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Film fest is all a-Twitter

Director Kathy Kay makes social networking sites a marketing mainstay

There's a big difference between David Letterman and Victoria Film Festival director Kathy Kay. Kay gets Twitter.

The CBS Late Show host has made a running joke out of his contempt for the social networking tool. Even Kevin Spacey, joking that his business partner "made me drink the Kool-Aid" and use Twitter, couldn't get Letterman on board last summer.

Although Letterman succumbed last Tuesday by posting his first tweet on air -- reluctantly tapping it out on a laptop he called his "Twitter Machine," its content ("Do you smell veal and peppers?") suggests he's far from done ridiculing the service.

Kay, on the other hand, is all over Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social networking utilities. She says social media will play an expanded role in 2010.

"I think this year will be the real test," she said, noting Twitter generated a fair amount of traffic for the festival last year. She also hopes to expand the festival's profile on Facebook, with more blogs, clips, trailers and dialogue exchanges.

Organizers even hired a "social media co-ordinator" as part of an "innovation team" put together through Service Canada's Job Creation Partnership program. The festival's multimedia component is also being boosted with program guides and other goodies stored on pink USB flash drives attached to matching wristbands. About 350 will be handed out at the opening gala and 150 during Converge, an initiative launched last year where films were shown in offbeat venues from lofts to alleyways.

"Now people will be the venue," Kay said, saying Converge wristbands will feature three shorts programs. "You just plug it into your hard drive."

The festival's director has also tasked her team with development of a Victoria Film Festival iPhone application. The app will feature an introductory short film by Scott Amos, the prolific local independent filmmaker.

"This year we want to use all these tools more effectively, in a more meaningful way," said communications director Timothy Trebilcock. Fun extras such as Driftwood Brewery's Reel Beer -- "film in a bottle!" -- are also on tap.

Trebilcock also confirmed that the Office, the Dalton Hotel restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Platinum, will be the 2010 edition's social hub and music lounge, with last year's venue Whitebird used for special events.

Although the festival program won't officially be unveiled until Jan. 7, we've learned something that will come as good news to those who, like me, found the biopic Coco Chanel a dreary, half-baked disappointment.

The opening gala presentation will be Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, Jan Kounen's ambitious drama recounting the attraction between the fashion queen and the controversial Russian composer who would become a penniless exile in Paris.

The Canadian opening film will be Beyond Gay, Bob Christie's documentary on Vancouver Pride Parade director Ken Coolen and the Pride movement's significance worldwide.

Other entries include Under Rich Earth, Malcolm Rogge's documentary detailing the plight of coffee and sugar cane farmers in Ecuador who risk being displaced to make way for a mining project; and Lebanon, Samuel Maoz's anti-war movie, which won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. It explores the 1982 invasion of Lebanon from the perspective of a young Israeli tank crew dispatched to search a hostile town -- a nightmarish mission they weren't prepared for.

Also watch for Focaccia Blues, a David and Goliath tale about a bakery in an Italian village that takes on a newly opened McDonald's.

And Vancouver's Warren P. Sonoda, here five years ago for his directorial debut Ham and Cheese, will be back with Cooper's Camera, his comedy about a dysfunctional family's hellish Christmas in 1985. Co-produced by University of Victoria alumnus Nicholas Tabarrok, it stars Dave Foley and real-life married couple and Daily Show correspondents Jason Jones and Samantha Bee.

As far as guests go, Kay was being typically mum, except to say Canada AM film critic Richard Crouse would likely attend.

She knows only too well that names of film industry guests can't really be confirmed until you see the whites of their eyes.

She did, however, confirm the festival wouldn't have a Langford presence this year. Now, if someone could just crank out a short on Tiger Woods before the Dec. 15 FilmCan deadline ... .

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