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23rd Annual Vancouver International Film Festival Guide


Twenty-three years ago, two young movie enthusiasts named Leonard Schein and Alan Franey briefly interrupted the art-house programming they’d recently started at The Ridge Theatre to launch what they boldly proclaimed to be “The First Vancouver International Film Festival.”

As it survived, thrived and became an institution over the years, the event grew in size and evolved in character. Schein jumped ship in 1985 to take over the Toronto Festival of Festivals (eventually to return to Vancouver to create Festival Cinemas, which morphed into Alliance Atlantis Cinemas in 1998). Franey, working with a select group of programmers, sought to reinforce the ‘window on the world’ mandate of the Festival, and the VIFF became Canada’s pre-eminent independent, international film festival.

On Thursday, September 23rd, as the festival begins the first week of its 23rd anniversary edition, organizers are emphasizing the international focus of the two-week festival, which will showcase films from across the globe, including Malaysia, Peru, Latvia and Finland.

A series dubbed Dragons and Tigers will feature films from across East Asia. On the night of its anniversary gala on October 2nd, the festival will present the Dragons and Tigers award for Young Asian Cinema. To mark the occasion, the festival will show Electric Shadows, the d�but feature by China’s Xiao Jiang. The tangled family story, set in Ningxia and Beijing, glances back lovingly at five decades of Chinese filmmaking. Programmer Tony Rayns describes the film as a “Chinese Cinema Paradiso.”

The Canadian Images series will showcase more than 100 films — comprised of 33 features, 9 mid-length films and 64 shorts — one of the world’s largest showcases of new Canadian works. Velcrow Ripper’s ScaredSacred kicks off the Canadian Images series, the film taking us on a visually stunning tour of some of the world’s ‘Ground Zeroes’. Programmer Diane Burgess avers, “There’s an international flavour to this year’s programme that reflects a broader understanding of our definition of Canadian film.”

As seen through one eye, the Festival’s prospects for the next 23 years look bright. Its audience is fiercely devoted, and the increasingly bloated Hollywood alternative seems intent on driving discerning moviegoers to the intellectual relief of film festivals.

Through the other eye, though, it’s easy to see many challenges on the festival horizon — not the least of which is an ongoing dearth of genuinely exciting product. The sad fact is that the great foreign-film renaissance on which all the world’s film festivals built themselves is over.

Fellini, Truffaut and Fassbinder have long passed into history and no one half as substantial or charismatic seems to have taken their place. Every film in every film festival seems to be by a first-time director, or at least by someone you’ve never heard of. Where are the dazzling auteurs?

The growing DVD revolution may negatively impact the festival business, as well. This year, almost a dozen of the films in the lineup are already on DVD and available for rental in Vancouver at half the festival ticket price. Next year, there’ll be even more.

How does a film festival stay viable — and special — in the face of all these trends? Obviously, by ferreting out and fighting for the best films, by insisting on the best presentation and by sparking the schedule with creative showmanship and imaginative film education.

And the good news for VIFF’s future is that the current group of programmers have decades of experience, they like each other and work well together, and they seem quite cognizant of the challenges ahead.

Above all, their calling is clearly a labour of love.

Says programming consultant Jack Vermee, “Somehow, we’re able to communicate that, and also that we’re a group of people who aren’t in it for the money, that we’re the antithesis of the kind of corporate thinking that runs the business. And, amazingly, Alan’s been able to maintain this aura over the years.”

“So the Vancouver International Film Festival has always seemed like a big party, and the audience has been bonded with this love. It's what makes (VIFF) special, and different from any other festival — and, if we have any kind of legacy worth maintaining, that’s it.”

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs September 23rd to October 8th. Online booking available at with Visa only. Cash sales at Pacific Centre Kiosk and Vancouver’s City Square Mall.

Overall, the festival will showcase 370 films including 246 feature and mid-length films and 126 shorts from 50 countries. Below, you’ll find reviews from critics writing for the Georgia Straight, the Seattle P-I, Eye Magazine in Toronto, the Hollywood Reporter, and a number of other publications. If a review of a film playing at the 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival exists on the ’Net, that review will appear below.

(The Vancouver Film Festival Guide will be updated daily with new reviews, so it’s worth your while to return periodically to view the new content)

10 ON TEN (Iran) In which Abbas Kiarostami reflects on his inimitable way of making movies. A must for independent filmmakers everywhere; a matter of taste for everyone else. Mark Harris, Georgia Straight. The Hollywood Reporter’s Ray Bennett writes, “The documentary’s relentless monotony, ultimately detracts from the provocative views of a singular filmmaker.” On a more positive note, Eye Magazine’s Adam Nayman, in his four-star review, writes, “as a primer on how to make movies as honestly as possible [Kiarostami] acknowledges the success of the Hollywood model, but argues passionately and articulately for the sort of reflective, meditative approach that privileges observation and nuance over literal and stylistic pyrotechnics.” Pacific Cin�math�que, September 26 (12:30 p.m.) and Granville 7, September 28 (6 pm..) and October 1 (10 p.m.)

THE 10TH DISTRICT COURT (France) A sequel to Raymond Depardon’s previous Caught in the Act (1994), the documentary The 10th District Court: Moments of Trial provides the fascinated viewer with yet another inside look at the mechanics of the French justice system. Very few true criminals present their case in the night court where they are judged, and precisely because of this they collectively compose an extraordinary mosaic of ordinary folks (mainly nonwhite, almost all male) who have somehow put a foot wrong. MH Granville 7, September 26 (6:20 p.m.) and 30 (2:20 p.m.), and October 1 (6:40 p.m.)

20 FINGERS (Iran) Follow a modern Tehranian couple as they play head games on gondolas, motorcycles, cars, and boats. The woman, Ten actor Mania Akbari — who successfully takes that Abbas Kiarostami film’s dashboard confessionals a step further in her directorial d�but — torments her more conservative and chauvinistic husband with tales of flirtation and even sexual experimentation. The gimmicky format somehow works, achieving its own rhythm and providing both an intimacy and a metaphor for a society hurtling through cultural changes. See it for the intelligent conversation, the naturalistic acting, and the range of provocative subjects previously taboo in Iran. Janet Smith, Georgia Straight. Granville 7, September 30 (6:40 p.m.) and October 3 (11:30 a.m.)

ADDICTED TO ACTING (Germany) What kind of masochism drives a person to act? You won’t necessarily find the answers in this documentary about four students vying to get into and then studying at Berlin’s Ernst Busch Academy. But you will gain a new appreciation for the kind of sacrifice and ruthless criticism they have to go through. In fact, you may, like some of these subjects, lose a bit of a grip on reality as you watch acting exercise after excruciating audition; rest assured, these are not actors playing actors, but the real thing. JS, Georgia Straight. Granville 7, September 25 (11 a.m.) and 28 (6:20 p.m.)

