Canadian film picks at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival

A scene from the BC-shot Suck It Up.

While the Toronto International Film Festival premieres many of the high-profile, Oscar-baiting Hollywood releases, the Vancouver International Film Festival has carved a niche for itself by emphasizing Canadian and foreign releases. This year’s Canadian slate includes feature films and documentaries in the True North program as well as films by emerging filmmakers in the Future//Present series. Here’s a look at a few of the more notable Canadian releases screening at the fest, which runs Sept. 28-Oct 13 at various theatres in town.

Meditation Park—Vancouver director Mina Shum (Double Happiness) returns to her favourite theme—immigrant experience in Canada—in this, her fourth feature. In it, Maria (Cheng Pei Pei) has been a dutiful housewife to her workaholic husband (Tzi Ma). But when she learns he’s having an affair, everything changes. She’s aided and abetted by her daughter (returning Shum favourite Sandra Oh). Vancouver, especially Chinatown, also plays a part. Meditation Park is the fest’s Opening Night Gala Film.

A scene from Mina Shum’s Meditation Park.

Suck It Up—”A buddy-comedy wrapped in a British Columbia road trip, Suck It Up figures out how to find the humor in emotionally distressing situations that might elude any less determined characters than the film’s two protagonists. Gently amusing while avoiding needless sentimentality, Jordan Canning’s deft feature could find a limited following on the art house circuit or any number of streaming services.”—The Hollywood Reporter. It’s the second feature from Canning, following 2014’s We Were Wolves.

You’re Soaking in It—Scott Harper documents the shift in advertising from creative leaps and psychological profiling to precise, targeted surveillance rooted in complicated algorithms. The filmmaker interviews movers and shakers in the industry, including the guy who invented the pop-up add. He’s very sorry, apparently.

Still Night, Still Light—Sophie Goyette’s drama moves between three characters and three locations. Eliane, haunted by the death of her parents, leaves her Montreal home to teach piano in Mexico City. Her student’s father Romes is coping with midlife disappointment. Lastly, Pablo’s father harbours memories of a lost love. “Framed by Léna Mill-Reuillard’s gauzy and wistful cinematography, Goyette’s storytelling craft and ingenuity transcends generations, cultures and language, resulting in a debut that is nothing less than a complete and singular vision from a rising talent.”—Screen Anarchy

Still Night, Still Light.

Shut Up and Say Something—Melanie Woods’ documentary looks at Vancouver-based spoken word artist Shane Koyczan. The film screens at the BC Spotlight Awards Gala on Saturday, Oct. 7.

The Green Fog– A San Francisco Fantasia—Winnipeg-based filmmaker Guy Maddin, in collaboration with brothers Evan and Galen Johnson, pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo in this collage-based film. Drawing on images from classics, ’50s noir, documentary and experimental films, and ’70s prime-time TV to create a “parallel-universe version” (Maddin’s words) of the Hitchcock classic. The Green Fog is a special VIFF LIVE presentation at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Sunday, Oct. 10, where it will be screened along with a live performance of the soundtrack by Kronos Quartet.

A still from The Green Fog, Guy Maddin’s tribute to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

For more info on the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, visit viff.org.

Everything you need to know about visiting Oktoberfest

The Munich Oktoberfest justly lays claim to being the world’s largest folk festival (yes, it’s not just about drinking beer). Over the past decade it has attracted an average of around six million visitors a year, who between them consume almost seven million litres of beer and munch their way through thousands of grilled sausages, chickens, giant pretzels and – for those really wanting to soak it all up – wild oxen.

The festival, which spans just over two weeks, is held annually in a meadow just outside Munich’s city centre. In addition to eating, drinking and dancing, visitors can enjoy colourful parades, a variety of fairground rides, and for those not themselves in traditional Bavarian gear, admire those that are.

Traditional dress is pretty much obligatory

Traditional dress is pretty much obligatoryCredit:GETTY

Its fame and popularity mean that Oktoberfest is a huge crowd-puller and as a rule accommodation and transport have to be booked well in advance. That said, it is still possible to plan a trip at short notice. Here’s a guide to how Oktoberfest started, what exactly it entails and how best to plan a visit.

Prosit!

When does Oktoberfest take place?

Although the festival concludes in October, most of it takes place in September. This year’s dates are Saturday September 16 – Tuesday October 3.

There will be music and parades

There will be music and paradesCredit:GETTY

How did it start?

