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VIFF 2017: A meditation on Asian moms

Meditation Park (2017)
Written and Directed by Mina Shum
Starring Cheng Pei Pei, Tzi Ma, Sandra Oh

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Growing up, there was a certain stoicism to my family that I didn’t see in the households of my non-Asian friends. It’s why as an adult I enjoy seeing a different side of my mom when we joke around or share experiences that, while growing up, we maybe didn’t pursue as frequently as, say, Westerners.

Seeing a movie at the theatre is one of those experiences because, for one, while my parents may enjoy the outing, they don’t easily relate to anything you might find at your local Cineplex. So when I was checking out films for the Vancouver International Film Festival and read the synopsis for the locally filmed Meditation Park, I knew it was a movie my mom needed to see.

Written and directed by Mina Shum and starring Cheng Pei Pei, Tzi Ma and Sandra Oh, the film follows the journey of Maria, a long-settled immigrant who discovers her husband of many decades, the man she has been dutifully caring for and with which she has raised two adult children, has been having an affair.

What follows is Maria’s rediscovery of self and her pursuit of freedom. Slowly, her world opens up and she begins to see the many paths that lead to independence, whether it’s learning how to sell parking near the Pacific National Exhibition or making an unlikely friend.

Maria often hides her opinions and feelings from her husband, not out of fear but as a form of respect because that is what Chinese families do: we respect and we defer to the patriarch, no matter how frustrating it can be at times. Wives grin and bear it while their husbands fume; children clench their fists but remain quiet while their fathers lecture.

It may seem absurd to outsiders, but in Chinese culture, putting up with it is almost a form of respect and obedience. The challenge, as an immigrant in a new world, is learning to mesh your cultural values with the freedoms offered by your adopted Western home. Meditation Park highlights that experience beautifully through the eyes of someone who is beginning to realize there may be another way to “save face” but still stand up for oneself.

My mom and I went to see the film on opening night of the festival. Tickets were sold out but I told her we could take a chance in the standby line.

“There’s no guarantee we’ll get tickets, you’re OK that?”

“I’m fine with it,” she said, nodding her head and pulling up her posture, as if to prove she was fit for the job. Thankfully, a pair of strangers decided they didn’t need their tickets and were happy to share them with us.

With my mom on my 1st birthday, 1988.

When the credits rolled, I asked my mom what she thought and how she felt about the film. There are qualities in the character of Maria that I recognized in my mom, among them, the longing to be independent, to focus on herself without guilt.

My mom said she admired Maria’s bravery and boldness, and that she wished she could do the same. She remarked that, having lived in Canada for decades, Meditation Park was the first film she had seen that so clearly depicted life as a long-time Chinese immigrant in Canada. She has seen plenty of Chinese films (she was very excited to recognize Cheng Pei Pei and Tzi Ma) and has seen her share of English-language films, but Meditation Park was the first film to speak to her in a way she understood.

After the film, she wanted to meet the director and so, as a good daughter trying not to be embarrassed that my mom was so starstruck, I took her down to the theatre’s main floor to meet Ms. Shum.

Mina Shum, the writer and director of Meditation Park, is pictured on set in this handout photo.

Tapping Ms. Shum on the shoulder, I apologized for interrupting and thanked her for making the film and introduced my mom. She asked my mom what she thought and I immediately recognized the all too familiar look in my mom’s eyes.

Overwhelmed and emotional, she asked Ms. Shum if she spoke Cantonese and when Ms. Shum responded with a yes, my mom told her, in Cantonese, that the film was “very good, very enjoyable” and squeezed her clasped hands. I chimed in to say I didn’t think my mom had ever seen a movie she related with so well before.

“Our stories don’t get told very well,” said Ms. Shum empathetically.

And what a loss it is that our stories aren’t told very well or very frequently. In the case of my mom, she recognized in Maria a kindred spirit and as a result, the film validated some of the feelings I suspect she grapples with.

This is why representation in film matters, most of all. It’s so that people like my mom, whose stories are often considered “niche” and sidelined by Hollywood, can be affirmed in the spotlight, encouraged and told that they matter too.

You can see Meditation Park as a part of VIFF on Sept. 30 and Oct. 11, though both remaining screenings are currently sold out. The film opens in theatres March 9, 2018.

