Kinga Binkowska may not be new to the Victoria Film Festival, but she is new to her role as head programmer.
In fact, having a head programmer whose name isn’t Donovan Aikman is a rather new concept for the festival, considering Aikman has spent the past 20-odd years of the festival’s now 26-year history in the role. And a new head programmer can make a real difference.
“Everyone in general has a different approach, different tastes, which is quite important,” said Binkowska, who was promoted from a communications role at the festival. “Being with the festival for two years before helped me learn our audience and see what they like, but also see how they can be challenged … because we are into pushing boundaries and expanding horizons.”
The Festival kicks off Feb. 7 with the Opening Gala at The Vic Theatre and runs through Feb. 16 at various screens around the city.
Binkowska’s tastes have been largely formed by a deep background in film and an international career working in the world of film festivals. Born in Poland, educated in France, employed in Switzerland, Binkowska eventually made the move to Canada four years ago, first to Ontario and then to Victoria. One could also say that film is in her blood, as her parents met on a Polish film set and Binkowska grew up watching the European masters.
“Because my parents let me watch them and encouraged me to watch films and explore it from such a young age, it made me very sensitive and aware of film as an art form. So I have to say ‘thanks, Mom and Dad.’”
Festival Director Kathy Kay said it’s good for the festival to shake things up and she is happy to see what Binkowska brings.
“Just having a new perspective is great to add to the festival,” said Kay. “I think you kind of get entrenched; you know what you like, you know what you’re looking for … Kinga doesn’t have that, she’s more interested in focusing on a broader range of films.”
To help make the festival as diverse as possible, Binkowska is aided by a team of programmers from around the world, who help to ensure the best work from a wide range of voices is included. This includes a programmer for Indigenous films, a Spanish language programmer, programmers for films from Asia, the Middle East, the UK and others.
Together, they whittle down over 1,000 possible titles to the 80 features (a record number for VFF) and handful of short films that actually make it to festival screens.
|Bill Nighy will be part of a special In Conversation event on stage at the Vic Theatre on Feb. 8 following the screening of his new film Hope Gap, in which he co-stars with Annette Bening. Courtesy Victoria Film Festival|
In combination with the films, the festival offers a variety of special events, including:
• Opening Gala (Feb. 7) – This dress-to-the-nines event starts with a screening of La Belle Époque at The Vic and a party up the block, where you’ll find food, dancing, cocktails and other local beverages.
• In Conversation with Bill Nighy (Feb. 8) – The beloved British character actor of Love Actually and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fame will be on stage with CTV’s Richard Crouse at The Vic following a screening of his new film Hope Gap. That first screening of the film is sold out (it also shows Feb. 16), but seats remained for the post-film chat on its own at the time of writing.
• Sips’n’ Cinema (Feb. 15) – The screening of Filippo Meneghetti-directed film Two of Us at the Vic Theatre isfollowed by a “deep-dive” social mixer/chat event afterward at The Mint.
• Sizzle X (Feb. 14) – This naughty Valentine’s Day erotica soiree hosted by Missie Peters features a spanking booth, burlesque, dirty dancing and more!
• Vic Stories – A brand-new interactive fiction project, this collaborative project can be accessed at vicstories.ca. It includes fictionalized stories based on themes found in festival films, and gives readers the ability to author their own stories from sites around downtown!
Tickets and more information for all films and special events, including the full program guide, can be found at victoriafilmfestival.com.