Coffee Talk with our Programming Team
By Stephanie Fairall, VAFF Executive Member
The countdown is on! Now that fall has officially begun, everyone at VAFF is buzzing with excitement as we approach our 18th year of the Festival. This year we have chosen the theme of “What’s your perspective?” and even though themes change and this is the 18th year of the Festival, the one part of organizing such an event that never gets easier is choosing which films to screen. Lucky for me, I just get to write about the films! It is our programming team, Kathy Leung, Al Yoshizawa, and Winnie Tam, who finalize the films to be screened. Curious as to how one could possibly make such a decision, I asked our team a few questions to get an idea of what they had to go through in order to create this year’s festival program.
The first question that came to mind was:
What is the process for choosing the films to show at this year’s festival and does the process vary from year to year?
Since the Festival is an annual event, we hold an open call running from March to May. According to Kathy Leung, Programming Advisor and Feature Film Curator, this is where most of the submissions come from. And to cast the net as far and wide as possible, the team has to keep in mind the films shown at other festivals, particularly Asian American ones. But other top tier festival non-Asian programs are also researched and the Asian films are sought out. Kathy tells me that they “seek out the filmmakers from the films our audiences suggest through their comments on our Facebook page and tweets asking the filmmakers to submit their film to the festival.”
Then the fun really begins as the team gets to watch and rank all the films.
So how does one then narrow down the films when there are so many to choose from?
Well, this is where democracy comes into play because in order for each film to have a fair chance, the team uses a rating system which “allows for every film to be watched by multiple people and be given a score.” Then when it is time to deliberate, the team discusses the top rated films let their creative juices flow by creating a program around them. One major part of the Festival is the way in which the films are categorized and then organized into the program. In order to successfully accomplish this grand task, our programmers have to consider the general theme of the current festival and categorize the top films according to the common genres.
And, just like when you’re deciding what to watch on Netflix, it is an incredibly hard process for our team to make the final decisions for this year’s films. They say that this is made more difficult “… given that Asian American and Canadian filmmakers keep raising the bar in the quality of their films.” Without such high-quality work, we wouldn’t even have a festival. It boils down to timing. With only 4 days and 13 programs to screen it’s impossible to screen everything we want to.
However, Kathy remarks that “we always keep in mind what our supportive audiences would appreciate and enjoy whether it’s art house or commercial, unsettling or reassuring.” At the end of the day, the festival is about sharing and enjoying the works of filmmakers and hopefully introducing more people to the wonderful world of film.
And what should we expect from this year’s festival?
Kathy exclaims “A bit of everything! But all Asian!” I couldn’t have explained it better myself. After all, we don’t call ourselves the Vancouver Asian Film Festival for nothing!