The original Oktoberfest in October 1810 was held in honour of the wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. For five full days, the burghers of Munich were invited to eat, drink and be merry, and enjoy parades involving kettle drums and music, shooting displays and a horse race around a meadow on the edge of town. Such a good time was had by all that it was decided to stage the race (and the accompanying indulgences) every year. There has been the occasional pause in proceedings (usually at times of war), but this year will mark the 184th time Oktoberfest is held.

Where is it held?

The main Oktoberfest is held on the original meadow, named, in honour of Ludwig’s bride, the Theresienwiese (shortened to the “Wiesn”), a short tram ride from the centre of Munich.

The grand parade

The opening day of the festival is marked by a colourful parade of carriages, floats and people in a variety of costumes winding its way through the streets of Munich. The Costume und Riflemen’s Procession takes place on the first Sunday of Oktoberfest; a week later there’s the open-air big band concert. For a full programme follow this link.

Is it really held in tents?

The structure erected to keep Ludwig and Therese out of the sun in 1810 may well have been a tent, but the vast ones used today are much more solid affairs with colourful façades, long wooden tables and benches, and frequently on more than one level. Some can hold up to 10,000 visitors.

There is a variety of fairground rides to enjoy

There is a variety of fairground rides to enjoyCredit:CHRISTOF STACHE/GETTY

What’s the best time to go?

General hours are 10.00am to 10.30pm (from 9am on Saturdays and Sundays). It is pretty packed at weekends; many locals prefer to pop in during the week. For full timings follow this link.

Do I have to dress up?

Lederhosen for men and Dirndl (a traditional Bavarian dress with full skirt, apron and tight bodice) for women are compulsory. Not really (we wish!). But it’s nice to see so many Bavarians – and foreigners – making the effort. If you want to join in, there are several shops in town specialising in such gear.

The Hofbräu tent is one of the boozier corners

The Hofbräu tent is one of the boozier cornersCredit:2015 Awakening/Awakening

Isn’t it full of drunken Australians and Brits?

No. While there is undoubtedly an Antipodean contingent and indeed plenty of Britons, most tend to be found at the Hofbräu tent. The overwhelming majority of visitors are from Bavaria itself (about 70 per cent), or other parts of Germany (15 per cent).

So which tent should I aim for?

To get a more rounded feel of the event, try some of the other tents (there are 14 in total), such as the Hackerbräu (decked out in Bavarian blue and white) and the Winzerer Fähndl (complete with beer garden). The Augustiner Festhalle is more moderately paced and popular with families, particularly on Tuesdays. The largest tent is the 10,000-seater Schottenhamel, where the first beer of the season is poured to rapturous applause and cheering. The smallest is the Glöckle Wirt, has room for just 98 people, and its walls are lined with traditional instruments, cooking utensils and paintings.

One song you will for sure come across is “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit” – “A toast to cheer and good times”. It is extraordinary how even the most reticent of German speakers manage to master this one….

Be sure to try a giant pretzel

Be sure to try a giant pretzelCredit:2015 Getty Images/Philipp Guelland

Do I need to book a place in a tent?

It is advisable, particularly at the more popular ones – and best to apply to them directly. Failing that turn up in good time and stake a claim at one of the unclaimed wooden benches to be found in most of them. Book ahead using this website.

Beer necessities

The only beer served comes from Munich breweries such as the Augustiner, Paulaner and Spaten. The most popular variation is the lager-like Helles. And there are no half measures: beer is served in one-litre glasses (ein Maß), several of which are typically carried at one time by buxom barmaids. The cost of a beer? Brace yourselves because the cheapest beer this year will be €10.60 (£9.34) per litre. The most expensive is likely to set you back €10.95 (£9.64 per litre). A bit steep admittedly, and not helped by the decline in value of the pound against the euro. On the plus side a) it tastes great and b) you don’t need too many. If you want to pace yourself, ask for a Radler (beer with lemonade).

And to soak it up?

Typically, half a roasted chicken with a giant-sized pretzel. Additionally, Bratwurst (sausages), knuckles of pork, freshly smoked fish and lots of colourful gingerbread creations. The really hungry may like to head to the Ochsenbraterei, where they can enjoy ox roasted on a spit.

While many tourists make the trip, the majority of visitors are Bavarian

While many tourists make the trip, the majority of visitors are BavarianCredit:2015 Getty Images/Johannes Simon

What if I don’t like beer?

If you don’t like drinking beer, Oktoberfest is probably not for you (especially with water costing around €8.73 per litre). That said, the Weinzelt (wine tent) is where you can choose from more than 15 different wines (and there are some excellent ones in Germany, especially from Franconia) in addition to different types of Sekt (sparkling wine) and champagne. Bodo’s Cafe is where you can find all manner of cakes and pastries (including strudel) to go with your coffee or, if it’s that time of day, cocktail.

