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North Van cosmic comedy Grand Unified Theory hits Canadian film week

Film by local filmmaker and Capilano University instructor David Ray—shot on the North Shore with local cast and crew—screens Thursday.

In the comedy Grand Unified Theory, North Vancouver actor Scott Bellis — known for his work with the Bard on the Beach festival — portrays an astrophysics professor whose family life unravels unexpectedly over a single weekend. The film screens Thursday 8 p.m. at Vancity Theatre, followed by a Q&A with director, cast and UBC astrophysicist Jaymie Matthews.

Contributed/Jeff Topham

In the comedy Grand Unified Theory, North Vancouver actor Scott Bellis — known for his work with the Bard on the Beach festival — portrays an astrophysics professor whose family life unravels unexpectedly over a single weekend. The film screens Thursday 8 p.m. at Vancity Theatre, followed by a Q&A with director, cast and UBC astrophysicist Jaymie Matthews.

“I always think that a change in life is accompanied by a proportional amount of turbulence,” muses a character in North Vancouver filmmaker David Ray’s latest comedy, Grand Unified Theory, which is being screened Thursday evening as part of Canadian Film Week at the Vancity Theatre.

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The comedy centers on a brilliant astrophysics professor — played by Scott Bellis — whose family life unravels unexpectedly over a single weekend, viewed through the lens of some of his cosmic theories.

Ray, who teaches motion picture arts at Capilano University, filmed the entire feature on the North Shore with a local cast and crew. In fact, he even shot many scenes in his parents’ North Vancouver home, where he grew up.

He produced, wrote and directed the film, in which he sought life-lessons in the realm of astrophysics, and to remind viewers that even geniuses can miss what’s right in front of them, in their own lives.

“It was inspired by all these wild and wonderful way to see the universe,” Ray, 49, told Metro in a phone interview. “And saw (astrophysics) as a really unique lens to help explore human behaviour.

“We often explain it with religion or psychology, but we don’t often examine what we’re made of.”

The opening quote of the film is from late scientist Carl Sagan, whose own science fiction book Contact was adapted into a successful film that takes a more serious approach to such questions: “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”

University of British Columbia physics and astronomy professor Jaymie Matthews helped “backstop” some of the scientific ideas in Grand Unified Theory, Ray revealed.

“This is not a documentary about science,” Matthews quipped in a UBC statement, “but a story about the uncertain science of human relationships, when a family is turned upside down. It’s funny and poignant.”

Matthews also helped Ray out with extras from his actual UBC classes. But ultimately, the film is more about the hilarious events that can complicate family life, than it is about the scientific theories of its protagonist.

“This guy would be a certifiable genius, but the fact of the matter is that he’s in the darkness like the rest of us,” Ray said. “I wanted to just have fun with the characters.

“It’s about one weekend in their life where everything goes wrong. The theory behind the movie is that everybody knows something, everybody has a piece of the puzzle, but you can only make sense of it from different perspectives.”

Starring Bellis — a founding member of Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival — and Kendall Cross, the film earned an Audience Award for Most Popular Canadian Film after its Canadian premiere at the Whistler Film Festival.

The Vancouver International Film Festival chose Grand Unified Theory as one of its showcased movies to celebrate Canadian Film Week.

Ray, UBC's Matthews, Bellis and other cast members will screen the film Thursday and take audience questions afterwards on Thursday 8 p.m. at Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour St.). For tickets or more information visit www.viff.org.

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