It may provide a veritable smorgasbord of international cinematic offerings, but this year, the Vancouver International Film Festival is also going big on B.C.

With two cash prizes adding up to $17,500, the new BC Spotlight and awards series aim to support the roots of creative talent on the festival's doorstep.

"After the rallying cry of the 'Save BC Film' movement, I really thought that this was the year for VIFF to showcase the local creative industries and our commitment to them," Jacqueline Dupuis, executive director of VIFF explains.

Dupuis says she was trying to work out how to help local filmmakers extend the life cycle of their films: "The conceit was a kind of online marketing engine that would help them build a broader fan base and allow them to be more successful going forward into theatrical screenings."

After talking to industry members, potential sponsors and festival stakeholders, what emerged was a dedicated festival section—the BC Spotlight—with two jury prizes, one for the best B.C. film screened at VIFF and another for the most promising emerging B.C. director selected for this year's festival. A B.C. industry party will help promote networking and collaboration.

The possibilities of social media have also been harnessed with a #mustseeBC campaign, which offers audience members the chance to preview trailers of the 12 BC Spotlight films, win tickets for gala screenings and vote for their choice of "must-see" film. The audience winning title will be given a special red carpet festival screening.

Dupuis is quick to note that this initiative was never about selling tickets to B.C. films: "That was never a concern," she says. "People come out gangbusters for local films, with friends, family, cast and crew..."

What it is, she insists, is a way to support local talent who often find themselves at the mercy of film festival rules and distributor pecadillos.

"Film festivals exist to make sure as many people as is humanly possible see as many films as possible, Canadian films included," she enthuses.

The problem, she says, is when Canadian festivals insist they will only screen a Canadian film if they can present it as a national premiere, as the Whistler Film Festival does, for example.

"But who loses out? The filmmakers and the audience, the two groups we need to win in that equation," Dupuis notes.

Likewise, distributors who choose one Canadian festival over another, for whatever reason, hamper a film's chances, Dupuis asserts.

"Yes, it's important for a film to get into TIFF," she says. "But it's also important that they are shown across the country, in as many festivals, and to as wide an audience as possible."

Now in her second year of working at the 32-year-old VIFF, Dupuis has done some digging into where it sits within the Canadian film industry. Locally, she acknowledges, there are some bridges to be built—some groups have taken a "wait and see" approach about this push to support B.C. film.

But in broader terms, she says VIFF has every reason to be proud of its efforts: "We have the largest Canadian film program in the world," she says.

"Since inception, VIFF has showcased over 1000 Canadian feature films and 1500 short films to an audience of over 600,000."

See the line up for this year's Must See B.C.:

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  • 3 Days In Havana

    In Havana on business, Jack Petty (Gil Bellows, who directs with Tony Pantages) finds himself mixed up in a conspiracy that includes assassination, kidnapping and more.

  • Cinemanovels

    Curating a retrospective of her late father's films, Grace embarks on a journey, but one without a clear destination. Directed by Terry Miles ("A Night For Dying Tigers", "When Life Was Good"), "Cinemanovels" is dedicated to the memory of Vancouver critic Ian Caddell.

  • The Dick Knost Show

    Tom Scholte plays a sports shock jock whose career looks set to implode over an inappropriate spat on Twitter in director Bruce Sweeney's latest.

  • From Neurons To Nirvana: The Great Medicines

    Oilver Hockenhull's documentary looks at how the classification of pychedelic drugs as Class A has limited the possibilities of science, medicine and consciousness.

  • Hue: A Matter Of Colour

    Veteran Canadian director Vic Sarin returns to VIFF with a documentary about identity, ethnicity and the bigotry and shame associated with skin colour.

  • Lawrence & Holloman

    Adapted from the play by Morris Panych, Matthew Kowalchuk's screen version (and his feature-length directorial debut) presents itself as part satire, part absurdist fable on the modern day rat race.

  • Leap 4 Your Life

    SFU grad Taylor Hill, wrote, produced and stars in this mockumentary about a teen dance group billed as "Step Up" with more bite. Not bad for a 23-year-old.

  • Oil Sands Karaoke

    Charles Wilkinson made the thought-provoking documentary "Peace Out" that screened at the Vancity Theatre earlier this year. Here, he continues to focus on environmental issues by turning his gaze to the tensions at play in Fort McMurray.

  • Salmon Confidential

    Anyone with even a passing interest in B.C.'s wild salmon stocks has heard of Alexandra Morton. Anyone with even a passing interest in democracy, science and food security will want to see Twyla Roscovich's damning documentary about how all three are under threat in B.C.

  • That Burning Feeling

    The directorial debut of award-winning producer Jason James stars Paul Costanzo as high flier Adam Murphy, whose life takes an unexpected turn when he gets.. that burning feeling.

  • Chi

    Anne Wheeler's documentary follows much-loved Canadian actress Babz Chula as she journeys to Kerala in an attempt to stave off the cancer eating away at her. On returning home to face an unstoppable disease, Chula invites Wheeler to document her story to the end.

  • Down River

    Benjamin Ratner's second feature was inspired by the loss of his friend and mentor Babz Chula. A film about companionship, inspiration and finding your own way in life, "Down River" is this year's Canadian Images gala screening at VIFF.



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