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October 20, 2014

Decision 2014: Vote a Vancouver Distaff Slate at the Civic Polls

In 2014, Elect All-Women Slates To Civic Office in Vancouver

The angry, power-hungry, dissolute male of the human species has made a hash of things, when it comes to the political realm and the common weal.

In Vancouver in 2014, we have two male mayoral candidates in Gregor Robertson and Kirk LaPointe who have set about to beat each other about the head, it is men who are in control of political campaign management in the current election cycle, developers who are all male and union leaders who are also all male control the bulk of the party campaign financing, as these latter males set about to ensure that you vote the "right way".

In Vancouver's dysfunctional, debauched political system, there's not a lot of principle, and perhaps even a dearth of ethics, in the choices with which we are being confronted when we head to the polls on November 15th.

VanRamblings is here to suggest to you that there is a better way, a more principled path forward in Vancouver's political realm, where government of good conscience would be all but guaranteed, where consensus and respect and fairness in the political process and for the participants involved in the decision-making process would carry the day, where the disquieting political maelstrom with which we have become all too familiar would finally, once and for all, draw to a salutary and certain-to-be-celebrated close.

VanRamblings' advice? When you go to the polls on Saturday, November 15th, vote only for the principled, bright, able, capable, insightful, ethical, and outstanding women of conscience who have placed their names on the ballot for Vancouver City Council, for Park Board and for School Board.

Meena Wong, COPE's Mayoral candidate in the 2014 Vancouver civic election

In 2014, Meena Wong has emerged as the only mayoral candidate who will make a difference, as she has advocated for the construction of 4,000 affordable housing units in Vancouver over the course of the next 10 years, raising the monies to pay for COPE'S campaign promise through the imposition of a tax on absentee homeowners, and a renewed focus on the construction of affordable housing, through developer community amenity contributions; advocating, as well, for changes to the Vancouver Charter that would allow both the implementation of a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and putting an end to renovictions in the city of Vancouver.

In 2014, the Top Women Candidates for Vancouver City Council

For Vancouver City Council, there is no better choice than our hardest working City Councillor, Vision Vancouver's Andrea Reimer. Vote for her colleague Niki Sharma, as well — for there is no more principled candidate for office in 2014 than the incredibly thoughtful and articulate Ms. Sharma.

In the Non-Partisan Association's Suzanne Scott, voters have discovered a community activist who holds a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from UBC who has emerged as the hardest working candidate for City Council in the current election cycle. In her colleague, the entirely wondrous hard-working democrat Melissa De Genova, as those who follow Park Board have long been aware, in Melissa voters have a citizen advocate who is without equal.

When it comes to the Green Party of Vancouver, since her election to Council in 2011 there has been no more powerful advocate for the public interest than Adriane Carr. In 2014, vote for her colleague, Cleta Brown, as well — a retired lawyer and tireless social justice advocate who has impressed with her cogent writing on the political process and at each of the all-candidates meeting she has attended.

When it comes to marking you ballot on November, cast a vote for Coalition of Progressive Electors' candidate Gayle Gavin, who in her law practice has advocated for tenants' rights, won precedent-setting judgments enshrining the rights of disabled persons to dignity, and fought for local food security in the successful campaign to save the UBC farm. Social justice advocate and artist Jennifer O'Keefe is a must-elect at the polls on November 15th, a voice of hope to ensure a clarion future where fairness becomes a central principle of municipal governance.

In the Cedar Party's Charlene Gunn, voters have heard an unparalleled voice of intelligence and compassion, and have found a slow growth advocate committed to empowering those of us who live across Vancouver's engaged neighbourhoods. Service to community has set Vancouver First's Elena Murgoci apart from her colleagues in the nascent party for which she is a candidate, a multi-lingual MBA in International Business Management who would well serve the interest of Vancouver citizens.

And let us not forget, either, the Non-Partisan Association's caucus chair and arts advocate, two-term City Councillor, Elizabeth Ball. Or, Heather Deal, Vision Vancouver's three-term Councillor, who is Council's majority party arts advocate, and who was key in the realization of Vancouver's successful food cart programme. COPE's Lisa Barrett, a former Mayor of Bowen Island, impressed at last week's St. James Hall all-candidates meeting, and her COPE colleague Audrey Siegl has been front-and-centre in the fight against homelessness. Vancouver First's Mercedes Wong, whose 30-year career in corporate finance and two decades as a residential and commercial realtor, is worthy of your consideration, as well, as an informed advocate on development issues.

The question that is posed most often to VanRamblings in this current Vancouver civic election is, "Who should I vote for, which candidates are worthy of my placing a checkmark beside their name when I cast my votes for Council?" In 2014, the answer is clear: vote for the principled women of conscience running for office in the Vancouver municipal election.

In 2014, Vote An All-Women Slate for Park Board

At Park Board, the choices are easy: the very able consensus builder, Catherine Evans, and her Vision Vancouver colleagues, Coree Tull and Sammi Jo Rumbaua; the Non-Partisan Association's Erin Shum and Sarah Kirby-Yung; former Park Board Chair, COPE's Anita Romaniuk, and one of her colleagues Cease Wyss, or Urooba Jamal.

In 2014, Vote An All-Women Slate for School Board

At School Board, re-electing Patti Bacchus to a third term in office is the easiest decision you'll have to make in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election. The same is true for the incredibly bright and hardworking Cherie Payne. Newcomer Joy Alexander is also worthy of your consideration as Vision Vancouver's newest candidate for School Board. The NPA's Penny Noble and Sandy Sharma are first-rate candidates for School Board, as is COPE's Diana Day — who is the must-elect for School Board in 2014.

Ms. Day's COPE School Board candidate colleagues Ilana Shecter, Heidi Nagtegaal and Kombii Nanjalah are more than worthy of your consideration, as well. The Green Party of Vancouver's Janet Fraser is one of the most talked about education activists seeking office this year — and the word is good, very good. You'll also find Vancouver First's Susan Bhatha's name is also on the ballot, for School Board.

