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VIFF 2004

October 4, 2004

Day Twelve: The Festival Begins to Wind Down


VanRamblings has added four reviews to our thrived and became an institution over the years; 165 reviews are now available. Included in today’s update: new reviews for the documentary David Hockney: The Colors of Music, Public Lighting, Iran’s The River’s End, and Michael Haneke’s The Time of the Wolf.

Ill Fated? Not in the end for B.C. feature


Not many films are as appropriately titled as Ill-Fated.

A sort of Greek tragedy set in the midst of a trailer-trash community in the B.C. Interior, it is the story of a long and arduous journey both onscreen and off.

For Vancouver-based first-time feature filmmaker Mark A. Lewis, the rocky road to the festival circuit was marked by the death of a friend, endless financing shortfalls, the B.C. forest fires and a near-miss at Cannes.

But he’s finally made it with his feature about a man named Earl (Peter Outerbridge) who, seeking redemption for his past sins, returns to the community he left as a teenager only to find Jimmy (Paul Campbell), the now-teenage son he abandoned there, desperately trying to escape the ignorance and crushing poverty and get away to college.

The remainder of John McKay’s Canadian Press story is available here.

More Screenings Added to the Festival Lineup

As of this writing, the following screenings have been added ...

Arahan: Thursday, October 7th, 9:30 p.m., at the Ridge

Czech Dream: Wednesday, October 6th, 4:30 p.m., Granville 6

Dutch Light: Thursday, October 7th, 6:30 p.m., Granville 6

Havana Suite: Tuesday, October 5th, 6:45 p.m., Granville 6

Henri Cartier-Bresson — The Impassioned Eye: Thursday, October 7th, 9:45 p.m., Granville 2

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:14 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

October 3, 2004

Day Eleven: Into The Final Week of the Festival


As of this morning, VanRamblings has added four reviews to our thrived and became an institution over the years; 160 reviews are now available. Included in today’s update, you’ll find reviews for Israel’s Checkpoint, George Bush: Faith in the White House, Russia’s The Last Train, and Holland’s highly-rated South.

Dragons and Tigers award winner announced


First off, before we get around to announcing the winner of the 2004 Vancouver International Film Festival Dragons & Tigers award, mention should be made that VanRamblings is, indeed, aware that although there are only five full days remaining in the 23rd annual edition of the Film Festival, there are additional screenings available on Friday, October 9th, which ought to give many an opportunity — up until the dinner hour, anyway — to catch films, before the Festival shutters its doors for another year.

Here, then, is the press release for the Dragons & Tigers award winner ...

For the eleventh year running, the Festival is pleased to offer the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema to the most creative and innovative feature by a new director from the Asia-Pacific region. The award is given to a first or second feature. We’re very grateful to Brad Birarda of Dundee Securities for continuing to sponsor this award, and the series as a whole.

The award — which again includes a $5,000 prize to the director — was announced before the mid-Gala screening of Electric Shadows.

This year’s jury was comprised of Peggy Chaoi from Taiwan, Hong Sang-Soo from Korea and Christoph Huber from Austria. The three jurists have issued the following jury statement: “It was a privilege to serve on this year’s jury, where we encountered an interesting and diverse selection of Asian films. We had a long debate about whether or not to give any films a Special Mention — because we didn’t want to discourage the other film-makers whose work we appreciated but couldn’t include. But we finally decided to cite three films that we found remarkable for various reasons.”

The films cited, in alphabetical order, are:

The Big Durian by Amir Muhammad from Malaysia
For its witty and unusual handling of an incident which ultimately allows deep insights into the racial tensions in Malaysian society.

Good Morning Beijing by Pan Jialin from China
For its compelling mixture of parallel narratives and uncompromising depictions of the darkness and frustrations of city existence.

Sund@y Seoul by Oh Myung-Hoon from Korea
For taking pieces of real-life experience — pieces never likely to fit into conventional narrative forms — and holding them together through to the end, creating a resonance that is anything but banal.

Our unanimous choice for the 2004 Dragons & Tigers Award:

THE SOUP, ONE MORNING by Takahashi Izumi from Japan
For its visual and emotional precision in mapping out the slow decay of a relationship. The film gradually accumulates an overwhelming power which can only come from feelings that the director and his actors have experienced and inhabited for themselves.

