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VIFF 2011: The New York Film Festival Brought To Vancouver

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL, with 17 of 22 NYFF films playing in Vancouver at VIFF

Wish you could hop on a plane to Gotham City so you could catch the heavily juried and prestigious 49th annual New York Film Festival?

Have we got a treat for you. You can have your own NYFF here in town!

Yes, this year, of the 22 films playing this early autumn at the New York Film Festival (which, by the way, kicks off tomorrow), an unprecedented 17 of those films will screen at the 30th annual Vancouver International Film Festival! Wondering why we didn't include the award-winning films below in our postings the past couple of days, well here's your answer: we held off til today to bring you this surprise, a listing of NYFFestival films at VIFF30.

Without further ado, then, here's what's playing at VIFF and the NYFF.

  • The Artist: All but guaranteed a nod for a Best Picture Oscar, rarely have critics been so enamoured of a film. Sure it's going to come back and screen at your local cineplex. But don't you want to be the first person among your group of friends to see this unusual, funny and affecting homage to the Golden Age of silent film? Oh yeah, we forgot to mention that Simon Gallagher loved The Artist, as does Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter, Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian, and, well ... just go see it, cuz here is yet another VIFF30 must-see. Screens only once in Vancouver, at VIFF: Thursday, October 13th, at 7pm, at the Granville 7 Theatre 7. You'd better get your ticket now.

    (From here on in, the insight into the remaining 16 films will come from cadging the programmer's notes on the New York Film Festival website)

  • Corpo Celeste: "Seeing the Spirit is like wearing really cool sunglasses," according to the instructor of 13-year old Marta's (Yle Vianello) catechism class. Such observations introduce Marta to the religious climate in the small seaside Calabrian town to which she, her mother and older sister have just moved from Switzerland. Marta is sent to the local church to prepare for her Catholic confirmation and (hopefully) make some new friends. But the religion she finds there is mainly strange: the way it dominates people's lives is unlike anything she's ever experienced. Alice Rohrwacher's extraordinarily impressive début feature chronicles Marta's private duel with the Church, carried out under the shadow of the physical changes coursing through her. Rohrwacher is not interested in pointing out heroes and villains, but instead in offering a perceptive look at how the once all-powerful Church has dealt with its waning influence. Screenings in Vancouver: Friday, September 30th, 5:30pm, Empire Granville 7 Th 6; Saturday, Oct 1st, 9pm, Gr 7 Th 3; Monday, Oct 3rd, 1 pm, Granville 7 Th 7.

  • Footnote: Thanks to a clerical error, Eliezer Shkolnik, a respected if little-known Talmudic scholar, is informed that he's won the coveted Israel Prize; in truth, the prize was meant for his son, Uriel, a much more flamboyant, widely-read Talmudist. The authorities ask Uriel to help them rectify the situation, but Uriel argues the case for his father's deserving the honor; meanwhile, Eliezer plans to use the occasion as an opportunity to intellectually take down his son and the whole generation of a la mode Talmudists. Winner of the prize for Best Screenplay at Cannes, New York born-and-trained Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar has here created the wryest of Jewish comedies, a emotional competition that pits father against son, built around the understanding of sacred texts. Rarely has the weight of a culture's intellectual past been depicted so forcefully, nor shown to be as vibrant. Screenings at VIFF: Tuesday, Oct 4th, 7pm, Vogue; Tuesday, Oct 11th, 4:15pm, Vogue.

  • Le Havre: The latest deadpan treat from Aki Kaurismäki was inspired, the director has said, by his desire to have been born a generation earlier, so that he could have witnessed the Resistance during World War II. Thus Le Havre abounds with sly references to classic Resistance dramas, as it tells the whimsical tale of Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a noted Parisian author now living in self-imposed exile in the titular port city. Dividing most of his time between his neighborhood bar and caring for his bedridden wife (longtime Kaurismäki muse Kati Outinen), Marcel finds himself alive with a new sense of purpose when he comes to the aid of a young African on the run from immigration police and trying to reunite with his mother in London. Beautifully shot in Kaurismäki's signature shades of muted blue, brown and green, with scene-stealing appearances by French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud and a dog named Laika, Le Havre is a gentle yet profound comedy of friendship, random acts of kindness and small acts of revolution. Screenings in Vancouver, at VIFF: Saturday, October 8th, 6:20pm, Empire Granville 7, Theatre 3; Monday, October 10th, 11:40am, Granville 7, Theatre 3.