A fuzzy iPhone photo of Jane Bouey and Gwen GiesbrechtFuzzy iPhone photo of Public Education Project candidates Jane Bouey and Gwen Giesbrecht

Apart from must-elects Patti Bacchus, Cherie Payne, Joy Alexander, Diana Day and Janet Fraser, by far the most-qualified, hardest working and most committed education activists in the current election cycle are the Public Education Project's Jane Bouey and Gwen Giesbrecht — who catapulted into the must-elect category the minute they both announced their candidacies for Vancouver School Board. Save two votes for Jane & Gwen.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 6:12 AM | Permalink |

October 19, 2014

Decision 2014: Vancouver Election Debates Calendar

The Vancouver Election Debate calendar below is dynamic / ever-changing. Click on a debate event for more information on that particular debate.

The Vancouver Election Debate calendar above is entirely the creation of Randy Helten and Stephen Bohus, the publishers of CityHallWatch, and is supplied to VanRamblings as a courtesy to the voters of Vancouver.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:22 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 15, 2014

Decision 2014: Voting Day One Month From Now, November 15th

Vancouver Civic Election 2014, Voting Day Saturday, November 15th

One month from today, on Saturday, November 15th, British Columbians will go to the polls to elect City Councils across the province, no current civic election more important than the one taking place in Vancouver.

Before commencing today's post, a note: flu has felled VanRamblings for much of the past 16 days (it's still hanging on), which has prejudiced the regimen of daily posts — going forward, I'll do the best I can to post as frequently possible, given the vestiges of my advanced age and ill health.

Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, CityHallWatch, Jak's View

First things first. Tonight, it is mandatory that you take time out of your busy schedule to attend an all-important pre-election meeting ...

The 2-hour meeting will take place tonight, Wed., October 15th, from 7pm til 9pm, at St. James' Hall, located on Vancouver's west side, at 3214 West 10th Avenue. The theme of this evening's all-important civic meeting: Planning, Development, & Community Engagement: Putting The Community Back Into Community Planning.

Over the past year, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has sought to bring together representatives from Vancouver's 23 neighbourhoods, in response to a chorus of discontent across our city.

The laudatory principles and goals of the Coalition may be found here.

With one-month to go til Vancouver civic election day, come out to tonight's meeting to learn about the issues, and to make your voice heard.

Note should be made that there is a competing Town Hall that will take place from 6pm til 8:30pm tonight, at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, to be moderated by deposed Vision Vancouver Park Board candidate, Trish Kelly. We could say something about the grimy politics inherent in a Visionite holding a competing all-candidates meeting opposite the long-scheduled Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods civic election meeting — make of that unseemly coincidence what you will.

Vancouver civic affairs blogs: Frances Bula, Jeff Lee, Mike Howell

While VanRamblings is under-the-weather, there remains a plethora of well-conceived, well-written, and engaging blogs where the civically-minded might get their civic affairs / Vancouver municipal election politics fix.

  • CityHallWatch. Day in, day out, former Vancouver mayoralty candidate Randy Helten, Stephen Bohus & others have made CityHallWatch the 'go-to' place for news on Vancouver's civic scene. Well-researched, chock full of information you'll find nowhere else, and clearly a labour of love (for our too often beleaguered city), CityHallWatch is the site you visit for up-to-date news on development in our city and, as they say, "Tools to Engage in Vancouver city decisions."

  • State of Vancouver. Vancouver's no-nonsense, "I've got no time for fools" media eminence gris of Vancouver's political scene, Frances Bula tells us like it is (but respectfully so) on her incredibly well-researched, and absolutely invaluable State of Vancouver blog. Without a doubt, Vancouver's hardest working, most insightful civic affairs reporter, Ms. Bula's State of Vancouver blog is the must-read for aficionados of politics as it's practiced in the City of Vancouver.

  • Civic Lee Speaking. A reporter's reporter, there ain't no sacred cows in Jeff Lee's award-winning reporting on Vancouver's often tumultuous civic scene — with Jeff, you're always going to get the straight goods (mixed in with not a little wit, and a flair for writerly prose that is matched only by the indefatigable Ms. Bula). All of us who live in Vancouver are damn lucky to have a respected journalist of the calibre of Jeff Lee covering our civic scene, and reporting out to us.

  • Jak's View. Community organizer and activist, Grandview Woodland advocate, author (2011's The Drive: A Retail, Social and Political History of Commercial Drive, Vancouver, to 1956, and 2012's The Encyclopedia of Commercial Drive), and tireless blogger, communicator and passionate democrat, Jak King's blog, Jak's View has long been a daily must-read for anyone who gives a tinker's damn about Vancouver civic affairs democracy (or lack thereof), an always engaging, human scale and informative read.

  • 12th and Cambie. My favourite read on Vancouver's civic scene, the Vancouver Courier's Mike Howell brings a sense of humour, incredible wit (and a becoming sense of wonderment), in perfect conflation with the reportial expertise and writerly prose ability he shares with Frances Bula and Jeff Lee, to make his always engaging 12th and Cambie a Vancouver civic affairs blog must-read. When writing about Vancouver civic politics becomes too much, you can depend on Mike to inject some much-needed human-scale humour. Thank god for Mike Howell!

Let us not forget, either, veteran reporter and Vancouver Courier political commentator Allen Garr who, for two decades now, has each week provided a cogent analysis of the machinations of Vancouver City Hall politics.

See you all tonight at the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods' pre-election all-candidates meeting at St. James Hall. If you can't make tonight's meeting, not to worry — there are debates galore upcoming.

The Vancouver Election Debate calendar below is dynamic. Click on a debate event for more information on that particular debate.

The Vancouver Election Debate calendar above is entirely the creation of Randy Helten and Stephen Bohus, the publishers of CityHallWatch, and is supplied to VanRamblings as a courtesy to the voters of Vancouver.