Full Coverage of the New York Film Festival

While we in Vancouver, British Columbia are experiencing the final few days of the 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, down south and on the other coast, the folks in New York are being treated to the 42nd annual New York Film Festival .

Full coverage of the event is available in a special section of the New York Times, including a Manohla Dargis review of Tropical Malady, and A.O Scott's review of Look at Me. The latter film is the Closing Gala screening film for the 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

The New York Film Festival will also be honouring Pedro Almod�var.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:30 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

October 2, 2004

Day Ten: The Final Full Weekend of the Vancouver Film Festival


As of this afternoon, VanRamblings has added a further six reviews to our thrived and became an institution over the years; more than 155 reviews are now available. Included in today’s update, you’ll find new reviews for Qu�bec’s Alter Egos + shorts, Germany’s Berlin Blues, Holland’s well-reviewed Dutch Light, Abbas Kiarostami’s highly rated Five, and two ‘slag’ reviews for Sri Lanka’s Scent of the Lotus Pond, and Cuba’s Seven Days, Seven Nights.

VIFF Housekeeping Information: New Films, Additional Screenings


Hits are emerging at the 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival. Even though The World According to Bush will air on the CBC’s Passionate Eye on Sunday, October 17th at 10 p.m. and again on Friday, October 22nd at 10 p.m, Vancouver Film Festival attendees obviously want to experience the documentary on the big screen with fellow Festival aficionadas.

Machuca is another break out hit, as are the remaining films listed directly below. As of today, additional screenings are available for ...

For more VIFF programme updates, click here.

Who’da Thunk? A Pro Bush Film Added to Film Festival Lineup

Where are all the pro-Bush films? Thought you’d never ask. The fine programming folks at the Vancouver International Film Festival actually found one! Billed as “an alternative programme to Fahrenheit 9/11, George W. Bush: Faith in the White House is a timely new ‘70-Minute Documentary on the Most Resolutely Faith-Based Presidency in Modern Times’.”

Director David W. Balsinger describes his film in this way ...

“He is the commander-in-chief of the world’s greatest superpower. The leader of the free world. The head of the executive branch of the U.S. government. The weight of responsibility is enormous, and it drives George W. Bush to his knees ... in prayer and supplication. Like no other president in the history of the United States, George W. Bush boldly, publicly, and genuinely lives out his faith on the job.”

According to BBC correspondent Justin Webb ...

“Nobody spends more time on his knees than George W. Bush. The Bush administration hums to the sound of prayer. Prayer meetings take place day and night. It’s not uncommon to see White House functionaries hurrying down corridors carrying Bibles. Decide for yourself whether President Bush’s faith has been good for America! But whatever you decide, his faith will change and inspire you!”

Says Frank Rich in The New York Times ...

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.”

No one can say that VanRamblings, or the Vancouver Film Festival, fails to provide equal time for the opposition. Frank Rich is probably right, though, when he opines that George W. Bush: Faith in the White House “is nothing if not [Fahrenheit 9/11’s] unintentional and considerably more nightmarish sequel.” George W. Bush: Faith in the White House screens at the Granville 5, this coming Thursday, October 7th at 4 p.m.

Euro Hipsters Attend the Vancouver Film Festival

German actor and co-screenwriter Jan Stahlberg will be a Festival guest for the Berlin Film Festival award winner Quiet as a Mouse, from October 6th through 8th. His award-winning film screens first on October 6th at 9:30 p.m. at the Ridge; and again on October 8th, at 2 p.m., at the Granville 4.

Dutch director Martin Koolhoven will be in town for his gripping character study, South, from October 3rd through 8th. Koolhoven’s film screens at the Granville 3 this coming Monday, October 4th at 6:40 p.m., and again on Wednesday, October 6th, at 2 p.m., at the Granville 4.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:52 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

October 1, 2004

Day Nine: VanRamblings Eases Its Way Back Into The Festival


As of this afternoon, VanRamblings has added a further three reviews to our thrived and became an institution over the years; more than 150 are now available. Included in today’s update, you’ll find new reviews for Childstar, Captive, and Stella Street. This week’s Georgia Straight reviews are available here.

Vancouver Film Being Held By Customs ... May Not Make Festival


Canada Customs’ targeting of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender material has had an impact on more than just book stores. Independent multi-media artist Kai Ling Xue knows.

Xue’s latest short film A Girl Named Kai has been screened at festivals across North America this year, most recently at the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival. The film, en route to Canada, for screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival, was seized by Canada Customs earlier in the week, and is currently in bureaucratic limbo.