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General Notes

  • The dialogue is a mix of Chinese and English, with subtitles, and for anyone who is nervous about a subtitled film, don’t be. This is literally how my brain functions when I am home and visiting family: I speak to my parents in English, they respond in a garbled mix of Chinese and English. It’s a thing.
  • Maria’s confusion, anger and sadness is communicated throughout the film with a thunderous rumbling, reminiscent of the drums you might hear during a Chinese lion dance. Listen for it, it’s used so well.
  • In press materials, Sandra Oh is quoted as saying: “After I read the script for the first time I was struck by how beautiful, subtle and deep it was. Really, I feel like Mina wrote a love letter to Asian immigrant moms and I really wanted to be a part of it.”
  • There wasn’t a lot of time spent exploring the relationship between Sandra Oh and Zak Santiago’s Ava and Jonathan but the few moments they had in the film speak so loudly when contrasted with the relationship between Maria and her husband Bing (Tzi Ma).
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VANCOUVER COLLECTIVE HOUSING DOCUMENTARY RELEASED THIS MONTH

collectivehousing_coverLast fall, I wrote a story about a locally filmed documentary called Better Together, which looks at collective living as a solution to Vancouver’s housing crisis.

As most of us are aware, housing in Vancouver is not easy to come by – unless you’ve got cash to burn, don’t mind living in less-than-ideal rentals, or have all the time in the world to spend hunting down an available apartment. And if you have a pet? Good luck.

That’s where collective living comes in. Collective living is a return to community living, where people choose to live in a family setting and commit to spending quality time together. It’s not just your average roommate situation.

The documentary was pitched by local video journalist Jen Muranetz as an introduction to collective living and how it might be a viable alternative for the many folks in Vancouver searching for a home. The documentary was entered into the Storyhive competition and ended up being one of 30 finalists selected to receive a $10,000 Storyhive grant.

The documentary was released earlier this month and you can watch it below. Congrats to Jen and everyone else attached to the project!

You can read my original story about co-housing here and learn more about Jen’s documentary here.

VIFF 2016: Introverts, conspiracy theories, and love stories

Today’s the last day of the Vancouver International Film Festival, and I can happily say I am done for the year. I’ve previously only seen up to three films in a single year, but I managed to fit in five in 2016. It felt incredibly ambitious but I’m glad I did it.

Here’s a quick run-down of the films I was able to see this year.

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The Lockpicker
Directed by Randall Okita; Starring Kelgian Umi Tang

I fall somewhere in the middle on the introvert-extrovert scale, but admittedly lean closer to the extroverted end. So it can be hard for me to understand introverts though I do put effort into accommodating the introverts in my life.

The Lockpicker paints a beautiful image of what it’s like living in one’s mind, wanting or needing to retreat internally, but also desiring to engage with the world outside. Newcomer Kelgian Umi Tang stars as Hashi, who is stunned by the suicide of a close friends and as a result, is forced against his nature to explore ways to escape – and even survive – his own circumstances, beyond what he’s usually comfortable treading.

The film is dark and can be heavy, but is also filled with glimpses of light and hope when Hashi begins to see a possible way out. The Lockpicker very much locks the audience in Hashi’s mind and doesn’t let us leave until Hashi himself finds a way out.

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Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story
Directed by Daniel Raim; Starring Harold and Lillian Michelson

Harold and Lillian is most certainly “a Hollywood love story” but in many ways, it is so much more than that. The documentary follows the relationship between storyboard artist Harold and film librarian Lillian Michelson, but also takes detours (that don’t seem like detours) into each of Harold and Lillian’s own career paths.

If anything, the documentary illustrated what it looks like when two people are truly rooting for each other and back each other up. Through animated frames of milestones in their life together and greeting cards Harold has written Lillian over the years, viewers get the sense that yes, Harold and Lillian are a team, always have been, and always will be.

And Hollywood isn’t just a backdrop for Harold and Lillian’s love story; there’s the impression that it was their love that made Hollywood a little more gentle, kind, and easy to tackle in those early years. In a way, the couple’s love for each other was only matched by their love for their work and for Hollywood.

