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October 8, 2015

VIFF2015: Cinema of Despair To Come to a Close in Mere Hours

VIFF 2015 comes to a close on Friday, October 9th

Yes, it's the final day for 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival films at the Cineplex International Village, and tomorrow is the last day of VIFF 2015 — we're verklempt (but, secretly, we're kind of glad, cuz we've got a scratchy throat, which for us is always a precursor to a cold or the flu) — except, of course, for the VIFF Repeats, which begin at 11:45am Saturday.

The above said, there are a great many films which will screen today and tomorrow that are worthwhile, or must-sees — you're simply going to have to take our word for it. The absolute must-see, change your schedule film:

Sparrows, screening at 2:30pm at the Vancity Theatre is, by far, the BEST film screening today; yes, it'll be difficult to fit in other films, but no other film is as great and important and memorable and worthwhile as Sparrows, a knock you on your ass film. 2:30pm, Vancity Theatre — be there.

Otherwise, if you haven't caught Albert Maysles' final film, In Transit (by far the BEST documentary at VIFF 2015), you'll want to make darn sure you catch the final screening of the year's best documentary at 2pm, Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10. Now, it's true — you can't fit in In Transit and Sparrows, cuz they're screening at competing times. If documentaries are your cup of tea, In Transit is for you, if knock you on your ass, world-class filmmaking is your cuppa, it'll be Sparrows you want to see.

On Friday, the very, very last day, it'll be gone forever, there'll be no more VIFF 2015, you'se either gotta see 'em now, or ... well, you know ...

James White is the keeper on Friday, screening at SFU Woodwards at 1:30pm. Accused is the second must-see the last day of VIFF 2015, screening at 6pm at The Cinematheque.

Friday, if you fail to take in the 9pm screening, at The Playhouse, of I Saw The Light, well, you're just plum loco, yer jes out of yer cotton pickin' mind. I mean, why wouldn't you want to go out on a high note at VIFF 2015?

Hank freakin' Williams — Mr. Despair himself (and isn't that what our film festival is all about, the cinema of despair? ... yer darn tootin' it is), and Mr. Despair is paired with the dishiest dish in Hollywood (and she's durn talented, too, that ...) Elizabeth Olsen, and she could very well pick up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar on Sunday night, February 28, 2016, too.

Believe you me, if you ain't at The Playhouse on Friday night to see I Saw The Light, you're just gonna be singin' those lovesick blues til the cows come home — and you wouldn't want that to happen, would ya?

Vote for your favourite VIFF film using VIFF's smartphone app

There'll be no coverage of VIFF on Friday, cuz we need a break (and then there's that scratchy throat thing-a-ma-jiggy).

On Saturday, you will find the list of winners that were announced at VIFF 2015's Closing Gala, at The Centre for the Performing Arts. At some point next week — in the midst of what will be daily coverage of Canada's 42nd national election — we'll publish a column on the audience favourites, as tabulated through your votes on the VIFF app, or on those sweet cards that VIFF volunteers were handing out.

We will likely publish a column reflecting on VIFF 2015, prob'ly next week.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:55 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 7, 2015

VIFF2015: Holdovers & Repeats at the Vancity Theatre


With the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival quickly wending its way to a close, the fine folks at VIFF have planned an additional week of screenings at the Vancity Theatre, on Davie Street and Seymour. As in past years, Festival passes, ticket packs and complimentary vouchers will not be accepted for the VIFF Repeats series. Attendees will need to purchase an individual ticket for each show. Tickets are available by clicking on the highlighted title links below, through, or at the Vancity Theatre box office during regular box office hours.

