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VIFF 2014: 355 Films, 65 Countries, the Festival Begins Today!

2014 Vancouver International Film Festival

For lovers of cinema, happy, happy days are here once again!

Yes, the spectacular, gorgeous, incredibly moving 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival commences today for a glorious 16-day run of the world's best cinema, brought to our shores by a first-rate programming team, headed by longtime VIFF Artistic Director, Alan Franey.

More than ably aided by well-experienced Programme Manager and Senior Programmer, PoChu AuYeung, and her programming colleagues, the Vancouver International Film Festival once again presents more than 350 films, from more than 65 countries across our globe, and as you have read above: the very best in world cinema has been brought to our shores.

As VanRamblings has reported previously, the Vancouver International Film Festival is a much-changed film festival in its 2014 iteration. The Georgia Straight's Craig Takeuchi would seem to agree (ahem, supplemented by some commentary from me), writing about VIFF's ...

  • Digital revolution: "This is the first year in our history that we're not actually showing a film," Franey announced. In 2014, none of the selections will be presented on celluloid — all the films are digital.

  • Festival guide: In previous years, a free, brief preview guide was released prior to the official print guide, which was available for purchase. This year, the two have been amalgamated into one free, glossy guide, available all across Metro Vancouver.

  • Marketing: Have you seen that knockout 'sizzler' ad above highlighting the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival? And wait til you see the BC Spotlight sizzler video below. The film festival is marketing itself like never before — and that's all to the good. I'm willing to bet that those 'ads' translate into a much-increased box office for the Festival in 2014.

  • Best New Director award: For 20 years, the Dragons and Tigers Award for Young Cinema was given to an emerging director from Pacific Asia who had not yet won significant international recognition. This year, that award has been expanded to the Best New Director (International) award.

  • VIFF Industry: A re-branded and revamped VIFF Film and Television Forum, a singularly important industry conference that coincides with the fall festival each year that will in 2014 engage more with the local film industry, including Vancouver's booming visual effects and animation industry. The four-day VIFF Industry Conference offers professional development for registered participants, and wide-ranging industry-relevant topics, from content creation and financing, to marketing and direct distribution, to storytelling and audience engagement. Betcha NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe will be interested in knowing more about the re-imagined VIFF Industry.

  • Style series: VIFF Executive Director Jacqueline Dupuis announced that a new series, Style in Film, will showcase six films covering the themes of fashion, style, art, iconoclasts, and aesthetics. VIFF will partner with Eco Fashion Week to produce Q&As and events, such as a VIP post-event screening at Holt Renfrew (October 5).

  • Gala films and special events: From the wow, wow, wow Opening Gala Film, the Reese Witherspoon-starring Wild (yes, we're talking Academy Award nominations here), to the closing Gala Film, Whiplash, the film that took the Sundance Film Festival by storm earlier this year, to the incredibly moving Special Gala presentation of The Vancouver Asahi (about which we will write again very soon), VIFF 2014 has absolutely outdone itself this year in booking films of special merit that will resonate with filmgoers like mad!

In 2014, how is the Vancouver International Film Festival the same?

Venues are the same this year as last (nine screens, 7 venues, including the 1727-seat Ford Centre for the Performing Arts across from the Vancouver Public Library, on Homer). Full venue information is available here.

The festival will run 16 days as per usual — kicking off today and running through until late night, Friday, October 10th. There are 355 films from 65 countries, in a programme that includes 26 non-fiction (documentary) features, 9 films in the Spotlight on France series, 27 films in the Dragons & Tigers (Cinema of East Asia) series, with more Canadian and U.S. films than ever in 2014, and a first-rate BC Spotlight film series, with 14 features.

As always, there are all sorts of ticket options: from single tickets at $13 to a range of ticket packs. Call the VIFF Info line at 604-683-FILM (3456) for more information. You can also get more info, and buy your tickets, online. Ticket acquisition is generally easy peasy, nice and easy.

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What are the highlights in 2014, films that are must-sees?

Leviathan: The single most talked about film at Cannes this year, the film that took the critics by storm, Andrei Zvyagintsev's extraordinary tragic drama of corruption and intimidation in contemporary Russia is the must-see of VIFF 2014, and not just because Jeff Wells loved it, writing ...

