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VIFF 2013

October 13, 2013

VIFF 2013: Festival Director Alan Franey Resigns, Tumult to Follow

Alan Franey, Vancouver International Film Festival, tenders his resignation as Festival Director

On Saturday morning, October 12th, Vancouver International Film Festival co-founder, and for 26 years the Festival Director, tendered his resignation.

Despite Alan's statement to the contrary, what will follow will most assuredly be experienced by many as tumult, as upset and — as the Festival attempts to find a new direction sans it's co-founder and reigning intelligence — a period of irresolution the likes of which we haven't seen since the period of instability that occurred when Toronto Film Festival maven Hannah Fisher assumed the position of VIFF Festival Director 1985 - 1988, following VIFF co-founder Leonard Schein's resignation and truncated tenure as the Director of the, then, Toronto Festival of Festivals.

Since 1988, when incoming Chairperson of VIFF's Board of Directors and political apparatchik extraordinaire, Michael Francis, conducted a coup of VIFF's Board of Directors, installing Alan Franey as the Festival's once and forever director, Alan has remained atop the power structure of VIFF, a mature and thoughtful man of zen countenance possessed of an uncommon humanity, and a coherent and incisive administrative management capability that has not seen its equal on the arts scene in Vancouver since his investiture as Festival head, an arts administrator without equal, and in consequence utterly and profoundly irreplaceable.

That Alan wishes to spend more time with his lovely wife Donna — there is no scene which fills our heart with more joy than to see Alan and Donna, arm and arm, after lo these many years of an endearing and enduring companionship of the most tender affection, walking along and through the beachfront area stretching from Jericho Beach to the western end of Spanish Banks, very much in love, very much devoted to one another — is understandable. Does recognition of such circumstance lessen, in any way, the impact of what Alan's leave-taking will mean for the Festival going forward, the period of tumult that is sure to follow? No, no it does not.

For Vancouver's International Film Festival, where to from here? Although in his statement of resignation (which you will find at some greater length at the end of this post), for the official record Alan states that ...

Our senior staff and board have been working towards this executive transition for a few years, and we are fortunate to have several deeply knowledgeable and dedicated long-term employees who work 60-80 hour weeks on our behalf. We all look forward to building on this year's success.

Although we would not question Alan's veracity for one moment, we believe that such simple statement of reassurance does not begin to plumb the depths of circumstance respecting the conditions which have lead up to Alan's Saturday, October 12th, resignation as VIFF'S Festival Director.

Over the course of this past year, much was made over the loss of the Granville 7 Cinema as the longtime home of the Festival. Much less was made of the challenging economic circumstance that VIFF had to confront when, in 2012, Festival attendance dropped a precipitous 20% — most days on which the Festival occurred last year were warm and sunny, as potential VIFF patrons stayed away from darkened rooms of cinematic splendour, opting instead to enjoy the last vestiges of an unseasonably warm late summer, following upon what had been in 2012 a dreadfully chilly, inhospitable and rain-soaked June, July, August and early September.

In 2012, the Festival experienced a financial loss for the first time in many, many years. In the past, such a loss would have been made up by government grants of economic sustenance, or sponsorship monies from VIFF's main financial supporters. But these are the days of post-economic collapse and continued economic uncertainty — the monies just weren't there to ensure that the Vancouver International Film Festival would endure. With VIFF's movement out into the community this year, Festival administration projected break-even, but more likely another loss.

Over the course of the past year, Alan's job was very much on the line. The consequence of another financial loss for the Festival in 2013 would mean that Alan's options would be limited — the Board (Alan was no longer protected by Michael Francis, who had resigned his position as Chair some years back) would demand Alan's resignation in the face of a Vancouver film festival in which the public had seemingly lost confidence.

Contrary to the most salutary administrative VIFF projection of 2013 box office, with its uncertain move into the community, and early 2013 Festival days of torrential downpour, VIFF patrons flocked to the Festival. On Day 3 of the Festival, in conversation with VanRamblings, Alan turned to us to say, "Weather forecasters are advising Vancouverites to stay at home, warm and safe and away from the winds and torrents of rain. Instead, cinephiles are flocking to our Festival in record numbers, line-ups are long, and — although, perhaps, it is too early to say with authority — the future of our Festival, an important cultural institution, seems quite assured."

The Board would not be pushing Alan out of his position as Festival Director following what will, in the days to come, come to be reported as a halcyon year in the history of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Alan Franey takes his leave as Festival Director, of his own volition and secure in the knowledge that he leaves our Festival not without challenges that are still to be faced, but in a much more secure position financially than anyone could reasonably have predicted coming into the 32nd edition of our utterly transformative — and world class — film festival by the sea.

In the days to come, we will write of Alan's legacy — and his peculiar, yet humane and wildly successful style of arts adminstration — but not in this post. You'll just have to wait.

Where to from here? — yes, we're finally going to get around to answering the question posed eight paragraphs above.

The transition to a new Festival Director, and a new style of arts administration, will not be an easy one.

Perhaps, as Alan hopes, all will go well, and a salutary succession plan — one in which a senior VIFF programmer will assume benign artistic provenance over the Festival — will occur. That and, of course, herefords will fly, natural fruit jelly bears will cascade from the sky directly into our open hand, and each night forever anon we will, each and every one of us, sleep the sleep of angels, secure in the knowledge that it is today, as it will be tomorrow, a world where social and economic justice will remain, as it has forever, the universal circumstance of our plenary condition.

No, all will not be well. How do we know this? Two words: Vision Vancouver.

Given its penchant for morbid control, we believe Vancouver's once and future civic administration will most assuredly, and without a shred of doubt, come to exercise an unsavoury control over the selection process of a new Festival Director for the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Somewhere across this vast globe of ours, a Vision Vancouver and Tides Foundation-supported Hollyhock acolyte — currently employed elsewhere in a circumstance of jurisdiction as a senior film festival arts administrator — will make her way to Vancouver to assume the post Alan Franey will vacate in 2013. Perhaps VIFF will install a caretaker Festival Director. But most probably not. If one can be said to "know" Vision Vancouver, at all, Vancouver's is a municipal administration intent on building a legacy of control far beyond their period of electability.

Not a pretty picture, or one that serves the long term interests of the devoted fans of world cinema who live across Metro Vancouver, and across the globe, who each autumn as we have for many many years, find ourselves resident within one of the world's finest festivals of foreign language, independent, Canadian, and non-fiction cinema.

The behind-the-scenes machinations respecting Alan's replacement will be of Machiavellian proportion — all out of the public eye, of course, but let us hope that among those inside the smoke-filled rooms will be a person of conscience, someone who is committed to transparency, who will leak information of consequence and import, akin to extemporaneous manner.

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VanRamblings is melancholy, dejected, verklempt.

Alan is stepping down. Our Festival will never be the same again, and although Vancouver's international film festival will endure, the mise en scène of our beloved Festival will be forever changed. Maybe a good thing.

But in the short term, probably not.

VanRamblings wishes Alan and Donna well, and at next year's Festival very much look forward to viewing the world cinema Alan — in his continuing capacity as a VIFF programmer — will have brought to our shores, for the screenings of his films of choice, deep inside the darkened cinematic coliseums of the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival.

Alan Franey's Statement of Resignation

This 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival has been my 26th as Festival Director and it will be my last in this role. I hope to remain very much involved with VIFF but to focus on programming. I also hope to live a more balanced life and to have more time for other pursuits. Don't we all?! For me that day has come.

It has been a privilege for me to lead this organization for so long, and there are many people I will remain grateful to. Our senior staff and board have been working towards this executive transition for a few years, and we are fortunate to have several deeply knowledgeable and dedicated long-term employees who work 60-80 hour weeks on our behalf. We all look forward to building on this year's success. This work is a pleasure and brings its own rewards.

We live in a digital world in which quality is not always easily gleaned from quantity. Many directions for VIFF may be considered. My hope is that we will keep our eyes focused on our long-standing mandate to value cinema as an art form and as a bridge between peoples. This will surely serve us well in the future.

Gracious, hope-filled, father, husband, arts administrator no more.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:48 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 12, 2013

VIFF 2013: Award Winners Announced for 2013 Film Festival

2013 Vancouver International Film Festival award winners

The 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival concluded its 16-day run on Friday, October 11th. The winners of two juried awards, and six audience awards were announced prior to the screening of VIFF's closing film, Arie Posin's The Face of Love, at The Centre. The Dragons & Tigers winner was announced earlier in the Festival.

JURIED AWARDS

The Canadian Images jury announced two awards. The jury members were actress Gabrielle Miller (Corner Gas, Robson Arms, Moving Day); former BC Film Commissioner and Co-ordinator of the Motion Picture Arts Programme at Capilano University, Dianne Neufeld; and former Executive Producer for programming at Radio Canada, in BC & the Yukon, Michèle Smolkin.

The Award for Best Canadian Feature Film

Rhymes for Young Ghouls

The award for Best Canadian Feature Film, and its $10,000 cash prize, is shared this year between Jason James' That Burning Feeling, and Jeff Barnaby's Rhymes for Young Ghouls. The following is the jury statement on the two winning Canadian films at VIFF 2013 ...

Rhymes for Young Ghouls is a very powerful and beautifully produced film, with a stellar cast and excellent photography and design. Depicting the after-effects of the trauma inflicted by residential schools on the First Nations population, it also succeeds in telling a universal and touching story of an oppressed people trying to survive, rebuild and come to terms with their suffering. Using a highly creative vocabulary, from realistic to metaphorical, from fantastic to poetic, Jeff Barnaby demonstrates a promising and already impressive talent as a filmmaker.

That Burning Feeling is one of the best comedies the jury has seen in a long time. With a witty, smart and highly-articulate script, a talented cast and beautiful production, it makes for a wonderful self-deprecating portrait of Vancouver, with its condo maniacs, yoga lovers, community activists and other odd characters. While making us laugh along the way, it tells the human story of trying to find authenticity in a crazy world. Jason James is a rising filmmaker to watch with his wit, keen eye and intelligence.

Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film

The $2000 cash prize was awarded to Mathieu Arsenault for Nathan ...

The Canadian short film that visually and emotionally walks the line between stories that use abrupt beginnings and endings and stories that change their point-of-view midstream. The rugged handheld camerawork and dynamic editing capture the emotional journey of an irresponsible young man learning to become a father. This unflinching and heartbreaking film is most worthy of the award for most promising director of a short film.

Women in Film + Television Artistic Merit Award

The WIFTV jury — Mary Margaret Frymire, Lisa Ovies and Ana Valine — told those in The Centre's Closing Gala audience that, "We're thrilled to award the 18th Annual Artistic Merit Award to Chloé Robichaud for her outstanding film, Sarah Prefers to Run. Robichaud's clear and compelling direction, coupled with a strong lead performance from Sophie Desmarais, made for an engaging story that ran away with the audience's hearts."

AUDIENCE AWARDS

Rogers People's Choice Award

Like Father, Like Son

Like Father, Like Son (Japan), directed by Kore-eda Hirozaku won the Rogers People's Choice Award. All of the festival's feature films — dramas and nonfiction — were eligible. Festival-goers chose the most popular film by rating every film they saw on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent).

VIFF Most Popular Canadian Film Award

The audience chose Down River, directed by Ben Ratner, for the VIFF Most Popular Canadian Film Award, presented by Canadian Images programmer, Terry McEvoy. Here's a review written by Olivia Law, in The Ubyssey.

VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award

When I Walk, directed by Jason da Silva, won the VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award, presented by Canadian Images programmer, Terry McEvoy. Here's The Hollywood Reporter review.

VIFF Most Popular Canadian Environmental Documentary Award

Salmon Confidential, directed by Twyla Roscovich, won the VIFF Most Popular Canadian Environmental Documentary Award, presented by Canadian Images programmer, Terry McEvoy. The Straight review.

VIFF Most Popular Documentary Film Award

The audience chose Desert Runners directed by Jennifer Steinman, for the VIFF Most Popular Documentary Film Award, presented by Festival Director, Alan Franey. Here's Mark Adams' review in Screen Daily.

VIFF Most Popular First Feature Award

The audience chose Wadjda, directed by Haifaa Al Mansour, for the VIFF Most Popular International First Feature Award, presented by Festival Director, Alan Franey. Here's Oliver Lyttlelton's review on Indiewire.

PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED AWARDS

Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema

Anatomy of a Paperclip

Anatomy of a Paperclip (Yamamori Clip Koujou no Atari) by Ikeda Akira of Japan won the 20th annual Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema and a cash prize of $5,000, supported by Brad Birarda. Presented to the director of a creative and innovative film from East Asia that has not yet won significant international recognition, the award was previously announced on October 3rd. Thanks are also due to Dragons & Tigers series sponsor Fairchild Media Group.

BC Spotlight Awards

BC Emerging Filmmaker Award — $7,500 cash prize sponsored by UBCP / AFBS and a $10,000 equipment rental credit from William F. White, was presented to Lawrence & Holloman, directed by Matthew Kowalchuk.

Best BC Film — $10,000 development bursary provided by The Harold Greenberg Fund and a $10,000 post-production services credit from Finalé Editworks, presented to The Dick Knost Show, directed by Bruce Sweeney.