AFTER THE DAY BEFORE (Hungary) A smartly dressed, middle-aged man hitches a ride into the middle of the countryside, a foreboding land where the wind howls and the air is thick with sandy dust. Armed with only a rusty bicycle and a briefcase, he heads off the nearest village in search of a crumbling farmhouse which he believes he has inherited. During his search he meets some of the locals, who swing between helpful and downright nuts. There’s also the matter of a murdered girl that keeps popping up in conversations. Welcome to Lynch world, (via a stop-off at Kronenberg) Hungary style, where chronological time no longer adheres. A particularly memorable feature that is both intelligent and thought provoking (without being overtly aloof), if you love playing detective, (like a certain person reviewing this movie!) this will be right up your street. Terresa Gaffney, Z Review. Also, salutary reviews from IOFilm, and Variety. Granville 4, September 26 (9 p.m.) and Granville 3, September 27 (2:20 p.m.)

ALTER EGOS + shorts (Qu�bec) Although the programming is a bit eccentric — they seem to be showing Chris Landreth’s 12-minute film Ryan twice — this selection of animated shorts and Laurence Green’s documentary is one of the festival’s must-sees. 4 stars. Tom Charity, Vancouver Sun. Granville 2, October 3 (9:45 p.m.) and Pacific Cin�math�que, October 5 (12:30 p.m.).

L‘AMANT (Japan) The latest provocation from Hiroki Ryuichi, the director of Vibrator and I Am an S&M Writer, is even thornier stuff. When three oddballs ‘buy’ a 17-year-old schoolgirl for a year’s worth of sexual services — her motivation, aside from money, is never explained — the relationships within this quartet keep shifting the definitions of power and sex, although not in ways that are easy to read, except as male fantasy. (Real nudity is avoided, by the way.) The Godardian effects, culminating in a strange ending involving a stuffed teddy bear, add to the opacity and also dilute the prurience. Ken Eisner, Georgia Straight. Granville 7, October 1 (9:15 p.m.), 3 (2:20 p.m.), and 7 (10 p.m.)

ARISAN! (Indonesia) This feel-good romantic comedy about closeted guppies and unfulfilled yuppies is no worse than similar fare from other parts of the world; it’s no better either. MH. Granville 7, September 26 (3 p.m.) and October 7 (9 p.m.)

BAGHDAD BLOGGER/SALAM PAX — VIDEO REPORTS FROM IRAQ (Iraq) Salam Pax achieved some fame in Britain when The Guardian newspaper started printing his blog from Baghdad during the second Gulf War. After the liberation, he shot a number of video dispatches for the BBC’s Newsnight current affairs programme. Although his reports highlight innumerable problems — U.S. intelligence raided his mother’s home because they thought the men who installed her new kitchen were a terrorist cell — he remains a staunch defender of the war. Vivid, witty reportage from history's front line. 3 stars. Vancouver Sun. Granville 5, Sept. 23 (8:45 p.m.) and Oct. 7 (1:40 p.m.), and Granville 2, October 6 (7:15 p.m.)

BAOBER IN LOVE (China) Day-Glo romanticism meets neon folly in this Betty Blue�like riff on a lopsided relationship between a plodding sane businessman and a magical madwoman that, despite the hallucinatory lustre of just about every shot, somehow doesn't add up to very much. MH Ridge, September 23 (7 p.m.) and Granville 7, September 27 (4 p.m.)

BAYTONG (Thailand) What starts out as a hard-hitting look at Muslim terrorism in Thailand — the film opens with a mother getting killed by a train bomb — turns mushy. A monk leaves his isolated monastery to care for the orphan seven-year-old girl who survives the disaster, and much of the cutesy humour relies on his clashes with the modern world, from learning the dangerous art of zipping up a fly to buying his first pair of sneakers. You have to look hard amid the sugar — or know Thailand pretty well — to notice subtle references to the cultural contrasts between the Buddhists and Muslims in a southern Thai town. JS, Georgia Straight. Ridge, September 24 (7 p.m.) and Granville 7, October 1 (11 a.m.)

BEAUTIFUL BOXER (Thailand) You couldn’t make it up. Born into poverty and the wrong gender, Nong Toom became Thailand’s first transsexual kickboxer, a national celebrity. This biopic by Ekachai Uekrongtham is pretty straight. A reporter comes to interview Nong Toom (played by boxer Asanee Suwan) and — after a skirmish with some muggers — we’re treated to flashbacks of the young Nong gravitating toward flowers and lipstick. It’s naive but touching. 2 stars. Vancouver Sun. Granville 4, September 23 (9 p.m.), Granville 7, September 30 (1 p.m.) and Vogue, October 6 (7 p.m.)

BEING JULIA (Canada, UK, Hungary) Catherine Tunnacliffe, writing in Eye Magazine, gives Being Julia only 2� stars, writing “Annette Bening is delectable playing a spoiled actress in London during the late 30s, but the scope of this film is too slight to stir much enthusiasm. Her character, an aging diva named Julia, takes up with a young American, Tom (Shaun Evans), as an antidote to her tepid husband (Jeremy Irons). It initally seems Tom is as keen on her as she is on him, but soon turns out he's faking to advance the career of his real squeeze, a blonde named Avie (Lucy Punch). Julia’s revenge is carefully plotted but, to the outside observer, childish — it’s hard to root for the bitch in this picture, even one who’s played with such verve and strength.” Meanwhile, at Rotten Tomatoes, the film barely manages to attain a 33% fresh rating. Vogue, September 23 (7 p.m.), and Granville 7, September 26 (1 p.m.)

BERLIN BLUES (Germany) One of the key political events of the late 20th century fails to distract a man who is having a row with his parents in this comedy from Germany. The film takes place in the fall of 1989 in SO36, a neighbourhood in West Berlin adjacent to the Berlin Wall, shunted into a corner and largely ignored. It is home to an oddball community of Bohemians and outsiders who pay little mind to the world around them. Frank Lehmann (Christian Ulmen) is a bartender who serves beer at nights to the motley citizens of SO36 and is oblivious to most everything except his lackadaisical pal Karl (Detlev Buck) and his ill-tempered girlfriend Katrin (Katja Danowski). A visit from Frank’s parents throws his simple life into disarray, especially since his letters home led them to expect a far grander life than he's leading, and with this sudden chaos in his life, Frank barely notices that big things are happening on the other side of the wall. Screened as part of the German Cinema series at the 2004 Berlin Film Festival. Mark Deming, All Movie Guide. Granville 4, September 24 (2 p.m.) and Granville 3, October 2 (9:15 p.m.)

BIG CITY DICK: RICHARD PETERSON’S FIRST MOVIE (USA) The parallels between Seattle savant Richard Peterson and Chicago’s late Wesley Willis are striking, given their odd mix of limited musical skills (Peterson plays MOR trumpet, while Willis was a pseudo-rock keyboardist), wild-eyed musings, and architecturally detailed line drawings of the cityscapes around them. Dick gives a peek at Seattle’s cultural underbelly, but we probably could have learned just as much in less time. KE, Georgia Straight. Also Hollywood Bitchslap and the New York Times. Granville 7, October 3 (3:20 p.m.) and 5 (6 p.m.)