It's a drop-dead brilliant, awesomely-composed-in-every-respect melodrama and moral tale that concurrently serves as a microcosm of (or metaphor for) a morally compromised, ruthlessly malevolent, bare-knuckled Russia. Vladimir Putin will love it! (Kidding.) Political corruption, lust and infidelity, way too much vodka, blackmail and thuggery, gunshots, bromide-dispensing priests who kowtow to powerful scumbags, huge whale skeletons, crashing waves, rotting ships — this puppy has it all plus the aura of a majesterial art film plus opening and closing musical passages by Phillip Glass plus the most beautifully lighted, handsomely composed widescreen photography (by Mikhail Krichman) I've seen in a long time.

Or, because The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave Leviathan a paltry five stars, writing that the picture is "full of extraordinary images and magnificent symmetry, a film acted and directed with unflinching ambition. Leviathan is a forbidding and intimidating work, and a film of magnificent ambition, scope and grandeur." Aw, shucks. Me, I'm taking in the Friday night, October 3rd, 9pm screening at The Playhouse. See ya there!

The Wonders. Alice Rohrwacher's Cannes Grand Prix winner, the film which I've most looked forward to seeing, and the picture I'd prayed to the gods (and to Alan Franey) to please, please bring to 2014's Vancouver International Film Festival, will indeed screen at VIFF 2014! VanRamblings absolutely loved Rohrwacher's début film, 2011's exquisite, resonant, melancholy, tremendously lovely, authentic, quiet and beautifully observant Corpo Celeste. The Wonders in Vancouver — I am in heaven! See you at Friday night's 9pm screening at The Rio!

[Digression: yes, yes, it's true. My entire year revolves around the film festival. I am in love with the film festival, in love with the volunteers, in love with the administration and staff, in love with the films that screen at VIFF, in love with my fellow filmgoers, cannot wait to shed buckets and buckets of tears, and feel more emotionally-wrenched during the 16-day run of the film festival than I am at any other time of the year (no wonder I am so crazy in the lead up to, and during, our annual Vancouver International Film Festival — I am in love, completely, utterly out-of-control, as if I am 19-years-old again, and I am in love with the love of my life!)]

Oh yes, where was I?

Here's a quick rundown of the films that are at the top of my list as must-see five-star films screening at VIFF 2014, each of these films garnering immense praise and recognition from the critic cognoscenti ...

  • Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Cannes Palme D'Or winner Winter Sleep

  • Argentinian director Damian Szifron's marvelous satire Wild Tales (an overwhelming favourite at Cannes this year)

  • Ruben Ostlund's finely observed Force Majeure

  • Mike Leigh's Cannes Best Actor (Timothy Spall) winner, Mr. Turner

  • The Dardennes brothers' intimate new drama that plays with thriller-like intensity, Two Days, One Night (stars the peerless Marion Cotillard).

And, oh yes, my two favourite films in VIFF preview, also rush-right-out and get your tickets must-sees, two of the most unusual, groundbreaking each in their own way, moving and gratifying films at VIFF 2014: Uberto Pasolini's wondrous Still Life, and the doc (well, kind of "the doc") of the festival thus far for me, Hope and Wire, about the aftermath of the Christchurch, New Zealand 6.7 earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Me, if I am brought to tears while watching a film, if I am pulled in that much, I am sold, the film goes into my memory bank forever and forever — a feat achieved by both these films, as was the case with Ishii Yuya's entirely magical The Vancouver Asahi, which is a must-see for baseball fans, and anyone who professes to — and really does — love the city of Vancouver.

Of course, there are many more films about which I could write — but you'll just have to wait til Saturday (this year, in a departure from past practice, I will cover the Vancouver civic election one day, and VIFF the next).

I'll see fewer films this year, it's true, but there's a job to be done to save the city (I'm not kidding) — the 2014 Vancouver civic election is a critical election that will determine Vancouver's future.

Do you want a city consisting almost solely of green-glass towers, energy-inefficient, soon-to-crumble highrises that cater only to the (often non-resident, sorry to say) wealthy, or do you want a livable, sustainable city for the rest of us, and our families? That's what it's all about in 2014.

Make no mistake. The 2014 Vancouver civic election is a legacy election.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 25, 2014 1:12 AM in VIFF 2014


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