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Gimme Danger
Directed by Jim Jarmusch; Starring Jim Osterberg

Gimme Danger is helmed by Jim Jarmusch and dives into the early days of iconic rock group Iggy and the Stooges. Knowing the space that Iggy Pop (Jim Osterberg) and the Stooges now inhabit in the annals of rock, it’s fascinating to meet them as misfit, abusive teenagers, pushing themselves and each other on stage, and to fully realize that they weren’t always the revered rock pioneers they are today.

Even more jarring is to strip away what we know of them now, and to see Osterberg, not yet aged by drug use and rock and roll, as a nearly clean-cut drummer for local high school bands. To think that this well-suited, tie-wearing drummer would later bleed and writhe on stage for no reason other than to spur on his band mates’ performance can only elicit one appropriate, seemingly obvious response: “Of course. OF COURSE.”

As far as rock documentaries go, Gimme Danger offers the exact kind of nuggets fans hope for, such as Osterberg discussing how he took a hit of Mescaline and headed off with a shovel to try and squat in an abandoned house that would later become home to the Stooges’ early days. Of course. OF COURSE.

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Operation Avalanche
Directed by Matt Johnson; Starring Matt Johnson and Owen Williams

Movies about making movies hold a strange, special place between reality and fiction. Operation Avalanche, much like Matt Johnson’s previous film The Dirties, is no exception.

In 2013’s The Dirties, Johnson and Owen Williams play a pair of high school students making a film about high-school bullies. The line between what’s part of the story and what’s part of their actual filmmaking process begins to blur, and it’s at that point where audiences stop laughing and start becoming concerned for – well, we’re not sure who to be concerned for because we’re not sure if the movie in the movie has slowly become real life (in the movie).

Operation Avalanche follows the CIA’s crack audio-visual team, which has been embedded at NASA in the 1960s and tasked with staging the moon landing when it’s discovered NASA can’t do it themselves. It’s presented in much the same way The Dirties was structured; the characters don’t break the fourth wall, but more so step in and out of it fluidly. When Johnson reveals to his CIA supervisor that he’s being filmed unknowingly through a one-way window by a member of the A/V team, the audience feels like it should wave back as well.

It’s interesting to see how Johnson and his team have matured and changed in the last three years since The Dirties was released. In Operation Avalanche, Johnson is much more assured about absorbing the audience itself into the story. The film is a hell of a good time, an intelligent conspiracy theory suspense-comedy-thriller that makes you wonder what Johnson will cook up next.

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Harry Benson: Shoot First
Directed by Justin Bare and Matthew Miele; Starring Harry Benson

They teach you in journalism school not to become part of the story, in order to avoid any semblance of bias or influence. But what a joy that noted photojournalist Harry Benson is the story.

Harry Benson: Shoot First documents Benson’s many years in photography and goes into detail sharing the story behind some of the Scotsman’s most recognizable and iconic photos. The stories of his many interactions with celebrities are a joy to listen to, such as how legendary pop star Michael Jackson would often compliment Benson’s jackets and end up adopting them for his own wardrobe. Or perhaps how Benson managed to elbow out competing photographers through wit, charm, and cheekiness. (He’d hear from a subject that they hated cursing and so he’d go around telling other photographers that the subject loved cursing.)

It’s also one of the most beautifully shot documentaries I’ve seen, with camera angles many would never think to stage for a simple sit-down interview. Slideshows of Benson’s photographs paired with scene-setting music pulls the audience deeper into each image, as if we were there too when the photo was taken.

As a journalist myself, the documentary lights a fire in me, and reiterates the importance of being there, being present, and being absorbed by a story or a subject. Benson offered his subjects something more than just a camera lens, he offered himself and it’s because of those relationships and that trust that Benson has been allowed – and even invited – to document some of the world’s most famous faces and scenes.

Vancouver collective housing documentary wins Storyhive grant

It’s always nice to hear updates from people I’ve written stories about and to learn that things are going well.

I Interviewed Jen Muranetz last month about collective living. She’s a video journalist and had pitched a short documentary on collective housing to the Storyhive competition. She’s hoping the documentary will explain what co-housing is and how it might be a viable solution to Vancouver’s housing crisis.

Those who are skeptical would do well to hear her out. After spending a couple of hours interviewing Jen and her housemates at their home – affectionately called the Lounge – I was starting to think maybe I’d be ready to move in too. Even if it’s not for you, it’s a very interesting lifestyle and one that was fascinating to learn about.

