バンクーバー国際映画祭の様子。 JACKIE HOFFART PHOTO
I love watching movies. Some weekends, when I'm not feeling very social, I'll watch two, even three, movies in one day. I love the feeling of escaping to another world, meeting new characters and seeing the world through their eyes. A movie can also change the way you see your life, the way you interact with people, the way you make decisions. I think movies, like novels, have the power to nudge your understanding of the world a little further along. And my understanding of the world can always use a little nudging.
I've often wondered what it would be like to watch movies all day long. I recently had the opportunity to do exactly that, at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF).
Film festivals are places where independent films are shown to the public for the first — and sometimes only — time. Industry people from all over the world attend in order to select movies to bring to their markets.
The most famous film festivals are Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Sundance and probably Toronto. VIFF is the next biggest festival in Canada after Toronto. Over two weeks every October, VIFF screens more than 300 films, with a heavy focus on Canadian, Asian and documentary films.
VIFF, like many film festivals, is largely volunteer-run, with over 700 unpaid interns and volunteers. The volunteers get full festival passes (free entrance to all movies) in exchange for their time. It's an incredible deal if you have the time. When I used to live in Vancouver, I always wanted to become a volunteer but never had the time. Now that I've left the U.K. and have a bit of time for traveling, I'm free to fulfill this old dream.
The process of signing up to volunteer was easy. I just filled out the volunteer submission form on the VIFF website and eventually I was placed on the Special Events Team. Basically I helped take tickets, work the bar, or clean up at four of the festival's galas. This was a really sweet volunteer gig because it meant I didn't work many hours in total, but still qualified for my full festival pass.
And so we come back to the challenge.
With hundreds of movies to choose from, a full festival pass, and very few social commitments outside of the fest, I wondered how many movies I could see over the 16 days of the festival.
I thought it would be easy to see two or three per day. It turns out I underestimated how much energy it takes to simply sit in a theater. But let's take it from the top.
For the first week of the fest I did actually keep to this goal. I was amazed, even from Day One, how magical cinema really is. I felt like each time the lights fell and the curtains pulled back, I was traveling to another country. I spent my days in Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Bangladesh, UAE, Japan ...
But by the second week, my neck started to hurt. I began to feel like there were more interesting things to do in the real world than sit in a dark room all day. I didn't abandon the festival, but I gradually got re-absorbed back into life in Vancouver.
During the second weekend of the festival, it was Thanksgiving, which is a national holiday in Canada, and I took a few days off from the festival to eat turkey. After Thanksgiving I caught a cold, which slowed me down, but I pushed through and tried to attend one movie a day.
In total, over the 16 days of the festival, I saw 21 films, two-thirds of my target. Not bad, but a failure in terms of the challenge. That said, I found 21 films in 16 days to be the most I could handle, and the number qualifies as respectable. Many volunteers I met only saw one or two films in total! What a shame. I loved this challenge and feel surprised that I couldn't rise to it, but it was well worth a try.
Next time: What if I ... draw pictures
I recently received two lovely letters from readers telling me about the challenges they have taken on in their daily lives. Takanishisan has started drawing ST covers every week, and Saito-san is an artist who has taken up English studying as a challenge. Both readers have inspired me to try an artistic challenge next week. Thank you for your letters!