The debates calendar is dynamic, and will be updated as Messrs. Helten and Bohus are apprised of new debates. The debate calendar covers all debates leading up to the November 15th Vancouver municipal election.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 5:32 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 6, 2014

VIFF 2014: Vancouver's Film Festival Wends Its Way To a Close

33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival

Although only days remain until our beloved Vancouver International Film Festival shutters its doors for another year, there are still a great many recommendable films on tap that are worthy of your attention.

In today's VanRamblings, a potpourri of items to intrigue your sensibilities.

VIFF Repeats 2014

VIFF Repeats: VanRamblings received a note from the splendidly wonderful VIFF and Vancity programmer, Tom Charity, this morning (there must be a very special additive that's been placed in the water a VIFF HQ, for VIFF admin staff constitute an incredibly great group of folks!) where he informed that, "There will be 2 full days at The Cinematheque plus half days at SFU, and a couple more matinées on Monday."

The Festival published the list of VIFF Repeats on Tuesday afternoon, films that will screen ...

... over the long weekend, Saturday October 11th through Monday, October 13th. Festival passes, exchange vouchers and ticket pack redemptions are not accepted for these screenings. A VIFF or Vancity Theatre Membership is required.

Enjoy VIFF's encore series. See ya there.

Still Life, Uberto Pasolini's new film starring Eddie Marsan

Still Life: To date VanRamblings has failed to give Uberto Pasolini's new film, Still Life — by far the consensus best, under-the-radar English-language indie film at VIFF 2014 — its full due. Let's rectify that: Still Life is an absolutely superb, low key wonder of film, the success of which emerges from the performance of the festival: Eddie Marsan not only plays his most sympathetic character to date, his emotionally-nuanced performance of humane integrity absolutely rivets the attention of the viewer to the screen.

The film's synopsis reads, "As a modest council case worker in a London suburb, John May's (Marsan) job is to find the relatives of those found dead and alone. Despite his efforts, he is always on his own at their funerals, having to write their eulogies himself. When his boss intends to fire him, John decides to double his efforts on a case that will change his life and prove that he hasn't said his last word."

That Still Life takes us on an utterly unexpected, yet always human-scale journey, and that Downton Abbey's Joanne Frogratt (who plays the PBS series' most sympathetic character, Anna Bates) is just as wonderfully tender on the big screen as she is the small, catapults this film into the first rank of VIFF 2014 entries, a film always of tremendous poignancy, a sublime and delicate story about loneliness, sadness and death, yet utterly inspiring and uplifting in a counter-intuitive way. Disarmingly emotional.

Go prepared: you're in for an unexpected treat.

Still Life screens twice more, both times at The Playhouse, this afternoon at 4pm, and on Wednesday, October 8th, at 7:15pm. Not to be missed.

2015 Best Foreign Language Oscar Nominees

VanRamblings has updated our Best Foreign Language Oscar nominees post that provides insight into the nominees that are screening at our 33rd annual festival by sea. Click on this link to be taken to the updated page, or if you're on the front page of VanRamblings, just scroll down the page.

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Perhaps the untold story of the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival is the rampant homophobia, intimidation and discriminatory practices that has been directed towards VIFF volunteers working at The Centre, specifically those volunteers who have been perceived by members of the Westside Church (owners of The Centre) as living an "alternative lifestyle", the volunteers made to suffer while working their shifts at VIFF's Centre for the Performing Arts, which conduct by The Centre's church members has led to multiple resignations of VIFF volunteer staff.

As readers may recall, an evangelical church purchased The Centre in the spring of 2013. In respect of homophobia, as reported in Xtra West ...

The pastor of the Westside Church (owner of The Centre for the Performing Arts) cautiously yet unambiguously reaffirmed the stance that homosexuality is a sin in his June 17 sermon ... Norm Funk, 46, offered the sermon on homosexuality as part of a series titled "You Asked. Jesus Answers." ... Before founding Westside in 2006, Funk was youth pastor at Willingdon Church, whose members spoke out against the Burnaby school board's anti-homophobia policy last year.

Evangelical churches, particularly Baptist churches, are notorious for their fire-and-brimstone message that homosexuals will go to hell ... "It is never okay to respond in any way that is not loving to whomever, regardless," he told followers. But Funk didn't embrace gay people, either, grouping homosexuality with "temptations" like greed and lust.

In 2013, Vancouver City Council — at a meeting best remembered for the tears of the young children whose hopes to dance in the Goh Ballet's Christmas production of The Nutcracker were dashed when the church purchased The Centre — "forced" the Westside Church to allow the film festival and Goh Ballet to use The Centre for their scheduled programming.

In 2013, VIFF supplied all the volunteers at The Centre, during the Festival.

In 2014 it was reported to VanRamblings, the pastor insisted that church members join VIFF's volunteer staff, VIFF never suspecting that such practice would lead to the present intolerable circumstance.

When volunteer staff at The Centre first apprised VanRamblings of the unconscionable situation described above, we approached VIFF admin staff to enquire as to what measures were being taken to rectify the improvident circumstance. Although VIFF admin were clear that "negotiations are ongoing to remediate the clearly unacceptable practices of some members of the church who are volunteering at The Centre this year", as of this writing the situation has not been rectified; it seems doubtful that there will be resolution before the festival comes to a close on Friday evening.

2014 Vancouver International Film Festival Must-See Films

To wrap today's post, before we head out to the festival for this evening's screenings of Force Majeure and the French policier 24 Days, please find below a list of a few of the must-see films in the final days of VIFF 2014.

