photo above shows film critic Richard Crouse (right) interviewing director John Landis.

It happens in Cannes, at the Sundance and the Tribeca, and at Toronto’s TIFF.  It also happened last fall at Vancouver’s VIFF. A kind of magic takes place when actors, directors and writers who are involved in many of the world’s most exciting new films cross over from behind the screens and appear in person at film festivals, sharing their experiences while we see their movies for the first time.

 The Victoria Film Festival, which takes place Feb 3-12 at various venues in downtown Victoria, is a multi-screen, multicultural, and multifaceted event. In a city more known for quiet strolls along the inner harbour or lush flowers at the Butchart Gardens, the VFF brings international excitement to the quiet British Columbia capital.

Victoria Film Festival | Feb 3-12, 2012 | Victoria, BC

More than 35 countries brought this party to Vic by filling the events calendar with an incredible 150 films in nine days. That includes features, documentaries, animations, short films and many memorable encounters with the people who stepped through the screen.

 As if in a nod to the changing technology of filmmaking and exhibition, the VFF kicked off last week with an opening gala that included the digital film House of Pleasures (L’Appolonide) from France, directed by Betrand Bonello. House of Pleasures is set in the long-abandoned world of the Belle Époque 1900, awash with opium, champagne, and sex-for-hire in a gentile Paris brothel that conceals some of the tawdry and tragic backstories.

video still from 'House of Pleasures'

video still from 'House of Pleasures'

 After the screening, guests walked the pink carpet (red carpet has been so done!) to a posh party where they mingled with VFF VIPs. To give this year’s VFF a little Hollywood glam, the events included a live session with director John Landis, whose beloved Blues Brothers was screened on Feb 4 after an hour-long interview with CTV film critic Richard Crouse.  

 In the lively and often humorous discussion that followed, the 61-year-old director observed that even though critics would usually “shit all over” his blockbusters such as Animal House and The Blues Brothers, they often reference them today as if they were classics of comedy. “I love film critics,” Landis joked, summing up how even commercial studio films sometimes have a place at festivals such as these.

 The festival films are grouped by themes–Canadian Wave, World Perspective, Future Perfect, Pleasure Paradox, Cinema Swiss, Highlight: Italy and Feast and Film (which combines dining experiences with several films). Spotlight on Linda Blair, a two-day event on Feb 10-11, is centred around on actress/activist Linda Blair, star of the classic horror film The Exorcist, Exorcist II: The Heretic, and other movies and TV shows.  The live interview with Blair, a screening of The Exorcist, and a reception for her is also meant to draw attention to two new Japanese horror film premieres at the festival, Deadball and Mutant Girls Squad.

 Some of the many notable feature films at the VFF include Take This Waltz, an erotically charged romantic comedy directed by Canadian actor Sarah Polley; The Whale, a documentary produced by stars Ryan Reynolds (who also narrates the film) and Scarlett Johansson; Tyrannosaur, a winner of Sundance 2011’s Special Jury Prize, by UK director Paddy Considine; and the inspiring Mrs Carey’s Concert by Australian directors Bob Connolly and Sophie Raymond.

 All of Festival films are juried, and the best will be selected to receive awards. Winners will be announced at the End of the Festival Bash & Awards event on Sunday, Feb 12. For more information, visit the VFF website