Xue received a terse letter from the Canadian government on September 29th stating that her film had been sent to the Senior Programme Advisor in Ottawa to be evaluated on for its possible ‘obscene’ content. The government letter did not contain any contact information, neither a phone nor a fax number. The government has indicated it will require seven days to make a determination as to whether the material contained in the film would be considered ‘obscene’, under the Customs Act. As of this writing, Xue has heard no further word from government officials, nor has she been advised as to a date that her film might be returned.

Ironically, the film contains no nudity or sexual content. Rather, it is a lyrical and sometimes melancholy meditation on Xue’s relationship with her family and sense of self. A Girl Named Kai is due to be screened at the Granville 5 on both October 5th at 9:15 pm and again on October 8th at 1:40pm.

New French Filmmakers: 6 First Films

Wondering what to do post-Festival? Pacific Cin�math�que, working in co-operation with Consulate General of France in Vancouver and France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, today announced a Vancouver Premi�re! film series titled New French Filmmakers: Six First Films, due to screen from October 15th to 17th and October 22nd to 24th.

Films and filmmakers in the series include Guillaume Canet’s My Idol; Julie Lopes-Curval’s Camera D'or winner at Cannes in 2002, Seaside; and noted French actress Zabou Breitman’s C�sar-winning (the French Oscars) directorial d�but — winner for best first feature, best actress (Isabelle Carr�), and best supporting actor (Bernard Le Coq) — Beautiful Memories.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:46 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

September 30, 2004

Day 8: VanRamblings Takes a Mid Vancouver Film Festival Break


Life has intruded, there’s washing to be done, work to attend to, sleep to get, and more necessary day-to-day activities that have been jettisoned over the course of the past week while attending the Film Festival became the priority, that VanRamblings must both take a break today, and announce reduced coverage of the final week of the Film Festival. Which isn’t to say that VanRamblings will not be attending Festival films — we will, but we may not have time to write fully about the experience.

All that said, VanRamblings will continue to add reviews daily to our extensive thrived and became an institution over the years. By the end of the weekend, you can expect to find a further 15 - 30 reviews to be published in the Guide.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:00 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

September 29, 2004

Day Seven: VanRamblings Does a Little VIFF Housekeeping


As of this morning, VanRamblings has added a further four reviews to our thrived and became an institution over the years. Included in today’s update, you’ll find new reviews for Caf Lumire, Campfire, Los Muertos, and Zero Day.

Tying Up Loose Ends, What’s Doing Well, and ...

DAY-7-VANCOUVER-FILM-FESTIVAL has hired Jason Whyte to provide coverage of the 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival. In addition to and coverage on VanRamblings, is a site worth surfing to.

A couple of items picked up on the street yesterday ...

Schedule Changes and other info ...

As of this morning, the VIFF Programme Updates include two additional screenings for both Machuca and The World According to Bush (certainly among the most lauded films at this year’s Festival), as well as additional screenings for 11 other films (including Or (My Treasure) and Four Shades of Brown) which have received good notices. Too bad, though, that many of the additional screenings will be held in the Granville 7’s Theatre 6, the least amenable screen in the cinema complex.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:30 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

September 28, 2004

Day Six: Not Exactly Film Festival Weather ... Oh Well ...


As of this morning, VanRamblings has added a further dozen reviews to our thrived and became an institution over the years, bringing the grand total of films reviewed to date to 130, with more than 160 reviews of VIFF films available. Included in today’s update, you’ll find new reviews for L’Amant, Czech Dream, Elles Etaient Cinq, and Quiet as a Mouse, as well as supplementary reviews for a half dozen other films. A dozen new reviews by The Georgia Straight’s Ken Eisner are now available in the Festival Review Guide, as well.

The Vancouver Film Festival Provides a ‘Window on the World’


Here we are into Day 6 of the Vancouver Film Festival, and the sun continues to shine down on us, daytime temperatures unseasonably high at 23�C (75� F) — hardly the rain-soaked Festival weather we’ve come to expect each year at the end of September. Throughout the first three weeks of the month, the weather was so miserable and rainy in Vancouver that it seems a pity to have to lock oneself away inside a darkened theatre for much of the day. Such, though, are the sacrifices that must be made by the inveterate Film Festival aficionado ... a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Still recovering from the slings and arrows of poor fortune, as reported in the previous daily update, VanRamblings did manage to attend two Festival screenings on Monday (in pain and standing at the back of the theatre).