I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced

Saturday, October 10th

11:45am, Rams. In this enchanting Icelandic export, two estranged, unmarried brothers are reunited after 40 years when an infectious disease threatens to decimate their prized flocks of sheep. As they face financial ruin and emotional devastation (their love for these animals is endearingly evident), Grímur Hákonarson fashions a richly detailed tragicomedy concerning idiosyncratic vocations and immediately relatable sibling dynamics. "Wonderfully wry, charmingly understated ..." — Variety

1:45pm, I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced. One of VanRamblings' Festival highlights, this must-see film is set in 2009, and tells the true story of Yemeni preteen Nojoom Ali's bid to legally extricate herself from an abusive, arranged marriage to a much older man, a story which made international headlines. Khadija Al-Salami has beautifully adapted the non-fiction bestseller into an emphatic drama featuring a wondrous performance from Reham Mohammed as the young Ali, and a striking backdrop of Yemen's astonishing mountain villages and ancient "skyscrapers." "A powerful, moving and provocative debut drama ..." — Screen

4pm, A Ballerina's Tale. Some ascents to stardom are meteoric. Others are a gruelling marathon. Ballerina Misty Copeland learned early on that not everything comes easily for a teen prodigy. Especially when you're African-American and racial homogeny is part of ballet's exclusivity. Nelson George's inside look at the art and industry of ballet invites us to marvel at Copeland's courage and grace but question what goes on behind closed curtains. Most importantly, it gives us a real-life heroine to root for with all our hearts. "Inspirational doesn't begin to describe it." — Rolling Stone

6:15pm, Umrika. Rama (Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma) is flushed out of rural life when he learns that his brother is missing in Mumbai. As a search for answers thrusts him into the metropolis' chaos, he forges letters from his sibling to his mother in hopes of sparing her heartbreak. In turn, Prashant Nair crafts a moving story about devotion and discovery. "The film's takes on immigration, country-city contrasts and youthful dreams of the future are lovingly detailed..." — Hollywood Reporter

8:30pm, 100 Yen Love.The fraught and very possibly doomed romance between a dumpy 32-year-old woman and a failing boxer gives 100 Yen Love its storyline, but the film's focus is on its unlikely heroine, a chronic underachiever who finally discovers something worth getting out of bed for. Take's command of image and mood couldn't be better; Ando Sakura is stupendous in the lead — Tony Rayns. Japan's nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.

The Lobster, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Sunday, October 11th

4:30pm, Requiem for the American Dream. Noam Chomsky and his unassailable arguments about how economic inequality has become an entrenched part of western life are front and centre in Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott's superbly reasoned documentary, one part analysis and one part call to arms. The interviews with Chomsky were shot over four years and show that none of the 86-year-old's fight has gone out of him. "This short, sharp, smart essay-film makes excellent use of Chomsky's insights..." — Hollywood Reporter

6.15pm, Sabali. When her boyfriend stops making love with her, Jeannette (Marie Brassard) begins an affair with a young co-worker (Francis La Haye). Alas, it turns out that her heart problems are physical as well as metaphorical. When Jeannette inherits the heart of a deceased Malian woman, she's stalked by the donor's son (Youssef Camara) who's convinced that she's the reincarnation of his late mother... Ryan McKenna's stylized and nuanced film is sure to delight.

8:15pm, The Lobster. The pressures of courtship are pushed to absurdist extremes in this outrageous comedy from Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth). Confined to an isolated resort, singles (including Colin Farrell) must take a mate within 45 days or be transformed into animals. As Farrell falls in with a band of rebel loners (who count Rachel Weisz among their members), Lanthimos wrings much pathos from his outlandish premise. "A wickedly funny, unexpectedly moving satire... Perversely romantic..." — Variety

Monday, October 12th

Noon, Painted Land: In Search of the Group of Seven. Phyllis Ellis' documentary is equal parts mystery, history and adventure. Algoma's tangled wilderness and Lake Superior's expansive North Shore inspired The Group of Seven in their formative years - young artists searching to articulate the Canadian landscape. Now, three modern-day adventurers canoe across lakes, bushwhack through untamed forests and scale cliffs to seek out the vistas that inspired these artists. Seeing the iconic paintings side by side with the astonishing locations that inspired them is a reminder of art's power and this land's majestic beauty.

1:45pm, Rainbow Island. One of the most astonishingly exotic films in this year's festival has to be Khosrow Sinai's drama. The title refers to the island of Hormuz, with its extraordinary multi-coloured soils, ancient Portuguese forts and folk-art traditions. How much are the custom-bound villagers willing to welcome the outside world? Enter Dr. Ahmad Nadalian, a highly educated interloper from Tehran who proposes a radical plan to transform the islands assets into a thriving cultural destination.

