Kristen Stewart movie part of Victoria Film Festival lineup

 

Kristen Stewart will appear on screen at the Victoria Film Festival for the second year in a row, playing a character not unlike the European film star’s personal assistant she played last year.

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The news was revealed at the festival’s launch party, at 10 Acres Commons on Humboldt Street, on Tuesday night.

The actor of Twilight movies fame plays a Paris fashionista’s personal shopper in a high-tech ghost story helmed by Olivier Assayas, who directed Stewart in the 2016 Victoria festival hit The Clouds of Sils Maria.

Personal Shopper is one of 124 entries, including 68 features and 56 shorts, to be featured in the 23rd annual edition of the 10-day festival, which opens Feb. 3. Official festival guides will be inserted in Thursday’s Times Colonist.

This year’s opening gala presentation at the downtown Cineplex Odeon is Window Horses, with Canadian fimmaker Ann Marie Fleming in attendance.

Her acclaimed animated film features the voices of Ellen Page, Sandra Oh and Don McKellar, and chronicles a young Chinese-Persian poet’s journey of self-discovery.

The festival’s opening gala bash will follow at the Atrium, 800 Yates St., with a rites-of-spring theme. The recently reopened Capitol 6 Cinemas has come on board as a new venue, as well as Cineplex Odeon’s SilverCity, in addition to Sidney’s Star Cinema, Vic Theatre and Parkside Hotel.

Intriguing features announced Tuesday include The Commune, Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg’s film about the melodrama that ensues when a married couple adopts a communal lifestyle; Free Fire, director Ben Wheatley’s darkly comic anti-guns thriller starring Brie Larson (Room) as an enigmatic arms dealer in 1970s Boston; and Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, an Iranian drama about a couple who get more than they bargained for after moving into an apartment previously occupied by a prostitute.

Others in the lineup include Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge, a biographical drama starring Polish actor Karolina Gruszka as the chemist and physicist; and Maudie, director Aisling Walsh’s biopic about the life of Maud Lewis, with Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky) starring opposite Ethan Hawke as the fiery Canadian folk artist.

Canadian road movie master Bruce McDonald will also be represented with Weirdos, about the exploits of two hitchhikers travelling from Antigonish to Sydney, N.S., in 1976.

Documentary highlights include The Happy Film, graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister’s offbeat exploration about our obsessive pursuit of happiness; Thanks, Boss! (Merci, Patron!), French provocateur Francois Ruffin’s Roger and Me-inspired assault on European capitalism; and Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, Lonny Price’s bittersweet documentary reflecting on the original 1981 production of Merrily We Roll Along, the musical that, despite the sterling track record of composer Stephen Sondheim and director Harold Prince, closed after 16 performances on Broadway before becoming a cult hit.

 

At the launch, homegrown director Jeremy Lutter premièred his new trailer for The Hollow Child, the folklore-inspired horror film he directed from a screenplay by his Joanna Makes a Friend collaborator Ben Rollo. The spooky feature, which will make its world première at the festival, stars former Claremont Secondary student Jessica Macleod as a troubled teenager whose sister mysteriously vanishes in the woods.

Guests were invited to participate in a drawing contest inspired by My Life as a Zucchini, Swiss director Claude Barras’s clay-animated drama. The film was inspired by French author Gilles Paris’s children’s novel about a traumatized young orphan’s uplifting experiences at a group home following the death of his alcoholic mother.

The crowd had an opportunity to sample virtual-reality experiences to celebrate the news that Fort Tectoria, 777 Fort St., would make its debut as Play@The Fort, the festival’s new hub, where Shealand Keais, of Victoria’s virtual-reality arcade Vic VR, will provide access to VR experiences and classic games.

Also announced was See@The Bay, another new component that will include a Canadian movie-posters exhibition and a pop-up cinema showcasing perspectives from regional filmmakers and festival guests.

Timed to coincide with the impending arrival of Mixed Match, Jeff Chiba Stearns’s new film exploring the challenges faced by mixed-race blood-cancer patients seeking bone-marrow donors, B.C. Transplant representatives were encouraging patrons to become organ donors.

Winners of the annual FilmCan student film competition were announced. The Junior category winner was Hide and Go … Stalk, and the Senior Winner was Be Happy.

Complementing programs spotlighting films from Asia, Europe and Canada, including indigenous and Quebec cinema programs, the Victoria Independent Film Professionals Association showcase is back after a hiatus.

So are the family-friendly CineKids and Jammies & Toons children’s movies; Sips n Cinema; and the annual opening-weekend Springboard industry event.

Notable Springboard guests include Edwin Braun, CEO of Victoria-based Cebas Visual Technology Inc.; Victoria Makerspace founder Derek Jacoby; Victoria filmmaker Maureen Bradley; film industry public relations consultant Angie Burns; and Harold Gronenthal, the AMC/Sundance Channel Global executive, whose address will focus on how content is increasingly being channelled through apps.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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