To dream, perchance to go to Victoria Film Festival gala

Turning the historic Promis Building into a dreamscape Friday night for the Victoria Film Festival’s opening gala seemed apropos when you consider how popular dream sequences are in movies.

The bash also recalled Let’s Make a Deal, as guests could choose to enter through door No. 1, 2 or 3 after walking the pink carpet.

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“Take your pick: Bad dreams, sweet dreams or erotic dreams,” barked a doorman as fire-spinners and illuminated aerial artists from Made in Alchemy entertained outside 1008 Government St.

“We’re movers, shakers and medicine-makers,” said Alchemist Madeleine Trepanier, whose performance art collective also makes herbal medicines.

The gala’s erotic-dreams entrance gave new meaning to “all dolled up,” with revellers having to run a gauntlet of inflatable dolls.

The New Groovement R&B band’s musicians snaked through the crowd, as guests schmoozed, danced and enjoyed gourmet breakfast appetizers from Camosun College culinary students.

Reflecting the in-your-dreams theme were roaming teddy bears, white cloud-covered cubes and double-beds, classic film clips, a lingerie-clad mannequin, flying pigs, angelic aerial dancers, clownish MC Morgan Cranny and nocturnal cabaret sequences by Victoria School of Contemporary Dance performers.

Many cinephiles came dressed to the nines or wore whimsical costumes, such as artist Dale Roberts’s Andy Warhol hat and needle-felted tie embroidered with a pink VFF cube and other cinematic elements.

“I don’t do dreams, I do nightmares,” deadpanned a frightful-looking Sheila Wenham, whose husband, Logan, came as Alice Cooper in top hat and tails. “It’s go big or go home.”

Maureen O’Neill, costumed “as a can-can dancer during Proustian Paris,” showed up with masked author Lyndsay Green.

“It died almost 100 years ago,” said Green, jokingly deflecting any criticism for wearing a ermine stole worn by her great aunt on the Atlantic City boardwalk in the 1920s.

Familiar faces included Canadian filmmakers Patricia Rozema, Larry Weinstein and Brian D. Johnson, the former Maclean’s film critic whose documentary Al Purdy Was Here is being shown.

He commended the iconic Canadian poet’s guarded 90-year-old widow, Eurithe, for her participation despite being asked some tough questions.

“As a journalist, I’ve interviewed every celebrity under the sun, and I’ve got to say, with admiration and respect, that Eurithe Purdy is the toughest interview I’ve ever done — with the possible exception of Tommy Lee Jones,” he said. “Eurithe could say more in a few seconds of silence than most people would in a paragraph.”

Irdens Exantus, the charming Montreal-based actor who made his acting debut as a Haitian intern to a hapless northern Quebec MP (Patrick Huard) in My Internship in Canada, was mobbed by newfound fans.

“I learned a lot from Patrick,” said Extantus, 21. “Everybody was very happy. Everybody was cool with him, nobody stressing. For my first movie, I couldn’t ask for more.”

The film’s director, Philippe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar), addressed the opening night crowd by video.

“The last time I was in Victoria was in 1977,” Falardeau said, confessing he didn’t remember much. “I guess a lot of you are saying, ‘Well, our city has changed a lot since then.’ Or maybe it hasn’t.”

Toronto filmmakers Chloe Sosa-Sims and Jake Chirico, and Margot Todhunter, whose schizophrenia diagnosis is the subject of their documentary Dan and Margot, were excited about having its world première here.

“Victoria was one of the first festivals to get on board and really embrace the film,” Sosa-Sims said.

“There’s something about the intimacy of this festival that makes emerging filmmakers feel very comfortable.”

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