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Victoria Film Festival opens its 29th edition Friday

There’s something to be said for star power, especially when it comes to the movies


Where: Various venues, including The Vic Theatre and Blue Bridge Theatre

When: Friday, Feb. 3 to Sunday, Feb. 12

Note: Tickets are only available at or at the door of each screening 30 minutes before showtime


There’s something to be said for star power, especially when it comes to the movies.

The 2023 Victoria Film Festival has more than a few high-wattage entries this year, which bodes well for the festival’s first in-person edition since 2020.

Julianne Moore (in When You Finish Saving the World), Penélope Cruz (L’immensita); Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver (Master Gardener), and Leah Seydoux (One Fine Morning) will all appear on screen during the 10-day event, which gets underway Friday with a gala screening of the Emily Brontë biographical drama, Emily.

Festival director Kathy Kay said she expects to hear raves about the literary-themed film by Golden Globe nominee Frances O’Connor, as champions of the festival have always supported films from the U.K., she said. “We never have an over-arching theme for the festival, what we try and do is talk to our audience about what has been successful here and what people really enjoy. We steer along that way.”

With 83 feature-length and 26 short films on tap — a total that is up more than 25 per cent from last year — the VFF enters into its 2023 edition on a serious roll. With five venues in play, the downtown core will be busy with film-related activity through Feb. 12.

The 29th annual VFF will have one less star than previously thought: It was announced Tuesday that Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director Paul Schrader, of Taxi Driver fame, would not be attending the festival as planned, due to health concerns. He will not be replaced.

“It’s too late for us now to find somebody that can fill a theatre,” Kay said.

In Schrader’s absence, there will be an additional instalment of the Things Fall Apart showcase, a collection of six short films, during his time slot Friday at The Vic Theatre. The blow was a difficult one to navigate, but Kay said the overall strength of the schedule helped lessen the sudden impact of Schrader’s absence.

One of the top draws will be the Feb. 12 Vic Theatre screening of All That Breathes, which is up for best documentary feature at this year’s Academy Awards. The film about two brothers who rescue and treat injured birds won prizes at the 2022 Sundance and Cannes film festivals, and has another eight film festival award nominations pending.

All That Breathes joins other film festival favourites — Riceboy Sleeps (Friday, Odeon Theatre), Klondike (Saturday, Odeon Theatre), Metronom (Feb. 6, The Vic Theatre), Brother (Feb. 7, Vic Theatre), and The Ordinaries (Feb. 10, The Vic Theatre) — at an action-packed VFF. There’s also a total of 30 Canadian features, with five films from Victoria-based filmmakers.

By enlisting the help of festival programmers from across the world, Kay said a wider variety of quality films were made available.

“That’s why we moved to the model with outside programmers, because we felt they would be able to draw on their contacts with filmmakers. I think that’s a big part of what’s paid off here, and why the program is so strong. We have a good reputation. We’ve been at this a long time, so we’re getting a better quality of work sent in to us as well.”