#mustseebc Award — Leap for Your Life, directed by Gary Hawes

At the Closing Gala, the Vancouver International Film Festival extendeds its thanks to Creative BC, CineCoup, The Harold Greenberg Fund, William F. White, UBCP, AFBS, Finalé Editworks, Canon Canada, ET Canada and Vancouver Magazine.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:56 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 11, 2013

VIFF 2013: Vancouver International Film Festival Draws to a Close

The final day of the 2013 Vancouver International Film FestivalOur beloved 2013 VIFF is over for the year, and what of VIFF for VanRamblings in 2014?

Well, that's it for the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

Sixteen days in, and at 11:30pm tonight, following the final screening, the Festival will have drawn to a close for another year, except for the few stragglers who'll be whooping it up at the Closing Gala soirée at The Playhouse — VanRamblings will, of course, find ourselves over at The Centre, along with many other hundreds of cinephiles, taking in a late night screening of the Festival's Closing Gala film, The Face of Love.

Throughout the day, Festival Director and Exhibitions Manager George Mah will be meeting for a debriefing session with venue management staff, in preparation for an even better 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival. First order of business: a hearty congratulations to everyone involved in bringing to Vancouver, and exhibiting, the 340 films from 70 countries that were screened at the seven venues (most of them new) to the amazement, delight, and often tear-filled joy (or, sometimes, horror) of VIFF cinephiles.

VanRamblings will continue to post on the film festival over the course of the next week, as we report out on the winners of the various VIFF awards that will be announced tonight, as well as, in the days to come, the films chosen by VIFF's cinephiles that rank in the top 30 films on offer in 2013.

As is the case with many, even though we took in more than 80 films, there were too many films that we missed. Although we had In Bloom on our original programme schedule — at the last minute, we replaced it with The Patience Stone, which, fortuitously, emerged as one of our three favourite films at VIFF 2013. Still, we're sad to have missed so many great VIFF films.

Fortunate for all of us, the VIFF Repeats begin tomorrow — when, over the weekend at The Rio, SFU Woodwards, and The Vancity (reducing to only The Vancity, beginning Monday, and running through until Thursday evening), you can catch VIFF films you missed. Hopefully, in addition to the VIFF Repeats, the VIFF'S Vancity programmer Tom Charity will bring back a plethora of fine indie and foreign language fare throughout the next year.

I BelongScenes from Dag Johan Haugerud's magnificent Norwegian production, I Belong. A must-see.

Of the VIFF repeats, we would strongly recommend the following...

  • I Belong. A film of transcendent and remarkable beauty, narrative erudition and artful craft, so well realized as to make one weep with joy at the transformative experience director Dag Johan Haugerud and his humane and human-scale cast have allowed us to feel, I Belong emerges as ground-breaking, truth-telling cinema of the first order, ranking among the most important films of the new millennium. Screens on Saturday, October 12th, at 4pm, SFU Woodwards.

  • Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia. Despairing, melancholy, screamingly funny at times, and filled with more wit and perspicacity than any film you'll see this year, here's the best non-fiction film to play at VIFF 2013, a doc that is not-to-be-missed. Quite simply, director Nicholas Wrathall, while offering a profound and immensely witty historical document on the nature of the 21st century state, has outdone himself. Sunday, October 13th, 06:45pm, The Vancity.

  • Felix. One of the three feel-good films at this year's Festival (the other two: Wadjda, and Gabrielle). An absolute must-see, a humble, deeply affecting, cross-cultural coming-of-age story set in South Africa that left the audience verklempt but heartened, with nary a dry eye in the house. Everything in Felix works: the cinematography, the production values, performances, screenwriting, and directorial ambition. Quite simply, a moving and accomplished film that is not-to-be-missed at VIFF 2013. Monday, October 14th, 4:30pm, The Vancity.

  • The Italian Character: The Story of a Great Italian Orchestra. Angelo Bozzolini's rich and wide-ranging documentary introduces us to the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, employing its principal conductor, Sir Antonio Pappano, as the humane narrator of this dazzling entertainment. Wed., Oct. 16th, 6:30pm, The Vancity.

  • From Neurons to Nirvana. We're also pretty high (so to speak) on Oliver Hockenhull's entirely captivating film on the effects of ayahuasca, MDMA, LSD and psilocybin, as medications that ought to be in wide (supervised) use, but are not because of the role Big Pharma plays in dictating our health and medication laws. A balanced, richly-illustrated, well-researched feature documentary. Thurs. Oct. 17th, 8:45pm, The Vancity.

  • Salmon Confidential. The must-see doc at this year's Festival for all of us who live in British Columbia, examining the reason why our wild salmon stocks are dwindling, and our fishing industry seems headed towards oblivion. You'll never buy a farmed salmon again, and you'll be damned pissed off at Christy Clark's Liberal government, and have your worst fears about the corrupt nature of Stephen Harper's Conservatives confirmed. Sunday, October 13th, 6:30pm, SFU Woodwards.

In addition to the titles above, there's been so much good buzz on Anne Wheeler's Chi, and Finding Vivian Maier — which many consider to be the best doc in the Festival, that next Tuesday, we're going to take in a double bill of these two docs, at 6:30pm and 8:15 pm, at The Vancity.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:53 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 10, 2013

VIFF 2013: A Remembrance of Our 2013 Crosstown Film Festival


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:10 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 9, 2013

VIFF 2013: A Tribute to Our Film Festival Venue Managers

Jelena Popovich, 2013 VIFF shining star

Jelena Popovich, the shining star of this year's extraordinary VIFF venue management team

Although VanRamblings' love for VIFF venue manager Iulia Manolescu has not diminished one iota as the Vancouver International Film Festival has moved out into the community in 2013, and Iulia has assumed an overdue VIFF management role of prominence, at this year's Festival — and, in a galaxy of film festival venue managers whose humanity and organizational élan knows no equal (we're talking about you, Sean and Nancy), there has emerged this year a 'new' VIFF venue manager possessed of an uncommon humanity, transcendent organizational skills, an individual whose exemplary social skills and humane ability to connect with whomever she comes into contact — has emerged in 2013 as an inspiration and welcome gift to this year's edition of our annual film festival by the sea.

Jelena Popovich, pictured above, is the shining star of this year's film festival venue managers, a lovely, lovely woman who has gained the respect of the grateful volunteers with whom she has worked each day, not to mention the thousands upon thousands of VIFF patrons who throughout the Festival have sought her angelic intervention in respect of a passing quandary of momentary significance — Jelena, who day in, day out left joy in her wake in every engagement with VIFF staff, volunteers and patrons.

Today, VanRamblings pays tribute to Jelena Popovich, the young woman who may very well become her very own deity within VIFF venue management in the years to come. Jelenathank you for employing your singular and transcendent organizational skills at this year's Festival, and for your beneficent ability to transform all that is occurring around you.

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Celebrating the good work of Vancouver International Film Festival venue staff

At the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, the venue managers at each of the seven sites emerged as the beating heart of this year's Festival, the individuals who transformed what might have been chaos into a tremendously welcoming experience for film festival patrons, who brought a strength of purpose and uncommon humanity to the task set for them by film festival administration — create the best possible experience for the tens of thousands of VIFF patrons standing in the line-ups outside the theatre awaiting entrance to the cinema for the next screening, while establishing a process for theatre ingress and egress from each VIFF screening that would be welcoming on the way in, and "sad to see you go, but we look forward to seeing you again soon" on the way out.

And, who are these venue managers of whom we write? There's ...

  • Sean Wilson, the entirely magnificent, heartful showman of the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, who connected like mad with VIFF volunteers and patrons, creating the conditions in whichever venue he was assigned for one of the best possible theatrical exhibition experiences this city has ever experienced;

  • Teresa Weir, VIFF's most experienced (and dare we say, best organized) venue manager, who this year also took on the gargantuan task of Exhibitions Assistant (you know, the one who does all the work) to Exhibitions Manager George Mah, who created the conditions not only for a tremendous VIFF patron experience, but allowed George and Festival Director Alan Franey the opportunity to sleep at night, knowing that with Teresa at the helm, our festival was in good hands;

  • Nancy Kurek, over at The Rio Theatre, who truth to tell (now, don't tell anyone) is really, truly THE beating heart of the Festival, a woman of transcendent loveliness who simply by dint of her presence instills a confidence that all will be well, that this night will be the best night of all the myriad film festival evenings you've experienced over the years;

  • Jenn Tennant and the exquisite Sylvija Dogan, over at VIFF's SFU Woodwards Goldcorp Theatre venue, who daily created the conditions for a magical and transformative cinematic experience within SFU's 350-seat lecture-hall-like cinema venue, all the while inspiring the volunteers on each floor of the centre, their presence a balm for harried film-goers, Jenn's welcoming smile a salve for the soul;

  • Stephanie Brogden, perhaps the most warmly mischievous venue manager presence at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, and - along with Iulia - the most charming VIFF 'host' introducing films, who exhibited a vulnerability and little girl quality that almost broke your heart every time you saw her, an utterly angelic presence, innocent in her presentation of self, tempered by an innate strength, and subtle humility, in her means of connection;

  • Rodney Stewart, the calming, zen presence at The Playhouse, The Cinematheque, or whichever of the VIFF venues to which he was assigned for the day, whose stage presence while introducing films was always warm and funny, welcoming and reassuring, whose presence on stage acted as the perfect prelude to the film which would in only moments unspool on screen before us.

We want to make special mention of the two venue managers whose palpable humanity when introducing a festival film transformed the theatre, brought you deeper and further inside the cinematic and human experience than was the case at this or any other film festival of recent years.

In 2013, Iulia Manolescu brought a new-found confidence and naturalness to the introduction of VIFF films, that was all of once serene and funny, welcoming and knowing, reassuring and oh, so humane. No one on VIFF venue management staff connected like Iulia this year when introducing a film, no audience was more attentive than was the case when Iulia skipped down the steps of the Cineplex cinemas to the proscenium in front of the screen to bring us inside her conspiracy of warmth for humanity.

And then there was Stephanie Brodgen, of course, the wholly lovely venue manager at The Centre in Vancouver For Performing Arts, whose quiet and comforting presence in front of the screen in the moments before the film was to begin commanded your attention, who radiated a vulnerability and uncommon humanity, and who was this year the single most charming daily presence at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:30 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

VIFF 2013: Miles to Go, Films To See, Tears To Shed

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In the middle of last week, VanRamblings was having a conversation with VIFF programmer extraordinaire, PoChu AuYeung, when we suggested to PoChu that there were some very good films at VIFF 2013, but perhaps the this year the quality of films was not quite up to the standard of previous years. PoChu's reply: "You're less than a week into the Festival. There are a great many wonderful films that you'll love that are still to come."

And as PoChu had predicted, so has it come to pass.

I Belong (Grade: A+). The Patience Stone, The Great Passage and I Belong exist in a category all their own at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, cinematic experiences of transcendent and remarkable beauty, narrative erudition and artful craft, films that are so well realized as to make one weep with joy at the transformative experience the filmmakers have allowed us to feel, ground-breaking, truth-telling cinema of the first order, each film ranking among the most important films of the new millennium.

I Belong (the Norwegian title translates as "As You See Me") is a film possessed of uncommon insight into human existence, but for all that there is a welcoming, almost absurdist, comedic element within the film's narrative that serves, thankfully throughout, to temper the onslaught of painful realizations that the casual unintended cruelty of others serves too often to rent the fabric of our soul, or as the VIFF programme suggests ...

I Belong explores the complexity of communication and mutual understanding, the film illustrating time and again how an incidence of seeming relative insignificance to one person takes on an aspect of grande disaster for another. I Belong relates a series of stories about people who mean well, but without malice of intent cause grievous pain to another. The film also explores the notion that those possessed of humanity and integrity of action and intent are too often viewed as troublesome malefactors, in a society where the ideal is to behave rationally rather than humanely. Although I Belong alternates between the playful and pointedly poignant, director Dag Johan Haugerud's début feature film reveals a remarkable understanding of our human frailties, and the daily dilemmas that can cause us irreparable damage and pain.

Altogether, a shattering, ruminative, and magical film of uncommon import, as remarkable and exceptional as any film you'll see at VIFF 2013, or in any other forum this or any other year. I Belong is a wise and humane film of uncommon craft, and altogether a transformative cinematic experience. Let's hope VIFF brings back I Belong for the post-Fest week of screenings, and that Tom Charity, VIFF's erudite Vancity programmer, finds a place of prominence for I Belong in his calendar of transcendently lovely films.

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VanRamblings intends to continue posting til the end of the Festival on Friday, and beyond, and will likely take in one or more of the post-Fest screenings of VIFF films that, this year, will screen evenings at the Vancity, SFU Woodwards and The Rio — such decision to employ multiple post-Fest venues resulting in the effect of seeming to extend our much beloved Festival, allowing us in the process to catch for a first time (or perhaps a second), films of consequence that we just couldn't quite manage to squeeze into our VIFF programming schedule, due to one conflict, or another, but felt were deserving of our attention and attendance.

Oscars: Academy announces Best Foreign Language Film shortlist

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar

At the request of readers, please find below the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shortlist for the 2014 Foreign Language Film Oscar — totaling 76 submitted films.

The shortlist created some controversy — Japan nominating Ishii Yuya's The Great Passage over Like Father, Like Son, created quite some consternation among film's cognoscenti, but of course none of those who were kvetching have yet to see The Great Passage, a masterwork, and perhaps this year's best foreign language film.

