The annual festival returns from November 4 to 14, 2021 as a hybrid event combining in-person and online programs for the first time
VAFF25 will feature four days of live events from November 4-7, followed by digital streams of more films from November 8-13. November 14 will be the last day with one final live program and the festival’s closing awards ceremony.
This year marks VAFF’s 25th anniversary with what promises to be an enthralling experience driven by an abundance of films across numerous genres, celebrating the talent and creativity of emerging and established Asian Canadian and Asian American writers, producers, and directors.
And what better way to observe the festival’s silver jubilee than by going all out with an expanded calendar of screenings over 11 days and counting. The extensive line-up of films that VAFF is presenting this year will be announced in full during the week of October 4, 2021.
The theme of this year’s VAFF is “Past, Present & Possibilities,” as we reflect on the festival’s illustrious achievements in these 25 years, celebrate how far we’ve come in elevating the profile of Asian Canadians in cinema, and look to the future with a mission to keep spreading a message of inclusivity and help take Asian filmmaking to new heights. To this end, the theme of “Past, Present & Possibilities” is at the essence of VAFF25’s “Feel the Vibe-Asian” campaign. Featuring a multitude of Asian Canadian talent, “Feel the Vibe-Asian” carries a message of originality, boldness, and vitality, with a spirit of poise and grace.
Meet our first VAFF25 ambassador: Canadian actor Curtis Lum.
Curtis Lum is an actor and producer born in Vancouver, BC. He has established himself as an up and comer to watch, recurring in a variety of different roles on several major American networks. Named one of Canada’s Rising Stars by The Hollywood Reporter in 2018, he earned recognition for his work in Prison Break, Supergirl, and is currently starring on FreeForm’s hit show Siren. Lum and his team recently snagged multiple awards at the 2021 Mighty Asian Moviemaking Marathon, notably winning Best Performance Award: Short Category for the film Reverse.
VAFF’s Alexis Ocampo recently sat down with Lum to chat with him about his career, being Asian Canadian in the film industry, and the significance of VAFF.
VAFF: Taking it back to the beginning – was there a pivotal moment or event that inspired you to start acting?
Curtis Lum: I remember being a kid and stumbling upon the Romeo Must Die set, and just seeing the energy of the set and how cool it looked. On top of that, I remember sneaking into Kraft Services and [stealing] a donut. I’ll never forget it, but a PA told me I could have it. And I said “what?” and he said “yeah, we get all this food for free.” And I said, “you guys get free food?” And it was a combination of that and the aura of this really cool-looking set that planted this seed that this might be something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
VAFF: Being Asian-Canadian, how has your ethnicity informed your career?
Curtis Lum: I’ve been constantly reminded that I need to keep working harder, and keep on sharpening my tools and expanding my creativity. Which I’m not mad at at all – it’s a blessing in disguise. I’m very proud of being Asian-Canadian and am so excited to see our community on such a rocket ship to this… uprising we’re seeing in Hollywood, and I’m very grateful to be part of it. It’s a constant reminder that as far as we’ve come, we’ve still got so much further to go in terms of representation and authentic Asian-Canadian storytelling.
VAFF: What was an acting experience or producing experience, even, that you grew the most from?
Curtis Lum: I was working on a show called Siren with a director named Joe Menendez, and we were working on this difficult scene together. And he did something for me that really opened my eyes to creativity and collaboration. He ultimately allowed me to fail. He told me to just try a bunch of things, and if we don’t like it we don’t use it. And whichever idea works the best will go in. And I remember that really opening my eyes to how collaboration should be, and how fun it can be, and how trying things doesn’t need to be so scary all the time. He taught me that failure is such an important part of growth and expansion to creativity. Since then, that changed a lot for me and my creative process.
I’ve also worked on a show where I did multiple episodes and I had no idea what my character was doing. I didn’t know if my character was a good or bad guy. I didn’t know what I was saying – no one on set would give me any kind of information. And so I went with a choice and hoped to God that it worked. I’m pretty sure that I was wrong in that choice – but I made a vow to myself that I’d never again be in that moment where I would be so lost with a character. I just assumed that I didn’t have power in the situation and didn’t want to bug too many people [or] ask too many questions and come off stupid. And ultimately I think it was my performance that suffered.
VAFF: With the rise of AAPI hate, how have you responded or how has that influenced your work and the way you think about work?
Curtis Lum: It’s been a really tough year for a lot of us. Honestly, for me, it’s not anything new in terms of what I saw, or what I’ve heard has happened, and what I’ve experienced in the last year. Now that it’s under a giant microscope, I think we’re seeing a lot more of it and hearing it constantly, and it takes its toll. It reminded me that I can only do what I can do in terms of [being] the change that I want to see, and leading by example. One of the things I did is start a clothing line called Rare Spirit. We were supposed to launch this summer, but with everything going on with the AAPI community, I wanted to put my money where my mouth is, and help create change by creating a T-Shirt campaign to raise awareness for Anti-[Asian] hate sentiments, as well as put the money back to these grassroots organizations that were doing really great work for our communities. Two of the charities we worked with were Elimin8hate here in Vancouver, and Hate is a Virus based in California. We raised over 2,000 dollars that went towards them, made a lot of noise, and created a lot of great conversations about people who wanted to learn more about the Asian-American experience.
VAFF: What does VAFF symbolize to you?
Curtis Lum: VAFF, to me, symbolizes two important landmarks in my life. One being Vancouver, my hometown – I’m born and raised here, a lot of my friends and family are here, and I love the city dearly. I’ve done a lot of things for the sake of the city, [raising up] our [Asian-Canadian] community, and being able to compete with the big cities around North America. But it also represents the community that I’m so blessed and excited to be a part of. To see the growth and love that’s being poured back into the community right now, and to see the talent and incredible work that’s coming out of our own backyard – there’s no telling what’s in store in the future. The sky’s the limit right now. And so, both of those things combined together into what is VAFF – for a platform to shine a light on two of the biggest elements of my life – it means everything to me.
Follow Curtis at https://www.instagram.com/hansumlum
Stay tuned as we introduce our second VAFF25 ambassador next week, in addition to more announcements about the upcoming festival and details of our different ticket categories and packages in the coming weeks.
Visual concept: created by Gillian Lo, Creative Director
Content Marketing Director: Walid Elatrache
Producer: Regina Leung
Marketing: Alexis Ocampo, Isha Jain
BTS Video: Hannah Lee
Photographer: Good Side Photo – Ryan Wagner
Creative Retouching: Cake Imagery – Kevin Lanthier
Hair: Suki’s Salons – Ken Takagi and Hideno
Makeup Artist: Iya Yujuico
Curits Lum wardrobe by The Rare Spirit