  • Force Majeure. A film that reportedly delivers what it promises, one of the buzz films at VIFF 2014, if you're only seeing a few films, make sure that Sweden's nominee for the Best Foreign Language Oscar is one of them. Screens for a final time tonight, 6:30pm at The Centre;

  • The Fool. VanRamblings can be hit and miss on our recommendations (fortunately, we're right more often than we're wrong, otherwise readers would stop coming to our site). We were a bit disappointed in Leviathan which, although a superb film, delivered less than what we'd been expecting. VIFF cinephiles to the rescue. Buzz on Yuri Bykov's Russian drama is through the roof, Variety reporting that "Russian helmer Yury Bykov's forceful social drama pits an idealistic plumber against a system of corrupt bureaucrats, putting his life and those of 800 unsuspecting citizens on the line." The Fool screens for a final time this Wednesday, October 8th, 4:45 pm at The Cinematheque;

  • Hope and Wire. If you can't get into what is sure-to-be a sold-out screening of Force Majeure tonight, then you'll be doing yourself a big favour by catching tonight's 6:45pm screening of Hope and Wire at the intimate Vancity Theatre. One of VanRamblings four favourite VIFF 2014 docs, Hope and Wire is not-to-be-missed, the film offering a devastating chronicle of the lead up to and after effects of the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch, New Zealand 6.7 earthquakes;

  • Here are a few more VIFF films on which we have heard very positive buzz, stating with those films on offer on Tuesday: Bruno Dumont's Li'l Quinquin; Australia's 52 Tuesdays; this upcoming Wednesday, if you haven't already seen it, Cannes award-winner Mr. Turner is not-to-be-missed; on Thursday, the second-to-last day of the Festival, Germany's Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee Beloved Sisters ranks as yet another must-see film at VIFF 2014.

Of course, there are many more Vancouver International Film Festival films that VanRamblings will take in over the course of the next few days, but the films above offer a starting point for superb VIFF films to consider.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:48 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2014

October 5, 2014

VIFF 2014: A Note On, and Recommendation, Re: Tinseltown

2014 Vancouver International Film Festival

Here we are in the final stretch of the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, and VanRamblings has let down our regular VIFF followers.

To some degree we'll try to make amends with a longer than usual VIFF post tomorrow. Today's post attends to VIFF logistics "business" that may, or may not, be of interest to readers looking for rave film reviews.

Could Still Very Well Be: Paradise at VIFF's Cineplex Tinseltown Site

VIFF at the International Village

Note: The following represents a note to VIFF Tinseltown exhibition staff.

Prelude. Honest, warm, human communication involving volunteer and VIFF theatre management staff at the Cineplex site has been at a premium in 2014; which is to say, palpable human connection has been, thus far, an uncommon feature of the interaction of staff and patrons. In the final five days of VIFF at the Cineplex site, that unholy circumstance must change.

Trust. VIFF exhibition staff must trust that patrons have the best interests of the Festival at heart, that patrons and staff are in this whole big VIFF schmozzle together — that all of us want the experience to be as pleasurable, memorable, efficient and friendly as is humanly possible.

VIFF staff at Cineplex: patrons are not your enemy; they're your allies.

[Note to VIFF admin, esp. Mickey and Brie: you've got a darn wonderful management person in Kaen, and Aubyn seems to connect surprisingly well, given how such friendliness seems not to be supported this year and, oh yeah, when it comes to volunteers Janet Smith is just aces]

[Note to VIFF admin, Part II: Congratulations on appointing Sean Wilson as Exhibitions Manager. I cannot imagine a better choice than Sean]

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

instructions.jpg

As VIFF exhibition management staff your primary duty is to see patrons gain entrance into the theatre complex in as reasonably efficient a manner as possible. And on that level, VIFF Tinseltown logistics has worked fairly well, outside of the first couple days (which is, of course, to be expected).

In response to a litany of concerns expressed to VanRamblings by VIFF patrons (for some time now, we've been VIFF's unofficial Ombudsperson — something thrust upon us, & not assumed), please find recommendations intended to enhance your experience, and lighten your load.

1. Smile. That's right, no matter how busy you are, take a moment to recognize that the patrons who are in the lines, or are making their way in or out of the theatre are real, live human beings, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, members of familes of every description. No matter how busy you are, no matter how stressed you feel, smile — it'll lighten your load, and vastly improve the patron experience. Honest ...;

2. Trust. Expanding on the paragraph on trust above: most of the VIFF exhibition staff at the Cineplex are new this year to the maelstrom that is the VIFF exhibition experience at Tinseltown (just ask the hero of VIFF Tinseltown 2013, Mr. Human Dynamo himself, Alan Franey — I'm not kiddin', Iulia and Alan working together last year was nothing short of wondrous!). Please keep top of mind always that most of the patrons in the lines love the film festival, have been attending for years and years and years (even before many of you were born!), travel hundreds of miles to get here in many cases, and have lives that revolve around our 16-day film festival each year. Trust always that VIFF patrons have the best interests of the Festival at heart. Think about it, incorporate it into your management style. And smile, actually look at people & smile;

3. Communication. When you're speaking with someone, smile, a genuine smile, a warm and warming smile, a reassuring and calming smile. Make eye contact. Seriously, make eye contact. Connect. And never forget to let the patrons know what's going on: communicate with them, keep them in the loop — that's part of your job.

Acknowledge the patrons' humanity. Look for their names on the pass, or if they have tickets, ask for their name, and say hi. Remember their faces so that the next time you see them, you can greet them. Ask the patrons if there's anything you can do for them. Humanize the management experience for yourself — you'll be glad you did, & you'll get the job done even better.

Now, I know you're thinking to yourself, "Is he out of his cotton pickin' mind? Does he have no idea about how busy we are, how many different facets of exhibition management for which we are responsible?" Yes, I do, and I say: smile, be friendly, be welcoming, smile some more, connect, hear what patrons have to say, acknowledge that we're all in this together, that your primary responsibility revolves around ensuring the best patron experience possible, and part of achieving that goal involves consciously acknowledging the humanity of the patrons you see milling about the Tinseltown complex each and every day;

4. Emulate Brie Koniczek, your boss, well-experienced VIFF exhibition management staff person, and provider to VanRamblings of the most transcendently wonderful experience of exhibition management to which we have been witness in our 33 years of attending the Vancouver International Film Festival — and that's going some, because VanRamblings loves, I mean really loves, Iulia Manolescu's exhibition style — in the centre of an early morning storm at the Cineplex site one morning this past week Brie, and Brie alone, working with volunteer staff, remained calm, always smiling, always genuine (utterly, utterly genuine and humane), always lovely and engaging beyond words, communicative, warming, welcoming and reassuring.