  • The Kid With a Bike: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival, the latest film by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne centres on Cyril, a restless 11-year-old boy (terrific newcomer Thomas Doret) placed in a children's home after being abandoned by his father. Unwilling to face the fact that parents are imperfect people, Cyril runs away to his former apartment block in search of both dad and his abandoned bicycle. Instead, he meets Samantha (the excellent Cécile de France), a kind hairdresser who helps to retrieve his bike and eventually agrees to become his weekend guardian. But literally and figuratively, Cyril isn't out of the woods just yet. Shooting once more in the Belgian seaport town of Seraing, the Dardennes have created another poetic, universally resonant drama about parents, children and moral responsibility. Screenings in Vancouver, at VIFF: Friday, October 14th, 7pm, Vogue; Friday, October 14th, 9:45pm, Vogue.

  • The Loneliest Planet: This staggeringly acute examination of the fissures that develop between couples from Julia Loktev proves that even the most wide-open spaces can feel suffocating during romantic discord. Nica (Hani Furstenberg) and Alex (Gael García Bernal), a few months away from their wedding, take a hiking trip in the Caucasus in Georgia, led by tour guide Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze). Nica and Alex appear to be completely in-sync partners, wildly attracted to each other and sharing the same interests. But a split-second decision by Alex proves horrifying to Nica and sets off impenetrable, stony silences. In a film in which so much is communicated nonverbally, Furstenberg and Bernal astoundingly uncover the toxic, erosive effects of disappointment and resentment. Screenings in Vancouver, at VIFF: Tuesday, October 11th, 9:30pm, Vogue; Thursday, October 13th, 1:30pm, Vogue.

  • Martha Marcy May Marlene: Sean Durkin's haunting first feature, about a young woman's halting attempts to undo the psychic terror of the cult she's just escaped, heralds the arrival of a remarkable new talent. Fleeing a Manson-like Catskills compound at dawn, Martha (Elizabeth Olsen, leading an excellent cast) reconnects with her older sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), a bourgeois New Yorker who takes in her sibling at the Connecticut country house she shares with her husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy). Lucy remains unaware of exactly what happened to Martha over the past few years — details that Durkin slowly but powerfully unveils in uncanny, disorienting flashbacks. The film's gorgeous, painterly compositions have the chilling effect of suggesting that even our worst nightmares still retain a seductive allure. Screenings in Vancouver, at VIFF: Tuesday, October 11th, 9:30pm, Granville 7, Theatre 3; Friday, October 14th, 3pm, Granville 7, Theatre 3.

  • Miss Bala: One of the most exciting young talents around, the Mexican director Gerardo Naranjo approaches the hot-button topic of drug violence through the perspective of an unlikely, unwitting heroine: a Tijuana beauty pageant contestant (Stephanie Sigman) who stumbles into the path of ruthless cartel operatives and corrupt officials. Although inspired by a true story, Miss Bala avoids docudrama clichés and tabloid sensationalism, and instead evokes the pervasive climate of fear and confusion that has enveloped daily life in some increasingly lawless pockets of northern Mexico. Using long takes and fluid, precise camera work, Naranjo fashions a highly original thriller: an anguished and harrowing mood piece with an undertow of bleakly absurdist humour and moments of heart-stopping action. Screenings in Vancouver, at the 30th annual Vancouver Internatioanl Film Festival: Tuesday, October 4th, 9:30pm, Vogue; Friday, October 7th, 3pm, Granville 7, Theatre 3.

  • Once Upon A Time In Anatolia: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest begins as a small caravan of cars snakes its way through the nocturnal countryside, looking for where a murdered man was buried. Yet every time the confessed killer points out the grave, the gravediggers come up empty; much of the landscape looks alike, it's dark out, and anyway the killer claims he was drunk. As the increasingly frustrating investigation wears on, far more is revealed than where the body is buried; through quick looks, furtive gestures and offhand bits of dialogue, Ceylan reveals in this seemingly pacific Turkish outback a festering world of jealousies and resentments, as the story behind the murder gradually emerges. Impeccably photographed (by Gökhan Tiryaki) and with a stand-out performance by Taner Birsel as a police inspector, this is Ceylan's most impressive film yet. Screenings at VIFF: Thursday, Sept 29th, 3pm, Gr 7 Th 3; Wednesday, October 5th, 9pm, Gr 7 Th 3; Thursday, October 6th, 9pm, Gr 7 Th 3.

