Coogan comedy to kick off Victoria Film Festival

The 20th anniversary of the 10-day Victoria Film Festival kicks off Feb. 7 at the Cineplex Odeon with the big-screen exploits of Alan Partridge, British actor Steve Coogan’s irreverent fictional BBC radio and television presenter, the festival announced Tuesday night.

The opening film, Alan Partridge, co-stars Colm Meaney as an Irish disc jockey who goes postal and holds his fellow employees hostage when he learns his radio station’s new corporate owners are axing him.

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The name of the opening film was among several revelations director Kathy Kay unveiled at The Oyster Bar on Humboldt Street.

Opening night’s post-screening shindig will have a 1960s theme and will take place in a converted space on Johnson Street, added Kay, who promised to take festival-goers “to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Andy Warhol’s Factory and the Central Park Be-In.” The bash will be close to the Cineplex Odeon, this year’s main venue since longtime sponsor Empire Co. closed the Capitol 6 in October.

Organizers confirmed this year’s lineup includes Devil’s Knot, with Victoria-raised filmmaker Atom Egoyan coming home to appear at the screening of his distinctive take on the story of the West Memphis Three, starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth.

Also showing: Linsanity, Evan Jackson Leong’s documentary chronicling the unlikely rise of Jeremy Lin, the Christian Asian-American NBA star; Enemy, Incendies director Denis Villeneuve’s Kafka-esque thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a frazzled history professor who becomes obsessed with his lookalike; and Burt’s Buzz, Ontario filmmaker Jody Shapiro’s documentary on Burt Shavitz, the curmudgeonly Maine beekeeper who co-founded and lost the empire bearing his name.

Other highlights include Tide Lines, Victoria filmmaker Andrew Naysmith’s documentary about the life-changing experiences of local brothers Ryan and Bryson Robertson, who with friend Hugh Patterson set sail from Mexico with dreams of circumnavigating the world; Cyber-Seniors, Saffron Cassaday’s lighthearted documentary about high-spirited seniors who embrace the computer age; and Me and You, Bernardo Bertolucci’s new film about a deceitful young man’s intense encounter with his drug-addicted half-sister who shows up unexpectedly at his cramped apartment.

Two past festival favourites, Vancouver actor-director Ben Ratner and Toronto filmmaker Richie Mehta (Amal), will return with new features — Down River, Ratner’s tale of three women in their 20s who seek advice from a free-spirited mutual friend (Helen Shaver); and Siddharth, Mehta’s drama about a poor Delhi merchant’s desperate search for his missing son.

The festival is marking its 20th anniversary with In Conversation With …, a new program spotlighting guests including Egoyan; Ken Taylor, Canada’s former ambassador to Iran; and Drew Taylor, a former Toronto Blue Jays player-turned-filmmaker who directed Our Man in Tehran, which sets the record straight on the extent of Canada’s role in the Iran hostage crisis. Innovative Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin (Keyhole) will also participate, as will actor, writer and filmmaker Don McKellar and writer-comedian Bob Martin, who will offer a sneak peek at Sensitive Skin, their new comedy series starring Comox-raised Kim Cattrall.

Winners of FilmCan, the 2014 student filmmaking competition, were also announced Tuesday night.

Junior category winner was Carson Freeman, a Grade 5 student at Willows Elementary, who earned a $550 gift certificate to Gulf Islands Film and Television School for his stop-motion Lego film StuntMAN.

Senior category winner Olivia Sorley won a 27-inch iMac computer and one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Suite donated by Aqua Irrigation for her short For an Adventure.

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