Crazy 8’s Gala Screening – Review

On Friday night The Centre for the Performing Arts was host to the Crazy 8’s Gala Screening. This is the 13th year of the film competition, and the 6 finalists certainly delivered.

For those unfamiliar with the competition, in December, contestants pitch the idea for their film via video for consideration. From these applicants, 40 semi finalists are chosen to pitch their ideas in person to a panel of judges. From here the numbers are cut to 13 filmmakers, who take part in a month long story edit before they are whittled down to the final 6. The final 6 filmmakers are given $1000 and access to production resources to make their film in 8 days. The contest is no doubt hectic, but the end product reflects the talent of these local filmmakers.

Before the screening began, host Ken Hegan, pointed out a few of the festival firsts. This is the first year that the majority of the films had been directed by women (4 of 6) and also the first time that The Crazy 8’s had First Nations representation. The screenings soon kicked off and displayed a diverse array of film styles and genres.

Doreen Manual’s film These Walls was a personal story, which came to her in a vision. Manual uses the film to express her experiences in residential schools and takes her audience on an emotional journey into a surreal nightmare.

Up next was Camille Mitchell’s devastating film, A Mother’s Love, about a mother searching for her two young boys who haven’t returned from school. As we follow this mother’s confused and heartbreaking search, we learn that all is not as it seems.

The third film of the evening was Andrew Rowe’s contribution, the hilarious Sleepy Stories, which in my opinion, was the stand out film of the night. The film is about David, an insomniac, who takes the advice of his sister and calls the Sleepy Stories hotline.

Sleepy Stories is a service that sends horrifically boring people to your house that will then talk you to sleep in 20 minutes. David gives the service a shot and receives Bertram, a man so tedious, that David quickly passes out. David is impressed…until he remembers the disturbing information Bertram passed on just as he was nodding off.

The writing in the film is spot on, with some really great character moments.  Andrew Vokey plays Bertram to dull perfection, and Mike Rowe is fantastic as the desperate David.

After a brief intermission, the second half of the night was kicked off with Carleen Kyle’s The Weather Girl. This quirky film, about a former weather girl who now spends her days as the full-time caregiver to her ailing father, was good fun. When two Christian missionaries knock on her door, she takes the opportunity to sneak out and take some personal time. Funny, yet touching, the film demonstrates how the harsh realities of life can end up swallowing our dreams. The penultimate film of the night was undoubtedly the most ambitious.

Marshall Axani put it all on the table with his sci-fi thriller The Vessel. In The Vessel a shady operative uses a strange device to take control of his targets. He lets nothing stand in the way of his main objective: to rescue his brother. The film was wonderfully shot and down right creepy, with some of the scenes reminiscent of John Carpenter’s work in The Thing.

The final film of the night, A Red Girl’s Reasoning, by Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, was one of my favourites. The story is about a vigilante First Nations woman who exacts revenge on men who have sexually abused Native women. The film was dark, aggressive and I loved every moment of it. I first saw Tailfeathers’ work at the Women in Film Festival, where she contributed Bloodlands, a film with which I was equally impressed. I’m itching to see what Tailfeathers comes up with next.

This year’s Crazy 8’s showcased the work of some incredibly talented artists, and I can’t wait until next year to see more fabulous work from Vancouver’s film community.