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VIFF 2017: More Award Winning Films Set to Screen at VIFF

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival Award Winning Films

More celebrated, award-winning films that will arrive on our shores in mere days, as part of the humanizing and humane and always tremendously enlightening Vancouver International Film Festival, which kicks off it's much-looked-forward-to 36th annual edition on Thursday, September 28th.

Today, three more films for you to consider placing on your VIFF calendar.

As VanRamblings wrote last week in our introductory VIFF 2017 column, rising Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (Gloria) in his new, award-winning film A Fantastic Woman, celebrates the endurance of a woman under suspicion of murder in a film that could bring the first major acting award for a transgender performer to Daniela Vega.

Winner of Best Screenplay at February's Berlinale, in her review in Screen Daily, film critic Wendy Ide writes ...

Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes) are in love. Despite a twenty-year age gap, they plan to spend their lives together. He left his wife and family for her. But after a birthday celebration in which he promises to take her on a trip to Iguazu Falls, Orlando is taken gravely ill. He dies in hospital. And Marina finds that, as a transgender woman, everything is called into question — their relationship, her role in his death, her right to grieve for the man she loved. Driven by a powerhouse performance by mesmerizing transgender actress Vega, the fifth feature from Lelio combines urgent naturalism with occasional flickers of fantasy to impressive, and wrenchingly emotional effect.

Benjamín Echazarreta's cinematography makes expressive use of reflections — there is a beautifully composed shot of Marina's anguished eyes staring through a window which also reflects Orlando in the emergency room. And later, a slyly positioned hand mirror teasingly refers to the crude questions of Orlando's family about whether or not Marina has had gender reassignment surgery.

The picture is tied together by an orchestral score by Matthew Herbert which is as immediately striking as Alexander Desplat's for Birth or Mica Levi's for Jackie. Herbert, best known for his playful, experimental electronic music, crafts a fluttering heartbeat of a flute motif which is achingly lovely. The soundtrack also includes Aretha Franklin's (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, a morale-boosting anthem which prepares Marina for her first encounter with Orlando's ex-wife. And Marina's own singing bookends the film, giving the picture its transcendent final scene.

Guy Lodge (one of VanRamblings' favourite film critics), in his Variety review calls Sebastián Lelio's new work "transcendent and luminous", writing in the conclusion to his review ...

Vega's tough, expressive, subtly anguished performance deserves so much more than political praise. It's a multi-layered, emotionally polymorphous feat of acting, nurtured with pitch-perfect sensitivity by her director, who maintains complete candor on Marina's condition without pushing her anywhere she wouldn't herself go. At one point in her mortifying police examination, a photographer demands that she drop the towel from her waist. She reluctantly complies, yet the camera respectfully feels no need to lower it gaze: A Fantastic Woman is no less assured than its heroine of her hard-won identity.

Meanwhile, David Rooney in his review in The Hollywood Reporter simply calls A Fantastic Woman "ravishing" and "a bracingly honest work of searing empathy, shocking and enraging, funny and surreal, rapturous and restorative, an emotionally penetrating film of startling intensity and sinuous mood shifts wrapped in a rock-solid coherence of vision".

Kamel El Basha won the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival a week ago, and The Insult is Lebanon's entry for the Foreign Language Oscar this year. Critics are somewhat divided on the film, Eric Kohn (another one of VanRamblings favourite film critics), in his B- review writes ...

Ziad Doueiri's The Insult, the Lebanese filmmaker's followup to his masterful drama The Attack is a fascinating, parable-like exploration of the tension between two facets of Lebanon's Arab community and the cross-cultural ramifications implied by their ridiculous feud. While it doesn't quite justify the sprawling courtroom antics or the blunt metaphor they entail, the movie nevertheless provides a profound look at the effect of historical trauma on modern Lebanese society.

In his review in Variety, Jay Weissberg writes, "The Insult is well-made but obvious and too often manipulative dissection of Lebanese political and religious divides that culminates in a standard courtroom drama"

Boyd van Hoeij is somewhat more generous in his review in The Hollywood Reporter, referring to the film as Law and Border, writing of The Insult, "This gripping genre yarn also looks very good. Doueiri, who worked on the early films of Tarantino as a camera assistant, here once more collaborated with The Attack's cinematographer, Tommaso Fiorilli. Their style is again fluid and sinuous, at once direct and subtly poetic. Subtle isn't a word that could be applied to Eric Neveux's driving score, however, with the music accompanying practically all the scenes outside the courtroom."

Ah yes, Petra Volpe's rousing Tribeca Best Actress Award winner for Marie Leuenberger, The Divine Order traces the political awakening of young wife and mother taking the fight for women's suffrage in Switzerland -- which ended with victory in ... 1971. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser at VIFF, when you consider that the Vancouver International Film Festival is most often synonymous with what is most commonly referred as the cinema of despair ought to mean that The Divine Order will not only prove an antidote to the more dour VIFF offerings, but emerge as the 'feel good' film of VIFF 2017.

In his review in Variety, Nick Schager writes ...

Thanks to its director Petra Volpe's sturdy guidance and Leuenberger's fine lead performance as Nora, whose resolve is coloured by doubt and trepidation, The Divine Order never feels stilted or preachy; rather, it radiates an infectious admiration for the courage shown by its heroines in the face of immense obstacles.

Giorgia del Don, in her review in Cineuropa, seems quite swept away by The Divine Order ...

Perhaps (very probably more likely) not everyone knows that calm Switzerland, tucked away in the heart of Europe, was one of the last countries in the world to introduce female suffrage. And indeed it is only since 1971 that women have had the right to vote and the possibility of being elected at federal level. So it is this long-kept "secret" that Petra Volpe decided to bring to the big screen in The Divine Order, continuing the interest in women that she has shown since the beginning of her career.

The Divine Order brings us back to the tragic nature of those opposing the right to vote for Swiss women. Nora (played by the magnificent Marie Leuenberger) embodies a very Swiss sense of discretion that hides an inner volcano just waiting to erupt and let loose a river of slow-moving but relentless lava.

A refreshing cocktail and essential cocktail that brings to light an underhand and sadly still very real discriminatory mechanism (in lots of countries) based on supposed and dangerous "divine" rules. Without ever falling into rhetoric but actually succeeding in making the whole film glide along on an unexpected freshness, Petra Volpe speaks to us about courage, a sentiment that women, and not only Swiss women, have too long ignored the meaning of but actually have plenty of. A jubilant and timeless film with no borders.

Well, that's it for today's VanRamblings' post. Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2017 is available by clicking here.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 17, 2017 3:08 PM in VIFF 2017


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