VIFF's faboulously wonderful Brie Koniczek
No wonder Brie's smiling: with the most beautiful baby, and wonderful husband, in the world

Brie Koniczek. How one assumes the onerous responsibility of taking virtually sole responsibility for overseeing the ingress of three long lines of patrons, distributes the tickets, directs volunteer staff quietly, efficiently, and humanely, all the while interacting with and re-assuring patrons (who would seem to be at the bottom of the list of priorities for some other of the exhibition management staff) in all three lines, and down in the will call / rush line-up, that all was well, outlining the exhibition dynamics of the morning, working towards the movement and ingress of patrons into the theatre, all the while smiling — it wasn't just the warm, reassuring smile that lit up Brie's face and her whole countenance, it was the near magical transfer of that warm, reassuring and calming energy into the crowd, an Alan Franey-like zen countenance, a warm Iulia Manolescu communication style with everyone she ran across, and a commitment to and the actual achieving of a logistically pristine exhibition management experience.

Honestly, if I attend the Vancouver Film Festival for another 30 years, I am sure I will never be witness to as transcendently lovely a VIFF exhibition experience as was the case one morning this past week, involving Brie Koniczek's utterly in control, and utterly humane exhibition management.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:42 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2014

October 2, 2014

Emerging: Growing Consensus for Kirk LaPointe Mayoral Candidacy

Kirk LaPointe, NPA candidate for Mayor, announcing his candidacy

There's a coalition of progressive voters coalescing around Kirk LaPointe, the socially progressive Non-Partisan Association candidate for mayor.

For VanRamblings, the most surprising aspect of the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival arises from the dozens of approaches by filmgoers that have been made to us by community activists working across every neighbourhood in the city — folks with whom VanRamblings has worked on countless NDP, COPE and Vision Vancouver electoral campaigns, as well as on community activist projects too numerous to mention — who have, chapter and verse, detailed the egregious anti-parks and recreation, neighbourhood destroying, pro-development, covert, and pharisaic decision-making that has gone on at City Hall and Park Board this past six years under an execrable Vision Vancouver civic administration.

Make no mistake, a well-organized Anyone But Vision movement has begun to form, and almost all of those with whom VanRamblings has engaged are what Andy Yan, a planner and public data analyst with Bing Thom Architects, refers to as engaged voters — those citizens who live along the golden horseshoe, the crescent of big-turnout polls that extends from the Commercial Drive / Grandview Woodland area, through Mount Pleasant to Fairview and Kitsilano, the city's inner ring of neighbourhoods.

Andy Yan may well be right, but if VanRamblings were to take into account the dozens of infuriated telephone callers, e-mails, texts and direct social media messages we receive each day, dissatisfaction with Vision Vancouver would appear to extend far beyond the golden horseshoe, and well into both the LGBTQ+ and Chinese communities, both of which latter voting groups have indicated they'll leave Vision Vancouver in droves this election, as they head back to the warming embrace of the Non-Partisan Association.

And let us not forget, either, the rampant and vocal dissatisfaction that has emerged this last term with Vision Vancouver in the Hastings-Sunrise, Dunbar, Killarney, West End, Yaletown and Marpole neighbourhoods.

Gregor Robertson, Meena Wong, Kirk LaPointe, candidates for Mayor of Vancouver

Among progressive voters, the move to support Kirk LaPointe emerges not out of a lack of support for COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong, but rather from the realpolitik that Ms. Wong cannot defeat Gregor Robertson.

The progressive voters who've contacted VanRamblings by phone and social media, and stopped us on the streets and in coffee shops by the hundreds these past four months want Gregor Robertson and his ne'er-do-well band of Vision Vancouver colleagues gone from the Vancouver civic scene — in Kirk LaPointe, these progressive voters have identified a viable, socially progressive, thinks for himself (one of the salutary comments we hear often) and electable alternative for the mayor's chair, and a candidacy around whom a growing coalition of progressive voters has formed, an under-the-radar bloc of community-oriented activists who are working in neighbourhoods across our city to ensure that Kirk LaPointe becomes Vancouver's new mayor late in the evening this upcoming November 15th.

John Tory, Doug Ford, Olivia Chow, candidates for Mayor of Toronto

In Toronto, a burgeoning alliance of voters has formed around the mayoralty candidacy of former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, the once beleaguered John Tory, whose current 49.2% standing in the polls is both testament to his middle-of-the-road, socially liberal candidacy, and more than double that of challengers Doug Ford and Olivia Chow. Make no mistake, the vast majority of Toronto voters want the Ford family out of Metro Toronto civic politics, and everyone from provincial Liberal cabinet ministers to longtime members of the provincial NDP have come out in groundswell support for the socially liberal, fiscally conservative John Tory.

A similar dynamic would appear to be emerging in Vancouver.

In Kirk LaPointe, progressive and engaged voters see a Red Tory, who just as is the case with the seems-certain-to-win Toronto mayoralty candidate John Tory, offers socially liberal programmes, fiscally sound city management, and open and transparent municipal governance.

Imagine, in John Tory and Kirk LaPointe, the two largest English-language speaking cities in Canada could, and might very well, have socially progressive mayors in place, leaders who could actually engage in a respectful dialogue with senior levels of government (unlike you know who) to achieve much that would be beneficial to the concerns, and wants and needs of their respective electorate — leaving open the possibility, as well, that such socially progressive candidate wins could serve to redefine the concept of conservatism in Canada, consigning Stephen Harper's mean-spirited concept of conservatism rightfully to the dustbin of history.

Kirk LaPointe and John Tory as latter day incarnations of Bill Davis.

There's even a rumour extant that former premier, and Vancouver mayor, Mike Harcourt will endorse Kirk LaPointe late in this electoral campaign.

Rumour has it, too, that independent mayoral candidate Bob Kasting, and the startup Vancouver Cedar party, will also endorse Mr. LaPointe's candidacy for mayor late in the current Vancouver municipal election cycle.

