After a week of controversy over the film Donkey Love, Okanagan Film Festival organizers are still without a venue to screen films.
Landmark Cinemas will not host the three-day festival planned for this weekend because the one documentary in the program, Donkey Love, examines how bestiality plays a role in Colombian culture.
“I don’t have to buy her clothes. I don’t have to buy her shoes,” says one of the Colombians featured in the film’s teaser as he explains why he’s opted for donkey sex over the love of a fellow human being.
This perspective has not been received well in Kelowna, or many other communities around the world. The references to bestiality have trumped the film’s underlying inquisitive, if humorous, tone and generated reams of media coverage.
Nevertheless, this week a group of unnamed students at UBC Okanagan fought to ensure the show would go on—though to no avail.
On Tuesday, they toured festival organizer Jeremy Heynen around two possible theatre locations on campus with an eye to developing a by-invitation-only event before Friday.
“It will make things more intimate,” said Heynen. “So it might be like the filmmakers, our guests and then ‘by invitation’ to (others to) keep the censors off our backs.”
But by Wednesday evening, UBCO confirmed it had received a formal request for space and had declined the application as the institution did not have enough time to set up the backdrop to help.
“Due to the short notice, the Okanagan Film Festival’s request to use the ADM 026 Theatre…has not been granted, as it does not allow sufficient time to arrange the campus support services including security, facilities, custodial and parking staff,” said a statement released at 5 p.m.
As such, 30 other filmmakers are currently set to arrive to an event without a venue, unless Heynen can find a solution.
“I believe that the people who see these films are going to go out and brag about them and when there’s a demand, we’ll set up a public screening,” Heynen said in interview as he held out hope he would still find a space.
OFF derailed last week when the list of films to be shown was released and media noticed Donkey Love in the lineup.
Though the fledgling festival had received very little coverage leading up to the event, Donkey Love has been a flashpoint for controversy in other jurisdictions and it did not take long to raise eyebrows and generate calls to local talk radio.
Heynen says he has been in constant contact with the filmmakers in the days since and believes they are of two minds.
On one hand, the discussion generated by the film accomplishes exactly what any good documentary should strive for; but on the other, it is getting very difficult for them to constantly defend, he said.
And at this point, Heynen is very concerned that the one documentary’s reputation will usurp his entire event.
“What these filmmakers are able to do in five to 10 minutes moves and affects and just leads you to think for yourself, and yet, all of this gets brushed aside,” he said.
For the record, Heynen says he normally can’t stand documentaries because they push a perspective. This one kept him riveted, made him ask questions, but didn’t leave him with an answer.
“I honestly think it’s one of the best documentaries we had submitted,” he said.