Anyway. I received an email from Jen today, letting me know her project, titled Better Together, was one of 30 finalists who had been selected to receive a $10,000 Storyhive grant. Congratulations and I look forward to checking out the documentary when it’s completed.

You can read my original story about co-housing here and learn more about Jen’s documentary here.

Getting answers about short films

What if… Just what if you could have the answer to any question that has ever crossed your mind? Would you ask?

I recently wrote about the Crazy 8s Film Festival, taking place here in Vancouver. (You can read that story here.) The assignment opened my eyes to the possibilities and challenges of short films. Similar to what I do as a tabloid reporter, short films force filmmakers to tell their story without frills, without the luxury of length and time. You’re really tasked with picking out the most important aspects of what it is you want to communicate.

Back to my introduction. While discussing the Crazy 8s Film Festival recently, I was introduced to The Answers, a short film starring Daniel Lissing and Rose McIvor, and directed by Michael Goode. It explores that idea of what we’d do and how we’d respond if we had definitive answers for all of life’s most pressing questions. What would you ask? Would you want to know? It’s interesting to note what questions get asked in the film’s eight-minute duration. I suspect it’s not too far off from what most of us would wonder.

Watch the film below.

Come back, baby.

If you’re a musician or a fan of music at all, you know one of the worst things ever is having your gear stolen. Not only is music gear expensive to replace but a lot of musicians develop a special bond with their gear, finetuning it to no end to get that perfect sound.

My friend Graham Madden (of Vancouver, B.C. band Tough Lovers) is missing his pedalboard. It was last seen after their most recent show Nov. 17 at the Media Club. The band took a two-week break before their next practice and that was when they discovered the pedalboard was missing. It had been loaded into the car following the show but seems like it never made it back to the band’s apartment where the rest of the gear was unloaded. It’s uncertain where or when it would’ve been lost in the mix or if it was lifted from the car during load-out.

If you happen to hear of anything or come across something that sounds similar to this on Craigslist or from other folks, please contact him on Twitter at @g_madden or by email. You can also leave a comment on this post. Thanks.

Here’s his message that was posted to Facebook:
“Musician friends: My pedalboard was stolen.
If you have any info on the contents, please let me know ASAP.
The pedals from right to left are:

-Boss TU-2 Tuner
-Jetter Dual Overdrive
-Boss OS-2 Overdrive/Distortion
-Boss DD-3 Delay
-Boss FL-3 Flanger
The pedal board was covered in recognizable burgundy fabric surrounding the pedals.
If you see it anywhere, please let me know.”

Tough Lovers – “Colours”
Exits EP; Released Feb. 4, 2011.

First Listen: Modern Romantics

Adaline's 'Modern Romantics' is due Nov. 1, 2011 on Light Organ Records. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

The first time I heard Shawna Beesley — known to most as Adaline — play “That’s What You Do Best” was at a piano recital at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver, B.C. The stage was covered in candles and in the center, a baby grand piano and a girl who just loved those black and white keys.

At that point, the song was a sultry, simple, flirtatious theme. I remember the way she introduced the song, laughing into the microphone, bantering playfully with her friends and audience. The song was bare and basic, living only on her deep, throaty vocals, accompanied by the classical twirl of its Spanish melody.

That’s What You Do Best

Now, it’s the lead off Adaline’s sophomore album, Modern Romantics. “That’s What You Do Best” is no longer the simple tune it once was — it’s been worked up to a multi-layered, driving, insane theme of passion, full of chaos and disorder, thrown about by the battered arms of lovers. Like the other songs on the album, there’s the same characteristic voice but it’s now surrounded by the textured and varied layers of skilled production and electronic elements — a sign of Adaline’s audio evoution.

Modern Romantics

The album due on Nov. 1 has been a long time coming since Adaline’s debut album, Famous For Fire, was released in 2008. Graduating from sweeping ballads to electrifying pop haunts, there’s almost a seasoned playfulness on Adaline’s latest effort that somehow wasn’t there before. But while the songs veer into a strange, unfamiliar, yet comfortable direction, Adaline’s lyrics are still very much the same voice listeners have grown to love.

“That’s what I think I was attracted to from the get-go: Somebody who can write a lyric – which again, I can’t stress enough — is just not common, y’know? People who have an elegance with language,” said Canadian quirk-rock artist Hawksley Workman who, along with Marten Tromm and Tino Zolfo, produced Modern Romantics in Toronto, Canada.