That Afghanistan's The Patience Stone did not receive a nomination is, perhaps, this year's biggest oversight. But, as a British, French, German, Afghani co-production, and given the film's subject matter, The Patience Stone was an unlikely Best Foreign Language nomination for any of the countries associated with the production of this year's most important film. Correction: Mathew Englander sends along the following information ...

"A small correction: Afghanistan did, in fact, submit The Patience Stone to the Academy — last year, when it was eligible. It is a 2012 film."

VanRamblings' position: The Patience Stone should have won the Best Foreign Language pic last year. Thank you for the correction, Mathew.

The number, up from 71 films last year, sets a new record for the category and includes apparent frontrunners such as Asghar Farhadi's The Past from Iran, Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt from Denmark, and Wong Kar-Wai's The Grandmaster from Hong Kong. Abdellatif Kechiche's festival favourite lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Colour from France, however, failed to make the cut-off date for eligibility, while India controversially submitted Gyan Correa's The Good Road over Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox.

Check out the full list of submissions below:

Afghanistan, "Wajma — An Afghan Love Story," Barmak Akram, director
Albania, "Agon," Robert Budina, director
Argentina, "The German Doctor," Lucía Puenzo, director
Australia, The Rocket, Kim Mordaunt, director
Austria, "The Wall," Julian Pölsler, director
Azerbaijan, "Steppe Man," Shamil Aliyev, director
Bangladesh, "Television," Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, director
Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Felix van Groeningen, director
Bosnia and Herzegovina, "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker," Danis Tanovic, director
Brazil, Neighbouring Sounds, Kleber Mendonça Filho, director
Bulgaria, "The Color of the Chameleon," Emil Hristov, director
Cambodia, The Missing Picture, Rithy Panh, director
Canada, Gabrielle, Louise Archambault, director
Chad, "GriGris," Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, director
Chile, "Gloria, Sebastián Lelio, director
China, "Back to 1942," Feng Xiaogang, director
Colombia, "La Playa DC," Juan Andrés Arango, director
Croatia, "Halima's Path," Arsen Anton Ostojic, director
Czech Republic, "The Don Juans," Jiri Menzel, director
Denmark, "The Hunt," Thomas Vinterberg, director
Dominican Republic, "Quien Manda?" Ronni Castillo, director
Ecuador, "The Porcelain Horse," Javier Andrade, director
Egypt, "Winter of Discontent," Ibrahim El Batout, director
Estonia, "Free Range," Veiko Ounpuu, director
Finland, "Disciple," Ulrika Bengts, director
France, "Renoir," Gilles Bourdos, director
Georgia, In Bloom, Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, directors
Germany, "Two Lives," Georg Maas, director
Greece, "Boy Eating the Bird's Food," Ektoras Lygizos, director
Hong Kong, "The Grandmaster," Wong Kar-wai, director
Hungary, "The Notebook," Janos Szasz, director
Iceland, "Of Horses and Men," Benedikt Erlingsson, director
India, "The Good Road," Gyan Correa, director
Indonesia, "Sang Kiai," Rako Prijanto, director
Iran, The Past, Asghar Farhadi, director
Israel, "Bethlehem," Yuval Adler, director
Italy, The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino, director
Japan, The Great Passage, Ishii Yuya, director
Kazakhstan, "Shal," Yermek Tursunov, director
Latvia, "Mother, I Love You," Janis Nords, director
Lebanon, "Blind Intersections," Lara Saba, director
Lithuania, "Conversations on Serious Topics," Giedre Beinoriute, director
Luxembourg, "Blind Spot," Christophe Wagner, director
Mexico, Heli, Amat Escalante, director
Moldova, "All God's Children," Adrian Popovici, director
Montenegro, "Ace of Spades - Bad Destiny," Drasko Djurovic, director
Morocco, "Horses of God," Nabil Ayouch, director
Nepal, "Soongava: Dance of the Orchids," Subarna Thapa, director
Netherlands, Borgman, Alex van Warmerdam, director
New Zealand, "White Lies," Dana Rotberg, director
Norway, "I Am Yours," Iram Haq, director
Pakistan, "Zinda Bhaag," Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, directors
Palestine, "Omar," Hany Abu-Assad, director
Peru, "The Cleaner," Adrian Saba, director
Philippines, "Transit," Hannah Espia, director
Poland, "Walesa. Man of Hope," Andrzej Wajda, director
Portugal, "Lines of Wellington," Valeria Sarmiento, director
Romania, "Child's Pose," Calin Peter Netzer, director
Russia, "Stalingrad," Fedor Bondarchuk, director
Saudi Arabia, Wadjda, Haifaa Al Mansour, director
Serbia, "Circles," Srdan Golubovic, director
Singapore, Ilo Ilo, Anthony Chen, director
Slovak Republic, "My Dog Killer," Mira Fornay, director
Slovenia, "Class Enemy," Rok Bicek, director
South Africa, "Four Corners," Ian Gabriel, director
South Korea, "Juvenile Offender," Kang Yi-kwan, director
Spain, "15 Years Plus a Day," Gracia Querejeta, director
Sweden, "Eat Sleep Die," Gabriela Pichler, director
Switzerland, "More than Honey," Markus Imhoof, director
Taiwan, Soul, Chung Mong-Hong, director
Thailand, "Countdown," Nattawut Poonpiriya, director
Turkey, "The Butterfly's Dream," Yilmaz Erdogan, director
Ukraine, "Paradjanov," Serge Avedikian and Olena Fetisova, directors
United Kingdom, "Metro Manila," Sean Ellis, director
Uruguay, "Anina," Alfredo Soderguit, director
Venezuela, Breach in the Silence, Luis Alejandro Rodríguez and Andrés Eduardo Rodríguez, directors

The nominees will be announced January 16th.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:46 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 7, 2013

VIFF 2013: As Our Little Festival By the Sea Wends to a Close

Vancouver International Film Festival

That's it this year for the Vancouver International Film Festival site at Cineplex International Village — no more comfy and inviting Cinemas 8, 9 and 10, no more transcendently lovely Iulia Manolescu and Jelena Popowich (wondrous women of much wit, warmth and intelligence) at Tinseltown.

The film festival continues on through Friday. There are miles to go and films to see, tears to shed and friends to make before the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival draws to a close on October 11th.

Felix Now An All-Ages Screening at VIFF 2013

The first week of the Festival, several parents of school-age children approached VanRamblings to express a concern that all three screenings of the feel-good film of the Festival, the G-rated and most transcendently wonderful family film on screen at this year's Fest, had been booked into the age-restricted Rio Theatre for all three screenings. Continuing in our unofficial ombudsperson's role with VIFF, on Friday we approached Festival Director Alan Franey, who told us ...

VIFF understood when negotiating for The Rio to become a Festival site this year that the venue possessed an age-restricted license — due to the fact that their license allows them to serve alcohol - might prove problematical for screenings of family-oriented film fare like Felix, which, as you're aware, is very much the feel good film at this year's Festival.

With that thought in mind, early on in the process to bring The Rio into the VIFF fold, we sought to have the age restriction for entrance into The Rio lifted for the duration of the Festival, and I believe we achieved that goal. The Rio will not be an age-restricted venue for VIFF in 2013.

All of us within VIFF administration and on the Board are fully cognizant that an important part of our mission in presenting a film festival of world cinema is to continue to grow the audience for our Festival. Providing parents with the opportunity to attend VIFF screenings with their children fits very much within the realization of that mission goal.

Earlier in the day, we had left a message for VIFF administrator Mickey Brazeau — one of the strongest, most welcoming, truth-telling, feminist, tough-minded VIFF staff we've encountered (VanRamblings loves straight-talking feminist women) — who, after we'd spoken with Alan — indicated that she felt, in practice, The Rio might not fully adhere to the "contractual arrangement" that VIFF had sought to establish. Mickey did say that she understood that the 6:30pm Saturday screening of Felix would allow children accompanied by parents entrance into The Rio, but to the balcony area only, in order that The Rio might continue to sell alcohol — within the terms of their hard-fought-for venue liquor license — on the main floor.

On Saturday night, VanRamblings made a point of speaking with VIFF Rio Theatre manager, Nancy Kurek (one of our favourite venue managers, and an incredibly wonderful human being) who told us the 6:30pm screening of Felix had sold out, and as Mickey had earlier informed us, had allowed children accompanied by parents entrance to The Rio's balcony. Nancy further confirmed — this after VanRamblings had gone on and on and on about the emotionally wrenching day we were having, the topic the very same as the previous year at VIFF, almost a carbon copy of our VIFF 2012 conversation with Nancy — that at Tuesday's 1:30pm screening of Felix there will be no age restriction in place at The Rio, children and parents may sit anywhere in the theatre they choose. On Sunday, in conversation with Mickey Brazeau, she confirmed the information presented by Nancy Kurek.

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Miss Violence, one of VIFF 2013's very best feature films

Miss Violence, re-inventing Greek "weird wave", a journey deep into the heart of darkness

To some degree this year, VanRamblings has failed our readers. For the most part, we've sought to publish 1500 - 2000 words a day (save Saturday, when a post we'd worked on for 6 hours simply disappeared into the ether, gone forever, when we attempted to publish it), and have sought each day to point readers / VIFF patrons in the direction of the very finest films that the film festival has on offer this year.

What VanRamblings has not done this year, as we have done in years previous, is write five 150-to-200-word capsule reviews each day of VIFF fare that has moved us. We had sought in our Saturday post to address this oversight, and had in fact written Part 2 of what would be a 4000+ word piece on the best films on offer in the final week. But as we say, that VanRamblings post — with all of its complex html coding, and much uploading of photos to accompany the post — simply disappeared.

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[Note: titles of films below that are linkable to the VIFF website are screening this week, and well worth taking in the final week of VIFF. Simply click on the link for showtime information, and ticket purchase]

There Will Come a Day

Although we've written about our very favourite films at VIFF this year, in the end, in practice or from a reader's perspective, we've not written one-fifth enough reviews of our very favourite films. We will say that Miss Violence will find a place in our top five feature favourites at VIFF 2013, after The Great Passage and The Patience Stone (which we'll screen for a second time at The Playhouse, at 4pm on Tuesday), and I Belong.

That Harmony Lessons will make our Top 20 (out of the 80 that we've seen), as will the two stunningly well-realized Latin American films, La jaula de oro, and Field of Amapolas; and that, most probably, Matterhorn, Bends, Our Sunhi, Felix, Like Father, Like Son, Blue is the Warmest Colour, and Grand Central will make our list, as will Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, The Strange Little Cat (VanRamblings would award the film an "A" grade, but consensus on this film was far from in accord with that of VanRamblings, although there were many who loved the film as much as we did), There Will Come a Day (a meditation on the existential personal crisis of a woman who has lost her child, the film screening for a final time today, 6:15pm at The Centrenot-to-be-missed), The Invisible Woman, and A Bag of Flour. We'd also suggest you take in a screening of Wadjda.

The Italian Character: The Story of a Great Italian Orchestra

For the most part, readers will have to wait til next week for a post on our favourite docs at VIFF 2013, which for now looks something like this ...

At some point next week, we'll publish our favourite VIFF features column, offering explicative insight into our very favourite feature film fare at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:25 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 6, 2013

VIFF 2013: Spiritual Connection in a Time of Anomie

The Church of Cinema, at The Centre

Given the general consensus among Vancouver International Film Festival cognoscenti that audiences in attendance at this year's Festival are noisier, more talkative, and almost as prone, as in years past, to use their phones while the narrative of a film is unfolding before our eyes, VanRamblings feels that it is necessary for all concerned that we "revive" our annual column on why it is that the cinephiles who each year attend 50+ VIFF films (and there are a whole bunch of us) feel so passionate about wanting to hear every sound, burrow into every picture, experience the every emotion of the characters on screen before us — and why it is that the Festival is a 'no go zone' for talking, whispering, and the rattling of candy wrappers for those in attendance at VIFF who would wish for nothing more than to experience Vancouver's splendid and enchanting little film festival by the sea.

Worshipping at the Church of Cinema

Imagine yourself on a Sunday morning at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival. You've just walked into The Centre, where you've been greeted by one of the volunteers, and are then ushered into a dark room with seats all facing forward. You feel reverent.

You are about to worship at the 'church of cinema'.

One hundred years on, global cinema has arrived as a form of transcendence, for many replacing the once venerated position held by the institutional church. Think about the similarities: churches and the cinema are both large buildings built in the public space. Both have signage out front indicating what is about to occur inside.

As physical structures, the church and the cinema create a sense of sacred space with their high ceilings, long aisles running the length of the darkened rooms inside, the use of dim lighting, the sweeping curvature of the walls, and the use of curtains to enhance the sacredness of the experience.

In the church of cinema we take communion not with bread and wine, but with the ritualistic consumption of our favourite snack.

Consider if you will, the memorable moment when you enter the auditorium to find your perfect viewing angle, allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy. Although you may not receive absolution at the cinema, there is the two-hour reprieve from the burden of your daily life.

As the lights are dimmed, the service begins: The seating, and the opening introduction constitute a liturgy for one and all, not dissimilar to the welcoming ritual that occurs in a church service prior to the sermon. If you are like most people, you obey an unwritten rule that requires you to be in place in time for either the singing (if you're in church) or the introduction of a film by a Vancouver Film Festival theatre manager. And, you remain silent while in the theatre, focused on all that unfolds before you.