4pm, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict. Peggy Guggenheim not only amassed one of the world's most impressive collections of contemporary art but also rightfully earned a reputation as the consummate bohemian. In her wildly entertaining follow up to Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, Lisa Immordino Vreeland explores how Guggenheim forsook her bourgeois birthright in favour of a villa in Venice, crashing international art scenes, and discovering the likes of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko in the process. "[With] so many love affairs and ego clashes Art Addict never feels a bit like a history lesson." — Hollywood Reporter

6:15pm, Sleeping Giant. Andrew Cividino's remarkable debut is a story of friendship, confusion, betrayal and peer pressure. Fourteen-year-old Adam is enduring a dull summer in a small Lake Superior beach community when he meets local boys Foster and Rizzo. "The cast and filmmakers illuminate not just the wit and charm of young men, but also the callow cruelty of youth, driven by a killer combination of naïve idealism, solipsism, poor self-esteem and raging hormones." — Hollywood Reporter

The Royal Tailor. The term "costume drama" takes on a whole new meaning in Lee Wonsuk's sumptuous period melodrama, which centres on the rivalry between the official tailor to the king's court and a handsome young upstart with new ideas and techniques. Their conflict plays out amid a welter of fabrics, passions and protocols, with several top stars adding dramatic weight. The attention to the details of tailoring is awesome — Tony Rayns.

Tuesday, October 13th

1:30pm, Landfill Harmonic. In Latin America's largest landfill, a garbage picker uncovers the raw materials for makeshift musical instruments. As cellos and violins are fashioned from stray detritus, a group of local children are likewise transformed into the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura. Reminiscent of VIFF '10 standout Waste Land, Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley's documentary is an inspiring tale of resilience and transcendence. "A secret treasure... A story of the dull throb of existence gleefully recalibrated by the thundering heartbeat of music." — Austin Chronicle

4pm, Hannah: Buddhism's Untold Journey. In the late 60s, India experienced a Western invasion as outsiders flooded over the border in hopes of finding enlightenment. The Beatles may have been the highest profile pilgrims, but Hannah Nydahl, a young Danish woman, was ultimately the most influential. She and her husband were the first westerners to study under His Holiness the 16th Karmapa and then spread his teachings abroad. Part biography, part adventure film, Adam Penny and Marta György-Kessler's documentary celebrates a true pioneer. "Visually, the film is a pleasure..." — Village Voice

6:15pm, The Devout. After his terminally ill daughter (Olivia Martin) claims to have had a past life as an astronaut, a Christian teacher (Charlie Carrick) experiences a profound crisis of faith. Obsessively seeking answers, he risks his marriage and his remaining days with his child to determine whether she's lived before... and might live again. Reflective and provocative, Connor Gaston's debut is one of the year's most unique Canadian features.

Wednesday, October 14th

2:30pm, Jumbo Wild. Nick Waggoner's gorgeous, gripping documentary captures a decades-long struggle over the future of Jumbo Valley, deep within the raw, rugged Purcell range of B.C.'s Columbia Mountains. Exploring a tug-of-war between a proposed (and long-delayed) $450-million ski resort near Invermere versus community members, conservationists and the Ktunaxa Nation and Shuswap Indian Band who are determined to see Jumbo kept wild, Waggoner's film documents the fierce ideological battle surrounding how we value land.

4pm, Palio. Siena is one of the world's most picturesque cities and the Palio is its crowning glory. Held twice a summer, this often ruthless bareback horse race brings pageantry and unparalleled intensity to the tight turns of the medieval town's Piazza del Campo. Cosima Spender's breathtaking documentary centres on a young upstart intent on making his mark in this cutthroat competition. "A remarkably concise and clear explanation of a complex, ancient tradition... How can something like this still exist? And how can one film capture it in such elegant detail?" — Vanity Fair

6:15pm, Racing Extinction. Louie Psihoyos (The Cove) returns with another enviro-doc that doubles as a top-flight thriller. Racing against the clock to stave off a mass extinction, Psihoyos' undercover activists infiltrate underground marketplaces trafficking in endangered marine life and immerse us in oceans turning toxic from our energy consumption. The stakes couldn't be higher, resulting in a film that unfolds with uncommon urgency. "A mesmeric entertainment and enlightenment... A chilling call to action to stop ocean poisoning before it results in destruction of the planet." — Hollywood Reporter

