Sneak peek at Victoria film fest: Opening gala to feature Boychoir

Although the official launch of the 2015 edition of the Victoria Film Festival is still two weeks away, we’ve managed to unwrap a few goodies to whet your appetite.

These revelations could help solve a dilemma for those of you still trying to figure out what to give movie lovers on your Christmas gift list.

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One tantalizing treat is the opening gala presentation on Feb. 6 — Boychoir, from director Francois Girard, best known for The Red Violin.

In the film, which festival communications co-ordinator Fulya Ozkul describes as akin to Whiplash in some ways, a demanding choirmaster played by Dustin Hoffman unleashes an angry, troubled Texas orphan’s musical potential at an American east coast school. The film co-stars Alfred Molina as a teacher, Kathy Bates as the school’s headmistress, and Debra Winger, Josh Lucas and newcomer Garrett Wareing.

The Canadian Gala opener is Autrui, Quebec writer-director Micheline Lanctot’s last film, about a woman whose life changes dramatically after meeting and caring for a homeless man.

Fans of Denys Arcand will also be happy to know An Eye for Beauty is on the movie menu. His new romantic comedy-drama stars Eric Bruneau as a wealthy, sophisticated young Francophone architect with a gorgeous wife. His seemingly perfect life in rural Quebec is shattered after he has an affair with a seductive English-speaking woman he meets while working in Toronto.

It’s part of a series of French offerings programmed by Francois Lemieux. Specialty programs showcasing South Asian and indigenous cinema also look promising.

They’re highlighted by entries including Monsoon, Sturla Gunnarsson’s meditation on how the extreme seasonal weather system of the title affects life in India, and indigenous filmmaker Helen Haig-Brown’s documentary My Legacy, which reflects on the far-reaching impact of residential schools on intimate relationships for former students, while following her attempts to heal her own relationship with her mother.

Homegrown highlights include Two 4 One, Maureen Bradley’s bittersweet romantic-comedy about a transgendered man who, while transitioning from male to female, gets pregnant along with the ex-girlfriend he artificially inseminates. With the festival dates falling later than usual — Feb. 6-15 — next year’s edition will feature some Valentine’s Day programming.

Godhead, local flimmaker Connor Gaston’s award-winning short originally scheduled to be part of the local edition of this weekend’s The Shortest Day event, will now make its Victoria première at the festival.

Other intriguing entries include The Painting Pool, Maziar Miri’s moving Iranian drama about the challenges facing a mentally challenged couple and their only son; and from South Korea, Gina Kim’s Final Recipe, her foodie film about a Singapore-raised high schooler who gets in touch with his cultural roots while trying to follow in his master-chef grandfather’s culinary footsteps by competing in a TV cooking show.

Off-screen, festival-goers can expect to see eye-catchers, including a double-decker bus maquerading as a large film projector and functioning as a mobile VIP lounge for private donors.

Christmas gift and stocking stuffer options for viewers age 18 and over come in various shapes, sizes and prices. The list ranges from a $2 VFF membership key fob (required for entry to festival films) to five- and 10-pack ticket gift certificates priced at $48 and $95 respectively. Note: Single tickets aren’t available for sale until after the “pre-fest” launch party on Jan. 6, when program guides also hit the streets.

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