There is, too, the notion that as the film limns your unconscious mind you are being transported, elevated in some meaningful way, left in awe in the presence of a work of film art.

What we want from church is often, these days, more of what we receive from the cinema on offer at the Vancouver International Film Festival: the vague, unshakable notion that the eternal and invisible world is all around us, transporting us as we sit in rapt attention. We experience the progress and acceleration of time, as we see life begin, progress, and find redemption. All within two hours. The films at the Vancouver International Film Festival constitute much more than entertainment; each film is a thoughtful meditation on our place in society and our purpose in life.

As a film draws to a close, just as is the case following a sermon we might hear in church, our desire is to set about to discuss with friends that which we have just experienced. Phrases and moments, transcending current frustrations with a new resolve, all in response to a line of dialogue or an image on the screen that we have now incorporated into how we will lead our life going forward.

In the holy trinity of meaning, cinema reigns supreme, the personal altar of our home theatres placing a distant second place, the city providing the physical proof of the reality the other two point to, oriented towards the satisfaction of the devout cinemagoer's theology.

Throughout the centuries we have sought to find meaning through manifest ritual and symbolism. If, as in the scene from American Beauty - a plastic bag sailing in the breeze as an intimation of immortality - then there is, perhaps, something for us to consider respecting the difference between art as diversion and art in our lives as a symbolic representation of an awakened mindfulness, allowing us to transcend the troubles of our lives.

For those who attend the Vancouver International Film Festival, cinema has emerged as that place where we might experience life in the form of parable, within a safe and welcoming environment, that place where we are able to become vulnerable and open, hungry to make sense of our lives. Cinema delivers for many of us access to the new spiritualism, the place where we experience not merely film, but language, memory, art, love, death and, perhaps even, spiritual transcendence.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:11 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 5, 2013

VIFF 2013: The Dog Ate Our Breakfast. No Post Today.

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VanRamblings took Friday night off from the Fest to write our weekend posts. There we were ready to publish Part 2 of our Weekend "Sunday edition" VIFF guide, and poof — the column disappeared into the ether.

Truth to tell, while attempting five VIFF 2013 screenings each day, we've also published something in the neighbourhood of 20,000 words of coverage on our 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

In lieu of the post that was to be, VanRamblings will instead steer you towards our VIFF coverage dating back til September 23rd.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:58 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 4, 2013

VIFF 2013: A Guide to Weekend VIFF Films of Note, Part 1

NaHTaK transforming the environment between VIFF screenings, Thursday afternoon

Part 1, Saturday, October 5th, VIFF screenings not-to-be-missed

Here's the latest update of VanRamblings' programme schedule, for the final week of the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

Based on general buzz from VIFF crowds, a surfeit of enthusiastic reviews from friends and colleagues, or simply because we loved a film the first time we saw it, and now must take in a second screening of our VIFF favourite — what we'll attempt to do in this post is explain our choices, and use that explanation to point you in the direction of worthy films we insist you programme into your own VIFF schedule (we're kidding about the insist part ... well, kinda) over the course of the final seven days of VIFF 2013.

Don't forget, Sunday is the last day for VIFF screenings at the Cineplex International Village site. As of Monday, VIFF cinephiles will have to make do with only 5 sites: The Centre (a gorgeous venue that may be lost in 2014), The Playhouse, SFU Woodwards, The Cinematheque, and the Vancity.

Here's how today's VanRamblings post is gonna work: we'll write about worthy films deserving of your attention and attendance. Over the weekend, we'll add material to today's column — including later tonight — in order that we might turn the post into a helpful and expansive 3,000+ word guide on what's worth seeing over the final seven days of VIFF 2013. So c'mon back later tonight, tomorrow and again on Sunday for updates of our "what's hot, what's the buzz" VanRamblings' post extraordinaire.

The VIFF 2013 Must-Sees to Screen Today, and Over The Weekend

Alexandros Avranas' Miss Violence, a must-see at VIFF 2013

Miss Violence. Screens today at 10:30am, Cineplex 9, for the last time.

Alexandros Avranas' airless but accomplished sophomore feature is another one of the new Greek cinema's nightmare narratives. Before the opening credits are up, the 13-year-old birthday girl has plunged to her death from a fourth-story balcony, while her family's strangely stilted response to the suicide suggests she had her reasons. Avranas' film employs an irony-free meter that distinguishes his work from that of other Greek "weird wave" directors, lending the film's most explicitly severe sequences of domestic and sexual abuse a kind of cumulative numbing power. The truth is unspeakable, the family's interactions unnatural and violent, the narrative serving to confirm our worst fears.

Catch it if you can. One of VIFF 2013's very hottest buzz films.

You're going to want to re-read yesterday's post, for insight into why you must take in a screening of the entirely magnificent La jaula de oro Saturday at 1pm at VIFF Cineplex, Cinema 9; as well as for insight into why you must take in a screening of one of VIFF's most magnificent features, The Patience Stone, 4pm at The Playhouse next Tuesday, October 8th, and follow it up with an evening screening at The Rio, of Field of Amapolas, an important and affecting film, and a must-see VIFF film, which screens for a final time on Tuesday, 7pm, at The Rio.

Over the course of the weekend, you must, must, must take in a screening of the very best film at VIFF this year, The Great Passage. Click here to read our review of this masterwork from acclaimed Japanese director Ishii Yuya, as accomplished and moving a film as you'll see this year or any other year. VIFF has added a screening of The Great Passage on Saturday morning at 11:30am, at The Cinematheque. There's an all-but-sold-out screening of The Great Passage (which VanRamblings will attend, lining up an hour early) Sunday afternoon, at 2pm, at The Cinematheque.

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If you're going to line up early on Sunday at The Cinematheque for The Great Passage, rather than take in the Saturday morning screening at The Cinematheque, you'll have freed up time to catch the second week, late-
breaking buzz doc of the Festival, The Kill Team, which screens Saturday morning, 11am, at SFU Woodwards (there's another screening of The Kill Team on Tuesday, October 8th, at 12:15pm at The Cinematheque).

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On Saturday, you might want to consider taking in a screening of ...

  • Like Father Like Son. Saturday, 1pm, The Playhouse (screens again Tuesday, October 8th, at The Centre). The "switched at birth" urban legend and the Nature-vs.-Nurture debate provide Hirokazu Kore-eda with a fresh opportunity to revisit his ongoing preoccupation with family dynamics and parent-child relationships in contemporary Japan. The life of go-getting workaholic architect Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) — one of comfort and quietly ordered affluence with his wife Midori (Ono Machiko) and son Keita (Keita Ninomiya) — is violently overturned when hospital administrators reveal the unthinkable: Keita is not his biological son. Due to a mistake made by a negligent nurse, his "true" son has been raised in the dishevelled but warm-hearted home of working-class shopkeeper Yudai (Lily Franky) and his wife (Yôko Maki). The different approaches of both couples to their excruciating dilemma and the gradual emotional awakening of the all-too-rational Ryota are at the core of this sensitive drama of family feeling, which showcases Kore-eda's rich sense of humanity.

  • Blue is the Warmest Colour. Abdellatif Kechiche's newest film, based on Julie Maroh's graphic novel, was the sensation of this year's Cannes Film Festival even before it was awarded the Palme d'Or. Adèle Exarchopoulos is Adèle, a young woman whose longings and ecstasies and losses are charted across a span of several years. Léa Seydoux (Midnight in Paris) is the older woman who excites her desire and becomes the love of her life. Kechiche's movie is, like the films of John Cassavetes, an epic of emotional transformation. Blue pulses with gestures, embraces, furtive exchanges, and arias of joy and devastation, some verbal and some physical (including the film's now celebrated sexual encounters between the two actresses). Screens Saturday, at noon, at The Rio. Not-to-be-missed. A must-see.

  • Ilo Ilo. Saturday, 1:30pm, Cineplex, Cinema 10 (screens again on Wednesday, October 9th, 4pm, at The Centre. Anthony Chen's subtle snapshot of family life in 1990s Singapore, the Camera d'Or winner at Cannes, and a film that, according to Variety film critic Maggie Lee, "brims with love, humour and heartbreak."

  • A Story of Children and Film. Screens at 4:45pm on Saturday, at The Cinematheque, and for a final time next Wednesday, October 9th, 7pm at The Cinematheque. You'll want to read our at length review of one of our very favourite VIFF documentaries.

  • Felix. * Update * Spoke with Festival Director Alan Franey about the fact that the feel-good film of the Festival, a magnificent family affair, has been booked exclusively into the age-restricted Rio Theatre, where those under 19 will not be admitted. Alan told VanRamblings that an arrangement had been made with The Rio's Corinne Lea to allow children, accompanied by their parents, into The Rio's balcony, for the two upcoming screenings of Felix. Not so, says senior VIFF administrator Mickey Brazeau — there'll be no admission of children at Saturday's 6:30pm screening at The Rio, and she wasn't entirely sure if Tuesday's 1:30pm screening of Felix, again at The Rio, would be admitting children. Alan fully understands that building a new VIFF audience is important, and allowing children to accompany their parents to screenings builds on VIFF's future, but ... suffice to say that the screening development involving Felix is regrettable, indeed. For those of you without children, VanRamblings would suggest to you that Felix is an absolute must-see, a humble, deeply affecting, cross-cultural coming-of-age story set in South Africa that left the audience at an earlier screening of the film verklempt but heartened, with nary a dry eye in the house. Everything in Felix works: the cinematography, the production values, performances, screenwriting, and directorial ambition. Quite simply, a moving and accomplished film that is not-to-be-missed at VIFF 2013.

  • Anatomy of a Paperclip. You're going to want to place this winner of this year's Dragons and Tiger award, which will screen at a special time on Saturday, 4pm, Cineplex, Cinema 8. Vancity programmer Tom Charity told the audience in attendance for the awards ceremony on Thursday evening that he and the awards jury loved the film. Tom loves a film? VanRamblings is there.

  • Finding Vivian Maier. The buzz on this film has been nothing short of through the roof — we've scheduled it for next Wednesday, 10am, at SFU, but there's a screening on Saturday, 9:30pm, SFU Woodwards.

  • Grand Central. Also arriving at VIFF with good buzz. Scott Foundas, chief film critic for Variety, and until recently the chief programming of the New York Film Festival loved it. Screens for a final time on Saturday, 9:15pm, at The Rio. VanRamblings will be there.

Check out Part 2 of our Weekend Special, the films screening on Sunday that are not-to-be-missed at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival. C'mon back early on Saturday for our Sunday films of note.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:58 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 3, 2013

VIFF 2013: The Quality of Films Ramps Up in the 2nd Week

The exquisite Golshifteh Farahani, in The Patience Stone

Golshifteh Farahani, in The Patience Stone, one of VanRamblings' very favourite VIFF films

"What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open." — Murial Rukeyser, American feminist poet

VanRamblings discovers another 'knocked it out of the park' film

The Patience Stone (Grade: A+). The film at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival with the strongest buzz, a profound truth-telling cinematic experience, a film that travels deeper inside the experience of women than any film in recent years — with an exquisite screenplay, and a performance of astonishing and searing impact from an exquisite Golshifteh Farahani, who is in virtually every scene of the film — The Patience Stone has catapulted into the first rank of feature films screening at VIFF 2013.

Sensual, horrifying and mesmerizing all at once, The Patience Stone is set in a war-torn Afghanistan village, the story centered around an unnamed attractive young woman (the fine Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani) who, as the story opens, is caring for her wounded, much older husband, also unnamed (Hamidrez Javdan), an immobilized Mujahedeen fighter with a bullet in his neck. The narrative's eloquent, existential simplicity sets the stage for an unfolding story of a woman's life, the notion of the universality of women's oppression central to the film's impact, the film's compelling, revelatory exposition presented in whispered fears, as long-nurtured resentments, and broken sobs punctuated by intermittent cries of alarm.

Transporting, sad-eyed, straight-talking, painstakingly shot, offering an authentic story of a woman's life, The Patience Stone emerges as a visceral yet transcendently poetic cinematic experience, progressive, quiet, evocative, anguished, forlorn, impossible to forget, and transformative, as fine a film as you'll see this or any other year, and a must-see at VIFF 2013.

The Patience Stone screens again Tues., Oct. 8th, 4pm at The Playhouse.

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The two best Latin American films at VIFF, one of which we wrote about this Monday past (and will present again below), and one of which we screened on Thursday, represent two, not-to-be-missed, must-see VIFF 2013 films.

La jaula de oro, one of VIFF 2013's best films

La jaula de oro (Grade: A-): Humanist filmmaking of the first order, the best Latin American émigré drama to play at the Vancouver International Film Festival in several years, directory Diego Quemada-Diez's powerful, absorbing and suspenseful drama about four teenagers on their 3800km journey from Guatemala to the U.S. border by train offers impactful, seat-of-your-pants viewing as the foursome experience cruelty and violence at almost every turn in a series of brutal encounters with corrupt cops, ruthless bandits, kidnappers, and sharpshooting U.S. border guards. Not an easy sit, but gripping and unforgettable, with touching characters at film's centre. Screens today (Thursday, October 3rd), 9pm at the Rio Theatre, and again on Friday, October 5th, 1pm, at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 9.

