The Victoria Film Festival is celebrating 25 years of bringing independent filmmaking to the big screen.

“It’s pretty wonderful that the community has accepted this festival and helped make it grow into what it is today,” explained festival director Kathy Kay.

Kay, who has been part of the multi-day festival for 22 years, recalls the days when they had a much smaller audience.

“It’s really grown from about 300 to more than 26,000 people attending the festival,” Kay said.

VFF is now one of the largest film festivals in the country.

Over the years, the event has drawn big names like actors Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Cory Bowles (Trailer Park Boys).

Kay says the success of the festival comes down to film selection.

“I think we pick well and we pick broadly,” Kay explained.

The festival showcases an array of independent cinema from around the world.

More than 1,000 filmmakers submitted their work to this year’s festival, but only 156 films made the cut.

For the first time, the festival is presenting four feature-length films made by Canadian Indigenous filmmakers which are all directed by women.

“We shot [the film] in our community on my reserve in Northern Ontario,” said Darlene Naponse, director of the Canadian drama film, Falls Around Her. “Having that community and First Nations perspective is so important.”

Also making a comeback as part of this year’s programming is the indie-hit, Smoke Signals. 

The film was originally screened at the festival in 1998 after showing at Sundance and is now part of the U.S. National Film Registry.

“There’s really something for everyone,” Kay said.

The Victoria Film Festival runs from February 1 to February 10.

A full schedule of screening times and venues can be found here. 

Ceilidh Millar