8:30pm, No Men Beyond This Point. In a world where women procreate asexually, male babies have become passé and an entire gender faces extinction... What's a guy to do? Well, the youngest man alive (Patrick Gilmore), who toils as a housekeeper for a West Vancouver all-female family, is unaware that he's about to become a key player in a battle for survival. Camera Shy's Mark Sawers is at the height of his satirical powers with this wry speculative mockumentary.

Thursday, October 15th

6:30pm, Marshland. One of the big hits at VIFF 2015, and winner of multiple Goya Awards, for VanRamblings Marshland was a note for note ripoff of Cary Fukunaga's Season 1 HBO series, True Detective — same music, same marshland, same two detectives. Not to mention that: if we never see another movie where socially and economically disadvantaged girls and young women are tortured, raped and sexually mutilated as a narrative device, ever again, it'll be too soon. Attend at your peril.

8:45pm, Magallanes. Another one of VanRamblings' favourites, we'll quote VIFF passholder Ken Tomilson on this watchable and important film: "a Peruvian film where the lead (Magallanes) and his friends were once military personnel fronting the war against the Shining Path with too much power in their hands. Now, 15 years later, their lives are insignificant but their past comes back to haunt them in the form of scandals that could destroy them. Well written and acted and very entertaining." star.jpgstar.jpgstar.jpgstar.jpg

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:16 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 6, 2015

Justin Trudeau is to Vitaminwater, as Stephen Harper is to Poison

Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party leader of CanadaMake it happen: Justin Trudeau, federal Liberal Party leader, as Canada's next Prime Minister

VanRamblings does not live for film alone, for there is a critically important federal election going on, that we've somehow managed to follow with alacrity. So, it's back to writing about the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival tomorrow, and a column today as to why it is necessary to — 13 days out from Canada's 42nd federal election — give serious thought to voting Liberal in key ridings across Canada, even if it costs seats to the New Democratic Party or Elizabeth May's Green party.

Make no mistake, VanRamblings is a dyed-in-the-wool Dipper, always have been, always will be (we believe in the fundamental maxim, "Ya dance with the one that brung ya."). Even so, in this too-close-for-comfort election, it is necessary to cast a ballot for the party that has the best chance of defeating Stephen "I'm a xenophobic, fear-mongering racist" Harper, and that party would be the Liberal Party of Canada, and the first-rate, should win candidate running for the Liberal party in your home riding (at least in close races, anyway — and, please, do vote NDP where that party is way ahead, or vote Green where it won't make a darn bit of difference to the outcome of the election — otherwise, vote Liberal, vote Liberal, vote Liberal).

The 2015 national election is not about voting with your heart, but is all about ridding Canada of the most malevolent national political force ever to take office at the federal level, in the 148-year history of our glorious land.

CTV Nanos Research federal election poll results for October 5, 2015

As VanRamblings predicted last week, second wave Trudeaumania has gripped the nation as — according to CTV and pollster Nik Nanos — Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party have gained one point in the polls each day since that column was published, catapulting from 29.3% support to the 35.6% support you see in the three-day rolling poll results above. Meanwhile, the NDP would appear to have dropped out of serious contention for government, losing 12 points in the Nanos poll over that same period, plummeting from 34.6% support to the paltry 22.8% above.

Unfortunately for Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberal Party, the much-increased support of Canadians for the Liberal plan, and the Liberal leader, has failed to properly and fortuitously translate into the necessary projected seat count increase in the upcoming 43rd Canadian Parliament, a seat count that will ensure the defeat of Stephen Harper and the (not progressive, but regressive, George Bush-like) Conservative party.

Globe and Mail seat projection, October 5, 2015

Only 9 more projected seats than the Conservatives when the Liberal Party has a 4.6% polling advantage? Clearly, the Liberal Party has some work to do to convince an increasing number of Canadians that it is the Liberal Party alone, that can defeat Stephen Harper on election day, Monday, Oct. 19th. Consult to see which candidates are doing well in your riding.