Essentially a travelogue, director Jia Zhangke’s major achievement with The World revolves around his ability to provide an anthropological insight into contemporary Beijing: the polluted and leaden grey skies of China’s largest city, the lack of protection for workers in the city’s booming construction industry, and the apolitical and consumerist orientation of the mostly ‘emigrant’ young population. There is none-too-subtle irony, either, that the film is set in the Disney-esque ‘World Park’ — which offers a scaled-downed version of London, Paris, Cairo and other world centres — that, it seems quite obvious, the oppressed workers employed at the park will never get the chance to see. Pretty much bereft of narrative and psychological insight into the characters we meet over the two-plus hour running time of the film, there’s no question that The World is powerful filmmaking, but given its lack of identifiable characters to carry a story forward, VanRamblings awards The World 2� stars.


Dead Man’s Shoes is quite another kettle of fish than The World. Stark, psychologically intriguing, violent verging on the grotesque, the film offers a Tarantino-like character study, the narrative almost entirely concerned with vengeful reckoning and character disintegration. Not for the faint of the heart, Dead Man’s Shoes — a Film Four production — is the sort of film you might see on HBO stateside, a propulsive 81-minute genre film that engages almost entirely from beginning to end. Another example of a film you’re unlikely to see released commercially in North America, Dead Man’s Shoes qualifies as near perfect, and gritty, Festival film fare. 4 stars.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:30 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

September 27, 2004

Day Five: A Death Defying Adventure


As of this morning, VanRamblings has added 21 more reviews to our thrived and became an institution over the years, including reviews for Four Shades of Brown, Look at Me, Kontroll and Marseille, as well as supplementary reviews for Flower and Snake and Schizo. Twelve reviews by The Georgia Straight’s Janet Smith are now available in the Festival Review Guide, as well.

VanRamblings Survives the Slings and Arrows of Poor Fortune ...


Each year there’s a theme that develops within our west coast Film Festival. Of course, Vancouver’s Film Festival — perhaps more than any other Festival on the continent — remains an event dedicated to the Cinema of Despair ... and how could it not, when screening films about war and pestilence, worker abuse, hatred and misunderstanding, intolerance and social injustice, and real history rather than Hollywood history. Thus, despair has become the raison d’tre of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Each year, too, personal themes develop for Film Festival aficionados. Every year at the Festival, those previously unattached meet someone and become a couple, many going on to marry. One falls in love with film and, by extension, with the aficionadas one sees at virtually every screening.

One falls in love and remembers that relationship always, or recalls the chill of the night air while ambling through the rain-slicked streets late at night following the final screening of the day. Women go into labour while screenings are in progress, there’s more than one incidence of men having heart attacks and the ambulance driver entering the theatre to take the woebegotten Film Festival attendee to St. Paul’s Hospital nearby.

As for me, back in 1992 I experienced a sudden and unexpected attack of kidney stones (at a screening of Benny’s Video at the Pacific Cinmathque ... fortunately, I’d seen Michael Haneke’s picture in the preview week, so didn’t miss out on the film, really) and was rushed to the UBC Hospital. Other years at the Festival have been dedicated to my children, who were in attendance at many of the films I love to this day. I have fallen in love many times, over the years, with women I’ve met at the Festival, and went on to have successful relationships.

This year, though, a new (personal) theme has developed. Late Sunday morning, not having gained entrance to Or (My Treasure) — it was sold out by 10 a.m. — I opted for a Pacific Cinmathque screening of 10 on Ten instead. Readying my vehicle to pull into a parking spot almost directly across the street from Cinmathque, I put on my turn signal, slowed down and began to pull into the metered parking spot, and was ... rear ended by a late model SUV, my trusty olde Volvo totaled in the process, and your intrepid reporter traumatized and a little the worse for wear.

As I sit hear aching in every fibre of my being, I am sorry to have to report that VanRamblings attended no Film Festival screenings on Sunday, but rather made it home to our cozy abode on the west side of Vancouver and spent most of the rest of the day in bed ... recovering (it’s going slowly).

As a consequence of this unfortunate turn of events, VanRamblings’ film attendance in the final 11 days of the 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival will, in all likelihood, be much reduced. We are, though, hoping to catch a 6:45 p.m. screening of The World at the Vogue, and we had intended on catching the 9:45 p.m. screening of Dead Man‘s Shoes, at the same theatre. At this point, however, one screening is looking possible, two screenings improbable. We’ll see how the day develops ...

