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Film Festival Season Arrives Much to the Delight of Cinephiles

September film festivals, from Venice, Telluride and Toronto, to Vancouver and New York

The most glorious time of year for cinéastes across the globe occurs in the month of September, as five prestigious film festivals programme films that in the months to come will take the world by storm, set the stage for Oscar season, and for true diehard festival attendees — in evanescent moments of cinematic splendour — allow the screening of hundreds of films spanning the globe in origin, to be seen only within the rarified humanist atmosphere of the film festival, thereafter to vanish forevermore. Sigh.

Only 48 short hours ago, the 72nd annual Venice Film Festival kicked off with the out of competition world première screening of Baltasar Kormakur's emotionally riveting mountain climbing thriller, Everest, providing bursts of anxiety and cliff-hanging 3D drama in the star-studded Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido. Fortunate for Vancouver's anticipatory hometown cinephile crowd, a goodly number of the lauded Biennale di Venezia films will find their way to our calming and beatific shores, as the always glorious and transformative 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival sets about to screen many of the Venice Film Festival award-winners, our very own illustrious Festival-by-sea commencing at 10am, Thursday, Sept. 24th, completing its run late, late on Friday, October 9th.

Earlier this week, the fine folks at the Vancouver International Film Festival announced that their Opening Gala film will be the smash Sundance hit, Brooklyn. One of this autumn's most anticipated film releases, and a certain Best Picture Oscar nominee, with Saorise Ronan a lock for a Best Actress Oscar nod, in his The Playlist review of Brooklyn, Rodrigo Perez wrote ...

Home is where the heart is, and love, longing, and grieving for the departed fragments of our lives we can never return to are lovingly realized in John Crowley's exquisitely crafted and beautiful Brooklyn. Based on the novel by Irish author Colm Tóibín, and delicately adapted by Nick Hornby, Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), an Irish immigrant who travels to America in the early 1950s for a more prosperous life.

With empathetic specificity, Brooklyn nails the emotional complexity of homesickness beyond mere melancholic nostalgia. It's a despair for the absence of friends, family, and comforting familiarities that define our lives, but as well a lovesick longing for a past that no longer exists; a tearful goodbye for a moment in time now awash in memory. With a beautiful tenderness that never rings false, Crowley's graceful film fills in every emotional contour with warmth and sensitivity.

A heartbreaking and poignant story about choices, country, commitments, sacrifice, and love, Brooklyn is a superb, luminous, and bittersweet portrayal of who we are, where we've come from, where we're going, and the places we call home.

Brooklyn makes its Vancouver début at the Centre for the Performing Arts, at 7pm on Thursday, September 24th (the Festival has programmed two additional screenings of this must-see VIFF 2015 première).

Meanwhile, Curtis Woloschuk, Jack Vermee and the editorial members of VIFF's publication team released this year's glossy 108-page programming guide to the 2015 Festival, currently available at the Vancity Theatre, but soon to be available at libraries across Metro Vancouver, as well as bookstores, coffee shops, video stores and most any place that people gather. An impressive humanist document, The Complete Guide makes for a compelling read, as it sets about to provides a road map to the singularly most engaging arts event on the autumn calendar.

On Thursday, the Telluride Film Festival programming staff released the up until then secret list of future Oscar nominees set to screen in the southwestern mountainous climes of Miguel County, Colorado. The incomparable list of films that attendees will screen over the four-day Labour Day weekend, kicking off today, represent the very best in cinema that will be released in 2015 (note should be made that every Best Picture Oscar winner over the past 10 years made its début at Telluride).

Several of the films making their début at Telluride are also scheduled to screen at our very own VIFF, including certain Oscar contender, Son of Saul (which took Cannes by storm); Berlin Film Festival award-winner, 45 Years; Jafar Panahi's Taxi; Lenny Abrahamson's much-anticipated Room; and, Avishai Sivan's shocking Festival winner, Tikkun, among many other prestigious award-winning international films of cinematic excellence.