Adaline on the set of her new music video for "The Noise," directed by JP Poliquin at Pinewood Toronto Studios. (VANESSA HEINS PHOTO)

Sparks

While Adaline’s last album was very much a journey of sorts, her second album is broken down into different pieces of the same puzzle. Famous For Fire, as gorgeous as it was, couldn’t be fully appreciated in just one song. The 2008 release required a full end-to-end listening before the beauty in every detail shone through.

Modern Romantics, however, boasts more immediate satisfaction with each song carrying its own weight. The album definitely lends itself more easily to radio play and while some may critique that quality, it’s something highly sought after in a world full of disposible pop songs. With this latest offering, Adaline’s proven that she’s not just raw talent but that she can also harness that skill into mastering even the trickiest of pop formulas.

For a preview of Adaline’s Modern Romantics, visit her website at www.adalinemusic.com. Be sure to catch Adaline on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at the Biltmore where she’ll be hosting her Vancouver album release party for Modern Romantics. Tickets are $14.74 (includes service fees) and are available on Ticket Web. Trust me. You won’t want to miss this one.

Featured photo by Vanessa Heins; graphic design by Justin Broadbent.

Full Disclosure: I worked as an intern with Adaline for a brief time in 2009. Take this review with a grain of salt — I’m a bit biased since she’s one of my favourite Vancouver (now Toronto) artists.

Review: Next to Normal

There’s a stigma around mental health that’s been poked and prodded in recent weeks here in Vancouver.

Former Canucks player Rick Rypien was one of three NHL players to die this off-season in the midst of mental health struggles. The VPD recently released its second report detailing how police officers become defacto health workers when dealing with the DTES’s mentally ill. It’s a huge deal and it receives media attention but for some reason, we still don’t really know how to approach mental health issues in our every day lives.

Performed On Stage

The set for the Arts Club's production of Next to Normal was designed by Ted Roberts. (GOOGLE PHOTO)

I saw the Arts Club Theatre’s production of Next to Normal earlier tonight at Vancouver’s Stanley Theatre. The musical, fresh off a hit Broadway run, three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, details how mental health issues have gripped a seemingly “normal” suburban family and how they choose to deal with it.

Diana (played by the wonderfully talented Caitriona Murphy) is a mother of two whose fractures are slowly starting to creep up into her marriage. Dan (Warren Kimmel) is her devoted husband who lovingly learns to work with her sporadic and wild swings of emotion. Gabe and Natalie (Eric Morin and Jennie Neumann) are their two children, emotionally distanced from each other as if they’d never met. The rock musical is composed by Tom Kitt and the book is by Brian Yorkey.

Illustrated Through Music

Though its format is a musical and mental health is a serious issue, the two concepts meld seamlessly, thanks to Kitt and Yorkey’s careful interpolation of each character’s voice. The music is wildly enthusiastic, an illustration of the mental states of each character at various points of the story. Voices constantly drop in and out of the main theme of each song, often with overlapping and competing lines.

Although there are points where the stress of the demanding vocals begins to peek through, it bears repeating that these actors perform the show eight times a week and have no understudies to rely on. All things considered, I’d still argue that the music is probably one of the more catching qualities of the production, subtly driving home points about how mental health affects us without us realizing, how it drives us in different directions.

 Private Struggle

Each character fights their own private struggle that runs parallel to the family’s main conflict — Diana is slowly becoming more and more unhinged as she bounces between treatment options. (It’s hilariously outlined in a sing-song grocery list of medication followed by, “These are a few of my favourite things.”) It’s not until part way through the first half of the play when we realize there’s something deeper and darker than just being chemically imbalanced.

Diana’s pain draws on emotional depths that are exposed in violent and frightening ways. The story does this by spending a fair amount of time examining how Diana’s actions have affected her 16-year-old daughter Natalie. As we watch Natalie meet a boy and develop a relationship, we begin to fear that history will repeat itself as we watch her spiral into a similar pattern as her mother — each of their flaws are reflected in the other.