So, back to bed with me it is. Another report, of a sort, tomorrow.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:00 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

September 26, 2004

Day Four: Festival Good in the Early Going


As of this morning, an additional three reviews have been added to VanRamblings’ thrived and became an institution over the years, including reviews for 20 Fingers, Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons and Dead Man’s Shoes.


Well, here we are ... four days into the 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, and a great four days it has been, with provocative films like Baober in Love, Machuca, Moolaad and Primer already screened — with the exception of Moolaad each of these films screen one more time — and much much more to look forward to over the course of the coming 12 days.

Last evening our intention was to attend a late evening screening of The Motorcycle Diaries, but even though we’d arrived at 8:30 p.m., and were near the front of the pass lineup, we were told by theatre manager Bill Nowrie that none of the passholders in the lineup were going to get in.

As is so often the case (friends and I have done this numerous times), recognizing that The Motorcycle Diaries was likely to sell out, passholders plunked themselves down in The Vogue Theatre for the 7 p.m. screening of Head in the Clouds (not exactly one of the buzz films at this year’s Fest), and advised management that they’d be staying on for the second Vogue screening (The Motorcycle Diaries, in this case).

The number of passholders in the first screening remaining in the theatre for the second show exceeded the passholders alotment for the second show ... so, no one in the passholders lineup waiting outside for The Motorcycle Diaries were gonna by given entr. As a consequence, Volkmar, J.B. and I (and quite a few others) opted for an alternative screening. A bit of Film Festival serendipity, if you will.


So, off we trundled to the Granville 7 to get early passes for Primer, and as the screening was not due to start til 9:40 p.m., we walked over to the falafel shop nearby, I had a bowl of carrot soup, and before long we were situated comfortably in Theatre 2 at the Granville 7 (the THX theatre, so that was a piece of good news).

Primer turned out to be a salutary experience, indeed, an endlessly inventive, at times incomprehensible but ultimately rewarding experience, a $7000 tyro experiment for director / co-star Shane Carruth that looks as if it cost one hundred times as much, as involving and technically brilliant a cinematic experience as a film festival-goer could wish for.


Following on the heels of a busy and satisfying Saturday, today (the film festival gods willing) will be given over to screenings of Or (My Treasure), a 4-star hit at the recent Toronto Film Festival and due to screen soon at the 42nd annual New York Film Festival; Hari Om (good buzz in the first 2 days of the festival); the Israeli film Campfire and, as the final show of the day, The Machinist. As work beckons Monday, only two films are on the agenda, a 7 p.m. screening of The World and a 9:30 showing of Dead Man’s Shoes at The Vogue.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:00 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

September 25, 2004

Day Three: Sun, Movies, Cinema and Despair



Midway through the 3rd day of the Festival, with a tickle in my throat and bleary-eyed from a surfeit of filmgoing, we’re just about to leave for tonight’s screening of Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries.

As a consequence, with too little time and too many movies to see, today’s major VanRamblings 2004 Vancouver Film Festival update has been postponed until first thing Sunday morning, about 10 a.m. west coast time.

In the meantime, have a look at, a co-creation of VanRamblings’ tech guy Michael Klassen and CEO of our server company, synercom-edi, Arne Hermann. has set about to cover the 2004 Vancouver International Film Festival employing the writing talents of The’s Kathleen Haley, the inimitable Mr. J.B. Shayne (who, for each of the screenings which VanRamblings has attended, has sat directly behind your intrepid reporter), and the infamous Plazmodeus (who in real life is ...)

Well, it’s off to the movies. See ya back here Sunday at 10 a.m.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 6:38 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

September 24, 2004

Day Two: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival Coverage Commences



The opening night festivities of the 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival have passed into memory. Guests in attendance at the Opening Gala (held at The Commodore) included Vancouver fixture Sir Ian McKellan, Bruce Greenwood (here with the opening night film, Being Julia), local actors Carly Pope, Joely Collins and William B. Davis, as well as a host of other minor celebrities, too numerous to mention.

