Locals boost fest

Vancouver shows 12% in even attendance

VANCOUVER — Attendance was up at the 16-day Vancouver Intl. Film Festival, which closed Friday. This is in contrast to last month’s Toronto film festival, where attendance had been hit hard by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Although some Vancouver screenings were canceled or rescheduled because films never made it or shipping was delayed, and numerous industryites were no-shows, 135,000 seats were filled, an increase of about 12% over last year. More than 300 films unspooled at 400 screenings across eight venues.

“We’re gratified by the rise in attendance under the circumstances,” fest director Alan Franey told Daily Variety.

In contrast to Toronto’s prominence as an industry market and forum for significant North American premieres, Vancouver is pitched to loyal locals, many of whom work in the city’s burgeoning film and television production sector. Closing night at the Vogue theater, where this year’s winners were announced, was packed with behind-the-lens workers.

Taiwan’s “Mirror Image,” written and directed by Hsiao Ya-Chuan, took the Dragons and Tigers award for Young Cinema. The National Film Board of Canada honor for documentary feature went to “Jung (War): in the Land of the Mujaheddin” (Italy/Afghanistan), directed by Alberto Vendemmiati, Fabrizio Lazzaretti and Guiseppe Petitio.

U.S. pic “Promises,” directed by B.Z. Goldberg, Justine Shapiro and Carlos Bolado, won the Diversity in Spirit prize, sponsored by the British Columbia Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services. The film also took the Air Canada People’s Choice nod for the most popular film at the fest.

The Chief Dan George Award, named after the late actor from the Squamish Nation in the province’s lower mainland, went to “The New Country” (Sweden), directed by Geir Hansteen Jorgensen.

Fest closed with “The Last Wedding,” a Canuck black comedy by Vancouver helmer Bruce Sweeney that opened the Toronto fest. Distributed by ThinkFilm, it also opened across Canada over the weekend. U.S. and international distribution has not been inked.

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