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VIFF 2017: Efficiency, Heart, Humanity, and Social Progress

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival first day impressions

September 29, 2017 — the first full day of the incredibly wonderful and oh-so-moving 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival — proved to be a delight and a joy, not just because the films we screened were exquisite and humane, powerful and life-changing, but because ...

  • The opening day, a VIFF-patron-friendly and peerlessly humane level of VIFF venue logistical organization was brought to the fore that was so respectful of VIFF filmgoers VanRamblings was both astounded and overjoyed (generally, there's a great deal of kvetching from patrons in the early days of the Festival — not this year, for the very first time!).

    The commitment made by Cineplex International Village venue manager (which means he's the head honcho), Peter Quin-Conroy — who this past three years has brought his management team (and volunteers) together to create and ensure a welcoming, efficient (read: absolutely hassle-free), near joyous and respectful of VIFF patron's often fragile and difficult-to-articulate sensibilities VIFF filmgoing venue experience.

    Peter is once again this year more-than-ably assisted in his quest for VIFF venue transcendence, by his simply exquisite floor managers (they're the ones who organize the lineups and allow ingress to the cinema, among other gargantuan and hard-to-imagine how they manage to perform their tasks of immense derring-do), the always no-nonsense (with a great sense of humour, and a ready, wry smile) Elizabeth Glancy, and new this year, Keely Langford (who quite simply just knocked our socks off — wow, wow, wow!). Please thank them when you see them.

    And, then there's the too-wonderful-to-describe-in-words Centre for the Performing Arts venue manager Kaen Seguin (with able and humane assistance provided by the peerlessly efficient Jennifer [Jenny] Tennant). From the day that The Centre became a VIFF venue, we have never experienced a more efficient and welcoming ingress of VIFF patrons.

    And let's not forget, VanRamblings' favourite year-round, and full-time during VIFF, Vancity Theatre venue manager, Jonathan Stonehouse — who requires and much deserves a second-in-this-post wow, wow, wow!

    VanRamblings, on behalf of VIFF patrons everywhere, offers our undying appreciation to Festival Exhibitions Manager Sean Wilson (yep, VIFF's numero uno when it comes to overall venue management), more than ably assisted by our newest Facebook friend, the always exquisite (hey, there's just no other word to describe) Lora Haber, not to mention, VIFF's Volunteer Engagement Manager, Brie Koniczek, who had more than a little to do with creating VIFF venue nirvana in 2017.

  • VanRamblings heard an immense amount of 'the sky is falling' kvetching from VIFF volunteers (new policy respecting VIFF volunteers in 2017) prior to the start of the Festival. Not so since the Festival has gotten underway — the attitude of volunteers, thus far, sanguine and accepting, accompanied by a realistically-minded 'wait-and-see' attitude.

  • Prior to the Festival, VanRamblings heard rumours that VIFF's Director of International Programming was unhappy and ready to resign, post Festival. "Raymond, I don't know where you hear these things. I am happy, and intend to be a part of the Festival for many years to come." Alan has never mislead VanRamblings, ever — we take Alan at his word, and breathe (along with all loyal VIFF patrons) a sigh of relief.

  • Ran into one of our very favourite people in the world, and a woman with whom we marched last Saturday in Vancouver City Council candidate Jean Swanson's March and Rally to Implement a Mansion Tax, DOXA programmer and this year a projectionist at Cineplex International Village, the socially progressive, heart-filled, community activist VIFF leader of the future, the inimitable Selina Crammond, who gently cajoled, "Raymond. Of course, you're going to vote for Jean Swanson. How could you, as a person of conscience, support anyone other than Jean?" Vancouver City Council / Vancouver School Board by-election voting day, Saturday, October 14th, the day after VIFF 2017 comes to a close.

VIFF could not be a more rewarding experience than is the case in 2017.

Otherwise, VanRamblings was a bother to CBC On the Coast host, Stephen Quinn (whose ironic sensibility came to the fore), not to mention what a bother we were to Alan Franey and Tom Charity (at least we're not quite as overly euthymic this year, as has proved to be the case in year's past — still, VIFF staff have almost always found a way to put up with us).

VIFF 2017 smash hit, Petra Volpe's The Divine Order

Okay, okay, okay — you want to hear about the films!

Thelma, (Grade: B+): A work of some genius by master Norwegian director Joachim Trier, Thelma offers an unsettling, often oblique, yet always thought-provoking foray into Stephen King-style horror tropism, accented with Hitchcockian verve (think: The Birds), and tempered with the dark dynamics of family as seen through the lens of Ingmar Bergman. Gorgeously shot and realized, all of the performances accessible and heart-felt, Thelma never quite transcends the horror genre to become something more than what you see on the screen. Fascinating, yet ultimately disappointing, Thelma does manage to achieve what all great films strive for: a lasting impression in your mind and in your memory.

The Divine Order, (Grade: A-): VanRamblings' favourite film, thus far, at VIFF 2017, writer-director Petra Volpe's inspiring, often funny time capsule of a film offers a gentle, humane slice-of-real-life insight into the woebegotten plight of Swiss women prior to 1971, much of the film's compelling narrative leading up to a 1971 referendum (in which only men could vote) that asked the question, "Should women be accorded the right to vote?" Surprisingly, and hearteningly, that answer proved to be "yes". With infectious heart and a panoply of lived-in performances by an exquisite cast, by movie's end The Divine Order emerges as so very much more than a feel-good cine-history lesson on the women's suffrage movement in Switzerland, and much more an embrace of hope and an acknowledgement that history is a dynamic, and despite the imprecations of the Donald Trumps of the world, history and social conditions move inexorably forward towards the realization of social justice for all, for each and every one of us in every far flung corner of our globe.

On VanRamblings VIFF film-going schedule for Saturday: the vital immigrant drama from Aki Kaurismäki, The Other Side of Hope, which we wrote about on VanRamblings earlier in the week; the David House-recommended, Swallows and Amazon (hello! who doesn't just love Kelly Macdonald, in every film and on every television show in which she's had a role); and, on a 'slow' filmgoing day for VanRamblings, Okja, the latest film from Korean auteur Bong Joonho, who will be present to engage at tonight's screening for what is sure to be a rewarding and enlightening conversation with this always provocative filmmaker.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 30, 2017 3:15 AM in VIFF 2017


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