For film buffs, though — the cinaste aficionado — the happening place to be was inside a darkened theatre (even if Vancouver began to experience a late burst of Indian summer yesterday), to catch an opening day film. Popular choices on the first day included Mirage (which will screen two more times at the Granville 4, on Monday, October 4 at 9 p.m. and Thursday, October 7 at 2 p.m.); Good Morning, Night (given a 4-star review by the Vancouver Sun’s Tom Charity yesterday); Moolaad (the final screening of which VanRamblings will attend at The Vogue at 9:30 this evening), Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear and the Selling of American Empire (which had a sold-out screening at Pacific Cinmathque) and Machuca, one of the buzz films at this year’s Festival, and sure to emerge as a Festival favourite.

Buzz Films From the First Day of the Festival


Quirky to be sure, Baober in Love is a surreal, fever-dream of a film, the frantically charming story of a wondrously energetic sprite who takes us on a wild and sometimes unsettling personal journey, made all the more watchable by the pixie-ish presence of winsome newcomer Zhou Xun. During the course of the exposition of the film, viewers are provided with a subtle political insight into contemporary China, Zeng Nianping’s incandescent cinematography by turns revealing, hallucinatory, and just plain gorgeous. Worthy of a 2 star (out of five) designation, Baober in Love may not be a great film necessarily but it is, as the VIFF programme suggests, “entirely captivating”.


One of the must-see films at this year’s Film Festival (it’s playing again next Thursday at 7 p.m. at The Vogue theatre), Machuca tracks a group of young boys attending school at Santiago, Chile’s St. Patrick’s English Academy in September of 1973, in the weeks leading up to the military coup that overthrew leftist-progressive President Salvadore Allende. As a piece of visual anthropology, Machuca provides a humanistic, heart-rending and melancholy insight into the class divisions at the centre of what became the failure of the democratic socialist experiment in Chile, the story set within a compelling coming-of-age drama that is, at turns both joyous and tragic, and always humane. VanRamblings recommends Machuca, awarding it a deserving 4-star designation.

Buzz Film of the Day — VanRamblings’ Friday Must-See Film


There is no film that will arrive at the 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival that has better buzz than Ousmane Sembene’s Moolaad (the title, Sengalese for sanctuary) about which Eye Magazine’s Jason Anderson wrote in his 5-star review “The latest by Senegalese great Ousmane Sembene is a passionate argument against female circumcision and a rousing triumph for African cinema. A fiery-tempered woman (Fatoumata Coulibaly) provides shelter for a group of scared young girls who’ve fled their ‘purification rituals’. What one fellow calls ‘a minor domestic issue’ soon puts the entire community on the brink of violence. Though its subject matter is grave, Moolaad brims with humour and vitality. This is politically committed filmmaking at its most vigorous and engaging.” Vogue, tonight at 9:30 p.m.

23rd Annual Vancouver International Film Festival Guide (click on the link)

Each day, VanRamblings will add 10 new reviews of films screening at this year’s Festival, taken from various sources, ranging from the Georgia Straight and the Vancouver Sun to the Hollywood Reporter and the New York Times, as well as many other sources. As of this writing, in alphabetical order, VanRamblings has added reviews for Baghdad Blogger / Salam Pax — Video Reports from Iraq; Beautiful Boxer; L’Esquive; Finisterre; Good Morning, Night; In the Realms of the Unreal; Machuca; Mirage; Or (My Treasure); and Schultze Gets the Blues.

As of this writing, there are 85 reviews available on VanRamblings; an additional 10, or more, reviews will be up on the site by noon Saturday.

More To Come Tomorrow on VanRamblings In the Day 3 Report

On Saturday, VanRamblings will introduce you to another site providing daily coverage of the Festival; provide a link to an audio interview with Fest director Alan Franey, link to Film Festival films that have been designated 14A by B.C.’s Film Classification branch, and thus have been deemed suitable fare for younger viewers (teenagers, not young children); and seek to publish our first Festival photos of the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:57 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

September 22, 2004

23rd Annual Vancouver Film Festival Review Guide

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:54 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004

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.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:47 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2004 | Comments (1)

September 21, 2004

23rd Annual Vancouver International Film Festival


Late tomorrow evening, VanRamblings will publish a comprehensive review guide to the upcoming 23rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

Over the course of the next 18 days, VanRamblings will — as we did when covering the recent Canadian federal election — turn the site over, exclusively, to coverage of the Film Festival, one of the premire events on British Columbia’s arts calendar each year.

Stay tuned. One hundred early reviews of VIFF films are on their way.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:20 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2004


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