October 13, 2006
The 25th annual Vancouver International Film Festival draws to a close, The Lives of Others wins The People's Choice Award, Greg Hamilton picks up the Most Popular Canadian Feature Award for Mystic Ball, and the Best Doc Award goes to Connie Field's Have You Heard from Johannesburg?, with a Special Jury Prize awarded to Gary Burns and Jim Brown, for Radiant City.
Paul Fox won the Citytv Western Canada Feature Film Award for the realization of Douglas Coupland's screenplay for Everything's Gone Green, while special mention for its "bold and provocative directorial style" went to Carl Bessai's Unnatural & Accidental, and for which lead actress Carmen Moore picked up Vancouver's Women in Film & Video Merit Award.
From beginning to end for the fabulous 25th anniversary edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival, the weather was great, and the films even better. The time has now come to get back to our real (rather than reel) lives. Even so, we invite u to come back for our final 2 VIFF postings.
T'nite, we'll leave you with our festive final gala piece (courtesy of 'Kino') ...
Again, don't forget to return to VanRamblings next week for our 'Fest wrap-up posting' and, finally, for our VIFF silver anniversary tribute.
See ya then.
October 10, 2006
Two hundred films bypass Vancouver every year.
Art, independent, Canadian, foreign, low-budget, experimental — the kind of films Vancouverites would flock to if there was a theatre owner in town who cared enough about film to build a thriving art-house cinema.
But there ain't no one like that in Vancouver, and as a consequence 200 well-reviewed, high-grossing (in markets similar to Vancouver, like Portland, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore, Boston and other medium-sized American cities) indie films never cross the border to find a home in Vancouver.
Each year, the Vancouver International Film Festival screens some 250 feature films, very few of which have a Canadian distributor in place. So, whether it's Dito Montiel's terrifically-nuanced and affecting Sundance produced A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, or the hard-hitting Australian drama Candy — neither one of which has a Canadian distributor in place — if you live in Greater Vancouver, and don't catch a screening of many of the films included in the VIFF schedule, you're pretty much out of luck when it comes to seeing these pictures on the big screen, or ever.
October 9, 2006
Videomatica is Vancouver's premiere source for cinephiles, the video shop that all those who love film frequent to sate their need for international film, and a window on the world. In order to gain employment with Videomatica, job applicants are required to take a film erudition exam (see video below).
In 2006, consideration was given by the VIFF to making the Videomatica exam a part of the criteria for accepting volunteers to the 25th annual Vancouver International Film Festival. Such did not come to pass this year, but you never can tell what the future might hold. Click on the video below to see whether or not you qualify as a true, died-in-wool VIFF cinéaste.
With thanks to producer / filmmaker 'Kino' Klassen, and the inimitable J.B. 'Showbiz' Shayne, the 'stars' of this award-winning VIFF film short.
C'mon back tomorrow for a full VIFF posting. See you then.
October 6, 2006
The second week of the 25th annual Vancouver International Film Festival got off to a rousing start, with five more films taken in by Showbiz Shayne and Mr. Know-It-All. Having taken a brief break, we're hard back at it ...
First up: Dito Montiel's film adaptation of his best-selling autobiography ...
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (U.S.): A workshop production of the Sundance Institute (always a good sign), A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is just the kind of film you want to see at the Vancouver Film Festival: no Canadian distributor in place (so, if you don't see it at the Festival, you're not likely to see it on a big screen at all), well-reviewed pretty much wherever it's played south of the border, a vibrant, slice-of-life, coming-of-age saga that jumps off the screen with a raw power and intensity that is all but missing from the usual Hollywood fare. With outstanding performances throughout (most notably from Shia LaBeouf, who plays the young Dito), this brash, affecting, sometimes violent, and entirely engaging pic screens today at 4:15 p.m. and again Monday, at 8 p.m. Absolutely one to include on your Festival viewing schedule.