THE BIG DURIAN (Malaysia) This okay doc, more interesting in its ambition than in the telling, details — through interviews, archival materials, and sometimes-iffy re-creations — what happened when an armed soldier went amok (a Malaysian word, as it happens) in Kuala Lumpur. It tells us a lot about the politically manipulated tensions holding the island nation’s ethnic groups apart without really answering basic questions about the incident in question. KE Also IDFA Granville 7, Oct. 1 (7:15 p.m.) & 2 (1:40 p.m.)

BLOOD (Canada) Based on the play by Tom Walmsley, Blood is a nasty but gripping two-hander about sex, drugs and shared DNA. Three months clean, Noelle (Emily Hampshire) is looking for money to score. Her reformed-boozer brother Chris (Jacob Tierney) shows up just in time to become entangled in her schemes. Rendered with great skill by Hampshire and Tierney, the siblings’ often vicious sparring is further enlivened by director Jerry Ciccoritti’s attempts to carve up the frame via split-screen and other effects, thereby subverting the raw naturalism of Walmsley’s scuzzy drama. 3� stars. JA, Eye Magazine. Pacific Cin�math�que, October 1 (3 p.m.) and Granville 4, 9 p.m. (October 3)

BOATS OUT OF WATERMELON RINDS (Turkey) It’s one thing to make a film about teenage boys suffering from small-town ennui — it’s quite another to make us suffer with them. This semi-autobiographical Turkish film follows two friends’ quest to build their own projector and show movies they've fished from the bins outside the local theatre. They love movies, one of them loves the haughty girl next door — we get it already. The only thing keeping this sluggish film afloat is the self-taught director’s inventiveness with his digital video camera. Some of his tracking shots have an impressive, Kubrickian quality. Maybe next time he can apply his keen directorial eye to a more developed story. 2 stars. Kim Linekin, Eye Magazine. Granville 3, September 24 (11:30 a.m.) and the Ridge, September 28 (7 p.m.)

THE BOY WHO PLAYS ON THE BUDDHAS OF BAMIYAN (UK) In case you don’t recognize the name, the Buddhas of the title were the giant statues the Taliban blew up in Afghanistan. The picturesque cliffs surrounding them are filled with ancient caves that now house hundreds of poor refugees displaced by war. Phil Grabsky’s documentary follows one of them, an ever-smiling eight-year-old boy named Mir, over a year — through a brutal winter, constant hunger, and family conflicts in the cramped and filthy quarters. He puts a human face on the conflict and offers a window on a hidden world no outsiders would otherwise see. Most of all, having the common folk explain the complicated political history of the tormented country makes it clearer than a year’s worth of CNN reports. JS, Georgia Straight. Granville 7, Sept. 28 (10:30 a.m.) and October 3 (7 p.m.)

BROTHERS (Finland) Deceptively simple, Brothers is about what happens when a somewhat callous older sibling realizes that his recently estranged kid brother has a fatal disease and seems to be running away from family and friends. Because the teenager has fled to Estonia, causing the brother to cross borders to search for him, it can also be seen as a subtle commentary on the relationship between Europe’s healthier countries and their more traumatized neighbours, although director Esa Illi doesn’t underline this or any other notion. Ken Eisner, Georgia Straight. Ridge, September 30 (9:45 p.m.) and Granville 7, October 6 (11:30 a.m.)

CAF� LUMIERE (Japan) Like Millennium Mambo, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s new masterpiece monitors the inner transformation of a young woman (Japanese singer Hitoto Yo) — the shift barely registers moment to moment but by film’s end is blissfully palpable. Conceived as an Ozu tribute, Caf� Lumi�re is scaled and paced accordingly. It’s a film about the tenuous comfort of friends and family, the magic of Maurice Sendak, the clattering lullaby of railway sounds, the joys of home cooking and coffee (or warm milk) in the afternoon. There’s not exactly a happy ending, but the cumulative effect is one of muted rapture. Dennis Lim, The Village Voice. Vogue, September 29 (9:30 p.m.) and Granville 7, October 2 (1 p.m.)

CAMPFIRE (Israel) Probably the most poignant film in this year’s Festival, Campfire traces the lives of four people living in Israel in 1981, a widowed mother and her 2 teenage daughters, and the mother’s boyfriend to be. A complex and fully realized character study, to write more about Campfire than “just go see it, it’s one of the best films at this year’s Festival” would be a disservice — here’s one film you want to discover on your own. Still if you want more information, The Jerusalem Post’s Hannah Brown offers a 4 star review that’ll have you rushing out to buy your tickets now. Ridge, September 26 (7 p.m.) and Granville 7, September 28 (4 p.m.)

CAPTIVE (Argentina) Gaston Biraben’s political thriller Cautiva (Captive) concerns itself with what happened to the children of the people killed after the 1970s military coup. Cristina Quadri (Barbara Lombardo) is the model of the perfect student. Smart and affluent, her life is in perfect order until, one day, she is called from her class and made to appear in front of a judge. The judge informs her that her real parents were murdered during a period of political unrest in the 1970s. Cristina is forced to go live with her grandmother Elisa (Susana Campos), who has spent the past 20 years attempting to locate Cristina (whose birth name was Sofia). Although, at first, she is hurt, bitter, and confused, Cristina/Sofia eventually grows to care for Elisa and begins to research the fate of her parents. An award winner at the 2003 San Sebastian Film Festival. Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide. Also, recommended by E-Insiders, New York Times and Hollywood Bitchslap. Granville 4, October 1 (9 p.m.) and Ridge, October 3 (1 p.m.)

CHAIN (USA) If The World is an anthropological study of modern day China (Beijing in particular), Jem Cohen’s Chain succeeds only as a rather shallow, futurist archeological and topographical film — all surface and little more — that has little relevance for audiences today but may, in years to come, emerge as a curious cultural artifact four generations hence. As such, for now VanRamblings awards Chain 1� stars. Granville 2, September 28 (7:15 p.m.) and Granville 5, September 29 (1:40 p.m.)

CHANNELS OF RAGE (Israel) Israeli rappers Subliminal (a right-wing Jew) and Tamer Nafar (a Palestinian nationalist) lay out the basic arguments fuelling the Middle East crisis while somehow remaining something like friends. The gravity of the situation and the transformative power of art (even the gangsta-imitating type) are underscored by shifting events behind them over a long period, as the latest uprising and security measures kick into high gear. Granville 7, September 26 (8:45 p.m.), and October 4 (9:45 p.m.) and 6 (1 p.m.) KE

CHECKPOINT (Israel) Part of the New York 2004 New Directors / New Films Festival this past spring, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat’s “courageous and unflinchingly honest Israeli film helps us to identify with both the Palestinians and the Israeli soldiers who are all degraded by the checkpoint operations along Israel's West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the power plays of the occupying forces.” The full review is available here. Gary Gray at IOFilm ends his review of Checkpoint by writing, “A superb documentary, that focuses on a subject that needs more than just the sound bite news coverage that we normally get.” Granville 5, September 23 (10:30 a.m.), and Granville 2, October 4 (7:15 p.m.) and 6 (3:20 p.m.)