Saskatchewan Progressive Party pamphlet, circa 1930

Most engaged voters know that the roots of the Progressive Conservative party emerged from the post WWI United Farmers movement, a radical grassroots, socialist amalgamation whose supporters founded the Progressive Party of Canada (what we refer to today as the — albeit, almost extinct — Red Tories within the Stephen Harper-led Conservative party), before amalgamating with the Conservative party proper in the early 1940s.

Progressive voters — traditional NDP voters — have a long history of voting strategically to support socially liberal, Progressive Conservative candidates whose grassroots ideals reflect those of the more left-leaning NDP.

In 2014, that would appear to be what we have in the Non-Partisan Association — a small "c" conservative municipal party that reflects the ideals of a broad cross-section of the voting electorate, a made-in-Vancouver civic political party comprised of honest, hard-working and humble servants of the public interest whose electoral platform consists of:

  • Working with senior levels of government to develop affordable, and social housing, programmes to meet the broadest cross-section of the needs of the voting electorate in Vancouver, and their families;

  • As Vancouver's population ages, we have in Kirk LaPointe, a mayoralty candidate who is committed to investing in affordable housing and amenities for seniors citizens;

  • A socially progressive Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate who grew up in rank poverty (a far cry from the silver-spoon-in-his-mouth mayoral incumbent), who has committed that with an NPA administration at Vancouver City Hall no child will go hungry, and more — that 365 days a year no child in our city will go hungry.

    What Kirk LaPointe hasn't said is that he will work with senior levels of government to ensure that child poverty in Canada's third largest city will become a grievous and deplorable feature of Vancouver's past — make no mistake, Kirk LaPointe is committed to this latter goal, but has not made an announcement because he can't promise he'll deliver on it his first term in office. Unlike our incumbent mayor, the principled and socially conscious Kirk LaPointe, the mayoral candidate with the Non-Partisan Association, does not overpromise and under-deliver;

  • Talking about overpromising and under-delivering, Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver have promised us free wi-fi across the city since before they were first elected. Kirk LaPointe has promised the same thing, beginning on Vancouver's eastside, he says. The difference between the two promises? Kirk LaPointe will deliver on his promise, while you'll be waiting til the cows come home before Gregor Robertson follows through on yet another empty Vision campaign promise;

  • A municipal party in the NPA that will not increase property taxes in their first year in power, as the new civic administration conducts an audit of Vancouver's likely to be woeful financial affairs;

  • A party that does not practice the faux greenwashing of Vision Vancouver, but a municipal party that is committed to the health of its citizens, and is a vocal opponent of Vancouver's waste to energy plans, as well as Metro Vancouver's plan for a garbage incinerator and Vancouver's current plan for a gasification plant at the city's garbage transfer station. The NPA will instead concentrate on ways to increase reducing, reusing and recycling the City's solid waste.

  • A mayoral candidate in Kirk LaPointe who will end Vision Vancouver's game-playing and get the long-awaited Southeast Vancouver Seniors Centre facility built; will create an open and transparent City Hall Lobbyist Registry, as well as the first ever Office of the Ombudsperson in Vancouver, an office that would seek to resolve citizens' disputes with the City fairly and without necessitating resort to the courts, in the process returning trust and transparency to City Hall.

    Here's a link to information on the Ombudsman Office, in Toronto;

Yes, there is something of the aspect of the merry-go-round in covering civic politics. It has oft been said, though, that a day in politics can seem like a lifetime, so changeable is the political dynamic from day-to-day.

While it is true that the party polling conducted early last week by Vision Vancouver and the Non-Partisan Association does not, as yet, reflect the growing groundswell of support for Kirk LaPointe's "Anybody But Gregor" candidacy, perhaps that's more a function of polling that was done outside of the golden horseshoe. VanRamblings has consulted widely in Grandview Woodland, Mount Pleasant, Fairview and Kitsilano, and we can tell you that for weeks now organizing drives have been afoot to dampen / hinder / annihilate the vote for Vision Vancouver; it's just a matter of time before the polls reflect a much-increased support for the candidacy of Kirk LaPointe, whose electoral coattails could very well permanently dislodge a damnable Vision Vancouver administration from City Hall and Park Board.

Will VanRamblings have to write a mea-culpa?

In August, VanRamblings published a column, the headline of which read
"Mayor Gregor Robertson Virtually Unbeatable." At the time, we had no firm idea that our concerns respecting Vision Vancouver's governance of our city was so widely shared. Seems that the mayoral dynamic has changed a month and half later. VanRamblings may have to issue a mea culpa yet.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:12 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 1, 2014

VIFF 2014: Best Foreign Language Oscar Contenders at Our Festival

2015 Best Foreign Language Oscar Contenders screening at VIFF 2014

The criteria that cinephiles set for which 40+ films they'll take in at our annual autumn Vancouver International Film Festival varies.

Some folks want to make sure that they see every one of the films that took the 2014 Cannes Film Festival by storm, while other folks feel that taking in all of the screenings of award winning films arriving from festivals that span our globe — Sundance, San Sebastián, Tribeca, Instanbul, Seattle, Shanghai, Karlovy Vary, Berlin, Newport Beach, and Venice, just to name a few — rank as must-sees at our beloved festival by the sea.

Others, looking ahead to the 2015 87th Academy Awards — set for Oscar Sunday, February 22, 2015 — want to ensure that they're part of the "in crowd" that has seen more than a handful of the films that have been nominated by their respective countries for the prestigious Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. And thus we set our VIFF task for the day ...