In British Columbia's 1996 provincial election, Gordon Campbell's Liberal party garnered 41.82% of the popular vote to the NDP's 39.45%, yet the NDP gained a majority in the BC Legislature, winning 39 seats to the Liberals' 33 seats. On the national level in 2015, Canadians cannot allow a similar scenario to play out in the current federal election.

In British Columbia in 2015, all 13 of the winnable Liberal seats must, in fact, go to the Liberals. As we've written previously, there are half a dozen BC ridings that are a lock for the Liberals (Vancouver Quadra, Vancouver Centre, Vancouver South, North Vancouver, Surrey-Newton, Vancouver-Sunshine Coast) but, if the Liberals are to form government in the next Parliament, the Liberal party will need to take the winnable seats of Vancouver-Granville, Surrey-White Rock, Delta, Steveston-Richmond East, Fleetwood-Port Kells, Richmond Centre, and Burnaby-North Seymour.

At the moment, Eric Grenier's projects 12 seats across the Prairies for the Liberals, 51 seats in Ontario (which will have to climb to 60, representing half the seats in the province), 20 seats in Québec, and 26 seats, or better, in the Maritimes and the Territories.

Despite the late election Trudeaumania wave, the seat projections above represent a best case scenario for the Liberals, and even if the projections above prove accurate, the Liberals will end up electing only 131 members to Parliament, for the slimmest possible minority government.

Contrary to the ads the Conservative party has run ad nauseum the past couple of years that Justin Trudeau is "not ready", if you've seen Mr. Trudeau on the hustings, in the debates, and on the nightly news television clips, it is clear to any thinking, rational human being that Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal Party, are indeed ready to form government, and that the ads are so much codswallop. Co-operating with the NDP post election night, together the two progressive parties at the federal level will work to undo the damage of Canada's lost years under the mean-spirited, not on your side, secretive and corrupt Stephen Harper-led government in Ottawa.

Upholding the rights of Canadians, the Supreme Court of Canada

VanRamblings would have preferred a Tom Mulcair-led New Democratic Party government in Ottawa — but that ain't gonna happen, folks. Let's be clear about what's at stake in this election, which is — in case you didn't realize it — the very soul of our nation, and any notion of responsible government that serves the interests of the broadest cross-section of Canadians, on all of the important issues of the day, ranging from health care to affordable housing, to upholding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the consequent respect for the 9 Justices who sit on the Supreme Court of Canada (a respect Stephen Harper has sorely lacked), and the building of a full-employment economy that will allow our nation to once again thrive, as it had prior to the election of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, and as it will again under the leadership of Justin Pierre James Trudeau, held to account by Mr. Mulcair & the federal New Democratic Party.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada 2015

October 5, 2015

VIFF2015: The Must-See Best of the Fest Films Still to Come

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival must-see films

Well, here we are in the final days of the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival as VIFF regulars (also known as VIFF cinephiles) prepare for the end of this year's glorious cinematic wonderment, awaiting the announcement as to what films are available for holdover at the Vancity Theatre following Friday's fest end. All in due time, dear & constant reader.

In this final week there are two more must-see films to be screened over the course of the next four days — one from Lithuania, one from Iceland — both unlikely to return to our shores, tremendous films that are more than worthy of your limited time, and given your wearied state, your attention.

The Summer of Sangailé | Dir. Alanté Kavaïté | Julija Steponaitytė, Aistė Diržiūtė | Lithuania

The Summer of Sangailé (Grade: A): Achingly beautiful and intoxicating, director Alanté Kavaïté won Best Director at Sundance earlier this year for her erotic and lyrical depiction of a young girl's sexual awakening, an at times roiling coming of age tale that explores the wounded psychology of the main lead (a voluptuously enchanting Julija Steponaitytė, her character a provocative mix of naivete and ripe, unbridled sexuality), in one of the most dreamily tender yet near terrifying depictions of first love ever captured on screen. Gorgeously lensed, sun-kissed, alluring, intimate, affecting, memorable, beautifully universal, hypnotic and at times blazingly intense, the film's dreamlike mood is set through music, and the rapturous soundtrack written by Jean-Benoît Dunckel, one of the lead members of Air. Skilfully melding gesture, poetry and innocence into the slow-burning emotional and physical realms of romantic love, The Summer of Sangailé emerges as one of the year's best films, and another VIFF 2015 must-see. Final screening: Wednesday, October 7th, 6:30pm, in Cineplex's Cinema 9.