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated film making it's international début at Telluride is Sarah Gavron's Suffragette, the film's star — the luminous Carey Mulligan — a certain Best Actress Oscar contender. Suffragette arrives in Vancouver in late October.

Each year for the past 30 years and more, media from across the globe travel to the centre of the universe, as a calvacade of A-list Hollywood stars converge on Canada's largest metropolitan centre for the Toronto Film Festival, where the movie industry is afforded the opportunity to present cinema's (read: Hollywood's) very best, where the prestige films on offer at TIFF will garner critical and, some months down the road, Oscar attention, where films reviewed in the hothouse atmosphere of Toronto to rapturous acclaim capture the public's imagination (how could they not?), pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Hollywood's already overladen coffers, gifting Hollywood's woebegotten producers with the Oscar hardware that says, "You done good Hollywood. We forgive you for the plethora of cynical CGI-infected comic book movies. Thank you. You've done yourself proud."

53rd annual New York Film Festival

Last but certainly not least, there's the heavily juried New York Film Festival, the 53rd version of which commences September 25th, the day after our very own festival by the sea, la-la-land's always wonderful Vancouver International Film Festival, gets underway.

Can't travel to New York for NYFF53? Not to worry. Although it drives VIFF print traffic mavens Kathy Evans and Selina Crammond absolutely bonkers, a goodly number of NYFF53's finest also screen in Vancouver (Kathy and Selina on the phone with New York hourly to ensure the one and only "print" of the film makes it to Vancouver following the New York screening).

In 2015, New York and Vancouver share Miguel Gomes's monumental yet light-footed magnum opus, Arabian Nights, Volumes 1, 2 & 3; Cannes Best Director winner Hou Hsiao-hsien's, The Assassin; Brooklyn, Saoirse Ronan's vibrantly alive emigré epic; Cemetery of Splendour, the wondrous new film by Palme d'Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Experimenter, Michael Almreyda's portrait of Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard), the social scientist whose 1961 "obedience study" reflected back on the Holocaust and anticipated Abu Ghraib.

The Forbidden Room, Guy Maddin's insane and phantasmagorical magnum opus; In the Shadow of Women, the exquisite new film by the great Philippe Garrel, who takes a close look at infidelity, and the divergent ways in which it's experienced and understood by men and women; The Lobster, absurdist Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' acclaimed Cannes Jury Prize winner; and The Measure of a Man, Stéphane Brizé's powerful and troubling new film, which earned Vincent Lindon the Best Actor prize at Cannes.

Mountains May Depart, Jia Zhangke's newest epic, spanning three decades in the lives of the film's increasingly estranged characters, from the dawn of China's capitalist explosion to the near future; My Golden Days, Arnaud Desplechin's triptych exploration of first love; Right Now, Wrong Then, Hong Sangsoo's wry comedy of manners, laced with heavy drinking & regret; and, The Treasure, Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu's magical modern-day fable, which Variety called, "a deadpan gem."

Count 'em. Fifteen of the New York Film Festival's 30 heavily juried films will screen in Vancouver, virtually simultaneously with the Big Apple.

Film festivals offer a window on our world, and an intimate exploration of the lives of folks just like us, who reside in every far flung country across our globe. The Vancouver Film Festival: 16 days, 70 countries, 355 films.

2015 Vancouver International Film Festival

Tickets (and passes) are on sale now for the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival at the Vancity Theatre, and soon at these listed locations. When I dropped by the Vancity on Thursday to pick up my hot-off-the-press copy of VIFF's wonderfully gorgeous and expansive The Complete Guide (it's free folks — pick up a copy, and schedule a dozen films, or three) ticket sales were brisk. A heartening sight to see, indeed.

Today's Festival column constitutes the first of many such columns that will focus on the Vancouver International Film Festival. Commencing September 24th, VanRamblings will take a 17-day break from coverage of the federal election, VIFF winning out over Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau. Last year, VanRamblings covered Vancouver's municipal election, and in consequence our usual VIFF coverage suffered — not this year!

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 4, 2015 12:41 AM in VIFF 2015


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