Field of Amapolis, at VIFF 2013

Field of Amapolas (Grade: A): In pre-revolutionary states it is always working people who suffer, caught in the divide between the state and guerrilla forces. When accused of collaborating with the enemy in the ongoing guerilla war in Colombia, itinerant farmer Emilio, along with his nine-year-old son Simon, are exiled by rebels and find refuge in the home of a relative. Struggling economically in their new life, Emilio is forced to take work in the illegal poppy fields belonging to a local drug lord. With an atmosphere infused with, and made dense by, the omnipresent shadow of violence and death. With gorgeous cinematography, affective, authentic and moving performances throughout, employing a gritty, at times traditionally Latin American magical realist narrative and visual construct, Field of Amapolis has emerged as one of VIFF 2013's strongest, most accomplished narrative features. Screens for a final time next Tuesday, October 8th, 7pm, at the Rio Theatre.

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Arising from high audience demand for tickets (arising in part as well, perhaps, from VanRamblings' continuing rave coverage of these films), the good folks at the Vancouver film festival have scheduled additional screenings of VanRamblings' favourite feature, The Great Passage, and our favourite documentary, Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia. See below for info on screening times for both of these very fine VIFF films.

Here's a précis of what we had to say about Ishii Yuya's new film ...

A masterwork from acclaimed Japanese director Ishii Yuya, as accomplished and moving a film as you'll see this year, The Great Passage, Yuya's gently old-fashioned romantic comedy and workplace dramedy offers random bits of loveliness throughout, in the story of Mitsuya — a lexicographer hired to research for The Great Passage, a new 'living language' dictionary planned by a Tokyo publisher — and his landlady's granddaughter, Kaguya, his affection for her unbound.

The whimsical screenplay, tremendously engaging performances, the movie's beguiling character arcs, warmly lambent cinematography, painterly shot composition, gently seductive pacing, and transcendently well-executed direction, makes Yuya's follow-up to his winning VIFF 2011 entry, Mitsuko Delivers — one of VanRamblings' favourite films that year — all the more welcome, extraordinary, profound and rewarding an artistic and cinematic accomplishment. A+. Not to be missed. A must-see. Two remaining VIFF screenings, an added screening this Saturday morning. October 5th, 11:30 am, at The Cinematheque, and two days later, on Sunday, October 6th, 2pm, at The Cinematheque.

And, here's a little something on Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia:

Despairing, melancholy, screamingly funny at times, and filled with more wit and perspicacity than any film you'll see this year, here's the best non-fiction film to play at VIFF 2013, a doc that is not-to-be-missed. Quite simply, director Nicholas Wrathall, while offering a profound and immensely witty historical document on the nature of the 21st century state, has outdone himself.

In this open-minded memorial to one of 20th-century's most original — and brilliantly curmudgeonly — thinkers, The United States of Amnesia captures Gore Vidal in all of his agent provocateur glory, chronicling a plethora of witty epigrams, social injustices, institutional manipulation, political corruptions, and the late 20th century slide into the wholesale adoption of a neoliberal economic agenda, which sees our wages and our taxes moving upwards and away from us, and into the hands of the economic elite. VanRamblings is awarding an A+, and considers Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia another must-see, not-to-be missed film at VIFF 2013. Screens three more times, today (Oct. 3rd), 1:15 pm, at The Cinematheque; again on Tues., Oct 8th, at 9pm, at The Cinematheque; and, at an added screening, on Friday, October 11th at 4:45pm, once again at The Cinematheque.

You'll want to purchase your tickets for these VIFF films as soon as possible, cuz ticket sales for each screening is brisk.

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We'll leave you today with the following video, which we shot following a VIFF screening at SFU Woodwards' Goldcorp Theatre, the video shot in an alcove (where we could get out of the rain) in the alley way in behind the complex, the video VanRamblings' "artistic contribution" to VIFF 2013.

VanRamblings' programme schedule continues to change each day, mostly of late arising from buzz from folks in line, or VIFF cinephiles who are quite as enthusiastic as we are about screening the very best that VIFF has to offer in 2013. It's almost as if, for 16 days, we're cinema junkies.

Note: Following several hours of arduous work, when publishing Part 2 of our weekend guide, all of our work was lost, disappearing into the ether. So, unfortunately, there'll be no Part 2, a Sunday guide to VIFF films.

For those expecting our long promised Apple iOS post, we've decided to hold off on that post til either next week, or post-Festival. C'mon back tomorrow, though, for our regular fine Sunday post.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:15 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 2, 2013

VIFF 2013: The Most Welcoming Festival in Years

Not only is the 2013 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival the most welcoming Festival in years, it is as well the best run and organized Festival we've witnessed in years, each VIFF staff and volunteer becalmed, for sure, but vibrant and alive in their interaction with the many thousands of VIFF patrons who, this past week and next, will help to transform Vancouver into the world city that we oughta be, and the world city we become during the 16 days of VIFF each year, as 340+ films from more than 75 countries across the globe are brought to our shores.

Sure, like many, VanRamblings is given to the occasional kvetch — but, really, why bother taking the festival to task over picayune concerns when those of us who love the Vancouver film festival experience are allowing the world cinema of our time to wash over us during these 16 days of love?

Truth to tell, at present, we're a little tuckered, have looked at our programme schedule (pdf) for the day (4 films!), so will leave you with a shortened version of today's post. We do encourage you to take a look at:

  • The column we wrote last Friday on the New York Film Festival, which unfolds in cinematic unison with VIFF, or

  • Parts 1, 2 and 3 of our 'best bets" posts are here, here and here.

And please, please, please get your ticket now for Sunday, October 6th's final screening of The Great Passage, 2pm at The Cinematheque.

Otherwise, we'll point you in the direction of films that you don't want to miss on this early autumn day at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, films we either saw in preview, screened since Festival's start last Thursday, or have read great reviews on. So, here goes ...

  • Field of Amapolis. When accused of collaborating with the enemy in the ongoing guerilla war in Colombia, farmer Emilio, along with his nine-year-old son Simon, is forced by rebels to leave their land. After relocating with the help of a relative, Emilio and his son struggle with their new life, their economic hardship forcing Emilio to take work in the illegal poppy fields belonging to a local drug lord. Meanwhile, Simon meets and befriends Luisa, a girl his own age. Dense, dark, with the omnipresent shadow of violence and death infusing the film with a pervasive sends of dread, this one should be one to catch. Screens at 10:50am today, at VIFF's / Cineplex's International Village, Cinema 9.

  • The Patience Stone. Suffice to say that VanRamblings has heard more positive response to this film than any other film in VIFF this year. Heard the phrase must-see? Yep, this film's one of those creatures.

  • Grand Central. Also arriving at VIFF with good buzz. Scott Foundas, chief film critic for Variety, and until recently the chief programming of the New York Film Festival loved it. 4:20pm, at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10.

Enjoy your Festival today, eat good food, keep yourself hydrated, and we'll be looking for you just before the lights go out in a darkening theatre.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:01 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

October 1, 2013

VIFF 2013: Tremendous Days of Transcendent Cinematic Affection

The Great Passage, starring Miyazaki Aoi and Matsuda RyuheiMiyazaki Aoi and Matsuda Ryuhei, in The Great Passage, VanRamblings' favourite VIFF film

On Monday, VanRamblings saw our first 'knocked it out of the park' Cinema of Our Time feature, The Great Passage, a masterwork from acclaimed Japanese director Ishii Yuya, as tremendously accomplished and moving a film as you'll see this year. We are awarding the film a rare unreserved and enthusiastic "A+", and recommend you do all in your power to arrange to take in VIFF's final screening of the film on Sunday, October 6th, at 2pm, at The Cinematheque. You'll want to purchase your tickets now — easy to do on VIFF's web page for the film — just click on the film's title link above.

Initially set in 1995, The Great Passage tells the winning and affectionate story of Mitsuya Majime, a socially awkward linguists post-graduate who lands his dream job — as a lexicographer hired to research for The Great Passage, a new 'living language' dictionary planned by a Tokyo publisher. In residence at the Sou-Un-Sou Rooming House, Mitsuya's only palpably human contact comes in the form of his elderly landlady, his only other association of consequence that of a ginger cat named Tora-san. Upon the arrival of his landlady's granddaughter, Kaguya Hayashi (Aoi Miyazaki), Mitsuya's world is turned upside down, his affection for her unbound.

Yuya's gently old-fashioned romantic comedy offers random bits of loveliness throughout. Early on, Kaguya — who as a chef is as obsessive in her love for cooking as Mitsuya is with the etymology of language — takes her undeclared suitor shopping, and when finding the knives she's traveled to find offers up the most tremendous explanation on the construction, composition and utility of knives. VanRamblings proceeded directly to Ming-Wo's to buy ourselves new knives following the screening, so impactful was Kaguya's presentation on the history and utility of knives.

VanRamblings cannot recommend The Great Passage highly enough — the whimsical screenplay, tremendously engaging performances, the movie's beguiling character arcs, as well as its warmly lambent cinematography, painterly shot composition, gently seductive pacing, and transcendently well-executed direction, makes Yuya's follow-up to his winning VIFF 2011 entry, Mitsuko Delivers — one of VanRamblings' favourite films that year — all the more welcome, extraordinary and rewarding an accomplishment.

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Tuesday looks to offer yet another salutary day at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival. As we did yesterday, we'll point you to the films that are screening today that are worthy of your attention ...

Just click on this pdf for today's VIFF screening schedule for ...

  • Honeymoon (Grade: B+). An audience favourite at this year's Festival, with its insinuating score, impending threat of violence and operatic theme of regret told within a Hitchcockian thriller construct, master Czech filmmaker Jan Hřebejk's elegantly intimate thriller weaves welcoming darkness into a nuanced story of repressed secrets and the possibility of forgiveness, all set over the two days of a bourgeois wedding celebration. Recommended. 11:10am, Cineplex, Cinema 9.

  • Heli. Winner of Best Director at Cannes for Amat Escalantes, the wildly controversial Heli — a gritty Mexican drugs and guns saga — screens today for the first time at VIFF 2013, at 4pm in The Playhouse.

  • Desert Runners (Grade: A-). Jennifer Steinman's fascinating, entirely alive documentary feature tracks a phalanx of desert marathon runners on the grueling 4 Deserts race series — encompassing Chile's Atacama Desert, a thousand kilometre strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains, the driest hot desert in the world; the 1600 km stretch of China's inhospitable palearctic Gobi Desert; the world's largest and hottest desert, Africa's Sahara; and Earth's southernmost and coldest desert, the Antarctic — while introducing us to the film's four main protagonists (ex-pro baseball player Ricky, now relocated from the U.S. to London; law-student Samantha, from Australia; British bodyguard Tremaine, who recently lost his wife to cancer; and 56 year-old Irish businessman Dave), the attendant trauma of their lives, and the transformation each undergoes throughout an ultramarathon year of physical, psychological, and emotional endurance. Recommended. 6:30pm today, and 4pm Thursday, at The Playhouse.

  • Youth. Another buzz film and audience Festival favourite, about which Variety says, "a hauntingly observational Israeli kidnapping story with riveting performances, a bold and disturbing adventure sure to trouble many in the audience." Screens today at 6:30pm, at Cineplex, Cinema 9, and again on Thursday, 4pm at SFU Woodwards.

  • From Neurons to Nirvana (Grade: B+). Oliver Hockenhull's thoughtful and rousing defense of psychotropic drugs as medication, and the role politicians play in denying us access to needed therapies, co-executive produced by Mark Achbar (The Corporation) and Betsy Carson, compels throughout in a film that is challenging for the senses and the mind. Recommended. Screens 4pm today, at the Vancity, and again on Wednesday, October 9th, 2pm, at The Rio.

  • The Past. If the trailer above doesn't catch your interest, maybe the fact that Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) picked up the Best Actress prize at Cannes this year will move you to catch the new film by Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi (last year's, A Separation) that all the critics at Cannes loved this year. Screens tonight at 9pm, at The Centre.

Apropos of nothing in particular, we'll leave you today with the following video by Rhye — VanRamblings' music find of autumn 2013 — with Toronto-born singer/songwriter Mike Milosh on vocals, and Danish instrumentalist, composer and arranger Robin Hannibal producing, their wildly nostalgic and romantic video below redolent of our youth, the video, one of our favourites of the year. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2013 is available by clicking here, replete with reviews, previews, Festival logistics, buzz and much more.

Here's VanRamblings' October 1st programming schedule update (pdf).


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:16 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

September 30, 2013

VIFF 2013: The Rains Have Come and Our VIFF Fest Thrives

Vancouver International Film Festival

Sunday was a sodden day at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, which fit perfectly, of course, with the underlying theme of the Festival: the Cinema of Despair. In 2013, VanRamblings seems to have internalized that despair and processed it in such a way as to prejudice our ability to write (in the short form poetic manner of years past) about the films we screened pre-Festival, and since VIFF32's opening day.

Today, we'll attempt to rectify the circumstance of previous days' lack of writing on things cinematic, and offer readers a quick, pungent take on three VIFF films which have most impressed us in 2013, as well as a guide to what-not-to-miss on this overcast and inclement last day of September.

VanRamblings has already written about the three films we've found most rewarding, gut-wrenching in their own idiosyncratic way, and authentic and truthful in their exposition. Those films are: Oil Sands Karaoke (VanRamblings cannot imagine that this doc will not emerge as our favourite VIFF32 doc), the spectacularly engaging Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, and Felix, the film which pulled us in and threw us around more than any other film we've seen at the film festival this year.