Sparrows, award-winning film from Iceland screening at VIFF 2015

Sparrows (Grade: A): Breathtakingly intense, Rúnar Rúnarsson's sad, delicate Icelandic coming-of-age tale quietly observes a lanky teenage boy, Avi (Atli Oskar Fjalarsson) who we first meet singing counter-tenor in a boy's choir in Rekjavik. When Avi's mother is hired to supervise a research project in Africa, the boy is sent to live with his estranged father in the distant western fjords of the country, where the locals medicate the ills of a declining economy with alcohol; small town life proves anything but charming. Avi's potential love interest, young Lara, carries the fatalism of a girl who settles for the local bully, while Kjeld, Avi's kindly grandmother, is the exceptional figure who lives with a simple dignity. As Guy Lodge writes in his Variety review, " this outwardly conventional coming-of-ager rewards viewers' patience, delivering a late narrative jolt that is bound to stir heated post-screening conversation in its chilly wake." Fortunately, the film saves a tiny dose of sentiment & redemptive humanity for the film's final moments. Final screening: Thursday, October 8th at 2:30pm, in the Vancity Theatre.

Additional VIFF Must-Sees Before The Festival Wends To Its End

The double bill of VIFF 2015: Wednesday afternoon you'll want to take in a screening of VIFF 2015's best feature film, Sylvia's Chang's Taiwanese stunner Murmur of the Hearts, 4:15pm in Cineplex's Cinema 10, followed by VIFF's best documentary, Albert Maysles' In Transit, also in Cinema 10.

Son of Saul, a film from László Nemes

Upcoming must-sees: Son of Saul, One Million Dubliners, there's good buzz on Zinia Flower and The Measure of a Man, I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced is a must-see, while there's good buzz on The Competition, folks have been raving about Accused, and James White. Schneider vs Bax also has quite a following, as does Peruvian director Salvador del Solar's Magallanes, which screens for a final time Tuesday at 3:30pm in Cinema 9 at Cineplex's International Village. Lots to see as VIFF 2015 wends to a close.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:03 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 4, 2015

VIFF2015: Spiritual Transcendence in the Midst of Anomie

The Church of Cinema, at The Centre

VanRamblings feels that it is necessary for all concerned that we "revive" our annual column on why it is that the cinephiles who each year attend 50+ VIFF films (and there are a whole bunch of us) feel so passionate about wanting to hear every sound, burrow into every picture, experience the every emotion of the characters on screen before us, at Vancouver's annual splendid, glorious and enchanting little film festival by the sea.

Worshipping at the Church of Cinema

Imagine yourself on a Sunday morning at the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival. You've just walked into The Centre, where you've been greeted by one of the church members, and are then ushered into a dark room with seats all facing forward. You feel reverent.

You are about to worship at the 'church of cinema'.

One hundred years on, global cinema has arrived as a form of transcendence, for many replacing the once venerated position held by the institutional church. Think about the similarities: churches and the cinema are both large buildings built in the public space. Both have signage out front indicating what is about to occur inside.

As physical structures, the church and the cinema create a sense of sacred space with their high ceilings, long aisles running the length of the darkened rooms inside, the use of dim lighting, the sweeping curvature of the walls, and the use of curtains to enhance the sacredness of the experience.

In the church of cinema we take communion not with bread and wine, but with the ritualistic consumption of our favourite snack.

Consider if you will, the memorable moment when you enter the auditorium to find your perfect viewing angle, allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy. Although you may not receive absolution at the cinema, there is the two-hour reprieve from the burden of your daily life.

As the lights are dimmed, the service begins: The seating, and the opening introduction constitute a liturgy for one and all, not dissimilar to the welcoming ritual that occurs in a church service prior to the sermon. If you are like most people, you obey an unwritten rule that requires you to be in place in time for either the singing (if you're in church) or the introduction of a film by a Vancouver Film Festival theatre manager. And, you remain silent while in the theatre, focused on all that unfolds before you.

