Contemplating the conclusion of another successful edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival (Viff), Alan Franey, the festival's director since 1988, is a happy man.
Once again, paid admissions to the 300-plus films screened - among them She's A Boy I Knew, winner of the Vancity People's Choice Award for Most Popular Canadian Film, and Up The Yangtze, which took the NFB Best Canadian Documentary award - will push past the 150,000 mark. The more than 300 guests will leave stimulated and contented, and the Viff, now in its 26th year, will have fulfilled its "cultural mandate", as Franey puts it, to bring new international voices to this gorgeous Canadian city on the Pacific coast.
Viff is probably best known for its 'Dragons and Tigers' section, which concentrates on new art films from East Asia. Since Vancouver's population of just over 2 million includes 500,000 people of East Asian descent, it is just natural, says Franey, for the festival to accommodate this important segment of the community.
Franey emphatically refuses to court Hollywood stars, does not miss featuring big budget films and completely eschews the glitz and glamour that so many festivals seem to feel they need.
"We're a non-profit organisation," he points out, "and our legal mandate specifically states that our primary tasks are to increase understanding of other countries and cultures and to promote Canadian cinema and art film."
Nor has Franey ever felt the need for a market, especially since the festival begins every year with a prestigious film and television forum that highlights industry problems and opportunities. Recent sessions, for example, have been concerned with co-productions with China.
He also contends that it has never been a problem that his festival, following a mere couple of weeks after Toronto, inevitably stands in the shadow of that international colossus. He points out that, for one thing, the two cities are further apart than London and Cairo, with vastly different cultures. "We're also naturally directed more toward the Pacific Rim than Toronto is," he adds.
The annual budget for the film festival, the film and television forum, and the year-round film centre is $3.6m (can$3.5m). Some $1m comes from box-office receipts, another $500,000 from federal and provincial government funding, and the rest from 300 corporate sponsors, running from Visa to "the guy that supplies the bagels" in the hospitality suite.
It is in the hospitality suite, which hosts a reception every evening, where media and film-makers can meet and talk informally about films over a glass of British Columbian wine.
"We bring in about 300 guests every year," says Franey, "and we want to keep it there to preserve the intimacy and to avoid the inevitable social stratification. Our thrill comes in breaking down boundaries and forming a community."