  • Pina 3D: Here revolutionizing the dance film just as he did the music documentary in Buena Vista Social Club, Wim Wenders began planning this project with legendary choreographer Pina Bausch in the months before her untimely death, selecting the pieces to be filmed and discussing the filmmaking strategy. Impressed by recent innovations in 3D, Wenders decided to experiment with the format for this tribute to Bausch and her Tanztheater Wuppertal; the result sets the standard against which all future uses of 3D to record performance will be measured. Not only are the beauty and sheer exhilaration of the dances and dancers powerfully rendered, but the film also captures the sense of the world that Bausch so brilliantly expressed in all her pieces. Longtime members of the Tanztheater re-create many of their original roles in such seminal works as 'Café Müller,' 'Le Sacre du Printemps,' and 'Kontakthof.' Two screenings at VIFF, both at the Park Theatre: Monday, October 3rd, 7pm; and Wednesday, October 5th, 2pm.

  • Play: A deliberately provoked racial incident, based on numerous similar real-life transgressions, is played for all it's worth in Play. Swedish writer-director Ruben Õstlund has developed mesmerizing visual strategies based on long takes and fixed camera positions to relate a disturbing tale of how five savvy African immigrant boys in Gothenburg take advantage of the liberal guilt and placating temperament of three local kids to rob them and take them for a ride to unknown destinations. Social, racial and political credos are twisted, pulled inside out and stood on their head by this bracing and confronting work, which will challenge the assumptions of many a viewer. Dazzlingly shot on the new Red 4K camera, Play is a considerable achievement both formally and dramatically that poses more questions than it answers as it lays bare attitudes lurking beneath the surface tranquility of Scandinavian life — a peacefulness that, as we have seen of late, can sometimes be tragically shattered. Two screenings at VIFF, both at the Granville 7, Theatre 3: Wednesday, October 5th, 3pm; Friday, October 7th, 9pm.

  • Policeman: A boldly conceived drama pivoting on the initially unrelated activities of an elite anti-terrorist police unit and some wealthy young anarchists, Policeman is a striking first feature from writer-director Nadav Lapid. Provocatively timely in light of recent unrest tied to social and economic inequities in Israel, this is a powerfully physical film in its depiction of the muscular, borderline sensual way the macho cops relate to one another, as well as for the emphatic style with which the opposing societal forces are contrasted and finally pitted against one another. Although the youthful revolutionaries come off as petulant and spoiled, their point about the growing gap between the Israeli haves and have-nots cannot be ignored, even by the policemen sent on a rare mission to engage fellow countrymen rather than Palestinians. A winner of three prizes at the Jerusalem Film Festival and a special jury prize at Locarno. Screenings in Vancouver, at VIFF: Sunday, October 9th, 6:45pm, Granville 7 Th 2; Monday, October 10th, 1:15pm, Granville 7 Th 2; and Thursday, October 13th, 9:30pm, Granville 7 Th 1.

  • A Separation: A critical and audience favorite at this year's Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Golden Bear as well as acting prizes for all four lead performers, A Separation is an Iranian Rashomon of searing family drama that turns into an unexpectedly gripping legal thriller. The film, directed by Asghar Farhadi, begins with married couple Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) obtaining coveted visas to leave Iran for the United States, where Simin hopes to offer a better future to their 11-year-old daughter. But Nader doesn't feel comfortable abandoning his elderly, Alzheimer's-stricken father, and so the couple embark on a trial separation. To help care for the old man, Nader hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a pregnant, deeply religious woman who takes the job unbeknownst to her husband (Shahab Hosseini), an out-of-work cobbler. Almost immediately there are complications, culminating in a sudden burst of violence that constantly challenges our own perceptions of who (if anyone) is to blame and what really happened. Screenings at VIFF: Wed, Oct 5th, 6:30pm, Vogue; Sun, Oct 9th, 1:45pm, Vogue.

