 metres over a cliff.

“Time is the best healer,” said Sims, looking radiant.

Longtime supporter Sheena MacDonald, Canadian Film Centre’s chief operating officer, passionately introduced rising talent again. This year it included Nick Wernham, the Toronto-based filmmaker whose upcoming romantic-comedy No Stranger Than Love stars Colin Hanks, Mad Men’s Alison Brie and Nanaimo-born Justin Chatwin.

“It’s about a beautiful young art teacher in rural Connecticut who’s about to have an affair with a married high school football coach,” explained Wernham, directing from a screenplay by Steve Adams.

“Just as they’re about to have sex, a black hole forms beneath his feet and swallows him into an alternate dimension.”

Wernham, 31, flew out to support Bernard E. James, whose short film The End of War was in the festival.

While Francois Girard (The Red Violin) couldn’t attend the screening of his film Boychoir, he appeared in a video and expressed his gratitude for such a “prestigious” invitation.

“I’m in snowy and cold Montreal and if I had a chance to be with you I would,” said the Quebec director, eliciting laughter as the camera moved away to reveal a heavy snowfall.

mreid@timescolonist.com