CHILDSTAR (Canada) From Russel the serial killer railing against the idea that you have to go to The States to be successful (from 1989’s Roadkill) to the decidedly anti-armageddon Last Night, Don McKellar’s work has always provided a wry take on the relationship between Canadian and American culture. In Childstar, this continuing theme finally takes centre stage and the result is even funnier and smarter than what came before it. The story of America’s most famous child star, Taylor Brandon Burns (Mark Rendall), going missing from the set of this Toronto-shot movie, the film is a dry and self-deprecating satire of American culture running amuck in a foreign land. Canada’s relationship with America is hardly a new topic, but it’s never been tackled quite this way or quite this well before. Sarah Kurchak, Chart Attack. Also, this review. Vogue, October 1, 7 .m., and Granville 4, October 3, 11 a.m.

CHINESE RESTAURANTS: ON THE ISLANDS (Canada) Director Cheuk Kwan decided to check out the Chinese diaspora by visiting selected restaurants in francophone Mauritius, anglophone Trinidad, and Hispanic Cuba. All the restaurant families profiled in this doc have adapted to local languages and traditions with surprising ease, although in Cuba, the once-substantial Chinese community has dwindled to almost nothing. Even there, however, the mood is more upbeat than down, reflecting a willingness to confront new challenges that is the cornerstone of the will to survive. Granville 7, September 27 (12:30 p.m.) and October 7 (7:15 p.m.) MH

CLEAN (Canada) A fading Canadian steel town with its industrial smokestacks and furnaces marks the end of the line for an over-the-hill 80s rock star at the start of Olivier Assayas’ complex and absorbing Clean,but he keeps everything at arm’s length. The film looks good, with rich colours and images from cinematographer Eric Gautier, but the central character’s shallow world is heavily populated, and some sequences seem too busy, unnecessary and deliberately stilted. Cannes’ Best Actress winner Maggie Cheung does fine work in the frantic sequences of drugs and music, but while the distance she creates in the quieter episodes may be intentional, it puts up a barrier that’s difficult to overcome with much sympathy. Ray Bennett, The Hollywood Reporter

CZECH DREAM (Czech Republic) A wry comment on fading national identity amidst the rising tide of globalization, this near-mockumentary follows two art students as they assemble a fake campaign for a fake ‘hyperstore’ that will never open. The film, infused with the spirit of Andy Warhol and Marshall McLuhan, is not just darkly funny — check out that kitschy theme song with the Celine Dion�type warbler — it shows you the hidden nuts and bolts of consumer culture, wherever you live. KE, Georgia Straight. Also Pacific Cin�math�que, September 24 (12:30 p.m.), Ridge, September 29 (7 p.m.), and Granville 7, October 4 (9:15 p.m.)

DAME LA MANO (Netherlands) Dutch director Heddy Honigmann culls the New York community for Cuban ex-pats who are keeping the beat of the rumba alive. More interesting for its content than its straightforward style, the documentary features interviews with amazing conservatory-trained musicians and septuagenarians who are still shaking it — all in the rather incongruous settings of snowy streets and bland American buildings. JS, Georgia Straight. Granville 7, September 24 (7 p.m.) and 27 (3:20 p.m.)

DAVID HOCKNEY: THE COLORS OF MUSIC (USA / France) David Hockney has long been one of the most prominent and celebrated of contemporary visual artists. He also has been the subject of more than 200 solo exhibitions and a participant in a similar number of group shows. With a great love of opera, he has designed stage sets for 11 operas that have been performed all over the world. Employing an imaginative use of colour and lighting, Hockney has succeeded in transforming opera into a visual as well as an aural experience, setting a new standard for theatrical design. Shot mostly in the early 1990s, The Colors of Music shows the artist at work creating sets and lighting designs with large-scale models of the theatres. The film is marked by sad irony: while it was being made, Hockney was losing his hearing from a genetic condition that manifests itself in middle age. Now deaf, he has been forced to end his work with the opera. The Colors of Music provides a rare, insightful look at the artistic process and one man’s deep passion for music. Denver Film Society. Granville 2, October 4 (12:30 p.m.), Granville 5, October 6 (9:30 p.m.) and Pacific Cin�math�que, October 8 (3 p.m.)

DEAD MAN’S SHOES (UK) The word ‘gritty’ was invented for movies like this, says Z review critic Adam Whyte in his 4 star review. Two brothers. One is a bit slow; bullied by his friends. The other, a soldier, is as hard as nails. There’s a group of druggies and thugs who’ve created their own moral universe. A movie with no clear heroes or villains, Dead Man’s Shoes is all at once thrilling, exciting, sad and funny, turning the British gangster movie on its head. With great dialogue, much emotion, and superb performances, the film takes an unexpected turn at the end that is presented not as a twist, but as a story development. You’ll have to see the film to find out what the twist is. Granville 7, September 26 (4 p.m.) and The Vogue, September 27 (9:45 p.m.)

DEAR FRANKIE (UK) Scottish screenwriter Andrea Gibb is on a roll with Dear Frankie, writes The Hollywood Reporter’s Ray Bennett, as he goes on to call Dear Frankie, “a gem of a picture that, like her Edinburgh Film Festival success AfterLife, has flinty characters dealing with everyday hardships who are suddenly faced with a predicament of their own making.” Widely respected critic James Berardinelli isn’t so sure; he calls Dear Frankie “a perfect example of a mediocre motion picture.” Rich Cline at Shadows on the Wall gives the film four stars, writing “It’s rare that a film can make us cry (more than once) without ever feeling sentimental. First-time director Shona Auerbach orchestrates the characters and situations perfectly, maintaining a thoughtful, emotional and bittersweet tone, while filling the scenes with earthy humour and flashes of sharp personality. She’s unafraid to let a scene flow in utter silence, building strong subtext without ever being obvious about it. And Gibb’s script is equally subtle and provocative. Supporting characters are all vivid and strong enough that we get a real feel for them.” Granville 3, September 24 (6:40 p.m.) and 25 (2:20 p.m.)

DELUXE COMBO PLATTER (Canada) Undigestibly mawkish and trite, this steaming trayful of cinematic leftovers may have the worst script of anything you’ll find at the fest. Somebody’s idea of an empowering ‘comedy’ finds a padded-out Marla Sokoloff, from The Practice, as a small-town girl trying to get noticed by a local stud muffin (Barry Watson). Monika Schnarre is dreadful as a developer with Sapphic inclinations, although she’s not as bad as Jennifer Tilly, playing a dumb waitress with a bad Southern accent and a heart of pure hairspray. Some of the interplay between Sokoloff and Watson is kind of sweet, in an obvious sort of way. KE Ridge, September 30 (7 p.m.) and Granville 7, October 4 (11 a.m.)