There is, too, the notion that as the film limns your unconscious mind you are being transported, elevated in some meaningful way, left in awe in the presence of a work of film art.

What we want from church is often, these days, more of what we receive from the cinema on offer at the Vancouver International Film Festival: the vague, unshakable notion that the eternal and invisible world is all around us, transporting us as we sit in rapt attention. We experience the progress and acceleration of time, as we see life begin, progress, and find redemption. All within two hours. The films at the Vancouver International Film Festival constitute much more than entertainment; each film is a thoughtful meditation on our place in society and our purpose in life.

As a film draws to a close, just as is the case following a sermon we might hear in church, our desire is to set about to discuss with friends that which we have just experienced. Phrases and moments, transcending current frustrations with a new resolve, all in response to a line of dialogue or an image on the screen that we have now incorporated into how we will lead our life going forward.

In the holy trinity of meaning, cinema reigns supreme, the personal altar of our home theatres placing a distant second place, the city providing the physical proof of the reality the other two point to, oriented towards the satisfaction of the devout cinemagoer's theology.

Throughout the centuries we have sought to find meaning through manifest ritual and symbolism. As in the scene from American Beauty - a plastic bag sailing in the breeze as an intimation of immortality - there is, perhaps, something for us to consider respecting the difference between art as diversion and art in our lives as a symbolic representation of an awakened mindfulness, allowing us to transcend the troubles of our lives.

For those who attend the Vancouver International Film Festival, cinema has emerged as that place where we might experience life in the form of parable, within a safe and welcoming environment, that place where we are able to become vulnerable and open, hungry to make sense of our lives. Cinema delivers for many of us access to the new spiritualism, the place where we experience not merely film, but language, memory, art, love, death and, perhaps even, spiritual transcendence.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:01 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 3, 2015

VIFF2015: Murmur of the Hearts, VIFF's BEST FILM in 2015

Murmur of the Hearts, a masterful new film by Taiwanese director Sylvia ChangThe sensuously hypnotic Isabella Leong & Joseph Chang in a scene from Murmur of the Hearts

Murmur of the Hearts (Grade: A+): A fable given over to exposition tempered by forays into the realm of magical realism, elegiac, a film that adopts time not just as an elastic concept but with a spiritual sense previously unexplored in the cinematic realm, gifted with gorgeously lustrous and moodily hypnotic cinematography, utterly sublime and original, epic and tour-de-force filmmaking of the first order, quietly introspective, subtle, moving, whimsical, enchanting, resonant, ethereal, wildly and sensuously ambitious, poignant, mesmerizing, rapturous, poetic and surprisingly affecting, the memories of the film's four protagonists woven into the most lyrically beautiful film you'll see this or any other year. The 34th Vancouver International Film Festival's one must, must, must-see. Two upcoming must-see VIFF screenings: on Sunday, October 4th, at 8:30pm at Cineplex International Village, in Cinema 9; and on Wednesday, October 7th at 4:15pm, at Cineplex International Village, in Cinema 10.

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Brooklyn | Dir. John Crowley | Saoirse Ronan | 105 min. | Mon., Oct. 5, 12:30pm, The Centre

Brooklyn (Grade: A): Everything you've heard about Brooklyn is true: Saoirse Ronan will emerge as Best Actress at the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on February 28th, 2016, Brooklyn will win the Best Picture Oscar (and a well-deserved win it will be, too), and when you take in the final VIFF screening of Brooklyn this coming week, you'll be glad you did, you'll cry your eyes out from beginning to end (not to worry, there are humorous bits, as well), and you'll leave Cineplex's Tinseltown Cinema 10 knowing that you've just seen the most powerful film to reach our shores in 2015. Final VIFF 2015 screening: Monday, October 5th, at 12:30pm, in The Centre.

Sparrows | Dir. Rúnar Rúnarsson | Iceland | Oct 3, 8:45pm, Cin 8; Oct 8, 2:30pm, Vancity

Note should be made that there is immense positive buzz from VIFF passholders and patrons about the following must-see films ...