A Bag of Flour, a hit at VIFF 2013

A Bag of Flour, at VIFF 2013

A Bag of Flour (Grade: B+): With a wildly sympathetic, stubborn and strong-minded heroine at film's centre (played to wrenching affect by newcomer Hafsia Herzi), director Kadija Leclere's powerful indictment of women's subjugation in the Moroccan state, with its undercurrent of insurrection and social change, has emerged early in VIFF 2013 as a subtle, elegantly shot favourite among VIFF cinephiles, including this writer. As we wrote previously, A Bag of Flour — the story of a young kidnapped girl growing up a stranger in her own land, deep within a repressive rural, Muslim Middle East state — offers a thoughtful reflection on female identity in contemporary Arab society, the film destined to become one of VIFF 2013's most memorable films.

La jaula de oro, one of VIFF 2013's best films

La jaula de oro (Grade: A-): Humanist filmmaking of the first order, the best Latin American émigré drama to play at the Vancouver International Film Festival in several years, directory Diego Quemada-Diez's powerful, absorbing and suspenseful drama about four teenagers on their 3800km journey from Guatemala to the U.S. border by train offers impactful, seat-of-your-pants viewing as the foursome experience cruelty and violence at almost every turn in a series of brutal encounters with corrupt cops, ruthless bandits, kidnappers, and sharpshooting U.S. border guards. Not an easy sit, but gripping and unforgettable, with touching characters at film's centre.

Our Sunhi, one of the delightful hits at VIFF 2013

Our Sunhi (Grade: B+): A piffle, a delight, and an entirely engaging film of some wit and intelligence and well-realized directorial ambition, Our Sunhi is another in the feminist contingent of films we've taken in a VIFF 2013, with (as is the case in A Bag of Flour) the heroine at film's centre presenting as an ambitious take no guff, strong-willed — and at all times sympathetic — on screen presence. A film filled with romantic frustration and confusion, this is Korean off-kilter comedy at its very best. Entirely winning, and absolutely worth attending.

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Today — Monday, Sept. 30th — you don't want to miss the buzz films that'll be screening throughout the day, as is the case with ...

  • Stray Dogs: Currently screening at the New York Film Festival, Tsai Ming-liang's new film relates the story of a middle-aged father, and his young son and daughter, who during the day work as human billboards. Bleakly funny and absolutely terrifying film fare. Not to be missed.

  • The Great Passage: A quirky tug of love drama involving a nerdy dictionary maker and a sexy chef, Japan's foreign-language Oscar nominee offers quiet, gentle audience-friendly film fare.

  • A Time in Quchi: One of this year's buzz films, Taiwanese director Chang Tso-ch's new film offers delicate and poetic film fare full of offbeat humour, this warmly conventional coming-of-ager emerging as an inviting meditation on transience.

  • Matterhorn: The pick of the day, with very strong strong buzz emerging from its first Festival screening. We wrote about about the film last Wednesday.

That pretty much wraps the post for the day. We'll leave you with this VIFF film search advice: as searching for films on the VIFF website is an exercise in frustration, disappointment and near calumny, there is a way around the dilemma of finding information on VIFF 2013 films: whoever "spidered" the VIFF site for Google has done a spectacular job. To access information on the VIFF website for any film playing at VIFF 2013, simply place the title of the film and the word VIFF in the Google search box, and voilà ... VIFF 2013's web page for the film title on which you're seeking information.

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VanRamblings' pre-and-early coverage of the Festival was expansive. If you haven't glanced through this past week's posts, here are some links ...

  • For those of you who did not catch last Monday's introductory VIFF 2013 post, just click here.

  • Parts 1, 2 and 3 of our 'best bets" posts are here, here and here.

  • The titles, and more, of the 15 films shared by the New York and Vancouver Film Festivals may be found here.

  • The VIFF's calendar schedule is located here (you'll need to put in the correct date).

  • The search engine for VIFF 2013 films may be found here.

Enjoy your Festival, keep rested, and c'mon back to VanRamblings for more of our 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival buzz each day.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:51 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

September 29, 2013

VIFF 2013: Audience Numbers Up, Films Fine, Logistics Handled

Vancouver International Film Festival

Audiences at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival — much to the surprise and delight of Festival staff — have arrived in large and salutary numbers in the early days of VIFF 2013, with most VIFF screenings either selling out or coming close to doing so. Going into VIFF32, the Festival administration and Board was concerned — after VIFF reported a loss last year — that given the Fest's move to Crosstown, crowds and ticket sales would be down. Not so, as it happens, making everyone happy.

Alan Franey, Festival Director, Vancouver International Film Festival

VIFF Festival Director Alan Franey. Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG

In conversation on Saturday, with a beaming Festival Director, Alan Franey, he had this to say about audience participation at VIFF 2013 ...

In 2012, VIFF experienced day after day of sunny, late summer weather conditions, which occurred throughout almost the entire duration of the Festival, keeping many patrons out in the sun and not in a darkened VIFF cinema. Not so this year, which has brought seasonal autumn rains to our city. Despite the encouragement of weather forecasters who've been advising Vancouverites to stay at home and out of the elements, instead loyal VIFF patrons are turning out in the early days of the Festival in record numbers at all seven venues, contributing to a circumstance where VIFF finds itself above initial revenue projection.

Which is not to say that VIFF is out of the woods financially, or that you should stop advising your friends and family to make sure they purchase a raft of tickets for VIFF in 2013. It's just that early on, the financial picture looks promising, as do the many films that will screen at VIFF this year.

While we had Alan's attention, we queried him about logistical aspects of the operation of the Festival at the Cineplex International Village ...

We regrettably lost the services of John Peterson, our Cineplex International Village VIFF manager and 45-year Cineplex exhibitions manager, on Friday, due to a back injury. Of course, experienced VIFF exhibitions manager Iulia Manolescu remains on hand as a senior VIFF manager at International Village, but it was clear that Iulia would require support in the early days of the Festival, as systems are fine-tuned to best serve the interests of our patrons. Support for Iulia became even more of an issue over the weekend when when one of our other VIFF management staff at the Cineplex site called in sick on Saturday.

The resolution to the challenging early days logistical operation of VIFF's Cineplex venue? Alan himself stepped into the breach, and working closely with Ms. Manolescu, has set about to create a logistical circumstance that will best serve the many thousands of VIFF patrons who will visit the Cineplex International Village (Tinseltown) venue over the coming week.

Needless to say, VanRamblings was thrilled (read: over-the-moon) to see Iulia Manolescu and Alan Franey working together on Saturday at VIFF'S Cineplex venue, two of the keenest minds within the Festival administration, both individuals possessed of a logistics acumen that knows no peer.

Iulia Manolescu

Veteran VIFF manager extraordinaire, Iulia Manolescu, this year at Cineplex Tinseltown

VanRamblings wrote about Iulia Manolescu during the course of VIFF 2010. Quite simply, then, now and over the years, we have found there to be no temporary VIFF management staff person with a firmer understanding of what is required to keep the interests of VIFF patrons at the forefront in all venue decision-making, or a better communicator, than Iulia Manolescu.

Iulia is a veritable Wayne Gretky of theatre exhibition management, with a global view of all that is going on, and able to respond and act to resolve whatever "crises" arises quickly and efficiently, keeping the lines of communication open with VIFF patrons throughout. Only Alan Franey is her match in skill set, a Festival administrator — to extend the metaphor — with the combined skill of Mario Lemieux, Pavel Bure, Gordie Howe, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, Jean Beliveau and Bobby Orr at their peak.

(In respect of the "beaming" comment at the outset of this posting, VanRamblings suspects that the source of the "beam" arose from the task that Alan had taken on as "temporary VIFF senior manager" at Cineplex International Village. Rarely have we seen Alan so animated, with a bounce in his step, and a grin ear-to-ear. There really is something to be said for challenging, hands-on work. Alan is always friendly, welcoming and forthcoming, and over the years has established a supportive management style within VIFF that deserves recognition — which is to say, in the annals of arts management, Alan has brought an equanimity and humanity to the daily tasks at hand with VIFF admin that has served to create one of the healthiest work environments at any arts organization within the city, and perhaps the province.)

Note should be made that Alan is the final arbiter of all decision-making at VIFF - the buck stops at his door. Alan has proved over the years to be the best listener of any person of VanRamblings' acquaintance, an individual who readily accepts (informed) commentary and criticism on Festival theatre exhibition operations, and a person able to respond and put into action change that is required, in a more thorough and thoughtful manner than any senior administrator we've worked with or witnessed.

In the days leading up to the start of the Festival, Alan had advised calm, as Festival staff grappled with establishing effective systems operations at the "new" venues and set about in the early days of VIFF 2013 to "work out the kinks." VanRamblings' initial concerns about Festival "logistics" have been largely alleviated, as we witness the most efficient early operation of our Vancouver International Film Festival that we've been privy to in years.

One final note from Alan, on an important aspect of the operation of the VIFF Cineplex site (a cheering development for VIFF patron Len Diner) ...

International Village administration recognizes that from Friday, September 27th through Sunday, October 6th, hundreds of VIFF patrons will require parking throughout the day and evening at International Village. The Vancouver Film Festival and International Village have arrived at an agreement where VIFF patrons may park on site, during the day and evening, at no charge for the duration of the Festival, that cars will neither be ticketed nor towed. Should there be a break down in communication, and a VIFF patron be ticketed, all that need be done is for the patron to approach the VIFF box office in the corridor within the Cineplex site, and staff will work to ensure that the ticket is cancelled.

All is well, or on its way to being well, at VIFF operations this year.

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Follow VanRamblings on Twitter, @raytomlin

Our personal viewing schedule changes from day to day. On Saturday, we sacrificed evening screenings of Termitaria (The Youngest) and Good Vibrations, about which the VIFF's "generally given to understatement" Ellie O'Day had raved — which we've now rescheduled for October 6th at 4:15pm at The Rio — instead taking in the buzz film of the Festival, acclaimed Czech director Jan Hřebejk's award-winner, Honeymoon.

Here's the latest edition of VanRamblings' VIFF programming schedule (pdf).

La juala de oro

And based on early film festival patron buzz, VanRamblings has added the following films to our personal viewing schedule: Dormant Beauty, Paradise: Hope, The Gardener, and Under The Rainbow, adding 3X3D today, to fill an open spot on our schedule today, and on the advice of a friend.

Xavier Dolan's Tom at the Farm

Apart from the films listed above, what are the other buzz films to have emerged the first three days of VIFF 2013 audience viewing? VIFF patron response has proved overwhelmingly positive for: The Patience Stone, Matterhorn, Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, A Story of Children and Film, Miss Violence, and Blue Is the Warmest Colour.

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Tomorrow, come on back to VanRamblings, when we'll expand on our reporting on the films listed above, and write about even more tremendously engaging films that demand your attention, and are emerging in these early Festival days as the must-see films at VIFF 2013.

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VanRamblings' pre-and-early coverage of the Festival was expansive. If you haven't glanced through this past week's posts, here are some links ...

  • For those of you who did not catch our Monday introductory VIFF 2013 post, just click here.

  • Parts 1, 2 and 3 of our 'best bets" posts are here, here and here.

  • The titles, and more, of the 15 films shared by the New York and Vancouver Film Festivals may be found here.

  • The VIFF's calendar schedule is located here (you'll need to put in the correct date).

  • The search engine for VIFF 2013 films may be found here.

Enjoy your Festival, keep rested, and c'mon back to VanRamblings for more of our 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival buzz each day.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:33 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

September 28, 2013

VIFF 2013: Children, in The Landscape of Ours Lives

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We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.
~George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860

The anthropology of childhood is a relatively new field for anthropological study that has, in recent years, set about to explore the questions of whether childhood is a cultural universal, the role of children in society, their perspectives on, and participation in, the social world, and the degree to which family and community is structured around them.

In The Story of Children and Film, highly-regarded Irish documentarian Mark Cousins employs his own family as a construct within which to explore the history of children in film — their stroppiness and authentic natures, as well as their reticence, reserve and innate inner strength, his anthropological cine-essay offering an entirely captivating, incredibly well-researched and insight-filled perspective on the history of children in cinema, with Cousins - in his role of interpreter and narrator of the events unfolding on screen - acting throughout as a noble evangelist for the cause of humanist cinema.

Among the 53 films from 25 nations Cousins excerpts, the standouts are Jafar Panahi's 1995 The White Balloon from Iran, Danish director Astrid Henning-Jensen's 1949 short Pelle Alone in the World, François Truffaut's The 400 Blows, Luis Buñuel's Los olvidados, Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter, Russian Sergei Bodrov's 1989 Freedom Is Paradise, J. Lee Thompson's London-set 1953 film The Yellow Balloon, Charlie Chaplin's The Kid and Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, although there is this one extended scene in a film the title of which eludes me, with a close-up on a young boy's face, that is absolutely heart-wrenching.

Even at this early point in the Festival, VanRamblings believes that The Story of Children and Film will prove to be among the strongest documentaries to screen at VIFF 2013 — the audience with whom we experienced the film were completely in thrall, the film all but guaranteed a spot in the top five docs to screen in 2013 edition of our Festival by the sea. VanRamblings is awarding the film an A grade, and enthusiastically recommends you take in one of the two final screenings of the film, both times at The Cinematheque, on either Saturday, October 5th at 4:45pm, or on the following Wednesday, October 9th, at 7pm.