Best Foreign Language Oscar Contenders Screening at VIFF 2014

Haemoo (South Korea)

Turning a real-life human trafficking tragedy into a comment on social inequality and the cost of survival, Haemoo dramatizes a stark nautical ordeal fraught with tension, the meticulously crafted production having generated widespread critical acclaim and healthy domestic box office, even if the subject did spark associations with the Sewol ferry disaster. Produced and co-written by internationally recognized Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) this directing debut by helmer-scribe Shim Sung-bo echoes Bong's trademark cynical vision of human nature. A gripping cinematic ride, with powerful imagery, a simple and accessible story and a stellar performance from Kim Yoon-seok, Haemoo is set in 1998, three years before the Sewol incident, and offers a journey into darkness that begins when trawler captain (Kim) finds himself broke (and broken), his fortunes hit hard by the fallout of the Asian financial crisis.

Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed (Spain)

In David Trueba's whimisical feature début, a trio of misfits set out to meet the Beatles, traveling across Spain in 1966 to meet their idol John Lennon on the set of How I Won the War, in hopes of clarifying some lyrics they couldn't quite understand. Inspired by the true story of Spanish schoolteacher Juan Carrión Gañ án, as Stephen Farber writes in the Hollywood Reporter, "This small gem offers a lovely evocation of Spain as well as a touching tribute to an unforgettable moment in time when the Beatles seemed to offer brand new possibilities, the idea that strawberry fields might indeed go on forever."

To Kill A Man (Chile)

A quiet drama that cares as much about familial alienation as with getting away with murder, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras retells a true story of last-ditch self-defense, about a timid man who does what he must to protect his family. To Kill A Man is a grim, fat-free revenge thriller that extracts an impressive degree of moral equivocation from its exceedingly simple premise of a family man, tormented by neighborhood thugs, who resorts to unseemly measures when the authorities fail him. Almendras' début feature is a slow burner, bearing some of the eerie social disquiet of pre-eminent Chilean auteur Pablo Larrain's work. A grand jury prize winner at Sundance, this hard-edged best foreign film nominee has emerged as one of the early favourites at VIFF 2014.

The Golden Era (Hong Kong)

Ann Hui's ambitious, lustrously mounted biography of eminent feminist Chinese novelist, poet and essayist Xiao Hong declares its intentions right from the outset, opening with a black-and-white shot of Xiao Hong (played with gleaming intelligence by Tang Wei), who directly addresses the audience, stating her name and when and where she was born and died. Crucially, it is the only time Xiao herself breaks the fourth wall. The Golden Era's title refers to a more introspective sense of time and opportunity, but can also be taken as an ironic comment on the 1930s, an especially tumultuous period in Chinese history that saw the rise of the Communist party and the invasion by the Japanese. Handsomely mounted with a score that resists a ripe opportunity for excess romanticism, The Golden Era offers sophisticated storytelling, narrative and historical sweep, and a meticulous re-creation of a China long since passed.

The Gambler (Lithuania)

A feature début so self-assured as to really only ever only be marred by its show-offiness, the Latvian/Lithuanian co-production, The Gambler, which played in competition at the Marrakech Film Festival earlier this year, marks director Ignas Jonynas' emergence on the scene as a talent to keep an eye on. Taking a skewed, and ever so slightly surreal story about a team of emergency medics who develop a highly successful and lucrative game involving betting on when patients are going to die, and basing the odds on complex and arcane analyses of the medical information to which they have access, the film, to its credit, is less interested in this high concept than it is in its lead character, the bearlike Vincentas (Vytautus Kaniusonis), his moral descent and eventual redemption.

Rocks in My Pocket (Latvia)

A very personal animated film that explores depression and suicidal tendencies with wit, surreal invention and insight, New York-based Latvian director Signe Baumane (Teat Beat of Sex) gets personal in her depression-themed feature that combines paper-mache sets and hand-drawn animation. This partially autobiographical tale chronicles the lives of three generations of Baumane's family, covering roughly a century of history, during which the small Baltic state (current population: just under 2 million) was occupied several times. But though the film's historical-political background provides texture and interesting parallels — since depression could be seen as an undesired subjugation of the mind — Rocks in My Pockets is mainly concerned with a very subjective personal history of three generations of women, all prey to depression and dark thoughts. Animated in a striking combination of real paper-mache sets and props and hand-drawn 2D figures, the film explores with wit, surreal invention and insight something left far too often undiscussed.

The Liberator (Venezuela)

An impressively mounted, but perhaps overly truncated take on a great historical figure about whom much more needs to be known, the extraordinary story of Simon Bolivar onscreen in two hours represents a Sisyphean struggle of the first order. This physically impressive Venezuelan-Spanish co-production clearly lays out both the ideological forces at play in the early 1800s and the nature of the physical challenge of pushing the Spanish out of South America after 300 years of control. Edgar Ramirez does an entirely respectable job limning Bolivar's idealism, bravery and natural leadership qualities, although the man himself remains elusive , more icon than flesh-and-blood being. Still, a compelling film to watch, and a VIFF film the audience appreciated with rapt attention, and appreciation.

Two Days, One Night (Belgium)

In this impassioned and moving new film by Belgian sibling directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes brothers, another excellent social-realist working-class drama, Marion Cotillard appears in every scene as the frantic Sandra, who learns in the opening minutes that she's been laid off from her job at an energy plant just before the weekend. Fighting off tears in the mirror, she discovers a semblance of hope in the promise of a new vote among her co-workers come Monday. A mesmerizing odyssey, with no soundtrack or melodramatic confrontations, the Dardennes plunge viewers into a terrifying world of unknown variables. Two Days, One Night emerges as another hugely admirable entry in the Dardenne canon: thoughtful, humane and superbly composed.

Sorrow and Joy (Denmark)

Danish auteur Nils Malmros (Tree of Knowledge) revisits a personal tragedy, turning the camera on his own tragic backstory in Sorrow and Joy, a deeply personal auto-biography about how the director's wife murdered their infant daughter in 1984. In this drama starring Jakob Cedergren and Helle Fagralid, Malmros paints an unflinching portrait of himself as critical and emotionally neglectful, the story told through the device of a psychiatrist's questioning, and in flashback to the start of the couple's relationship. At the same time, we watch the director attempt to ensure his wife receives treatment in a psychiatric hospital rather than a prison.

