VANCOUVER – Instead of just watching highlight reels, fans in the 2010 Olympic host city are currently enjoying a hockey film festival.
The Vancouver International Film Centre (VIFC) has organized a series entitled “Hockey Nights in Film”. Running from March 9 to 20 at the Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour St.), it brings together 11 feature films and documentaries about Canada's national sport. Most are Canadian-made, but there are also German and American contributions.
“Hockey Nights in Film” is part of the annual Cultural Olympiad, which showcases Canadian and international cultures in a variety of mediums (movies, visual art, dance, music etc.) in the lead-up to the 2010 Olympics.
Mark Peranson, who until recently served as the VIFC's programming coordinator, explained the inspiration for the series: “Hockey is the most popular sport in Canada, bar none, and obviously the most popular sport for Canadians at the Olympics. It's something people can relate to without too much prodding, even in an art-house context. There are lots of films about hockey, so I thought of putting together a broad mix of them.”
The diverse roster includes everything from the bawdy 1977 classic Slap Shot with Paul Newman and the 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme thriller Sudden Death to the 2000 documentary Home Game, which takes a close-up look at Germany’s Eisbären Berlin and their fans, and 2008's Junior, which examines a year in the life of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
“One theme that struck me in an academic vein is that when you look at hockey films, the subject matter is always treated somehow in the context of masculinity,” Peranson said. “The sport is a very manly sport. But in another movie we're showing, Yves Simoneau's Perfectly Normal, we juxtapose the masculinity of hockey with a situation where it encounters a more feminine side of the spectrum. It involves hockey players who get involved with opera.”
Some of the films are quite rarely screened in public. For instance, 1993's Gross Misconduct, a made-for-CBC retelling of the tragic life of ex-Toronto Maple Leaf Brian “Spinner” Spencer, will receive a free screening on March 19. Despite being made by award-winning director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), CBC has controlled Gross Misconduct's rights quite tightly, according to Peranson, and part of VIFC's deal to show the movie required it being a freebie.
The only obstacle to success for “Hockey Nights in Film”? Some nights, screenings go head-to-head with Vancouver Canucks games. And in this hockey-mad city, where GM Place has been sold out for some 250 consecutive home games, that means fans have to make some tough decisions.