One of the most interesting contributions to any film festival are the local contributions; especially so with the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). Drumming up interest with the #mustseeBC campaign, and highlighting the works of local filmmakers, it can be incredibly rewarding and encouraging to see British Columbian talent emerging onto the scene. But, while there are highlights like Violent, many of these local, indie films are lacking the polish to set them apart from the crowd. Here are two that stuck out.
Every once in a while I need to take a break from serious, heavy films. Preggoland is the perfect remedy: a smart, sure footed by the book comedy that delivers on the laughs.
Ruth is a 35-year-old woman who acts as if she is still 19. She works the same job she’s had since she was in high school, parties like a college freshman, and shirks the adult responsibilities that her friends have warmly embraced. Feeling ostracized and isolated by her friends who are all either parents or pregnant, Ruth pretends she herself is pregnant as a last ditch effort to gain the respect of her friends and family. There’s not much more that needs to be said about the plot: you can imagine for yourself the innumerable hi-jinks and awkward situations that are bound to ensue. There’s one particular scene involving Jell-o that needs to be seen in a theatre full of people, if only to hear the collective gasp and subsequent avalanche of nervous laughter afterwards.
Ultimately, Preggoland is a great example of what happens when a movie puts the script first. Even if the craft of the film is somewhat generic, the story, jokes, and characters are well-rounded and memorable. Comedies may be a dime a dozen, but genuinely funny ones are rare. Preggoland made me laugh; at the end of the day, that’s good enough for me.
Turbulence is a paradox of a film that represents both why I generally avoid seeing locally made films and why I need to try to watch more of them. Soran Mardookhi shows promise with his writing and directing, despite stumbling a bit too often for Turbulence to recover. It is a film about Kurdish immigrants, touching on the politics of the Middle East, but is never defined by it. Instead, Turbulence is about broken people trying to live life the best they can after they’ve seen too much of its brokenness.
Sherzad and his daughter Jina came to Canada to escape the political upheaval and military violence back home, but life is hardly simpler in Canada. Sherzad is a retired electrical engineer who works as a translator and moonlights as an inventor, while Jina is a drug addict who can’t get her life together, no matter how much her father and the community try to help her.
While the budget and production values are obviously low, the acting from the leads makes up for it, as well as an interesting script that fosters a slower-paced reflection on things, rather than break neck action or overly talky bits. But several awkwardly edited and shot scenes, including one climactic scene near the end, serve to confuse and disconnect it from the rest of the film’s medium; Turbulence is built on a solid foundation, but the rest of it is flimsier than it should be.