Mommy (Canada)

A funny, heartbreaking and utterly original work from 25-year-old Canadian enfant terrible Xavier Dolan — the writer and director of five critically acclaimed movies, and co-recipient of a jury prize at Cannes — Mommy is a blast of pure cinema, an intense, intimate drama about a harried mother and her troubled teenage son that vividly captures a range of exhilarating emotions from elation to despair. Dolan plays with well-chosen music and strategic silence, demonstrating a more experienced filmmaker's technical proficiency, coupled with the bold exuberance of youth. With Mommy, Xavier Dolan has solidified his standing in the pantheon of great directors with his new work, a film of explosive freshness, offering a delicate balance between humour and tragedy that's simply intoxicating. Dolan's Mommy is a beautifully realized film that is certain to speak to the VIFF crowd.

Corn Island (Georgia)

A virtually wordless, elegant tone poem — and all the more captivating for its quietness — Georgian director George Ovashvili's top prize winner at Karlovy Vary is, as Variety's Peter Debruge suggests, "an astonishing feat of cinema", a life and death fable that tracks the lives of an aging Georgian farmer (Ylias Salman) and his innocently flirtatious granddaughter (Mariam Buturishvili), who work together to build a rudimentary wooden shack and plant a crop of corn on a temporary island in the middle of the Inguri River, amidst the warring factions of Georgia and the republic of Abkhazia. Audacious, powerful, utterly compelling, and melancholy, Corn Island represents the best of foreign language film at the 2014 Vancouver International Film (we saw it in preview), and is a must-see at our festival.

Winter Sleep (Turkey)

Palme D'Or winning Turkish photographer, screenwriter, actor, and film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan can do no wrong, his latest — Winter Sleep — masterful and multi-layered, inspired by a Chekhov short story, the film — at three hours and sixteen minutes (not an unusual length for a Bilge Ceylan film) — offering a richly detailed, subdued and mesmerizing depiction of the full spectrum of the human condition.

Novelistic in structure, Winter Sleep revolves around Aydin, a retired stage actor (Haluk Bilginer) — a bearded, middle-aged grouch who operates a hotel in Cappadocia, high on a hill above inherited land owned by his late father — and his much younger wife, Nihal (Melisa Söezen), who spends her days gazing out the window, bored with their empty, privileged lives.

From Eric Kohn's review on Indiewire ...

Winter Sleep contains a few surprising moments of levity, from scenes of drunken men dueling with Shakespeare citations, to the peculiar nature of Aydin's relationship with a disadvantaged horse. At one point, a rabbit-hunting session leads to one of the movie's darker signifiers, while conveying a strange feeling of existential uplift on the character's terms. Such signifiers are never forced, however, as each telling moment arrives in the context of the movie's enthralling pace.

In its broadest terms a character study, as Ben Croll writes on Twitchfilm:

The film can be easily criticized as being too talky, overlong and a tough sit. All of which is entirely true! But there is some kind of cumulative value in the stacks of minutes and words that pile up and topple onto each other. Something that is also reflected in Ceylan's rather agoraphobic decision to keep things mostly indoors for the duration of the film. Twisting the familiar, a simple interaction or the inside of a living room, into something heightened and uncanny highlights the film's final verdict on Aydin. To turn the idiom around, he is proof of the evil of banality.

Winter Sleep. Another can't miss at our Vancouver International Film Fest.

Beloved Sisters (Germany)

An exquisitely detailed period piece, as Variety's Scott Foundas writes ...

An enthralling, gorgeously mounted depiction of the complicated relationship between the post-Enlightenment writer and philosopher Friedrich Schiller and the sisters Charlotte von Lengefeld (who would become his wife) and Caroline von Beulwitz (his eventual biographer), Beloved Sisters maintains novelistic narrative density in its enveloping canvas, as director Dominic Graf sets about to create an unusually intelligent costume drama of bold personalities torn between the stirrings of the heart and the logic of the mind, all the while casting his revealing gaze upon Western Europe's bumpy transition from the 18th to 19th century.

Be forewarned: another long sit (171 minutes), but very much worth it.

Force Majeure (Sweden)

One of the key films about which VIFF's Director of Programming, Alan Franey, waxed poetic at the opening press conference of the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival, as Boyd van Hoeij writes in The Hollywood Reporter, "An avalanche does no bodily harm but leaves a Swedish family entirely wrecked nonetheless" in Force Majeure, an ice-cold Swedish drama about a family torn apart by cowardice. Director Ruben Östlund's new film comes across like Ingmar Bergman with a wicked streak.

Writes Peter Debruge in Variety ...

In its very calculated way, the film serves to document all that will inevitably be omitted from the family's official record of their five-day ski vacation, as suggested from the first shot, in which this seemingly perfect clan — father Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke), mother Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), son and daughter (real-life siblings Vincent and Clara Wettergren) — poses for a contrived group portrait on the slopes. Whereas they self-edit their memories to fit their own narrative, Östlund observes the minutiae, right down to the bathroom breaks.

The film uses the daily structure of life on vacation to show us small variations in how things work between Tomas and Ebba. Once the fractures begin to appear in their marriage, things fall apart very quickly over the five-day skiing holiday in the French Alps, a pricey-looking getaway for a well-heeled couple.

Theatrically structured, yet a bracingly cinematic film, Force Majeure takes the family, and us, on a ski trip down a black run into a blacker chasm.

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Vancouver International Film Festival

Have we mentioned that the film festival is not about force-fed, mindless Hollywood pap, but is rather all about offering an honest reflection on the human condition (ain't no passive-aggressiveness goin' on here), and that chances are the films screening at VIFF are likely not to be an easy sit?

Bottom line: either you love film, or you don't. Either you're willing to confront your demons (the characters on screen often represent a disturbing, and often unexplored, aspect of the deepest, inner core of your being, your id), or you're not. VIFF as therapy: you better believe it.

Final note: we'll update the list of Best Foreign Language Oscar nominees screening at VIFF 2014 as the information becomes available, and point you back in this direction periodically over the course of the next four weeks.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:45 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2014

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