DIAS DE SANTIAGO (Peru) Although he’s nowhere near as antisocial, and he’s much more attractive to women, the hero of this neorealist drama is basically a Peruvian Travis Bickle. Somewhat predictable in places, D�as de Santiago is nonetheless more than redeemed by Josu� M�ndez’s dynamic directorial style, informed not by the usual hyperkinetics but by a deep sense of moral integrity. Cesare Zavattini would doubtless approve. MH Andrew Nayman, at Eye Magazine, finds the film problematical, awarding it a 2� star designation. Granville 7, September 26 (2 p.m.) and 29 (10 p.m.), and October 1 (7:30 p.m.)

DIFFERENT DRUMMERS: DARING TO MAKE PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST (USA) The ungainly title actually says a lot, as it takes a lot of chutzpah to cross literal barriers in Israel to understand and even advocate positions taken by the ‘other’ side. Both Jews and Arabs are seen struggling, sometimes unsuccessfully, to comprehend their own motivations as well as the worth of their fitful endeavours. This has a value to us, anyway, as you come away from the movie with something vaguely like hope. KE, Georgia Straight. Granville 7, October 2 (8:45 p.m.) and 7 (10:30 a.m.)

THE DOOR TO THE SUN (Egypt) This epic four-and-a-half-hour film was unquestionably the hot ticket for Arab film critics at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Adapted from a novel by Lebanese writer Elias Khoury, The Door to the Sun is the story of a Palestinian man, beginning in Galilee in the 1940s through to life in a refugee camp in Lebanon in the 1990s, all told through the eyes of Younes, a young villager turned freedom fighter. Years later, the elderly Younes is rushed to a hospital where friend and neighbour, Dr. Khalil, watches over and cares for him. The story unfolds in flashbacks as Khalil recalls Younes’ own past in the hope of snapping him back to consciousness. He tells the story of Younes’ love Nahila where, at the end of the British Mandate and at the start of first Palestine war, the young newlyweds secretly met in a semi-permanent residence in a Galilee cave that Younes christened the Door to the Sun. Granville 1, September 27 (12 noon) and Granville 4, September 29 (6:20 p.m.)

DUTCH LIGHT (Netherlands) A documentary that looks at light in Holland may sound like the sequel to Watching Paint Dry, but this is a surprisingly satisfying viewing experience. Dutch filmmakers Pieter-Rim de Kroon and Maarten de Kroon take as their starting point a comment by German artist Joseph Beuys that with the land reclamation of the inland sea, the Zudyder Zee, in the mid-1950s, the Dutch were destroying the only sense that they possessed — their sight. At first this might sound like the eccentric ranting of an art nut, but as the film searches for the qualities that characterise Holland’s light now and in the 17th century (when the Dutch Masters were painting), the comment becomes more resonant. Naturally, with such subject matter you become much more conscious of the quality of the cinematography, its grain, the vibrancy and range of light and colour, and with director of photography Paul van den Bos you feel in safe hands. By movie’s end, you’ll see things quite differently. 4 stars. IOFilm. Granville 1, October 3 (7:30 p.m.) and Granville 2, October 5 (12:30 p.m.)

ELECTRIC SHADOWS (China) Save for an overly complex framing narrative that skirts the line of melodramatic self-parody, Electric Shadows would stand with the best contemporary Chinese films. It’s actually more emotionally accessible than its Sixth Generation counterparts, integrating a soulful elegy for the bygone magic of old movies (the ‘electric shadows’ of the title) with a more conventional, if particularly miserable, coming-of-age tale set plaintively against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution. There’s too much exposition late in the film and the duelling voice-over narrations are bothersome, yet child actors’ performances during the long mid-section resonate. 3 stars. AN Eye Magazine

ELLES ETAIENT CINQ (Canada) Manipulative pap masquerading as serious drama, The Five of Us — as it will be known if it heads our way again — tips its hand early by flashing forward to a grisly crime that disrupts the lives of five young Québéc women. After catching up with the survivors, it then flashes back to the event over and over again, with prurience taking the place of character development. With the shock cuts, actorly mugging, and Hollywood mood music giving all the cues, you’ d expect at least a slick thriller, but the flabbily written film can’t decide whether it wants to entertain or say something, anything, about women’s lives. KE, Georgia Straight, plus a 2-star review in the Montréal Film Journal. Granville 7, September 25 (noon) and 27 (9:15 p.m.)

L’ESQUIVE (France) It sounds suspiciously contrived: a film in which the teen protagonists re-enact age-old courtship rituals in their own idiom even as they rehearse Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance for a drama class. Actually, Abdellatif Kechiche’s film doesn’t push the parallels too far, but delineates its own comedy of modern manners as the hopelessly undemonstrative Krimo takes a leading role in the play just to get close to the blond Lydia. Some of the semi-improvised scenes might have been tighter, but it’s such a refreshing, sympathetic movie, you’ll forgive the odd longeur. As for the bad language, talk about French immersion .... 4 stars. Vancouver Sun. Dennis Lim, at the Village Voice, writes “Kechiche’s L’Esquive is a Raising Victor Vargas with much naturalistic swearing and a neatly reflexive framework: Teens in the Paris-suburb projects put on a Marivaux play and find themselves in a real-life comedy of manners.” Granville 4, September 23 (6 p.m.) and Granville 7, September 24 (1 p.m.)

EVERYONE (Canada) A disappointing blend of sitcom dialogue, broad-strokes satire, and gay-movie clichés, this dull tale of a wedding from hell is better acted and directed than its script justifies. Writer-director Bill Marchant, who also has a smallish part, obviously has affection for the characters, but except for Brendan Fletcher’s enigmatic hustler, who upends the event, they are just not all that interesting, or funny. Jane Weitzel’s cinematography makes good use of small spaces, however. KE, Georgia Straight, plus a more favourable accounting of the film from EFilmCritic. Granville 7, October 6 (6:40 p.m.) and 8 (noon)

FAITHLESS GAMES (Czech) Eva (Zuzana Stivinov�) is a Czech concert pianist who follows her composer husband, Peter (Peter Bebjak), to live in a small village on the Slovak-Hungarian border. Cut off from her friends and from the Prague scene, she gives piano lessons, but public performances are limited to a restricted classical repertoire, and she is unable to gain access to the Slovak music scene. Peter’s music is equally appreciated only by the world from which he has retreated. Tensions begin to develop with the situation complicated by the arrival of a friend from Prague and an uneasy relationship with the mother and daughter who live next door. Tina Diosi’s script treats a familiar situation with subtlety while Petr Hrom�dka’s music plays a key dramatic role in the depiction of a partnership that is both personal and musical. This �chamber piece about love and human failings� marks the feature directing debut of the Oscar-nominated animation director, Michaela Pavl�tov�. Stivinov� gives a vibrant and responsive performance that subtly suggests the world of secret feelings and emotions. Peter Hames, LFF. Granville 7, September 28 (7 p.m.) and Granville 4, September 29 (11 a.m.)

