Entertainment Local

Summer festivals make Vancouver the perfect stay-home destination

By Zoe Grams

Free CeCe will be featured as part of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. (Submitted Photo)

Free CeCe will be featured as part of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. (Submitted Photo)

Think of summer festivals and you likely associate the phrase with wristbands, glamping, and music stages against a backdrop of stunning British Columbia scenery.

This August, Vancouver acts as a venue for multiple festivals that offer an even greater sense of revelry and possibility, not to mention the opportunity delve further into this multicultural, multifaceted city we call home. Here are some upcoming highlights.

The Drum Is Calling, July 22 to July 30

This powerful, immersive festival of Indigenous arts kicked off last weekend with performances from revered Indigenous artists such as Buffy Sainte-Marie, William Prince and Crystal Shawanda. Other celebrated artists will continue will headline each evening: Tanya Tagaq will perform her inimitable work on Monday night and spoken word artist Shane Koyzcan helps to close the festival on Sunday evening. In between, from 1 p.m. until late, programming includes cultural presentations; workshops such as cedar bracelet weavings; literary talks and readings; and the inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week. The fact that audiences can enjoy every event for free is remarkable; the sheer quantity of talented creators sharing their work and stories over eight days even more so. More info at www.canada150plus.ca.

Vancouver Bach Festival, August 1 to 11

The work of Johann Sebastian Bach is prolific. Whether you have a favourite cantata or simply listen to the occasional music, it’s almost impossible not to encounter his work in media today. Early Music Vancouver’s Bach Festival celebrates one of the world’s greatest composers — with a twist. Each of the 14 concerts will share his music as it was intended when first written, whether by using only instruments available during Bach’s own lifetime or changing the style of singing to better reflect the times. Highlights will include Overtures to Bach – featuring new introductions to the Cello Suites by the likes of Philip Glass and David Sanford; a visit from Switzerland’s acclaimed vocal ensemble Gli Angele Genève; and a climactic finale with the monumental St. John Passion. More info at www.earlymusic.bc.ca

Powell Street Festival, August 5 and 6

This will be the 41st year that Powell Street has filled Oppenheimer Park with music, performances, art, and food that celebrate Japanese Canadian culture. Programming highlights include Jodaiko: a collective of some of the country’s finest female taiko artists performing an often male-dominated tradition; George and Noriko — a duo whose original combination of guitar and shamisen (a three-string Japanese instrument) has earned them a reputation as some of the most original bluegrass performers on the scene; and a conversation about the Japanese internment and its impact on Japanese Canadian artists, featuring beloved Vancouver author, Joy Kogawa. More info at www.powellstreetfestival.com.

Monsoon Festival of Performing Arts, August 6 to 13

When the rains descend across India during monsoon season, artistic celebrations raise spirits and celebrate this powerful natural phenomenon. Now in its second year, the Monsoon Arts Festival pays tribute to the season, despite the blue skies of Vancouver itself. The program includes an acclaimed autobiographical comedy, “Burq Off!”, sharing the tension playwright Nadia Manzoor felt between a conservative Muslim upbringing and boundary-pushing set of friends. Meanwhile, locally produced Indian musical dance drama, “Malavika”, and a curated collection of theatre readings and workshops, work to increase awareness of South Asian theatre and theatre artists in the Lower Mainland. More info at www.monsoonartsfest.ca

Vancouver Queer Film Festival, August 10 to 20

The 24 films curated for this year’s Queer Film Festival are an intricate range of genres, styles, and topics selected by cultural phenoms and Co-Artistic Directors, Amber Dawn and Anoushka Ratnarajah. The ten-day festival opens with “I Dream In Another Language”, a timely Mexican drama depicting a young student documenting the disappearance of an Indigenous language, which won at Sundance Film Festival this year. Others include “Fathers”, a romantic drama about two young men raising their adopted son despite deep-rooted social and legal barriers in Thailand; “Taxi Stories”— heralded as ‘the most ambitious, nuanced film of the Festival’; and “Free CeCe”: a documentary exploring Chrishaun Reed “CeCe” McDonald’s incarceration in a man’s prison after fighting an assailant in self-defense, and the continued battle that she—and other trans people—embark on, given long-standing legal and social violence. More info at www.queerfilmfestival.ca.

Chinatown Festival, August 12 and 13

A sensory overload in the best possible way, Chinatown Festival brings more than 50,000 revelers to the narrow streets of historic Chinatown, between Columbia and Keefer, for afternoons of multicultural celebrations. Those wishing to deepen their knowledge of the area’s history can do so with walking tours leaving regularly throughout the weekend. Others can eat their way to celebratory bliss with food from one of the dozens of stalls in the day market—perhaps saving room for the watermelon eating contest which caps the weekend on Sunday evening. More info at vancouver-chinatown.com.