Is there anything apart from eating and drinking?

Believe it or not, Oktoberfest is also aimed at families – with lots of fairground attractions. These include spectacular rides such as the “Höllenblitz” (“Lightning from Hell”), the “Skyfall”, the “Teufelsrad” (“Devil’s Wheel”) or, for those seeking something gentler, the “Krinoline” (an old-fashioned merry-go-round). There are also candyfloss stalls and shooting galleries.

Extra security (not pictured) has been drafted in this year

Extra security (not pictured) has been drafted in this yearCredit:2015 Getty Images/Johannes Simon

Most tents offer traditional Bavarian music (accompanying thigh-slapping is voluntary) while those seeking traditional Bavarian folk dance should make for the Herzkasperl tent. Live band entertainment is offered at Bodo’s (see above), while a variety of shows are staged at the Puppet Theater. Munich itself has a welter of attractions – first-rate museums and galleries, a beautiful town hall, a skyline full of spires and domes, great shopping and nightlife, the beautiful Englischer Garten – and, of course, in Bayern Munich, the legendary football club.

Sprechen Sie Bayerisch?

Bavarian (or Bayerisch) is a language all unto itself. But here are a couple of terms you might find useful: O’zapft is! (“It is tapped” – the phrase uttered by Munich’s mayor to mark the opening of the first beer barrel and the commencement of the drinking), Oans–zwoa-drei-gsuffa (“One, two, three, bottoms up!”) and I mog di (“I like/love you”). For more see oktoberfest.de/en/lexikon

What’s new for Oktoberfest 2017?

New rides this year include the “Drifting Coaster” (with swinging gondolas), the “Voodoo Jumper”, the “XXL Racer” and the “Jules Vernes Tower”. Don’t fancy any of those after a litre or two? The “Märchenlandexpress” is a gentler ride through fairytale land.

Is it going to be safe?

In the light of terrorist-inspired attacks in Europe, including Germany, over the past couple of years, security has been tightened. Fencing surrounding the main site has been strengthened and security checks increased. Backpacks and bags with a volume of more than three litres are not longer allowed on the festival grounds.

How to get there

British Airways flies to Munich from Heathrow – and easyJet serves the city from Edinburgh, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Manchester. Lufthansa offers connections from Birmingham, Heathrow and Manchester, and Eurowings operates from both Edinburgh and Stansted. Good flight comparison websites include momondo.co.uk, skyscanner.net, kayak.co.uk and travelsupermarket.com.

For a guide to some of the best hotels in Munich (and availability), click here; alternatively, try the accommodation website airbnb.com for options to stay in private houses over the festival period.

Packages

Fred Holidays (0808 274 5685; fredholidays.co.uk) offers packages to Munich, though availability over the Oktoberfest period is always tight, particularly over weekends. Other firms worth checking include Top Deck (0845 257 5212; topdeck.travel), Contiki (0808 281 1120; contiki.com) and First Festival Travel (0207 471 6417; firstfestivaltravel.com).

Further information

For more information, oktoberfest.eu is the festival’s official website (click on ‘International’ top right for English language version), complete with handy Wiesn map. Another useful site is oktoberfest.info, source of a welter of information on activities surrounding the period, how best to enjoy it and key numbers to call should you need help. There is a useful Oktoberfest app.

More general pointers are provided by the German National Tourist Office (germany.travel) and Munich Tourist Office (muenchen-tourist.de).

Vancouver Cheese and Meat Festival Returns September 30

vancouver cheese and meat festival 2017

Image courtesy of the Vancouver Cheese & Meat Festival | Facebook.com

Meat and cheese go together like bread and butter (which, also tastes good with meat and cheese), so it just seems right to have a festival devoted to the perfect pairing. The second annual Vancouver Cheese and Meat festival is approaching quickly and tickets were quick to sell out.

However, there is a rumour that some extra passes will be made available to those on the waitlist for evening tickets. Additionally, if you post on the Event Facebook page, there’s a good chance that people may be willing to sell their tickets if they’re no longer able to go to the actual event. If all else fails, you can start planning your trip back to Vancouver for the 2018 Cheese & Meat Festival!

This year, The Cheese and Meat Festival will be hosted in Vancouver on September 30 at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre in Yaletown (181 Roundhouse Mews).

The festival will feature local and international cheeses and meats with an assortment of condiments, including pickles, nuts, bread, and more. Guests will also be able to enjoy the meaty and cheesy delicacies paired with a variety of beverages, including wine, beer, and cider.