FALLEN ANGEL: GRAM PARSONS (GERMANY, UK) Directed by German documentarian Gandulf Hennig, the film offers a fascinating look at the life and death of Gram Parsons. Beginning with his well-to-do upbringing in Florida, to his influential role in The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers and ending with his controversial ‘funeral,’ Hennig weaves together a story that is both engrossing and enlightening. Interviews with Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris, Chris Hillman, Parsons’ wife Gretchen, his half-sister Diane and of course Kaufman tell the story of a man whose absolute desire to live the ultimate rock ‘n roll dream finally found him dead in a motel room just outside of Joshua Tree National Monument, with a belly full of tequila and veins full of morphine. Rare footage of Parsons — including him hanging out with the Rolling Stones during the recording of Exile On Main Street — as well as an excellent soundtrack provide the perfect atmosphere for this documentary, which serves as an excellent tribute to a fallen legend. Josh Lagerson, Sensored. Granville 2, September 29 (3:20 p.m.) and Pacific Cinémathèque, October 4 (9:30 p.m.)

FINISTERRE (UK) A day in the life of London town, as celebrated by Kieran Evans and Paul Kelly, of the pop group Saint Etienne. Clearly influenced by the writing of Iain Sinclair and Patrick Keiller’s film London (and through him, the ruminative film essays of Chris Marker), Finisterre shuffles through snapshots of the city and philosophical sound bites from off-camera interviews with musos and bohemian types. RSC veteran Michael Jayston reads a plummy narration in free verse, plundering The London Nobody Knows and The Secret History of Rock for tidbits. It’s too much of a rag-bag to add up to much, but at least it doesn’t go the Buckingham Palace route, and the filmmakers' affection for the Old Smoke shines through. You get a dozen new Saint Etienne tracks too. 2 stars. Vancouver Sun. Pacific Cinémathèque, September 23 (9:30 p.m.) and 25 (12:30 p.m.)

FIVE (Iran) Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami pays homage to Yasujiro Ozu, the brilliant Japanese filmmaker whose spare but evocative style has been a major influence on Kiarostami's work, with this non-narrative visual experiment. Five features five extended single-shot sequences shot along a seashore, in which Kiarostami, through framing and subtle camera movement, finds different moods and feelings in each shot, lending them a personal and distinctive touch. Shot on digital video, Five was screened at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Mark Deming, All Movie Guide. Rated 5 stars by the Vancouver Sun’s Tom Charity. Pacific Cinémathèque, October 2 (3 p.m.) and 3 (9:30 p.m.)

FLOWER AND SNAKE 4 (Japan) Defenders of this dark tale about a bankrupt businessman who barters his bride to a perverted yakuza to get himself out of debt might enlist the aesthetics of surrealism, the theatre of cruelty, and the cinema of transgression to justify their choice. With equal predictability, detractors of Flower and Snake 4: Rope Magic could point out that its vicious misogyny would not, under ordinary circumstances, even be tolerated at the Pussycat or the Venus. I almost side with those who would rather be wrong with the Village Voice than right with the Reader’s Digest, but in this instance the social conservatives have the stronger case. MH Granville 7, September 27 (2 p.m.) and 28 (9:30 p.m.)

THE FOREST FOR THE TREES (Germany) One of the best examples of the new digital revolution in German indies, this thornily realistic drama follows an increasingly off-kilter young woman as she takes a teaching position in a new town and manages to alienate almost everyone around her. In particular, she forms an unhealthy attachment to a more glamorous neighbour. As the teacher becomes more unhinged, you realize that displacement and loneliness can drive even (especially) idealists to despair. The digitally shot effort’s strange ending is meant to be taken metaphorically — I hope. KE Granville 7, September 24 (7:30 p.m.) and 25 (3 p.m.), and October 2 (6:40 p.m.)

FORGIVENESS (South Africa) An ex-cop arrives in a South African fishing village seeking atonement from the family of a young freedom fighter he killed 10 years earlier. The daughter calls her late brother’s friends home to get their revenge, then must stall the cop until they arrive. The drama here is more dime-store novel than socio-political, and it takes a while for the actors to stop acting so hard, but at almost two hours long, Forgiveness is never boring. It also looks great, shot on high-definition video and bleached all to hell. Too dour to be good, pulpy fun, though. 3 stars. KL, Eye Magazine

FOUR SHADES OF BROWN (Sweden) Placing modern Sweden and human shortcomings under a magnifying glass Four Shades of Brown, the first feature film by comedy group Killinggänget, tells four different stories, employing black humour, quirky behaviour and dysfunctional families to educate and entertain, all related in a gripplingly intense manner, filmed on an epic scale. A well-dressed man, having just completed his life’s work, meets his destiny, in the shape of a little man made out of wood. In the south of Sweden a zealous father tries to encourage his son, by showing him the joys of small animal cremation. In Gothenburg, a diverse group of people convene, in the belief that they will learn how to cook. And somewhere in the north, a patriarch dies. His sons attend the funeral, which manifests strong oriental influences. Sliced in half for a classic intermission, Four Shades of Brown is epic in design and its use of Hopper-like visuals. Swooping down from an opening bird’s eye view of the suburban sprawl, its opening ironic gesture, the film is tinged with moments of the blackest humour, but also of deep anger and frustration. Its protagonists may sometimes be absurd, nearly cartoonesque and laughable in their actions but finally are treated with great sympathy in an atmosphere heightened by the hyper-real visuals. Rotterdam Film Festival Granville 4, October 2 (8:30 p.m.), and October 3 at the Granville 1 (3 p.m.) and Granville 6 (8 p.m.).

GEORGE BUSH: FAITH IN THE WHITE HOUSE (USA) Of the many cultural grenades being tossed, the one must-see is George W. Bush: Faith in the White House, specifically marketed in ‘head to head’ partisan opposition to Fahrenheit 9/11. This documentary first surfaced at the Republican convention in New York, where it was previewed in tandem with an invitation-only, no-press-allowed ‘Family, Faith and Freedom Rally’, a Ralph Reed-Sam Brownback jamboree thrown by the Bush campaign for Christian conservatives. Faith in the White House gives the imagination room to run riot about what a 21st-century crusade might look like in the flesh. A documentary conceived as a rebuke to Fahrenheit 9/11 is nothing if not its unintentional and considerably more nightmarish sequel. Frank Rich, New York Times. Granville 5, October 7 (4 p.m.)

THE GIFT (Italy) If you can accept The Gift as a rather enigmatic slice of rural life wherein people with Renaissance faces walk through medieval streets on their way from the supermarket to the village witch, you will probably warm to this diffuse, almost silent drama. If you cannot, you must dismiss it as just another exercise in empty pictorialism. MH Granville 7, September 24 (10 p.m.) and Pacific Cin�math�que, September 26 (10 a.m.)

GOOD MORNING, NIGHT (Italy) Veteran Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio returns with his strongest film in years, a persuasive, non-dogmatic take on the real-life kidnapping of Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro by the Red Brigade in 1978. A centre-right politician, Moro had incurred their wrath by engineering a power-sharing pact with the Communist party. Expecting to incite a class revolution, the kidnappers were sadly disappointed. Bellocchio’s film mixes keen social observation, claustrophobic suspense, and a more dubious strain of post-modern special pleading: at one point the screenwriter introduces himself to explain why he’s invented a female kidnapper (Maya Sansa.) 4 stars. Vancouver Sun. Granville 2, September 28 (9:45 p.m.) and 29 (12:30 p.m.)

