The Curse of Willow Song

Altered States | True North | BC Spotlight | ALT

Having served her time for arson, Willow Song (Valerie Tian) is now fending for herself on the unforgiving streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. There, she’s asked to contend with the squalid condition of her SRO, a sketchy bestie (Ingrid Nilson), her ongoing struggle to stay clean, constant harassment in her workplace and festering resentment towards Asian-Canadians. With the fates seemingly conspiring against her, she’s thrown a lifeline by a figure from her past (Elfina Luk). As Willow holes up in an abandoned warehouse, her latent psychokinetic abilities manifest and an uncanny transformation commences.

In a somewhat perverse paraphrasing of one of Leonard Cohen’s most famous lyrics, writer-director Karen Lam intimates here that it’s through glaring socioeconomic divides that the darkness seeps in. Drawing inspiration from manga, ghost stories, interviews with female inmates and personal experiences, Lam delivers an exceedingly eerie supernatural thriller steeped in searing social commentary. What’s perhaps most chilling about Curse is its compelling suggestion that we’ve left Willow with no alternative but to become a monster.

Best Director of a motion picture, Best Cinematography, Leo 20


Includes an interview with Director: Karen Lam

World premiere
Director Icon Director
Karen Lam

Valerie Tian, Elfina Luk, Ingrid Nilson, Adam Lolacher, Amanda Burke, Johannah Newmarch
Producer Karen Wong, Karen Lam
Screenwriter Karen Lam
Cinematographer Thomas Billingsley
Editor Jeanne Slater
Production Design Darryll Doucette
Music Patric Caird
Production Company Opiate Pictures Inc., RNR Media Inc.
Source Karen Wong
Canada 2019 90 min. DCP English Official Website | Trailer
Media Partners
Community Partners


Please note that VIFF 2020 online films can be viewed in British Columbia only.

Lam, Karen headshot


Karen Lam has worked full-time in the film and TV industry since 2000. Starting out as an entertainment lawyer and producer, Karen has since written and directed eight short films, two music videos, series directed a true-crime documentary series for Investigation Discovery (US), a web series Mythos created for TELUS, and three feature films — Stained (2010), Evangeline (2013) and The Curse of Willow Song (2020). She has also written television scripts for SYFY and Netflix.

Stained (2010); Evangeline (2013)