Candy (Australia): A wrenching, bittersweet tale of love, life and addiction, Candy grabs you from the moment the lights dim in the theatre, director Neil Armfield's evocative depiction of the central characters' headlong, drug-fuelled spiral into hell on earth allowing us to bear shuddering witness to the self-destruction of heroin addiction and the devastation felt by all those who come in contact with Dan and Candy. With superb performances by Heath Ledger and newcomer Abbie Cornish at the film's centre, Candy has already screened for the last time at this year's Festival. Maybe it'll come back to Vancouver's Cinemark art-house, Tinseltown Cinema.
October 5, 2006
While the inimitable Mr. Shayne keeps up the furious pace of four to five films a day, VanRamblings is taking a mid-Festival break, both to recover from too many late nights (and early morning hours at work the next day), and to focus on said aforementioned work, which has somehow been put to the side just a wee bit more than VanRamblings' employers might prefer.
Just a couple of observations, then, and back to work with us.
First off, the Georgia Straight's 2nd Film Festival review roundup came out today, and critics Mark Harris and Ken Eisner recommend ...
Congorama (Belgium, Canada and France): Mark Harris describes Congorama as "independent filmmaking at its concise best," while Jason Anderson, writing in Eye Weekly during the Toronto Film Festival, describes the film as "eccentrically endearing," giving it three stars. Meanwhile, Variety's Justin Cheng seems a bit more iffy, although the only way you'll know for sure is if you attend a screening of Philippe Falardeau's film.
La Coupure (Canada): "Dark, gruelling, and extremely convincing," says Georgia Straight film critic / UBC professor, Mark Harris. Adam Nayman, writing in Eye Weekly, gives the film 3 stars, saying "To call La Coupure an “incest drama” would be terribly reductive — it’s intense but never lurid, utilizing up close and personal camerawork to pare its provocative subject down to recognizably human dimensions." Meanwhile, Film Freak's Bill Chambers just hates the film. Again, only you can be the judge.
The Elementary Particles (Germany): Whatever happened to Run Lola Run's Franka Potente? To find out, you'll have to attend a screening of The Elementary Particles, for which both Variety magazine and the BBC would seem to have a great deal of affection. Meanwhile, the Straight's Ken Eisner has this to say: "A funny, tender, sexy, and overheated adaptation of a controversial late-’90s French novel." Now, there you go: a "keeper."
October 4, 2006
At a screening of Dito Montiel's A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints late last evening, while waiting for the projectionist to spool the film in preparation for the upcoming screening, Granville 7 theatre manager Ira Hannen asked the assembled audience of about 300 for a show of hands for ...
Those who had attended more than 5 films. Almost everyone's hand went up. Next: how many had attended 10 films, or more ... about half the hands in the audience went up. More than 15, 20, 25, 30, 40 ... and so on. The average number of films audience members had attended in the Festival's first week was near 20, or some 3 films a day in the first six days.
This year, the Vancouver Sun is running a daily feature where dedicated film aficionados are asked why the Vancouver International Film Festival plays such an important role in their lives. For, in fact, there is a coterie of film-goers, numbering over 100, who each year plan their "vacation" — not to mention, their lives — around Vancouver's august 17-day Film Festival.
In recent days, while waiting in the passholders line-up, VanRamblings has spoken with film-goers who have travelled to visit the VIFF — arriving from the South Pacific ("we do this every year, and have for more than 15 years"), Seattle, Los Angeles, Toronto, northern British Columbia and northern Vancouver Island, Idaho, the southern United States, western and Eastern Europe, Japan, China and Korea, Argentina and Bolivia, and even Australia and New Zealand, and other far flung provinces across the globe.
In addition, there are an equal number of veteran passholders who have taken two weeks of their annual vacation time to coincide with the VIFF, taking time off from BC Hydro, Telus, school districts (teachers who have delayed the beginning of their school year til mid-October, as VanRamblings did for years), the provincial and federal governments, Worksafe BC, Translink, their CGA firm, and more — just so they could participate in as many screenings as possible between September 28th and October 13th.
October 3, 2006
Dan Ireland is a homegrown boy, a producer and filmmaker of some renown (more in the United States — where he has resided for more than a quarter century — than in Canada), the person who "discovered" Renée Zellweger when he cast her in his award-winning directorial début, The Whole Wide World, and the director of the accomplished and very lovely Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, which will make its auspicious, if somewhat unheralded (as you might expect, we're attempting to change that with this posting), Canadian début this coming Friday at 7 p.m. at the Granville 7, Cinema 7.