Promotional poster for the Arts Club's production of Next to Normal. (ARTS CLUB PHOTO)

Feeling Everything

Without giving away too much of the plot or sharing my own personal history, the musical is rightly sold as “the feel-everything musical” — I felt it all. Thought its subject is dark, there are moments of hilarious clarity that give the audience hope throughout. Although my real-life situation is vastly differently from the story on stage, I could feel myself becoming attached to the struggles Natalie experienced when dealing with her mother.

While many films, plays, musicals, productions are predictable and follow format, Next to Normal presented so many different opportunities to its characters. I was never really sure whether Diana would survive the insanity presented at the beginning of the story but by the end, you become so attached to the characters that you can’t help but support their decisions and feel as though things will be okay. The story, characters and the issues discussed draw in the audience and force us to examine how a family falls apart and attempts to put itself back together again.

Next to Normal plays until Oct. 9, 2011. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at an Arts Club Theatre box office, by phone at 604-687-1644 or online at www.artsclub.com. I highly, highly recommend you check it out if you’ve got the chance.

Featured Photo: Eric Morin, Jennie Neumann, Caitriona Murphy and Warren Kimmel star in the Arts Club’s Next to Normal. (DAVID COOPER PHOTO)

Feature: Live@YVR

Last week, I was assigned to spend 24 hours at YVR with Jaeger Mah, winner of the airport’s Live@YVR contest. Sure, it sounds a little ridiculous to think spending a whole day at the airport constitutes news but it’s one of those rare assignments that are just plain fun for the heck of it. Plus, news isn’t always politics and crime — sometimes, it’s just sharing something with readers that they don’t get to experience themselves.

For the majority of my 24 hours, I hung out with Jaeger and his childhood friend Dallas, running around the airport, filming different people, places and plain ol’ cool things to do at YVR. I even got to hang out in the cockpit of an Airbus A330. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done that. We saw the ins and outs of the airport, a lot of cool things going on that the public generally doesn’t get to see.

Anyway, Jaeger invited me to be in his video and I reluctantly agreed — I’m not exactly a broadcast kind of girl. Strangely enough, I enjoyed it even though I didn’t appear on camera once the whole year I was in journalism school. I usually stuck to being behind the camera. The video’s been posted and it’s a pretty fun clip. You can check it out below.

Now, a couple quick answers to some questions I’ve fielded. I’m sure Jaeger will appreciate these…

Is the guy legit?
Yes, Jaeger is legit. He’s funny, outgoing, carries himself well, is very comfortable on camera and just likes to kick back and grab a beer. A lot of people saw his original entry video and thought that he was a little too self-promoting and was trying a little too hard to sell himself. The point many miss is that the entire contest was about finding the right person to be YVR’s storyteller.

When Jaeger and I sat down for our interview, I asked him about this and he admits that the video is definitely a video resume of sorts. The thing people need to realize, however, is that Jaeger didn’t put on a persona when he appeared in his entry video. The friendly, very relaxed guy that you see is very much the same Jaeger in real life. You might wonder if I’m falling under the same spell Patrick Fugit experienced in Almost Famous. I thought maybe I was too. After all, Jaeger is quite charming — it’s how he won this contest. Later, I cracked a joke and his friend Dallas said, “You can come party with us in Port Alberni anyday.” Humour crosses boundaries and barriers and we connected over that. The fact that my type of humour seemed to be their kind of humour showed that we were operating on a different level than just the typical “media” relationship.

Did I ask Jaeger any uncomfortable questions? Some. Did we crack jokes that were “off the record?” A little. But the thing about balancing your relationships in this business is that you need to know where to draw the line. I didn’t give Jaeger any reason to mistrust me and he didn’t try to sell me any crap. It’s about straight-shootin’. I don’t doubt that having his good friend around at the same time probably helped him to feel more relaxed than if it had just been me and a him — a reporter and her interview subject.

While some of you still don’t believe me and are still convinced Jaeger probably tried to sell me a good story, you should know that he’s also wary himself. During our time together, he mentioned that his favourite people at the airport asked nothing of him, unlike others who try to slip in here and there a small detail they hope Jaeger will promote via the Live@YVR project.

Isn’t this just a promotional tool for the airport?
Yes and no. The goal of the project was to celebrate YVR’s 80th anniversary and to tell the world about all the great things YVR has to offer. That’s PR speak for promoting the airport so yes, in a way, it’s really just a promotional tactic to sell the airport. However, it’s not something the communications team is shy about. Spokeswoman Rebecca Catley told me the team loves the airport so why wouldn’t they want to show it off to the world? If businesses benefit from that, then that’s great too. The great thing is that from this one PR tactic, a whole slew of stories and an entire community has emerged to welcome the world’s prying eyes.