Perhaps the only misstep in Cousins' erudite anthropological analysis arises when he suggests that literature has failed to capture the experience of childhood, when in fact George Eliot, some 150 years ago, did so with keen and often heart-rending insight, as is revealed in this moving passage ...

Very trivial, perhaps, this anguish seems to weather-worn mortals who have to think of Christmas bills, dead loves and broken friendships, but it was not less bitter to Maggie - perhaps it was even more bitter - than what we are fond of calling antithetically the real troubles of mature life. 'Ah, my child, you will have real troubles to fret about by and by' is the consolation we have almost all of us had administered to us in our childhood, and have repeated to other children since we have been grown up. We have all of us sobbed so piteously standing with tiny bare legs above our little socks, when we lost sight of our mother or nurse in some strange place; but we can no longer recall the poignancy of that moment till we weep over it, as we do over the remembered sufferings of five or ten years ago. Every one of those keen moments has left its trace and lives in us still, but such traces have blended themselves irrecoverably with the firmer texture of our youth; and so it comes that we can look on at the troubles of our children with a smiling disbelief in the reality of their pain. Is there any one who can recover the experience of his childhood, not merely with a memory of what he did and what happened to him, of what he liked and disliked when he was in frock and trousers, but with an intimate penetration, a revived consciousness of what he felt then - when it was so long from one Midsummer to another? - what he felt when his schoolfellows shut him out of their game because he would pitch the ball wrong out of mere wilfulness; or on a rainy day in the holidays when he didn't know how to amuse himself and fell from idleness into mischief, from mischief into defiance, and from defiance into sulkiness; or when his mother absolutely refused to let him have a tailed coat that 'half,' although every other boy of his age had gone into tails already? Surely if we could recall that early bitterness, and the dim guesses, the strangely perspectiveless conception of life that gave the bitterness its intensity, we should not pooh-pooh the griefs of our children.
— George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860), Book One, Chapter 7

VanRamblings will conclude today's VIFF 2013 post by offering recent video of luminous screen performances by children, first from Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, whose role as Sophie in the first season of HBO's In Treatment represents one of the most incandescent childhood performances captured on screen this past decade.

Next, Canada's 2011 Foreign Language Oscar nominee, Monsieur Lazhar ...

And, finally, arising from her Genie award-winning Best Actress performance, the expressive heart of Monsieur Lazhar, Sophie Nélisse, who this November will star in this - still, as yet - under the radar Fox Studios adaptation of Markus Zusak's international best-seller, The Book Thief (note: as the narration in the trailer is terrible, you'll have to look beyond to Sophie Nélisse's tough, strong-minded performance) ...

The Book Thief: something to look forward to this mid-November.

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VanRamblings' pre-and-early coverage of the Festival was expansive. If you haven't glanced through this past week's posts, here are some links ...

  • For those of you who did not catch our Monday introductory VIFF 2013 post, just click here.

  • Parts 1, 2 and 3 of our 'best bets" posts are here, here and here.

  • The titles, and more, of the 15 films shared by the New York and Vancouver Film Festivals may be found here.

  • The VIFF's calendar schedule is located here (you'll need to put in the correct date).

  • The search engine for VIFF 2013 films may be found here.

Enjoy your Festival, keep rested, and c'mon back to VanRamblings for more of our 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival buzz each day.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:00 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

September 27, 2013

The New York and Vancouver Film Festivals Share Screenings

New York and Vancouver Film Festivals share screenings

As has been the case lo these many years, the heavily-juried, very well attended and extremely popular, not to mention oh-so-prestigious New York Film Festival, now in its 51st year, not only occurs simultaneously with VIFF but share a raft of screenings — Kathy Evans and Selina Crammond, the fine, hard-working folks in VIFF Print Traffic, on the phone and posting frantic e-mails to the programming folks at NYFF51 to ensure that the one existing "print" of the film that New York has in its possession makes its salutary way to our shores for your edification and screening pleasure.

Day Two of VIFF 32, then, is Day One of NYFF 51.

If you're confused, as is the case with many VIFF 2013 supporters, as to which films to attend, and are seeking some early direction in that regard (VanRamblings, of course, offered early insight in the days leading up to Fest commencement), and would love to have attended NYFF51 but time or circumstance prevent such (or you're just over-the-moon supporters of VIFF, and good for you for that), please find below the list of 15 films — a few of which we will highlight — that our very own and very special VIFF 2013 (or VIFF32, if you will), and NYFF51, will share this autumn (note: the titles of the NYFF films listed below link to the VIFF website, so as to provide you with scheduling info, and the opportunity to purchase tickets).

All is Lost

All is Lost. Robert Redford, as you've never seen him before, stars in this riveting survival story in which a lone sailor finds his yacht sinking after a collision with a discarded shipping container in the middle of the Indian Ocean. As the days pass and his options steadily dwindle, the luckless and nameless protagonist - identified in the credits as "Our Man" - takes every step possible in a struggle for self-preservation that puts his intelligence and practicality to the ultimate test. Focusing on a sole individual contending with the forces of nature who speaks only a handful of words throughout, this remarkable second effort by director J.C. Chandor is a genuine technical feat, all the more impressive for being the diametrical opposite of his debut Margin Call, with its ensemble cast, interior locations, and intricate dialogue-driven action. The film belongs to Redford's fearless performance, alone onscreen from start to finish, facing the prospect of death with quiet determination.

A Touch of Sin A Touch of Sin. Jia Zhangke's bloody, bitter film finds the great Chinese filmmaker entering new genre territory, but retaining his commitment to the marginalized and oppressed — this time by way of four overlapping parallel stories, each inspired by real-life acts of violence. A miner (Jiang Wu) struggles with corrupt village leaders. A migrant worker (Wang Baoqiang), returning home, gets his hands on a firearm. A sauna hostess (Jia's wife and muse, Zhao Tao) endures a series of humiliations over the course of an affair with a married man. A young man (Luo Lanshan) moves to a new town only to find himself trading one thankless, demoralizing job for another. The cumulative portrait, filled with despair and rage, is of a modern-day China undergoing rapid, convulsive changes and creeping cultural amnesia.

Blue is the Warmest Colour Blue is the Warmest Colour. Abdellatif Kechiche's newest film, based on Julie Maroh's graphic novel, was the sensation of this year's Cannes Film Festival even before it was awarded the Palme d'Or. Adèle Exarchopoulos is Adèle, a young woman whose longings and ecstasies and losses are charted across a span of several years. Léa Seydoux (Midnight in Paris) is the older woman who excites her desire and becomes the love of her life. Kechiche's movie is, like the films of John Cassavetes, an epic of emotional transformation. Blue pulses with gestures, embraces, furtive exchanges, and arias of joy and devastation, some verbal and some physical (including the film's now celebrated sexual encounters between the two actresses).


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Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:40 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

September 26, 2013

The 32nd Annual Vancouver International Film Festival Underway

The 32nd Annual Vancouver International Film Festival

Well, the most august day in VanRamblings' calendar year has finally arrived — the official commencement of Vancouver's annual international film festival, offering each and every one of us a window on this vast, changing world of ours, and an affecting and often deeply moving insight into the lives of people who, just like us, across every country on Earth, have in common the struggle that defines us all, where collectively (whatever our circumstance) we seek social justice and peace, and a change in the economic conditions necessary to make this a fairer and more just world.

If you're arriving to VanRamblings for the first time, you'll want to apprise yourself of our extensive coverage of VIFF 2013 that was begun this Monday past. All of VanRamblings' film festival postings may be found under the VIFF 2013 category to right (you'll have to scroll down a bit). Thanks to some able assistance and much-appreciated direction from our friend Michael Klassen, we have for the first time this year a facility that will allow readers the opportunity to keep apprised of VanRamblings' timely, and we hope informative, Twitter feed, replete with links of interest, and up-to-minute reflections on films we've just seen, as well as bumpf of one sort or another that readers may find of passing, or more, interest.

Before we settle down to providing you with Part 3 of our postings on VIFF 2013 "best bets", those films which have garnered the most buzz at festivals from distant shores, we'll provide you with VanRamblings' VIFF 2013 programme schedule (pdf) (well, at least the most recent edition, anyway), a partial list of the films that, at least at this point in time, we have every intention of taking in over the course of the next 16 days of the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival. And, for your further enjoyment and edification, here's the full VIFF MiniGuide Schedule (pdf).

Part 3, Films to Consider, VanRamblings' "Best Bets" at VIFF 2013

The Playlist's Oliver Lyttelton has this to say about Stray Dogs ...

Every shot feels perfectly composed, the filmmaking almost impossibly well-realized, right down to the evocative sound design, adding up to an unforgettable experience, a film that demands a second viewing, there's so much to unpack. In the end, you're left with a masterclass in directing, and a film that anyone who's serious about cinema needs to make the time to see.

In his five-star review, The Telegraph's Robbie Collin is even more effusive in his praise for the film, writing ...

In a small concrete room, with black mould climbing up its crumbling walls, a woman is watching two children sleep. She runs a brush through her hair, and the gentle scruff-scruff-scruff noise of the bristles mixes with the sound of falling rain. One of the children starts breathing heavily, in little half-sighs, half-snores, and as time passes, you realise that your own breath, and the breath of the audience, has synchronised with his. The mongrels of the title are a middle-aged father, and his young son and daughter, who during the day work as a 'human billboards', the children and he bedding down each night in a ruined tower block. By turns sad, bleakly funny and absolutely terrifying, every shot of Stray Dogs has been built with utter formal mastery, every sequence exerts an almost telepathic grip; the film, it seems at times, to have been beamed from another planet.

Viewers should be warned that this is Taiwanese master Tsai Ming-liang's sumptuous brand of slow cinema, which perhaps means it is not for everyone. Tsai has long had the ability to create moments of great power from the seemingly most insignificant of events; in Stray Dogs, he reportedly outdoes himself, which, for VanRamblings, is all to the good.

Hotell: A couple of years ago, VanRamblings was absolutely blown away (we saw it four times at VIFF 2011) by Lisa Langseth's début film, the thriller Pure, which also introduced the transportingly affecting Alicia Vikander (by far, the best thing about Joe Wright's Anna Karenina this past Christmas), who holds the screen and the viewer's attention like no other actress working today (although, one has to admit that Elle Fanning and Mia Wasikowska have their moments). And now Langseth and Vikander reunite, with Vikander starring in yet another, reportedly, astonishing performance, as a young mother suffering from severe postpartum depression.

Perhaps Hotell isn't as strong a film as Pure (which is on our list of top 10 films of the millennium), but VanRamblings will attend a screening of Hotell for the sheer joy of experiencing the magic of Alicia Vikander on screen.

Tracks: One of the most acclaimed films at the Telluride, Venice and Toronto film festivals earlier this month, and starring the luminous and incandescent Mia Wasikowska, David Rooney, in The Hollywood Reporter, says of Tracks, "A journey of arduous physical challenges and incalculable spiritual rewards, Tracks is evocatively rendered in this superb adaptation of real-life adventurer Robyn Davidson's epic journey across the Australian desert." Says Robbie Collin in The Telegraph, who comments on Wasikowska's "revelatory performance" ...

In the wilderness, tracks are the things we follow, but also the things we leave behind: a trail of beaten earth that leads to the horizon in front of us; a line of footprints that tails off towards the one behind. John Curran's achingly beautiful new film, which screened in competition at the Venice Film Festival, is about a woman who feels most alive in that place between starting point and destination. As such, she undertakes a journey that entails more betweenness than seems physically possible: a 1,700-mile solo trek across the Australian desert, on foot. A simple and beautiful journey undertaken purely for its own sake, and approached in that spirit, Tracks will lead you to a place of quiet wonder.

Kate Erbland, at Film School Rejects, weighs in with this: "Tracks is never anything less than intensely human and, quite often, deeply moving, the film a true unexpected pleasure." Nuff said. We'll be attending a screening.

Wadjda: Saudi Arabia's first-ever Best Foreign Language Oscar entry, with over-the-moon reviews from a raft of estimable film critics, we'll start of with Robbie Collins' take in The Telegraph ...

Like one of the great Italian neorealist films, Wadjda centres on a child and a bicycle. All Wadjda wants is a bike so she can race against the little boy who lives next door, but her mother (Reem Abdullah) refuses to buy her one: in Saudi Arabia, little girls do not ride bicycles. Modest as it may look, this is boundary-pushing cinema in all the best ways, and what a thrill it is to hear those boundaries creak.

The Guardian's Xan Brooks says of this bittersweet film about a 10-year-old girl finding her feet in Riyadh society, "You'd need a heart of stone not to be won over by Wadjda, a rebel yell with a spoonful of sugar and a pungent sense of a Riyadh society split between the home, the madrasa and the shopping mall." Most enthusiastic, though, is The Playlist's Oliver Lyttelton who, while awarding the film an "A", writes ...

In a world where an independent-minded 14-year-old girl can be shot by the Taliban, Wadjda's enormous warmth and comedy, and fine observational eye introduces a world alien to Western audiences, the film never sugarcoating the situation in Saudi Arabia, but by the end making it clear that in the likes of Wadjda, there are real hopes for progress and change in years to come. That it manages to do so in such a technically adept way (much of the production team are German), with such clarity of storytelling, and is able to do with humour, emotion and smarts, is something close to a miracle.