LE GOUT DES JEUNES FILLES (Canada) Dany Laferri�re is one of this country’s greatest writers, but up until now no cineaste has done justice to his oeuvre. John L'Ecuyer’s brilliant re-creation of the Haitian-born author’s semifictional account of coming of age at the end of Papa Doc Duvalier’s nightmare regime is alternately magical, touching, and terrifying. Laferri�re wrote the sensitive script and delivers the eloquent voice-over narration. MH Granville 7, September 30 (6:20 p.m.) and October 2 (noon)

GUERRILLA: THE TAKING OF PATTY HEARST (USA) Even better than last year’s Weather Underground, this detailed evocation of the violent climate of the early 1970s — government duplicity, weird Helter Skelter delusions of grandeur, and a pointless, protracted foreign war — eerily presages the world we have entered since the Axis of Idiots took over the U.S.A. KE, Georgia Straight, plus the following 3-star reviews from Steve Rhodes and Neil Young. Granville 7, October 5 (3:20 p.m.) and 6 (9:30 p.m.)

HARI OM (India/France) This unusual road movie follows the meanderings of a disaffected French beauty (Camille Natta) and her mob-hunted rickshaw driver (Vijay Raaz) as they provide the audience with the opportunity to observe the architectural and topographical splendours of Rajasthan. Although the characters frequently behave in an annoyingly stupid manner, Hari Om has heart as well as eye candy, and this prompts us to forgive it a lot. Granville 7, September 24 (6:20 p.m.) and the Vogue, September 26 (3:30 p.m.) MH

HAUNTING DOUGLAS (New Zealand) Chances are dance fans haven’t heard of the Kiwi choreographer at the centre of this fascinating doc, but they’'ll wish they had. It opens with Douglas Wright writhing naked in the dark, a lit candle squeezed between his thighs and flickering over his sculpted muscles. All of the artfully shot clips carce (hello? we’d be dead) and so are interesting people, leaving a constipated-looking doctor (Peter Stebbings) to travel to a remote Edwardian home where he grafts new legs onto — and falls drearily in love with — a sickly blonde with Battlefield Earth dreadlocks and the personality of a sea sponge (co-writer Ingrid Veninger). Lots of yelling ensues, but nary a gram of believable drama. 1 star. KL, Eye Magazine Granville 7, October 1 (9 p.m.) and 3 (2 p.m.)

HEAD IN THE CLOUDS (UK, Canada) Though a movie in which Charlize Theron and Pen�lope Cruz play lovers would normally have much to recommend it, John Duigan’s between-the-wars romance is pretty without being involving. Theron's real-life beau Stuart Townsend plays Guy, an Irish student besotted with Gilda (Theron), a Franco-American belle who's already legendary among the Cambridge set. Reunited in Paris in the 30s, they shack up with Gilda’s Spanish lover Mia (Cruz). Their bohemian bliss ends when Guy and Mia leave to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Theron is lively and lovely, but outside of a few good moments where it becomes more than an overextended David Lean impression, Head in the Clouds isn’t worth her efforts. 2 stars JA, Eye Magazine The folks at Rotten Tomatoes, and the 27 reviews published on the site, award Head in the Clouds only a 19% fresh rating. Ouch. Vogue, September 25 (7 p.m.) and Granville 3, September 27 (11:30 a.m.)

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (Switzerland) Because of his recent death, Henri Cartier-Bresson, the man whom many regard as the greatest photographer of the 20th century, has generated interest that is space-shuttle high. Heinz B�tler’s approach, subtitled The Impassioned Eye, is modest and restrained but, because his subject’s career was so integral to the pivotal events of the recent past (the rise of Communism in China; the death of Mahatma Gandhi), the result is thoroughly satisfying. MH Pacific Cin�math�que, September 23 (7 p.m.) and Granville 7, September 25 (4 p.m.)

HIJACKING CATASTROPHE: 9/11, FEAR AND THE SELLING OF AMERICAN EMPIRE (USA) A devastating critique of the Bush claque’s long-range plans, this hour long doc deals with 9/11 as a gift from Allah to the neo-cons, who never expected to enact their wild-eyed schemes with so little resistance. Morality aside, the film also confronts the immediate — and painfully ironic — consequences of such an ill-conceived empire: the collapse of the U.S. economy and gradual loss of influence around the world. KE Pacific Cin�math�que, September 23 (4 p.m.) and Granville 7, September 24 (9:30 p.m.)

HUMAN TOUCH (Australia) Paul Cox directed the lovely, aching Innocence a few years ago, and now he’s moved from studying a twilight romance to one struggling to last past noon. Anna is a singer who’s lost interest in sex with her painter boyfriend David, who’s endearingly reminiscent of Steve from Sex and the City. Anna’s sensual reawakening with an older man isn’t terribly convincing, but how this dalliance affects David yields some great, complicated scenes. Cox never reveals where his sympathies lie, but instead builds a powerful case for our need to be touched, even if it’s to deliver a well-deserved punch in the eye. 3� stars. KL, Eye Magazine. Ridge, September 25 (4 p.m.) and Vogue, September 29 (7 pm.)

I LIKE TO WORK (Italy) Roberto Benigni muse Nicoletta Braschi gets a literal workout here as a mild-mannered single mom who finds herself increasingly harassed and humiliated at work when she dabbles in trade unionism. Actually, she hasn’t even done anything to raise her corporate bosses’ ire; they are simply in the process of downsizing, and pushing women around is always on the to-do list. Even so, the movie offers a gritty kind of inspiration, if just short of the Erin Brockovich sort. KE Granville 7, September 23 (6:40 p.m.) and Ridge, September 26 (1 p.m.)

I, CURMUDGEON (Canada) Alan Zweig (you know him and love him from his cranky-collectors' movie, Vinyl) has a gloriously agonized time talking to people (ranging from Fran Leibowitz to Harvey Pekar and Mark Eitzel) about their bad attitudes. What starts as a cautionary screed against letting bitterness rule your life turns out to be something of a celebration of the power (and powerlessness) of naked-emperor screeds in general. And if you don’t find that amusing, the hell with you! KE Granville 7, September 29 (6 p.m.) and October 1 (10:30 a.m.)

ILL FATED (Canada) The title just about says it: why would rookie writer-director Mark Lewis think a comedy about poor inbred Canucks trying to kill each other over long-ago heartache and infidelity could wind up anywhere north of intolerable? Unless the film is meant as a drama, in which case it’s unintentionally hilarious in addition to being stilted, mean-spirited, and maladroitly performed. At least there’s some old-timey car-chase music during the old-timey car chase that concludes this disaster. 1 star. AN, Eye Magazine. Ridge, October 3 (7 p.m.) and Granville 1m, October 5 (3 p.m.)