There are certain assignments that are arranged for Jaeger to cover (i.e. exploring the bag hall to see where your luggage goes, introducing Air China’s new businesses class cabins) and some are quite obviously promotional in nature. But through these assignments, Jaeger’s been able to dig up little stories here and there, details that give the airport character and flavour.

The night I was on assignment, Jaeger was assigned to cover Air China’s new business class cabins. While doing his interviews, he began to chat with David Solloway, Air China’s senior advisor Canada, about a ton of other things. Solloway’s whole family is in aviation, a long legacy of pilots and airline professionals. I didn’t catch the whole story but Jaeger is hoping to go back and share more of Solloway’s story. Catley, the YVR spokeswoman I mentioned earlier, shared a story with me about how her dad is able to recognize a plane’s engine just by the distant sound of rumbling. It’s histories like these that Jaeger’s been trying to share with the world.

So whether you think living at the airport for 80 days is weird, cool or just a corporate sales tactic, don’t shun Jaeger because of it. He’s a cool guy with some big dreams and an interesting way of sharing stories. I highly recommend you follow his blog over the second half of his YVR residency and see what else there is to explore at YVR.

Here’s a couple of my favourite shots from the 24-hour adventure.


Jaeger Mah looks out the window of his Fairmont YVR hotel room. Photo by Stephanie Ip.


Jaeger Mah sits in the cockpit of an Airbus A330. Photo by Stephanie Ip.


Jaeger Mah chats with Air China’s senior advisor Canada David Solloway about
the brand new business class cabins on an Airbus A330. Photo by Stephanie Ip.


Jaeger Mah steals a quick bite to eat in between shooting segments for CNN. Photo by Stephanie Ip.

Featured Photo: I caught a quick catnap in the terminal while on my 24-hour assignment. Photo by, yes, me.

Feature: VIFF 2011

The Vancouver International Film Festival happens every fall, beginning in late September and running through mid October. This year, the festival kicks off September 29 and wraps up on October 14. Like any other film festival, the selection is vast and is a great chance to check out something other than the average box office Hollywood blockbuster.

First Outing

My first experience with VIFF happened in 2006 when the Pixies’ documentary loudQUIETloud was playing. I bought a ticket and remember standing in a line-up in the rain. outside the theatre on Granville Street. Not a lot of my friends at the time liked or knew who the Pixies were so I ended up going by myself. I don’t know what it was but maybe it was my inner desire to be an old soul that made me feel comfortable standing among the crowd of late twenty and thirty-something year olds. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it and decided VIFF needed to be a regular thing in my life.

Last Year

In 2010, I saw Xavier Dolan’s Les amours imaginaires. I arrived late and ended up taking a seat over to the side. The view itself wasn’t that bad but because I was late, I was stuck sitting behind someone — which obstructed my view of the subtitles. I speak French but it’s been awhile and I’m rusty so every scenes, I had to crane my neck to check and see if I had gotten the meaning right on a couple lines of dialogue. You can read my review of that film here.

Coming Up

This year, I’ll be seeing two films. The first is Happy, Happy, a Norwegian film directed by Anne Sewitzky and starring Agnes Kittelsen, Joachim Rafaelsen, Maibritt Saerens and Henrik Rafaelsen. It’s a comedy about two couples and what happens when they begin comparing their lives and wondering about the greener grass on the other side of the fence. The fact that the film takes place during Christmas doesn’t hurt either. If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for holiday films.

The second is Like Crazy, a film about a British student who falls in love while studying in America but is then sent back to the UK. The storyline sounded really cliche when I first heard of the film, which stars Anton Yelchin, but after I watched the trailer a couple times, I started to appreciate the conflict and the difficulties the characters are faced with. Who knows? Maybe I’ll watch and still be severely disappointed but I guess we’ll find out.

There’s a couple of other films I’m thinking of checking out but in the mean time, keep posted for my reviews of those two films later in October. I highly recommend you take a look through the film guide and see if anything catches your eye. There’s a film for everyone in pretty much any language you want, in any genre you’d like.