Now, whether Mr. Ireland makes it to these shores from Arizona — where he is filming his latest, with Dermot Mulroney and Donald Sutherland, among others (but try to find mention of either Mr. Sutherland's or Mulroney's participation in the film on the Internet Movie Database) — seems a bit iffy at this writing. (Update: in fact, Mr. Ireland will arrive in town very late Friday night, in time for a 7 p.m., invitation only, screening of Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, to be shown at the VanCity Theatre on Saturday night). But whether you meet Dan at a screening, or not (at least he'll make it to Vancouver to visit his mother, who lives just down the street from where VanRamblings resides, twice this year), VanRamblings whole-heartedly recommends that you catch a screening of the film.
VanRamblings believes that Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (starring Joan Plowright) will likely emerge as one of your favourites at this year's Fest, and perhaps one of your favourite films of the year, as it is ours.
And, if you don't catch Dan Ireland's charming and completely satisfying film at one of its two screenings at the Festival, you are very likely indeed to miss Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont entirely. And that would be a pity.
October 2, 2006
Yes, it was just another day at the Film Fest on Sunday, when the inimitable Mr. Shayne and your humble agent caught three screenings: a South Korean monster flick, an unsettling true life German horror film (depending on your definition of 'horror'), and a quiet, meditative drama about blowing up central Manhattan's ever-so-decorous Times Square.
So far, Mr. Shayne and your scribe are nine for nine: 9 screenings, 9 great films ... our best average yet, in some 32 years of Festival going (this dating back to the Vancouver Film Festival that Don Barnes held at the now-defunct Varsity Theatre on West 10th Avenue) in Vancouver.
After having taken the first part of the day to compose yesterday's piece, do a wash in order to have something to wear to work today, as well as go out for a coffee and a perusal of the local newspapers, it was off to the first screening of the day, in line by 3 p.m. for a 4 p.m. screening of ...
Requiem: Winner of the Best Actress Award for lead Sandra Hüller at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival (the young actress making her big screen début), Requiem is compelling every moment Hüller is on screen, her character a 21-year-old college student who while living with epilepsy becomes convinced that she is possessed by the devil. Not a happy film by any means, director Hans-Christian Schmid's naturalistic approach to the subject matter turns what might have been a second-rate horror film into a first rate family drama. With fine performances all around.
Next up, after a brief break for "dinner" at the Salad Loop (very good, actually), Mr. Shayne and your scribe lined up for the 7 p.m. screening of ...
October 1, 2006
One of the more salutary aspects of attending and participating in the 25th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, at least for this scribe, is the ride home on the bus at the end of a long day viewing movies in one, or more, of the film festival theatres located in Vancouver's downtown core.
The bus ride home from Vancouver's West End / downtown area through Kitsilano and Point Grey, to our home on the far west side of the city, is rife with life and possibility, love and the potential for connection, energy and flow, all within the context of safe passage in Vancouver's (let's face it, we've got something good going on here) Pacific west coast paradise.
Now, we've already made mention of the unseasonably warm and inviting weather that has accompanied the 25th annual edition of the Fest (right now, it's sunny and 57° on a beautiful sunny afternoon on Canada's west coast, as we take a short break to compose this fourth entry of our Fest coverage), almost a continuation of summer. So, when the last movie of the night lets out, it's on to a Translink bus, full of humanity, mostly of the late-and-post teen University of British Columbia variety, making out, tipsy from hours in the bar or at the disco, alive and full of energy — and the perfect real-life extension of a day spent inside the lives of men and women and children on the screen, those life experiences spanning our globe.
Saturday, as had been agreed the day before, was to be Mr. Shayne's day to choose the movies, and for the evening's entertainment he chose ...
The Last King of Scotland: Everything you've heard is true. Forest Whitaker will absolutely garner an Oscar nomination for the perfect embodiment of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, the film tremendously moving, funny, tragic, historically accurate (for the most part, that is; the doctor, played by James McAvoy, is a composite character created by author Giles Foden in his 1999 novel of the same title), and one of the most important films of the year.