  • Sparrows. Tonight, at 9:15pm, Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10; and Thursday, October 8th, at 2:30pm in the Vancity Theatre;

  • Accused. On Friday, October 9th at 6pm, at The Cinematheque;

  • Magallanes. On Tuesday, October 6th, at 3:30pm, Cineplex Cinema 9;

  • Marshland. On Monday, October 5th at 6pm, in the Rio Theatre; and

  • James White. On Friday, October 9th, 1:30pm, at SFU Woodwards

Not to mention, this upcoming week there are three must-see screenings of VanRamblings' favourite documentary, Albert Maysles' final film, In Transit, and the incredibly wonderful Quebeçois film, Ville-Marie, and the deeply affecting and entirely wondrous Iranian documentary, No Land's Song, all of which we wrote about last Sunday; and then there's VIFF Director of Programming Alan Franey's favourites, which we wrote about earlier (scroll down the page — it's a pretty skookum list of can't miss VIFF films).

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:41 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

October 2, 2015

VIFF2015: International Shorts Series Explores Our Present Reality

International Short Film programme at VIFF 2015

Representing the best work of nascent film talent from across our planet, the International Shorts series curated by veteran VIFF programmer Sandy Gow each year reflects, as we've written in the past, the work of an "honest and forthright, humane and caring VIFF staffperson of unparalleled integrity, as well as an abiding warmth of spirit, an individual who prioritizes films not just as 'craft', but of immense heart and cinematic intelligence."

As VanRamblings wrote in Part One of this two-post series on VIFF 2015's International Shorts programme, Sandy recommends all 37 films in the shorts series, winnowed down from the 500 short films Sandy screened, to the 37 gems you'll see screened at this, our beloved, glorious and life-changing 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

Without further ado, let's get to what's most important: the films ...

Coffee to Go | Dir. Patricia Font | Actors. Alexandra Jiménez, Daniel Grao | Spain | 13 min.

Love, Pain and the Whole Damn Thing
A programme of short films about love, from romantic to tragic, its intoxication and heartbreak, its consequences and, oh yes, its responsibilities.
Monday, October 5th, at 1pm, International Village, Cinema 8

"This is a programme that is close to my heart as I've come to terms with my aged and deteriorating mom. As is the case with many of us of our age, our parents are not in great shape. Love, Pain and the Whole Damn Thing is about all the factors that come into play when you love somebody, everything from the infatuation of love when you meet someone to the responsibilities of love. Of the four International Shorts programmes this year, this is the one with the most cohesive theme, although each film is distinct within the theme in approach and subject matter."

"We've got everything from Coffee to Go, such a wonderful film, it could easily have been in the Great Performances programme, the story about a couple who have broken up and meet two years later, and it's not only really awkward, it's really painful."

Last Base, from Norwegian director Aslak Danbolt

"Then there's Last Base, a film about two base jumpers who have a commitment to a friend who died. How far will they go in risking their lives to fulfill the commitment?"

Treading Water, a new short film from director Liz Cardenas Franke

"Treading Water is all about taking care of your parents when they get old and major health issues emerge. For me this is a very personal film. This year we had several films that explored the theme of aging parents, but this one was the best of the bunch."

What Defines Reality? a VIFF 2015 International Shorts programme

What Defines Reality?
This programme of shorts probes the title question, as well as things that can influence our world views, be they social, political or religious conventions, the opinions of others, or even our own sense of self.
Sunday, October 4th, at 3:45pm, International Village, Cinema 8

"The overall thematic structure in this series, although the films are all quite different, speaks to our sense of self, how others perceive us, and the decisions one makes in one's life."

"In Birthday, a soldier returns from combat severely injured, he's lost his legs, and gives in to serious depression. But by film's end, he manages to rise above."

Deformity Prays for Radiation, a poetic folk tale of two scientists

"Deformity Prays For Radiation is a beautiful little film that the Festival will present as a world première. It's like a folk tale complete with a Greek, in this case a Ukrainian chorus commenting on the action. It's all about the decay of things, and one of them is a relationship of sorts."

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:25 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2015

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