Well, that wraps up VanRamblings' Day One post on the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival — and our fourth consecutive VIFF 2013 post of the week. C'mon back tomorrow, and each of the 16 Festival days, for reviews, buzz, and more. For now, we'll leave you with this ...

  • For those of you who did not catch our Monday introductory VIFF 2013 post, just click here.

  • Parts 1 and 2 of our 'best bets" posts may be found here and here.

  • The search engine for VIFF 2013 films may be found here.

Enjoy your Festival, keep yourself hydrated, try to get some rest, c'mon back to VanRamblings for more Fest buzz each day, and over the course of the next 16 days, we'll very much look forward to sharing a transcendently lovely VIFF screening with you in a warm, inviting and darkened cinema.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:16 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

September 25, 2013

VIFF 2013: Early Odds-on-Favourites for Best Pics to See, Part 2

The 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival

Before getting underway with the subject matter of today's column on the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, we'll start off by recommending three of the strongest films VanRamblings has seen in preview over the past three weeks, about which we will write at some greater length during the course of the Festival, which kicks off tomorrow, to run for 16 fun-filled (if challenging) days, through Friday, October 11th.

  • Oil Sands Karaoke: We were knocked out by Charles Wilkinson's stunningly well-realized and incredibly moving documentary, non-fiction film fare that digs deep into the experience of the film's protagonists, while offering abiding insight into the devastatingly broken lives of five Fort McMurray oilpatch workers. The result: one of the most humane, truth-telling docs you're likely to see at VIFF 2013, as harrowing a time inside a darkened theatre as you're likely to have this year, yet a document that is filled with hope and the possibility of redemption.

  • Felix: The feel-good film of this year's Vancouver International Film Festival, an absolute must-see, a humble, deeply affecting, cross-cultural coming-of-age story set in South Africa that left the audience verklempt but heartened, with nary a dry eye in the house. Everything in Felix works: the cinematography, the production values, performances, screenwriting, and directorial ambition. Quite simply, a moving and accomplished film that is not to be missed at VIFF 2013.

  • Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia: Despairing, melancholy, screamingly funny at times, and filled with more wit and perspicacity than any film you'll see this year, here's another doc that is not-to-be-missed. Quite simply, doc director Nicholas Wrathall, while offering a document on the nature of the 21st century state, has outdone himself. Which is all to the good, in a film that VanRamblings is awarding an A+. Just yesterday, we were suggesting to Festival Director Alan Franey that he's got a hit on his hands, that once word gets out on the Gore Vidal doc, The Cinematheque is likely to prove inadequate as a venue to meet the demand of an audience that is going to rush out in large numbers to see what could very well prove to be the strongest non-fiction film to be screened at VIFF 2013.

The titles of the films above are linked to the VIFF web page for the film, where you can purchase your ticket online. Once word gets out on these films, tickets are going to be hard to come by, so you're going to want to act immediately to schedule each of these films, and purchase your tickets.

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Now we get down to the initial task at hand in offering you more "best bets" for VIFF films to screen over the next 16 days.


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Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:05 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

September 24, 2013

VIFF 2013: Early Odds-on-Favourites for Best Pics to See, Part 1

The 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival

Each year, in the weeks leading up to the commencement of our annual autumnal film festival by the sea, friends and associates turn to VanRamblings for insight into the titles of those films arriving on our shores which have garnered the most buzz, and represent the best odds-on favourites for a transporting time in the dark. If we hold true to form from years past, we'll be proved right about 80% of the time in our predictions.

Thus today, amidst the 341 films (208 of which are feature length) from 75 countries, the 92 Canadian films, and the 85 non-fiction films which will screen some 500 times at seven venues over the 16-day running time of the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, we offer Part 1 of VanRamblings' trusty guide to "What to watch" at VIFF 2013, those films which rank as "best bets" for those impecunious of time or circumstance.

(Note: the titles of the films named below are linked to the VIFF website, which will provide you with information on screening times and venues. Most of the other links are to reviews from a wide variety of publications — ranging from trade magazines like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, to Screen Daily, The Guardian, The Telegraph, the Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star's Grid magazine, and many other august publications, and great online resources like IndieWire and Twitchfilm. Where they're available, we'll link to trailers for the films being written about, as well).

First up today on our list of recommended films to screen at VIFF 2013 ...

A Story of Children and Film: Awarded a whopping four stars by the often hard-to-please Globe and Mail, The Hollywood Reporter is equally impressed with this quirky, deeply researched exploration of how kids have been portrayed in the cinema. Variety calls the film captivating, while The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, when reviewing the film at Cannes earlier this year, awarded the film a can't-be-topped five stars, saying ...

A Story of Children and Film has to be one of the most beguiling events at Cannes, Mark Cousins' cine-essay about children on film entirely distinctive and always brilliant: a mosaic of clips, images and moments chosen with flair and grace, from familiar sources and the neglected riches of cinema around the world. Cousins offers us his own humanist idealism, the truth of the complex over the luminosity of beribonned purity, a film that while exploring the nature of childhood offers us light flashes of insight.

The history of children in film. For teachers, for parents, for lovers of the cinema, for cinéastes of every description. Guess which film we're gonna be taking in this coming Thursday, the opening day of VIFF 2013?

The Invisible Woman, Felicity Jones and Ralph Fiennes

The Invisible Woman: Meredith Brody, writing in Thompson on Hollywood, seems quite smitten with Ralph Fiennes' sophomore directorial feature ...

The Invisible Woman, directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens, about the love affair Dickens carried on with actress Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), begun when she was 17 and the long-married (and father of ten) Dickens was 45, the film surprised and delighted me: the unsentimental, original conceptions of the many nicely delineated characters, the witty script by Avi Morgan, the lavish settings and costumes. From the first long shot of the older Nelly striding along a beach, which looked like a Caillebotte (still thinking in painterly terms, a holdover from Tim's Vermeer), I was completely enthralled.

Scott Foundas writes that Felicity Jones is "revelatory", also calling the film "brilliantly acted, vibrantly alive and pulsing with subtle eroticism as it charts the little-known affair of Charles Dickens and the 18-year-old Ellen 'Nelly' Ternan." The Telegraph's Robbie Collin seems thrilled with The Invisible Woman, as well, as is film critic Catherine Shoard writing in The Guardian.

Blue is the Warmest Colour: Here's what we wrote to a young woman of our acquaintance this past week about this Cannes' Palme D'or winner ...

Blue is the Warmest Colour is the film taking the screens of the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival that you absolutely want to see, Abdellatif Kechiche's uncompromising story of a paint-blisteringly intense love affair, a devastating coming-of-age tale that mixes eroticism and sadness, poignancy, loveliness and and passionate young love, as transportative, truthful and sublime a movie experience as you'll have this year.

The film was a smash at Cannes, Telluride and TIFF, and not only won the top prize at Cannes this year, it won the critics' prize, as well. Five stars from Robbie Collin in The Telegraph, and another five-star review from one of our favourite critics, Guy Lodge, writing this time for Time Out London. Jessica Kiang, writing for The Playlist, gives the film an "A", while the always reliable Indiewire critic Eric Kohn is not so generous, awarding Blue is the Warmest Colour only an "A-". Aahhh.

The Bag of Flour: Mark Adams, the chief film critic for Screen Daily, writes ...

A gently powerful real-life story, Kadija Leclere's feature début Bag Of Flour (Le sac de farine) is an elegantly shot film tracing the unusual life of a young woman from her early years in Belgium through to her times as an adult in a remote Moroccan town, featuring impressive performances from Hafsia Herzi and the always reliable Hiam Abbass.

Deborah Young, in The Hollywood Reporter, says of this tale of a kidnapped child growing up a stranger in her own land ...

While Leclere has little good to say about village life, its hunger, poverty and stifling social conventions, it is impossible not to feel sympathy for the horrified, helpless girl who, instead of continuing her studies of history, geography and math, is taught to sew, knit and embroider, the film tracking Sarah from the time she is drugged in a car - only to wake up to find herself in a remote village deep in Morocco's Atlas mountains, a virtual prisoner at 8 - through her life as a teenager.

Offering a thoughtful reflection on female identity in Arab society, The Bag of Flour seems destined to be one of VIFF 2013's more memorable films.

Gloria: High on my list of films to screen at VIFF 2013, Chilean actress Paulina García won Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival for her portrayal of a divorced woman taking a shot at mid-life love, a film The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney calls "an engaging character study, and a funny, melancholy and ultimately uplifting tale that offers the viewer an enormously satisfying spell inside the head and heart of a middle-aged woman never puts a foot wrong." Meanwhile, Guy Lodge (this time writing for Hitfix) gives the film an "A", while readers award Gloria an A+.

Nebraska: The opening film of VIFF 2013, and winner of Best Actor at Cannes for Bruce Dern, Alexander Payne's sixth feature relates a melancholy comedic tale that while capturing a life of Midwestern reserve, within the construct of a bittersweet father-son road trip - through an emotionally & economically parched homeland - offers another low-concept, finely etched study of flawed characters stuck in life's well-worn grooves.

A Touch of Sin: Saving the best for last? Perhaps. Here's what Toronto Star film critic Jason Anderson wrote in his 10/10 review in The Grid ...

Jia Zhangke's highly volatile and often exhilarating Cannes prizewinner draws closely on four true stories of tragedy and retribution among China's less privileged. The result blends the spare social realism of the director's justly acclaimed early efforts, a ruthless strain of satire, and several stylized scenes of extreme violence that wouldn't be out of place in the yakuza movies of Takeshi Kitano (his production company helped make it). These audacious instances of bloody nastiness are likely to be jarring to admirers of Jia's more placid previous work but they're in line with the director's strategic use of these tales of rage and vengeance to reveal societal fault lines.

David Rooney, in The Hollywood Reporter, while writing about "the widening chasm of social inequality separating the moneyed powerbrokers from the struggling masses — not to mention the despair and violence bred by that disparity," and taking the "too-diffuse examination of escalating violence in a recklessly modernized society" finds A Touch of Sin compelling, although his overall take on the film is less than enthusiastic. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw is more generous in his four star review of the film, writing ...

This is a bitter, jagged, disaffected drama, pessimistic about China, pessimistic about the whole world. One characters asks another if he ever feels like travelling abroad. "Why would I?" he replies. "Everywhere is broke. Foreigners come here now." Jia Zhang-ke's movie gives us a brutal unwelcome.

Gosh, sounds like perfect film festival fare. C'mon back tomorrow for Part 2 of our 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival "best bets".

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VanRamblings' opening column on the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:05 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

September 23, 2013

2013 Vancouver International Film Festival, Sept. 26th - Oct. 11th

Please find below, the first of 21 daily columns on our 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival. See you back here every day.

Wadjda, at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival

The 32nd annual, and much-changed, Vancouver International Film Festival is a film festival in transition.

With the closure of its longtime Granville 7 Cinema home at the end of VIFF 2012, Festival staff was hard-pressed to replace the seven cinemas within the Granville 7 theatre complex in order that a thriving Vancouver film festival might prevail in 2013.

To that end, Vancouver International Film Festival administrators have found success, in 2013 transitioning the Festival from downtown to "cross-town", a neighbourhood The Straight's Sarah Rowland describes as ...

Nestled in between the hustle and bustle of downtown, the new-money flash of Yaletown, the historical character of Gastown, and the colourful grit of Chinatown is where Crosstown is quietly making a name for itself as Vancouver's hippest up-and-coming micro-hood and home-décor hub. Like Swiss cuisine, this hidden gem is a mix of influences from all its bigger neighbours, yet still has a distinct flavour of its own.

The Festival has found multiple new homes in Crosstown: at the 350-seat SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (in the Woodwards building, at Abbott and Hastings); the nearby Cineplex International Village, in Cinemas 8, 9 and 10 (799 seats in total); the Vancouver Playhouse, on Hamilton (668 seats); The Centre for the Performing Arts, on Homer, between Georgia and Robson (1800 seats, 900 on the main floor); the Rio Theatre, at Commercial and Broadway (420 seats); all in addition to their traditional longtime venues, at the Vancity Theatre on Seymour (185 seats), and The Cinematheque on Howe Street, near Davie (194 seats).

Ticket prices remain the same as last year ($13, a bargain compared to the single seat $23.35 charged at the Toronto Film Festival), and passholders will find they may have to line up for each screening, rather than acquire tickets for the day's screenings at days outset, as was the case in years past. As we say, a Festival in transition, a sort of back to the future, where the old is new again (at least that would appear to be how Festival Director Alan Franey would frame some of this year's changes, as the Festival reverts to a logistical approach employed pre the Granville 7 era). All said, with all the jumping around from location to location, and the necessity of lining up for each film, chances are that die-hard passholder cinéastes will see fewer films in 2013 than has usually been the case.

Which is a pity, because there are a great many fine films that will screen at the 2013 version of the Vancouver International Film Festival. Read on to discover what Vancouver's Crosstown festival has in store for you in 2013.


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Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:35 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

September 6, 2013

2013 Vancouver International Film Festival, Sept. 26th - Oct. 11th

Vancouver International Film Festival 2013


VanRamblings will commence daily, expansive coverage of the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival on Monday, September 23rd, and continue Festival coverage through the days following the end of our much beloved film festival some 16 days later, on Friday, October 11th.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:41 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2013

   



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