IMELDA (USA) There’s more to Mrs. Marcos than shoes, as revealed in the compelling doc detailing the rise, fall, and irrepressible rebirth of the Philippines' first lady, who started out modelling herself on Jackie Kennedy but soon headed into the territory of Marie Antoinette (without ever losing her head). This well-told tale is surprisingly sympathetic to the increasingly plasticized Imelda; in fact, it gives her the means to describe her own particular brand of self-delusion without ever recognizing it herself. KE Granville 7, September 26 (6:40 p.m.) and October 5 (4 p.m.)

IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL (USA) Henry Darger kept himself to himself. A janitor from the time he ran away from the asylum for feeble-minded children (save for a brief spell in the military), he was a regular churchgoer, but declined any attempts at conversation. His last landlords were amazed when, after Henry had to be moved to a home for the last few weeks of his life, they discovered hundreds of drawings and large-scale paintings, illustrations for his 15,000-page epic novel, In the Realms of the Unreal. Jessica Yu’s astonishing film explores the enigmas of a rich but all-consuming fantasy life, illuminating Darger’s perversely innocent art, and, I think, transcending it. 5 stars. Vancouver Sun. Granville 4, September 23 (11 a.m.) and 28 (9 p.m.) and Granville 1, October 2 (7:30 p.m.)

IN YOUR HANDS (Denmark) Shown at the 2004 Berlin International Film Festival and selected by New York’s Film Society at Lincoln Center for inclusion their in New Directors / New Films, In Your Hands relates the story of Anna (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen of Italian for Beginners), who has just been hired as the chaplain at a women’s prison. Inexperienced, but compassionate and energetic, she begins to feel her way amongst the prisoners, and soon gain their trust. Soon, a new prisoner, Kate (Trine Dyrholm of The Celebration), is transferred to the prison and causes a stir. Initially an amiable, even comedic, excursion into female prison life the films turns dark, even tragic, halfway through, sending some audience members reeling but satisfying others who are looking for something more substantial in their filmgoing. Granville 3, September 23 (e, September 25 ( 1 p.m.)

INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS (USA) Werner Herzog’s quixotic side comes in for a gentle ribbing in Zak Penn’s would-be documentary about the German director’s trip to Scotland and his attempt to unlock the ‘enigma’ of Nessie. Initially, you don’t know whether to laugh or snore through the very realistic steps of setting out on a low-budget cinematic adventure, but by the time the crew's ‘sonar expert’ strips down to her red-white-and-blue bikini, you have a pretty good idea. Weirdly enough, though, this Incident has its philosophically stirring moments, too. KE Granville 7, September 24 (9:15 p.m.) and 26 (2:20 p.m.)

THE ISLAND (Italy) Because Italy has made rather a lot of movies about everyday life in rough fishing villages on Mediterranean islands of late (Respiro et al.), The Island can seem a little too familiar at times. Still, if you go for that kind of picturesque, sentimental thing, director Costanza Quatriglio certainly knows how to deliver the expected experience. MH Granville 7, September 25 (7:30 p.m.) and October 5 (2:20 p.m.)

IZO (Japan) There are two things we know about Miike Takashi, the hardest-working man in Japanese show business. The first is that he has talent; the second is that he makes far too many films far too fast. Izo shows signs of both tendencies. The central figure is a vengeance demon, born over and over again, who kills everyone he dislikes and who dislikes virtually everyone. The director mocks everything from politics to religion in a story that pushes nihilism about as far as it can go in a deliciously atemporal, mock-incestuous fashion. On the other hand, many scenes feel rushed, and the slapdash and the inspired are equally common, a typically hybrid Miike result. MH Granville 7, September 25 (9 p.m.) and 30 (3 p.m.), and October 1 (9:45 p.m.)

JOURNEYINGS AND CONVERSATIONS (India) Koyaanisqatsi it ain’t, but what this gritty series of impressions of Calcutta’s main train station lacks in poetry or lyricism it makes up in pure, unfiltered reality. You can almost feel the suffocating heat as you listen to wailing children, watch beggars struggle, and generally experience one of the most bizarre places on Earth. The end result is unpleasant and chaotic, which couldn’t be truer to the station itself. JS, Georgia Straight. Granville 7, October 3 (10:30 a.m.) and 7 (9:15 p.m.)

KONTROLL (Hungary) Shot at night in the stations and tunnels of the Budapest Metro, Nimrod Antal’s hyperkinetic Kontroll exploits every fear of the underground with its live tracks, rattling carriages, narrow platforms and nighttime population of wackos, weirdos and the simply strange. Add a hooded killer who likes to push passengers in front of hurtling subway trains and a rough-and-ready team of inspectors who look and behave more like football hooligans, and the probability of mayhem is high. Grungy and uneven as Kontroll may be, its rollicking pace may cause audiences to overlook its unsteady rhythms, pretensions and inconsistencies and take it for the fast and very furious ride it wants to be. RB, Hollywood Reporter. Terresa Gaffney offers her enthusiastic review in Z Review, as well. Granville 7, September 29 (9:30 p.m.) and Granville 4, October 5 (2 p.m.)

THE LAST TRAIN (Russia) 1944, the Western Front, deep in the middle of winter, with the German army disintegrating, a German doctor is ordered up to the frontline to attend to wounded German soldiers. But this isn’t a tale of a heroic doctor struggling against the odds to save his comrades. Instead of the young virile Aryan you might expect, he’s a fat, bumbling short sighted older man, and the movie then follows his last few unknown days. This is a fiction movie, but based on an actual doctor who did go to the Russian Front, who was a member of the director’s own family, and he has worked up a story of what may have happened to him. Exquisitely shot and framed in B&W, the film conveys the abject pointlessness and absurdity of war. Unfortunately, a poorly developed plot and pretentiously written dialogue are the film’s undoing. Arty and clever, but ignores crucial story and character elements. Gary Gray, Z Review. A somewhat more salutary review is published in IOFilm. Granville 3, September 26 (7 p.m.) and Granville 7, October 4 (4 p.m.)

THE LAST VICTORY (Netherland) Every year, a horse race called Il Palio bestows glory upon one of the many districts in the Italian city of Siena. For more than two decades, the winning district has not been Civetta. John Appel’s wry and engrossing doc follows several proud citizens of Civetta in the weeks leading up to last year’s Il Palio. Prayers like that of the elderly Egidio — “Blessed Holy Virgin, please let Civetta win one more time before I die” — are on everyone’s lips. As Il Palio draws closer, their collective obsession reveals a great deal about their attitudes toward community, tradition and life’s many disappointments. Those poor horses have far too much to carry. 3� stars. Jason Anderson, Eye Magazine. Pacific Cin�math�que, September 30 (10 a.m.) and Granville 4, October 6 (6:20 p.m.)

LET’S GET FRANK (USA) What may appear to be just another political biopic turns out to be a fascinating portrait of an era, as well as of a unique public servant. Massachusetts representative Barney Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress a

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 22, 2004 10:47 PM in VIFF 2004


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As of this morning the Now Magazine review of Siblings has been added.

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