Like the work it screens, the Vancouver Island Short Film Festival is compact yet invigorating. Set over two days in the island’s ‘Harbour City’ of Nanaimo, it brings some of the best and brightest mini-features from Canada and around the world to British Colombia.
Celebrating its 10th birthday in 2015, the Vancouver Island Short Film Festival (or VISFF to those in the know) began life as a one-night event in 2006 where a handful of shorts were screened for enthusiasts at a sold-out Nanaimo Entertainment Centre. The festival continued to build on this initial success with the event growing in scale and stature each year, to the point where it is now considered to be the largest and longest running short film festival on Canada’s west coast.
The fest’s aim has always been to provide a platform for local filmmakers to showcase their work and grow the local film community via networking opportunities with like-minded industry professionals from Vancouver and around the globe. Furthermore, VISFF is a celebration of the short film in all its forms, be it documentary, animation, art-house or just plain out-there-experimental – anything goes, and the festival welcomes all genres with open arms, with the caveat that work is no longer than 12 minutes in length.
Since its inception VISFF has now screened more than 140 short films from nearly 400 submissions, with total audience admissions nudging the 4,000 mark over the course of its lifetime – a very healthy amount of attendees for a festival of this nature, and indicative of the high quality of its content.
2014 saw a rich showcase of regional and international talent, with work from France and The Netherlands screened and various genres covered, such as animation with The Evening Cigarette, drama with Backward Fall and experimental (‘A direct experience of tactile sensations, film texture, and contact dance’) with White Rhythms, Short Breath. VISFF has seen some of its previous entries go on to receive worldwide critical acclaim, including Nanaimo resident Tash Baycroft’s Gone which screened in 2007 and went on to garner excellent reviews and further showings at prestigious festivals in New York and Cannes.
The programme itself runs over a Friday and Saturday, and takes place across three two-hour shows – Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 2pm then 7pm – with the same selection of films shown at each screening but with different supporting events to add yet more flavour, including Q&As with the filmmakers on the Saturday matinee slot. The Saturday night special event is always the award ceremony where winners in various categories – such as Student Award, Best Performance, and People’s Choice – receive cash prizes and a statue, before heading off to a buzzing after party at a local eatery.
If you love short films, indie gems, avant-garde work and discovering up-and-coming filmmakers, then the Vancouver Island Short Film Festival is the place to go. Its 10th edition takes place on Friday, February 6th and Saturday, February 7th 2015 at the Malaspina Theatre at Vancouver Island University.