Interview with David Aboussafy, Co-Founder and Co-Director Vancouver Badass Film Festival

The VBASFF Celebrates new genre films from local and emerging filmmakers. The fest has horror (lots!!!) noir, superheroes, dark comedy, gore, naughtiness and so much more!

I recently sat down with David Aboussafy to talk more about the festival: 

Matthew Toffolo: What is the Badass Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

David Aboussafy: The Badass Festival breaks down walls, and champions the best in new extreme cinema. Our festival provides emerging and extreme filmmakers a venue to screen their films and to connect with fans, other filmmakers, industry, media, funders and distributors, bringing attention and audiences to compelling original work in style and content. Badass 2015 was a completely sold out showcase of new extreme film with a focus on emerging filmmakers. One Badass 2015 short film El Gigante subsequently went on to win numerous awards around the world and, along with another Badass 2015 short, The Promise/ AlphaMem, are being developed into feature films. Another Badass 2015 film, Swingers Anonymous went on to Cannes and a fully funded feature film for the film’s director. Fans and investors who engaged with filmmakers at Badass 2015 and have helped fund filmmakers’ current projects. In addition, some currently active filmmaking teams met and formed at Badass 2015.

The Second Annual Vancouver Badass Film Festival (Badass 2016), continues to celebrates the new, the different, the shocking, the memorable and upsetting in style and content. Why extreme cinema? We champion unsettling films because they don’t pander to us – their style and subject matter challenge us. To embrace them is to engage something worth hanging onto. The different, the disturbing, can establish their own authority. While the audience for truly bold filmmaking might start small, the extreme may be what endures while the run of the mill are forgotten. Badass films also of course have a premium on straight up attention-grabbing fun and visceral excitement.

The Vancouver Badass Film Festival philosophy is one of breaking down barriers between fans and filmmakers, and between filmmakers, collaborators, funders and distributors. Badass 2016 will have a significantly expanded program including the premieres of select features and shorts programs split into local and international sections with juried awards and a gala. Badass 2016 will include Luchagore Productions new film Madre de Dios, Gautier Casaneuve’s House of VHS from France, Izzy Lee’s Innsmouth and Postpartum from the US. Evening feature premiere’s include Mexico’s Atroz from writer/director Lex Ortega, and Canada’s The Evil in Us from writer/director Jason William Lee and Sandcastle Productions.

Matthew: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival?

David: To paraphrase a tagline from one of our favorite Vancouver theatres, they would get a festival experience they can’t download, and one that is much more entertaining and interactive than the usual staid film festival. They will get exposure to a diverse range of great, compelling new films in a carnival-like atmosphere thick with enthusiastic fans, as well as accessible filmmakers and genre film performers. Badass 2016 is hosted by hugely entertaining and unique performers who themselves alone would be well worth the price of admission. Tristan Risk, Samantha Mack and Mister Nickel are the festival MCs, ringleading events such as a twisted Oscar-style awards gala, gonzo film discussions, red carpet photos, post screening Q & As, and some awesome surprises. Special guests speakers include Director Gigi Saul Guerrero and key cast and crew from The Evil in Us, as well as some high profile speakers were are not able to announce in advance. Badass 2016 home VIFF/Vancity Theatre is also fully licensed and you can bring alcoholic drinks with you to your seat.

Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

David: Badass films are new films produced or released in 2015 or later, that meet our definition of extreme or unsafe cinema (which can encompass the avant-garde as well as genres such as horror, noir, SF/fantasy, and wild action); in short, exciting films that are highly original in content and/or style (preferably both), from anywhere in the world. No boring-to-look-at, safe, sappy rom-coms or earnest predictable dramas, please.

Matthew: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

David: Yes, certainly at both a funding and large festival level, the traditional funding agencies in Canada have long favoured a type of very safe, predictable film making (often from the same filmmakers). As a result, the big festivals they sponsor and fill with their films tend to be rather dull and uninspiring. This conservatism and caution also typifies most films funded and produced in the vertically integrated and risk-aversive studio system. Even the older independent film festivals have been trending toward safer and safer content, leaving more extreme new films out in the cold, and geniuses like the Soska sisters and Gigi Saul Guerrero on the outside looking in.

Matthew: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

David: The Badass festival was formed to fill the gap left by the traditional festivals, and to meet the needs of new, original extreme filmmakers, which includes giving them and their fans a place to party their asses off together in a celebratory environment. We want to create a festival that supports, encourages and showcases the most exciting new films and filmmakers. In addition, we want to provide fans of such films and performers a truly exciting and engaging festival experience. In the crowdfunding era, fan engagement can be funder engagement, and we at Badass are also motivated to foster innovation and collaboration between filmmakers, producers, fans, funders and distributors.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

David: In our first year, the Vancouver Badass Film Festival was a short film festival. In this our second year, we have grown to include, feature film premieres, new sponsors and events, and have greatly expanded our short film program.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

David: We at Badass are big fans of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, a multi-week genre film festival with a lively distribution and co-production market. We have set a very ambitious goal of eventually developing Badass into something like that. However, it’s still relatively early days for us; in the next four years we would like to continue to grow with respect to programming, sponsors, and fan and filmmaker engagement, with a longer and even more engaging festival. By 2020, if that sales and distribution method is still viable, we would like to host an international genre film and co-production market to coincide with the festival. Additionally, we would also like the Vancouver Badass Film Festival to be on the vanguard of new approaches as funding, production, distribution and sales models continue to rapidly change.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

David: As a child, I saw Star Wars many, many times. This past year, I have seen Mad Max: Fury Road three times in the theatre, and I would see it again right now.

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

David: A great film is one you can’t look away from, shows you something new, and one that you can’t forget.

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city?

David: Vancouver is home of the third largest television and film industry in North America, with a multitude of experienced professional crew and an abundance of acting talent. Vancouver is also the home of a very vibrant independent and genre film community, with many active gifted filmmakers, as well as supportive venues such as the Rio Theatre, and the VIFF/Vancity Theatre.



Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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