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VIFF 2016: Paradise on the Near Horizon

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

Despite the obstructive jaundice diagnosis VanRamblings wrote about yesterday, we do not have pancreatic cancer. Phew! Spent the day in the hospital yesterday undergoing a series of tests, and am scheduled for surgery tomorrow, on the opening day of the 35th annual the Vancouver International Film Festival, and will continue to write daily about VIFF through the end of the this year's Festival, on Friday, October 14th.

So, it is on to the final three previews of lauded films that will arrive on our shores beginning tomorrow in what is a very strong year for VIFF.

Before we get started today, this: Andrew Poon, long one of VanRamblings favourite Communications folks with VIFF — this year working with the very wonderful Owen Campbell, and the doyenne of all things Communication with VIFF, Helen Yagi — wrote yesterday to say that there are six Asian films — all part of the Gateway | Dragons & Tigers series — he believes are worthy of your attention, so take note — Andrew is never wrong ...

  • Crosscurrent. Winner of Best Cinematography in Berlin this year, director Yang Chao brings a beautifully shot film perfect for cinephiles to VIFF this year, Andrew says. Writes Patrick Gamble in Cinevue, "Traversing China, from the riches of Shanghai's financial hub, to the nation's impoverished hinterlands, Yang combines a daring mix of realism and lyrical fantasy to create a sense of where China is drifting, merging imagery and poetry to create a film of uncontrollable sadness, arresting visuals and ruminative grace;

  • Out of the Frying Pan, a phantasmagoria of six dazzling anime shorts, ranging from powerful evocations of earthquakes and tsunamis to scenes from the life of a girl whose mother is a ghost and whose father is a cat (which, by the way, won the Grand Prix award at the 2016 Image Forum Festival), conceptually brilliant works all, and very much deserving of your consideration;

  • Lifeline. Making its North American premiere, Japanese director Shiota Akihiko will be in attendance at VIFF to present his new film, a slapstick, bloody battle between mortality and immortality, and a darkly comedic exploration of the depths one person will sink to save herself and the lengths another will go to in order to lose himself;

  • The Bacchus Lady. No, this film by E Jyong is not about our indefatigable Vancouver School Board trustee, the fabulous Patti Bacchus, but rather is a tour de force from the grand dame of Korean cinema, 69-year-old Youn Yuh-jung, who delivers a powerful performance as a sex worker confronting her and her ex-patron's problems in old age, in a graceful film that while exploring a bounty of taboo subjects provides an engaging picture of the lonely lives of people considered by society as past their sell-by date. Says Clarence Tsui in his review in The Hollywood Reporter, "The Bacchus Lady is certainly audacious, and a powerful reminder of how lives could or would be lived once the youthful vigor is gone";

  • Emma (Mother). An International premiere at VIFF 2016, Indonesian director Riri Riza (who will be in attendance this weekend at VIFF, along with the producer) to present his new film, an adaptation of Alberthiene Endah's novel Athirah, which focuses on social, political, sexual and psychological issues centering on questions of emotional and moral strength, says longtime Dragons & Tigers programmer Tony Rayns, who goes on to say, "Emma (Mother) is infused with Riza's signature lyrical realism, wise and humane as it deals with Athirah's stoic efforts to keep herself and her family together";

  • The Road to Mandalay. Debuting at the Venice Film Festival at the beginning of this month, Chinese-Burmese director Midi Z's Bangkok-set drama revolves around the loves, fears and loathing of two migrant workers in the Thai capital, the film an engrossing drama that works on an intimate level of moving human tragedy while providing insight into the travails that face the Burmese people. Say Vittorio Scarpa in his review in Cineuropa, "A blunt and accurate portrayal of the condition of the many Burmese migrants living in Thailand, searching for opportunities that often end in disaster, based on a number of true stories (among them, the story of the director's brother), Road to Mandalay shows us how the world, when it comes to problems of integration, is extraordinarily small."

Six more films for you to consider as VIFF film fare in 2016.

A Copy of My Mind. Comes highly recommended from VanRamblings' friend Mathew Englander who saw A Copy of My Mind at TIFF, and wrote to us to rave about it. Says Jason Bechervaise in his review in Screen Daily ...

"Prominent Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar (The Forbidden Door) sets his new film in Jakarta, telling the story of young couple who fall in love but end up in trouble when the woman steals a DVD from a client. Both affecting and absorbing in equal measure, A Copy of My Mind shirks melodrama to explore the difficulties faced by those living in a city marred by political corruption. Conveys the political and social turmoil faced by so many in Jakarta through the eyes of the two protagonists, it's the pair's genuine and natural abilities that give the film more than a touch of authenticity and sincerity."

Next on to this year's Un Certain Regard winner at Cannes ...

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki. Finnish newcomer Juho Kuosmanen chronicles the buildup to the 1962 world featherweight championship title match in this idiosyncratic boxing drama that is, as Sarah Ward says in her review in Screen Daily, "contemplative, inspirational and sweet rather than brutal and action-packed, a quietly charming film that will punch above its weight on its way to finding a broader audience." Tender, lyrical and bittersweet, as Guy Lodge says in his review in Variety, "It punches its way into the upper ranks of cinematic pugilist portraits by virtue of its exquisite craft and a lead performance of heart-bruising melancholy by Jarkko Lahti."

The Salesman. Iran's Best Foreign Film Oscar entry, Asghar Farhadi, the masterly Iranian director of Oscar winner A Separation offers another finely cut gem of neorealist suspense, Irish Times critic Donald Barnes writing, "The Salesman is flawlessly acted. Ordinary-looking people pass through huge emotions without ever resulting to histrionics. Outbreaks of violence are rare and, thus, when they do occur, they are all the more shocking, Farhadi once again trading in the poetry of the unsaid." Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman writes ...

"The film's title refers to an amateur production of Death of a Salesman that the film's two central characters are both performing in. He's playing Willy Loman, and she plays his wife, the beleaguered Linda. It's a conceit that comes off as something of a contrivance — at least, until the very end, when the parallel between Emad and Willy at last hits home. They are good men who, through the tragedy of their choices, wind up letting down the people they love. Farhadi has fashioned a dramatic critique of what he portrays as the Iranian male gaze — a gaze of molten judgment and anger. As a filmmaker, though, his gaze is true."

And thus concludes VanRamblings 36+ film preview of the 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

A coda: broadcasting legend and longtime VIFF aficionado J.B. Shayne called yesterday to say that he feels a screening of Jim Jarmusch's documentary Gimme Danger is mandatory viewing VIFF 2016, for any one who has any appreciation of rock history and who loves Iggy Pop and The Stooges. Mr. Shayne will be present at the sure-to-be-raucous 9:15pm screening at The Rio on VIFF's opening night, Thursday, September 29th. Betcha his friend John Tanner will be there, as well.

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VanRamblings has now previewed 36+ acclaimed VIFF films that are about to arrive on our shores having garnered critical acclaim at film festivals in every far flung community across the globe. For a survey of all the VIFF films VanRamblings has previewed for VIFF 2016, just click here.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 28, 2016 3:15 AM in VIFF 2016


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