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VIFF 2009: The Second, Wearying (But Hopeful) Week Begins


As is the case with most film critics, in the first week of any Festival, VanRamblings' star burns luminous and bright. By the time the second week rolls around, though, we're weary. Most films critics 'pull out' in the second week. VanRamblings, though, will probably just reduce the length of our daily postings, altho' we'll still be there for you through Festival's end.

In the days leading up to the beginning of the Festival we 'rest' each day, sequestered inside a darkened theatre at various of the media screenings, and then when the Festival officially commences, from early morn to very late at night, Mr. Know-It-All and the inimitable 'Showbiz' Shayne may be found at one of the VIFF venues watching, bleary-eyed, one of the 4, 5, or 6 films on our schedule for the day. By the time the second week of the Film Festival rolls around, we are more than a little the worse for wear.

And, thus it was on Friday, after securing only two hours sleep (that darn Board of Variance thing reared its head late on Thursday evening, with the arrival in VanRamblings' e-mail Inbox of a correspondence from Joan Bunn, about which Mr. Know-It-All was thankful) — and not to mention the taking of five hours to write and post to the web, each day for you our constant reader, this after a lllooonnnggg day inside a darkened theatre, does take its toll — that Mr. Know-It-All found himself back in the lineup for tickets for his and 'Showbiz' Shayne's planned Friday evening screenings.

While waiting in the lineup, we conversed with Jackie, a retired teacher and organizer of our annual, local Latin American Film Festival, and longtime VanRamblings reader, Julian (so, he's the one) who told VanRamblings about all their favourites at this year's Festival. Now, as constant reader might well expect, Mr. Know-It-All is rarely at a loss for words, but this particular late afternoon, given the 2 hours sleep and all, VanRamblings was pleased just to listen to Jackie (playing the role of journalist, asking the questions Mr. Know-It-All should have been asking), and Julian.

Julian asked Jackie what Latin American films were her favourites at this year's Festival, and she enthusiastically responded with: the Peruvian film The Milk of Sorrow (her favourite and now, unfortunately, gone), Argentina's Berlin Silver Bear winner, Gigante (also gone), and Chile's The Maid (one more screening, Thursday, Oct. 15th @ 11 am, Gran7, Th7).

As for Julian, he recommended: Lebanon's The One Man Village (now gone), France's Villa Amalia (about which we've heard good things, and Jackie also liked, and which will screen for a final time this coming Tuesday, October 13th @ 9:15 pm, at the far-flung but still glorious Ridge Theatre).

Who should we see in line asking a question of the folks about to hand out the tickets for passholders but Aussie import, Jeff Sinclair (sorry, this is the only photo we have of the very talented and hard-working Jeff), a founding partner of XOMO Digital, the principal person behind this year's invaluable Apple iPhone app, the VIFF Fan Guide. Jeff was voluble, wonderful and informative, and answered some questions we had about posting to the Fan Guide (most of which we think we caught, given that VanRamblings was half asleep). We'll write more about XOMO Digital in the coming week.

Anyone attending most of their film festival screenings at the Empire Granville 7 will know that, this year, there is hardly a surfeit of decent places to grab a bite between films. One of the more reliable, tasty and healthy places to nosh is Halawie Alawie's always reliable Falafel Maison, on Robson.

HUSSEIN ALAWIE, OWNER OF FALAFEL MAISON Hussein Alawie, proprietor of Falafel Maison

Not only did we enjoy our Shawarma sandwich, Hussein was kind enough to treat us to the single most delicious falafel we'd ever eaten (guess where Mr. Know-It-All, and 'Showbiz' Shayne, are going for dinner tonight?).

Back it was, then, for 'Showbiz' Shayne, and a still weary, but at least sated, VanRamblings, to stand in line for the 7 pm screening of ...

Amreeka (Grade: B+): One of the buzz films coming into the 28th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, writer/director Cherien Dabis' Amreeka is at all times honest and heartfelt while relating its immigrant story of Palestinian divorcee Muna Farah (played by Haifa-trained actress Nisreen Faour, in a powerfully rendered performance), who wishes to get herself and her adolescent son, Fadi (Melkar Muallem), out of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Set post 911, as Bush II was preparing to invade Iraq, the xenophobia to which the principal characters are exposed by their American neighbours is, at all times, disillusioning and impactful. Somehow, though, Muna and Fada manage to prevail, despite the intolerance to which they are subjected, and by film's end a sense of a fitful optimism emerges.

'Showbiz' Shayne and Mr. Know-It-All then repaired to the Starbucks, on the southeast corner of Smithe and Granville, where we engaged in conversation with two, young middle-eastern women who had also taken in the screening of Amreeka (and loved it as much as VanRamblings did), both of whom, like VanRamblings, are employed as mental health workers in the Downtown Eastside (while working on their Master's degrees at UBC).

And, then, it was time for Shayne's and VanRamblings' final screening of the day, the Tribeca Festival winning film (directed by Conor McPherson) ...

The Eclipse (Grade: B+): Set in Cobh County, Ireland, McPherson's supernatural tale tells the down-to-earth tale story of Michael Farr (a superb Ciaran Hinds), a recently widowed father left to care for his two teenage children. Michael has agreed to act as a driver for writers attending the annual Cobh Literary Festival, which causes him to meet (and, we suspect, fall in love with) Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), a London-based writer of ghost stories. Addressing the themes of grief, love and the possibility of the unknown, with its not entirely successful supernatural theme, The Eclipse is, overall, still winning and eminently watchable (the budding romance between Michael and Lena, for instance, is near breathtaking), and from movie's beginning to end the performances are both authentic and heartrending, and always engaging. Due to screen twice more before Festival's end, first tomorrow, Sunday, Oct. 11th @ 9:00 pm, Ridge Theatre, and the next Thursday, Oct. 15th @ 4:00 pm, Ridge Theatre.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 10, 2009 3:35 PM in VIFF 2009


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