Arts and Entertainment

A festival shines a light on Vashon’s film professionals

'Heart of the Game' is one of the films that will be featured in Vashon FilmAid.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Islanders will have a chance to revel in the accomplishments of Vashon’s thriving film community when a new film festival debuts this week at Vashon Theatre.

The festival — dubbed Vashon FilmAid and scheduled to take place Friday, Jan. 8, to Friday, Jan. 15 — will showcase films that have significant Vashon connections, including contributions by hometown film editors, composers, directors, producers, actors and cinematographers.

Best of all, the festival is being held for a good cause — to help Vashon Theatre recover financially from a rough year that culminated in a burglary sometime in the wee hours of Nov. 22.

A digital projector and other expensive equipment were stolen that night, and thieves also ransacked the projection booth, resulting in a need to have the theater’s 35-millimeter projector and sound system recalibrated.

But the crime also led to an outpouring of support from Islanders and sparked the idea for FilmAid.

The festival is the brainchild of Vicki Dunakin, a well-connected film producer and director who has lived on the Island since 1994.

Dunakin said she was inspired to organize the event after reading an article about the burglary in The Beachcomber.

“I thought, what have I got that could help?” Dunakin said.

Dunakin’s first idea was to host a benefit screening of her 2007 film, “Hidden Worlds: Underground Rome,” which had its television premiere on the National Geographic Channel.

“That triggered the thought, ‘There are lots of people on the Island who have films. What if we all got together?’” Dunakin explained, adding that she got the ball rolling by sending out a mass e-mail to her friends on Vashon who work in the film industry.

The response was heartening.

“Immediately I started getting e-mails back, saying, ‘Count me in.’ So it was a green light; let’s go,” Dunakin said.

Theater owner Eileen Wolcott said she’s excited about the festival and grateful for the way it came together.

“The whole thing happened so quickly,” Wolcott said. “I think Vicki Dunakin showed up at the box office not that long ago. She’s such a great professional woman, and it was amazing how quickly she was able to put something together and how many people got on board. I didn’t expect it to swing into action so quickly but it did, and it’s just miraculous.”

Wolcott added that the festival will coincide with her already scheduled presentation of “The Princess and the Frog,” a new children’s film, resulting in a week that truly offers something for everyone at the theater.

Admission to FilmAid screenings is free, but donations will be accepted at the door, and they will all be earmarked to go straight to the coffers of Vashon Theatre.

“We want to raise as much as we can, whether they need it for payroll or equipment, with no strings attached,” Dunakin said.

But Dunakin added that she hopes Islanders who can’t afford to donate will also take advantage of the free screenings.

“I hope we pack the theater every night,” she said.

Screenings will include award-winning feature films such as “Heart of the Game,” “My Winnipeg,” “Perfect Sport” and “The Business of Fancy Dancing.”

The festival will also include the local premiere of the mockumentary “The Life of Lucky Cucumber,” and a special advanced screening of the comedy “For Christ’s Sake.”

Documentaries will include “March Point,” “Eye to Eye” and “Hidden Worlds: Underground Rome.”

There will also be an evening of live action and animated short films, curated by Islander Bill Jarcho. Films will include works by Jarcho, Matha Enson, Kevin Joyce, Peter Ray, Devin Sullivan, Ela Lambin, Jim Farrell, Devi Brulé, Alex Atkins and students from Vashon High School.

And if all goes according to plan, the festival will serve as the perfect expression of Vashon’s love for the movies.

“The theater is an important part of the fabric of our community, and as filmmakers and moviegoers, it is fitting that we support them in this time of need,” Dunakin said.

Vashon FilmAid schedule

For more information about the films, visit

The Life of Lucky Cucumber (2009, 81 min., for mature audiences): This comedy/mockumentary about two aspiring filmmakers has Vashon connections, including producers Mark Sayre, Zach Mann, Anthony O’Brien, Chai Mann, Joy Mann and Zoey Mann. Plays at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan 8.

An Evening of Short Films and Animation, curated by Bill Jarcho. Plays at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9.

Heart of the Game (2005, 103 min., PG-13): This celebrated documentary about girls’ basketball has Vashon connections, including Ward Serrill (director, writer, cinematographer and producer) and Eric Frith (editor). Plays at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10.

Perfect Sport (2008, 86 min., not rated): This coming-of-age drama about a high school wrestler who must compete against his own sister has Vashon connections, including Anthony O’Brien (director, writer and producer) and producers Mark Sayre, Zach Mann and Chai Mann. Plays at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11.

March Point (2008, 58 min, appropriate for ages 12 and up): This film tells the story of three teenage boys coming of age on the Swinomish reservation. The Vashon connection is editor Eric Frith. Plays at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Hidden Worlds: Underground Rome (2007, 57 min., for all ages): This documentary follows archeologists as they find long-entombed homes, roads, sanctuaries and temples in Rome’s underworld. Vashon connections include Vicki Dunakin (producer and director), Eric Frith (editor), Andy Wiesnet (production manager) and Nick Wiesnet (production assistant).

Plays at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12.

The Business of Fancydancing (2002, 103 min., for mature audiences): Directed by Sherman Alexie, this film stars noted Native actors Gene Tagaban and Evan Adams. The Vashon connection is cinematographer and editor Holly Taylor. Plays at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13. The film will be preceded by the trailer for Islander Stephen Silha’s new film about poet James Broughton, Big Joy.

Eye to Eye (2009, 25 min., not appropriate for young children): This documentary explores ways that activists in Cameroon are heading off the extinction of the Cross River Gorilla. Islander Nick Wiesnet is the film’s cinematographer, editor and producer. Plays at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

My Winnepeg (2007, 80 min., not appropriate for children): This “docu-fantasia” is about filmmaker Guy Maddin’s hometown. The Vashon connection is soundtrack composer Jason Staczek. Plays at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

For Christ’s Sake (2009, 92 min., for mature audiences): A new comedy with Vashon connections, including director Jackson Douglas and actress Alex Borstein. Plays at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15.

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