Docs are up
Global Visions Film Fest brings new batch of documentaries to local theatres
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 06:00 am
Global Visions Film Festival 2013
Feb. 27 to March 3
Screenings at Metro Cinema (the Garneau Theatre) and the Art Gallery of Alberta
Tickets: $12 ($10 for students and seniors)
Gala night admission: $18.
Other pricing for special events.
A six-pack of tickets is $50 and a SuperPass is $75.
Tickets can be purchased at various locations including Tix on the Square, Earth's General Store, Remedy Café, and Metro Cinema.
For more information on the festival and this year's screenings, please visit www.globalvisionsfilmfestival.com.
It might just be the best timing in the world to hold the Global Visions Film Festival the week right after the Academy Awards.
As the annual celebration of documentaries enters its 31st year, a new crop of 57 films representing 24 countries (12 from Canada alone) is set to light up the silver screen at two Edmonton cinemas. There is something for everybody here and the work is rising in its already strong esteem.
“It’s a sign of the growing prestige of this festival on the global film festival circuit that so many high profile and award-winning films would choose Global Visions as the platform with which to launch here in Edmonton,” said program director Guy Lavallee.
“It’s really a testament to the hard work and passion of everyone involved with this festival. Filmmakers and distributors recognize true passion when they see it, and they are increasingly keen to be part of an event like this.”
Canada’s longest running documentary film festival is dedicated to providing socially relevant films from around the world. That doesn’t mean that they are all hard-hitting stories about impending environmental disasters, greedy industrialists in big multinational corporations and the failings of governments in managing the spread of disease.
Well, some of them are, of course. Beryl Bacchus, the festival’s executive director, sings the praises of the opening night film, How to Survive a Plague. This Academy Award nominee for best documentary feature details the account of a group of mostly HIV-positive young men who become major health activists.
“This is a very special film in that it not only documents one of our worlds’ major health epidemics from the beginning of the ’80s when the world was full of stigma and panic; it also documents with original footage the amazing work people were doing to fight this disease at a time when many shunned them, showing the power of passion, teamwork, education and knowledge to make change in the world,” Bacchus said.
One of the hallmarks of the festival is the realization that there are so many stories to tell and such little time to see and experience them all. Heartstrings will be tugged on and funny bones will be tickled, sometimes all in the same story.
There’s the Ballad of Hugh, about 83-year-old Hugh Oliver who still harbours his dreams of becoming a pop star. Call Me Kuchu is about gay rights activists in Uganda as the country pushes forth a new bill to make homosexuality punishable by death. There are stories about social justice and injustice, personal trials and triumphs, and even twin 69-year-old prostitutes in the Netherlands.
In addition to the numerous screenings, and the opening and closing night festivities, there are other events being held in conjunction with the festival that lend themselves to the art of documentaries. The first day is youth media day, during which people can get a triple bill of features previewing this year’s festival.
Sound and Visions (on Saturday) starts with a live taping of Mulligan’s Stew with special guest, Canadian entertainment icon Terry David Mulligan. This will be followed by screenings of Bruce Cockburn, Pacing the Cage and The Ballad of Hugh, with a one-hour intermission between the two to convene a panel discussion on the music industry in Canada and the challenges of making a music documentary. Mulligan will be joined by music industry legend Bernie Finkelstein and film producer Avi Federgreen, among others. An after party starts up at 11 p.m. with musical guests the Blue Montegos.
Other special events include the Doc 101 Workshop and the Live Pitch Fest, both on Sunday.
Here now is a brief summary of some of the many documentaries being shown at this year’s Global Visions Film Festival. More reviews will come in Saturday’s paper.
How to Survive a Plague
7 p.m. Thursday, Metro Cinema (Garneau Theatre)
Opening night gala hosted by Bridget Ryan
In the early days of AIDS, a group of people realized that they were more driven about finding treatments and a cure than the American government and pharmaceutical companies. So those people took it upon themselves to drum up support in the truest sense of grassroots activism. They petitioned, they held sit-ins, even a kiss-in at a hospital’s emergency ward, to draw attention to the matter. In turn, they ended up educating themselves on both drugs and bureaucracy and forced the changes that were necessary.
This is a powerful film, alternately harrowing and empowering, that shows how sometimes so-called radical elements in society are really just everyday people who want freedom, respect and, above all, good health.
6 p.m. Friday at Metro Cinema (Garneau Theatre)
Global warming … ever hear of it? Of course, the scientific community and various levels and sectors of both industry and government have been debating the veracity of it. Leave it to acclaimed photographer James Balog to rig up a network of a few dozen cameras at various glaciers around the northern hemisphere. His answer for proof was as simple as could possibly be: take time lapse photos over a few years to irrefutably document the retreat. The results are stark and startling.
The payoff, however, comes at a price. Too much of the documentary is wasted on Balog’s bum knee and his struggles with the technology. All too often, documentarians are making films that have stars when the people involved in the work on screen should only be there to support the story and fuel the subject, the melting ice and an impending quantum shift in the global environment.
3:30 p.m. Saturday at Metro Cinema (Garneau Theatre)
This is the charming story of several octogenarian ping-pong players in China for the World Over 80s Table Tennis Championships. One man has just been given a week to live. Another has used the sport to train her mind so that she can be released from a hospital’s dementia ward. One man smokes and bikes around while another lifts weights with impeccable form. One woman just turned over a new century in her life.
They all play to the best of their abilities and pepper the proceedings with notes of wisdom that could only be learned over decades and decades and decades of life.