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VIFF 2006: The Cinema of Despair Returns


The first day of the 25th annual Vancouver International Film Festival is history, Vancouverites by the thousands were sequestered inside darkened theatres, and the family that constitute the regulars who have attended VIFF for a quarter century have once again come together in celebration.

First film: Arriving just minutes before the 6 p.m. screening of Passabe at the Granville 7, Pacific Cinémathèque's Sue Cormier directed me towards G7 theatre manager Teresa Weir, who without benefit of VR plea resolved an access dilemma by grabbing a "ticket" to Cinema 5, allowing me ready entrance to the theatre in time to catch the beginning of the film.

And lest one is left with the impression that VanRamblings amounts to a hill of beans in this crazy world, we don't; Teresa had no idea who we were. Yet she intervened. The VIFF is all about human contact, and an ideal (if sometimes despairing) world. Humanity, the milk of human kindness, empathy and going that one step further. That's the VIFF. We're gratetful.

So, ticket in hand, I see Festival Director Alan Franey has arrived early for the Gala Screening of Pedro Almodóvar's Volver, and upon completing his TV interview with the CBC turns towards me and smiles that oh-so-familiar Alan Franey reassuring beatific smile. Were the rest of the world so zen, in what for Alan must be a very stressful (if rewarding) time of his year.

Making my way to the front entrance, Videomatica's Graham Peat, looking dapper as usual, avers, "the family seems once again to have come together." And, of course, we have. Meanwhile, J. B. Shayne grabs me and says, "Let's get together after the screening and co-ordinate our schedule."

The Festival's Media Co-ordinator, Diane Kunic-Grandjean (where did they find her? she's great!) says, "Hi, Ray. Enjoy the film," while much-beloved theatre manager Bill Nowrie takes my ticket (boy, do we miss him as the VIFF head honcho at the now defunct Vogue Theatre, where he reigned supreme for years). Former CFMI Program Director Pam Burge says, "Hi" before settling in for the screening. And while making my way to my seat, I (literally) bump into the Jewish Film Festival's, Ian Merkel.

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Passabe proved to be moving and insightful, and despairing and hopeful as it opened a window on present day East Timor and the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. Very much recommended viewing.

The second film of the evening was Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple which, judging from the reception of an enthusiastic late evening audience, looks to be in contention for the CBC's Best Documentary Feature. A deserved round of applause followed the screening (this is Vancouver: we're enthusiastic about our film-going).

Of course, there were only 29 other films screening this first day of the 25th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, at The Ridge Theatre, the VanCity Theatre, Empire Theatre's Granville 7 and Pacific Cinémathèque.

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And, finally, in this our 2nd Festival instalment ...

Week One of the Georgia Straight's Film Festival Guide was published on Thursday, and in the early going, Straight critics Ken Eisner, Janet Smith and Mark Harris would seem to be recommending, among a host of others: Buddha's Lost Children (the Netherlands); Philip Noyce's Catch a Fire (U.S. / South Africa); Dans Paris (France); guilty pleasure, The Host (South Korea); More Than 1000 Words, which Eisner describes as "superb" (Israel); the "screamingly funny" My Scary Girl (South Korea); and Son of Man (South Africa), which Harris enthusiastically describes as "the most moving Passion ever put to celluloid."

Well, there's more to write. But we'll save that welcome task for Saturday.

(And, oh ... as to the title of this piece, "The Cinema of Despair," the raison d'être will become obvious in the days to come)

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 29, 2006 1:25 AM in VIFF 2006


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