You might think, "Maybe I'll see The Last King of Scotland at the multiplex, maybe I won't," but you'd be doing yourself a tremendous disservice by not catching a film variously described by critics as "Shakespearean in its vision, an edgy, shockingly transformative, eye-riveting tale with a formidably compelling tour-de-force performance by Forest Whitaker that is all at once Faustian, suspenseful, volatile and absolutely spellbinding."
September 30, 2006
Yes, it's Day 3 of the 25th annual Vancouver International Festival, the rains and cloud-covered skies have returned (although the sun peeks through the clouds intermittently), the Festival is well underway and there's still two salutary weeks to go before this year's event draws to a close.
Just a few items in this brief third instalment of our Fest coverage, so here goes ...
Should you be of a mind to do so, turn to page 195 of this year's Festival programme, and take a gander under the final category, "Under 18 May Attend". Then allow your eyes to traipse on down to the final title listed in this category, "The White Planet," page 47. Then, turn to page 47, and this is what you'll see ... that's VIFF for ya ... progressive all the way.
Apparently, there are a good many mistakes in this year's programme (those poor folks who put the guide together ... oh well). When you run across similar "errors", click here to drop us a line.
The Editor of the VIFF programme guide, longtime VIFF stalwart Jack Vermee, was present Friday evening in the G7's Cinema 5 to introduce Swel Noury, the young co-director / screenwriter of Heaven's Doors, surely the most audacious film that will screen at this year's Fest. A propulsive, operatic, heartrending three-act passion play, the Noury brothers' début feature has been compared to City of God, as well it should. Still due to screen Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at the Granville 7, and again next Saturday at 1:30 p.m., again at the G7, this is one film you'll want to catch for sure.
Another stunningly wonderful film at this year's Fest is Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki's concluding film in his "loser trilogy" — following "Drifting Clouds" and "The Man Without a Past" — the latest entry, titled Lights in the Dusk, telling the story of a sad sack night watchman who wouldn't have any luck at all if it wasn't bad luck. Easily the equal of the two previous films in the series in tone and substance, if more minimalist and somewhat less emotional in presentation, this is utterly original filmmaking, and another must-see at this year's Fest. The film screens on Monday at 2 p.m. at the G7 and again next Thursday at 11 a.m., again at the G7.
September 29, 2006
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.
September 25, 2006
The Vancouver International Film Festival may be a quarter of a century young, but believe it or not there are still a few people around who've never taken in a screening of a VIFF film. Hard to believe, but true.
To move Vancouverites, and those farther afield, to partake in the illustrious delights of a couple of hours in a darkened theatre being offered a window on the world, VanRamblings will kick off this year's coverage of the VIFF by offering a few tips to those as yet uninitiated in the joys and delights of Vancouver's most welcoming Festival event. So, here goes ..
How do you know you're a Vancouver International Film Festival newbie?
You know you're a VIFF newbie when you look at the list of 550 screenings of the more than 300 films from 50 countries offered at our city's illustrious international Film Festival and immediately break into a cold sweat.
You know you're supposed to be excited about the award-winning German thriller that excited the critics in Toronto, not to mention Canadian actress Sarah Polley's directorial début that wowed those same audiences. You're pretty sure you're supposed to be intrigued by the nihilistic stop-motion animation Czech film described as "darkly comic in a way that encourages laughter, horror and thought."
But, frankly, you just don't know what to make of a movie titled The Pervert's Guide to Cinema and, now that you think about it, you have no idea what a "cinephilic feast" is and whether you'll even like it.
And with 300 films at four venues on 10 screens over 16 days, you're starting to feel the weight and scope of the whole thing press down upon you. Where to begin? What to see? All of a sudden, you think it might be a good idea to steer clear of this whole VIFF thing altogether because it's just SIMPLY TOO MUCH.
But first, take a deep breath. We understand how it is. Asking a freshman to jump into the Vancouver International Film Festival is like asking a novice swimmer to jump into the ocean. The vastness of the open sea looks scary.
But here ... let us offer you some water wings.