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Will the Vancouver International Film Festival look different this year due to the SAG-AFTRA strike?

The festival returns Sept. 28.
Vancouver International FIlm Festival (VIFF) returns to theatres in Vancouver on Sept. 28, 2023, but will the event look different this year because of the writers' and actors' union strikes in the U.S.?

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) returns on Sept. 28 with over a week's worth of film premieres and events, but with the stars of the screen and scripts on strike, will the festival be the same this year? 

The 11-day event will fill local theatres with around 140 full-length features, 100 shorts, and a bunch of extra events like VIFF Live and VIFF Talks. 

Despite a jam-packed schedule, there are seven very exciting things to look forward to at VIFF

How will the SAG-AFTRA strike impact VIFF?

Luckily, none of the films set to feature at VIFF this year were pulled due to the strike, says VIFF’s Director of Programming Curtis Woloschuk. It's the festival's industry programming that has been hit the most. 

Woloschuk tells V.I.A. that VIFF "would have liked to have seen some top tier U.S. based screenwriters" at Industry Days and other talks. "It's not the year to do it this year, but it does give us a chance to focus on some of the filmmakers and people who are making work within the Canadian creative ecosystem." 

He adds that American talent that has a dual role as writer and director can still participate at the festival and speak to their work as a director.

When one door closes, another opens, and for VIFF that door is the opportunity to shed light on other critical roles in the movie industry that aren't involved in acting, writing, or directing. 

This year, attendees can meet the people who helped make Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. They're the set designers, set decorators, and production designers who help bring movies to life.

"I think it's a nice opportunity for us to celebrate those folks who play really critical roles in realizing the vision of directors," says Woloschuk. "There are a lot of people in Vancouver who work in those realms like production design and costume design," he adds, noting that it's a way to recognize the efforts of these roles. 

Will there be any celebrities on the VIFF red carpet?

One of the things attendees can typically look forward to at a film festival is a star-studded red carpet. 

The strike has impacted celebrity attendance at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) but not so much at VIFF. 

In fact, VIFF has never been red carpet-focused like TIFF, Woloschuk points out. Rather, the Vancouver festival focuses more on creators than celebrities, with an emphasis on diversity in the film lineup.

"There are 70 countries represented in this year's lineup, and the U.S. is only one of those. Last year, less than 10 per cent of our films were originating from the U.S.," says Woloschuk. "It's really a matter of ensuring that we're representing the overall lineup."

Despite a smaller U.S. presence, there will be many European, Asian, and Canadian directors at the festival. 

"We certainly understand the impacts of the strike and respect the battle for pay equity that's going on. There is still an opportunity to celebrate this kind of tremendous wealth of work that's been done in the past year," says Woloschuk.