Vancouver Cheese & Meat Festival

Image courtesy of the Vancouver Cheese & Meat Festival | Facebook.com

Aside from the extensive cheese and charcuterie, there will also be desserts and coffee available at the end of the event.

The vendor list for the event includes:

  • She Devil Delights (Hellish Relish)
  • ARC Iberico Imports (Iberico Ham)
  • Hoyne Brewing Co (Beer)
  • Blue Heron Creamery (Innovative dairy free “cheese”)
  • Two Rivers Specialty Meats (Various charcuterie)
  • Hanes Hummus
  • Sheringham Distillery (Gin / Vodka)
  • Barrelhouse Brine (Pickled vegetables)
  • and many more…

The full list of vendors is available on the Cheese & Meat Festival website.

The Cheese and Meat Festival also takes place in Victoria, and recently launched its first event in Seattle. To keep an eye on ticket sales, visit the Facebook event page.

Vancouver Cheese & Meat Festival Quick Details

  • Date: Saturday, September 30, 2017
  • Time: Afternoon tasting session (3pm), evening tasting session (7pm)
  • Location: Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre in Yaletown (181 Roundhouse Mews)
  • Admission: $55+ for tickets, but currently sold out – sign up for the waitlist for a chance to buy extra tickets released closer to the event.
  • Websitewww.cheeseandmeatfestival.com/vancouver

AT#575 – Travel to Albania

Travel to Albania - What to do and see in this little known but beautiful country (Podcast)

Hear about travel to Albania as the Amateur Traveler talks to Dina Rabiner about her visit to the country where she originally went as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Dina says, “My first introduction to Albania was when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was part of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers to be in the country and that was in 1992, right when Albania was emerging from a period of not communism but Stalinism.” Dina was just back this year, with her family.

“Albania is a beautiful country. It’s a very small country and a lot of people equate it to the size of Maryland, but it’s just chalk full of natural beauty, of history (both its more recent communist history but also the history from Turkish occupation, from the Byzantine era). There are artifacts from all of those times.”

“You can travel the whole country within a week or a week and a half as we did and see a real range of natural beauty, of history. And the people are just incredibly welcoming as well.” Dina backs up her claims about a welcoming people with a family who just about gave them the clothes off their own back when they needed help.

Dina starts us in the capital of Tirana where she directs us to the main mosque, the market, and the House of Leaves museum which tells the darker history of the communist era.

She takes us to Krujë and then up to Valbona in the Accursed Mountains for a day hike. She continues through Durrës and Gjirokastër to the historic town of Apollonia, its ruins and its Iso-polyphonic folk singing.

We also talk about the UNESCO sites at Butrint and Berat as well as where to find a nice beach on the Adriatic or Ionian coast. This is after all a country that shares a coastline with Croatia and Montenegro.

Although Albania may not be on your list of places to go, but perhaps it should be.

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Show Notes

Albania

Albania

Enver Hoxha

Tirana

House of Leaves (Shtepia e Gjetheve)

Bunk Art

National Historical Museum (Albania)

Pazari i Ri

Et’hem Bey Mosque

Mother Teresa

Krujë

Skanderbeg

Prokletije (Accursed Mountains)

Valbona – Catherine Bohne is an American who went on vacation to Albania 9 years ago and never came back. She also prints small hiking maps.

Durrës

Gjirokastër

Ismail Kadare

Apollonia (Illyria)

Museum of Apollonia

Albanian iso-polyphony

Albanian Folk Iso-polyphony video

Mrizi i Zanave – Agritourism

Butrint

Berat

Albarent Rental cars

Albania Trip Planning

Community

Jack wrote:

Hi Chris — Really enjoyed that episode, having been to the Yukon three times. But your host neglected to mention the infamous ritual of the Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City! More than 100,000 folks of all ages and from all over the world have done the drink with an actual mummified human toe in it, since 1973. Google it! ( I saw it but declined.) Anyway, thanks for all your podcasts, and keep them coming…I have listened to every one!

Best regards, Jack

Travel to the Lofoten Islands of Norway – Episode 572

Randy wrote:

I always enjoy the podcast but I especially enjoyed this episode of a car trip exploring the Lofoten Islands of northern Norway. I listened while viewing the accompanying photos in the advanced iTunes version and followed along on the journey with an online interactive map of the area. I certainly would love to do this trip someday. My only time in Norway was a few days in Oslo. The buildings of this region remind me of those I’ve seen in Greenland and Iceland. Great episode! Thanks to guest David Nikel for sharing and Chris our beloved and hard-working host.

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November 2017 – India Amateur Traveler Trip

Travel to Albania - What to do and see in this little known but beautiful country (Podcast)

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