  • Sleeping Sickness: This remarkably assured third feature by the young German director Ulrich Köhler — winner of Best Director at this year's Berlin Film Festival — transports us to Cameroon, where German doctor Ebbo (Pierre Bokma) and his wife have spent two decades combating an epidemic of sleeping sickness in the local villages. Soon, they will return to Europe and to lives long ago put on hold, and this has created a crisis for Ebbo, who, like Joseph Conrad's Kurtz, has spent too much time up river to ever come back down. Meanwhile, a young black doctor — a Frenchman born to Congolese parents — travels to Africa to evaluate the efficiency of Ebbo's program. But when he arrives, nothing goes according to plan, and despite his heritage, he feels very much a stranger in a strange land. Finally, the two subjects of this haunting meditation on Africa's past and future dovetail — effortlessly, seamlessly — and the cumulative impact is stunning. Screenings in Vancouver at VIFF: Friday, Sept 30th 3:00pm, Gr 7 Th 3; Sunday, Oct 2nd, 5:30pm, Gr 7 Th 6; and Tuesday, Oct 4th, 6:20pm, Gr 7 Th 3.

  • The Student: Politics is a game, a seduction, and a vicious cycle in Santiago Mitre's gripping, fine-tuned début, the story of Roque (Esteban Lamothe), a university student who falls for a radicalized teacher and organizer (Romina Paula) and soon finds himself entangled with Buenos Aires campus activists, in a world as heated and byzantine as the one inhabited by the student revolutionaries of the mythic 1960s. Anchored by Lamothe's nuanced, charismatic performance, The Student complicates the classic bildungsroman narrative of education and disillusionment, emphasizing the endless adaptability — or malleability — of its protagonist. An urgent attempt to grapple with the legacy of Peronism in present-day Argentina, the film abounds with telling details and rich local colour. But it's also a truly universal political thriller, one that illuminates the conspiratorial pleasure, the ruthless hustle, and the moral fog of politics as it is practiced. Screenings in Vancouver, at VIFF: Wednesday, October 12th, 6:40pm, Gr 7 4 ;Thursday, October 13th, 4:20pm, Gr 7 Th 2; Friday, October 14th, 9:15pm, Gr 7 Th 2.

  • The Turin Horse: After witnessing a carriage driver whipping his horse, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche ran to the scene, threw his arms around the horse and then collapsed; he would spend the next, final ten years of his life in almost total silence. Focusing not on Nietzsche but on the driver and his family, Béla Tarr and his longtime collaborator Ágnes Hranitzky, working from a screenplay by Tarr and novelist László Krasznhorkai, create a mesmerizing, provocative meditation on the unsettling connectedness of things, in which the resonance of actions and gestures continues long after their actual occurrence. Beautifully photographed (by Fred Kelemen) on the austere, unforgiving Hungarian plain lands, The Turin Horse challenges us to enter into a world just beyond the one we experience daily. Winner of the Silver Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival. Screenings in Vancouver, at VIFF: Sat, Oct 8th 1:30pm, Pacific Cinémathèque; Wed, Oct 12th, 9:30pm, Gr 7 Th 7.

  • This Is Not A Film: Accused of collusion against the Iranian regime and currently appealing a prison sentence and a ban from filmmaking, Jafar Panahi collaborated with the documentarian Mojtaba Mirtahmasb on a remarkable day-in-the-life chronicle that, as with many great Iranian films, finds a rich middle ground between fiction and reality. Shot with a digital camera and an iPhone, the movie is almost entirely confined to the director's apartment, where he discusses his films and an unrealized script, while the outside world imposes itself through phone calls, television news, a few comic interruptions, and the sound of New Year's fireworks. Far more than the modest home movie it initially seems to be, This Is Not a Film is an act of courage and a statement of political and moral conviction: surprising, radical, and enormously moving. Screenings in Vancouver, at VIFF: Saturday, October 8th, 2:30pm, Gr 7 Th 4; Thursday, October 13th, 7pm, Gr 7 Th 2.

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Full VR daily coverage of the Vancouver Film Festival may be found here.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 29, 2011 8:01 AM in VIFF 2011


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