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VIFF 2017

October 11, 2017

VIFF 2017: Wends To a Close for Another Year

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival Wends To a Close

Well, that's it — almost. The 36th edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival wraps late on Friday evening, October 13th with the "gory as f*ck" screening of Turkish director Can Evrenol's Housewife, at The Rio.

VIFF Repeats 2014

VIFF Repeats

Of course, as has been the case for many, many years the fine folks at VIFF have planned, and now released information on, their VIFF Repeats programme, which kicks off on Saturday, October 14th with Bosch: The Garden of Dreams at 11:45am, followed by Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters at 1:45pm, The Farthest at 4:15pm, and two more festival favourites, Loving Vincent at 6:45pm, and the final screening of the first VIFF Repeats day, Indian Horse, at 8:45pm. All screenings will occur at the 175-seat Vancity Theatre. Tickets must be purchased, either online or at the door, for each screening (VIFF passes do not apply to the VIFF Repeats programme). VIFF Repeats run through until Thursday, October 19th.

Still and all, during the course of the final two days of VIFF 2017 there are some very fine films that will screen for a final time, films VIFF patrons and critics alike have simply raved about, and are certainly worthy of your time and consideration — as is the case with Janus Metz's Borg vs McEnroe, perhaps the finest sports-related drama since Bennett Miller's entirely tremendous Moneyball. Borg vs McEnroe screens for a final time at VIFF at 3:30pm at the Vancouver Playhouse on VIFF's last day, Friday, Oct. 13th.

On VIFF 2017's second-to-last day (Thursday, October 12th), you might want to turn your attention to the following VIFF patron favourites ...

  • Sami Blood (Grade: A). Knocked our socks off. Little wonder that Lene Cecilia Sparrok won a raft of Best Actress awards, and Danish director Amanda Kernell an equal number of Best First Feature and Best Director awards. A compelling and heart-wrenching watch from beginning to end. A must-see. Screens at 11:15am, Tinseltown, Cinema 10.

  • Call Me by Your Name, (Grade: A). A friend wrote to us at 2am, "If you haven't already, please go see Call Me by Your Name. It was exceptional. I watered up 3 times in that movie, each one more soul crushing than the last. Left the theatre with a heavy but full heart." Yep, yep, yep. Couldn't agree more. Screens for a final time at 3:15pm at The Centre.

  • Close Knit. According to Screen Daily's Wendy Ide, Close Knit is "gentle, empathetic and deliberately non-confrontational, taking a mild-mannered approach to transgender issues. Having lived in the U.S., director Naoko Ogigami upon returning to Japan found herself struck by the invisibility of the trans community in her home country. Close Knit's narrative revolves around 11-year-old Tomo (Rinka Kakihara) who finds herself adopted by her Uncle Makio (Kenta Kiritani) when her mother abandons her. Makio cautions that he is now living with someone. Someone unusual. Rinko (Toma Ikuta) is a transgender woman. Tomo's initial reserve is soon won over by Rinko's warm and nurturing nature, and the fact that Rinko keeps a spotless home, and creates cute bento boxes full of rice pandas and sausages sculpted into various sea creatures, which Tomo loves. A nuanced, softly lit family portrait, with compassion and conflict held carefully in balance, Close Knit screens for a final time at 4:15pm, Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10.

  • The King's Choice. Dramatizing a celebrated moment in the Norway's constitutional monarchy, when King Haakon VII (Jesper Christensen) refused to surrender to the Nazis' invasion, director Erik Poppe's filming of the blistering climactic encounter between the King and the German envoy makes for one of the most compelling cinematic scenes of the year. Screens for a final time tonight, 9:30pm, at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10.

And now onto the final day of VIFF 2017 ...

Friday, October 13th

  • Borg vs McEnroe, (Grade: A). Janus Metz's powerful, nuanced biopic while telling the story of one of the great tennis rivalries of all time creates a compelling and oft-times thrilling piece of entertainment. A must-see. Screens at 3:30pm, at the Vancouver Playhouse.

  • The Party. With a dream ensemble cast (at least to those of us that love indie filmmaking) and one of the big hits at VIFF this year, a film about which absolutely no one has anything negative to say (no mean feat, that), the new movie from director Sally Potter had Variety critic Guy Lodge writing in his review from Berlin, "Gleefully nasty, zinger-packed this deliciously heightened, caviar-black comedy sets up its brittle, bourgeois characters like bowling pins and gleefully knocks them down in 71 minutes flat, Potter's dark drawing-room comedy her zestiest work in ages." Screens for a final time at 5pm at The Centre.

  • Wonderstruck, the Closing Gala film, 7:30pm at The Centre, and 9:15pm at The Playhouse. Todd Haynes new film that took Cannes by storm. Stars Julianne Moore (who's been brilliant in every film she's ever starred in), about which critic Wendy Ide wrote in Screen Daily, "With first rate work from cinematographer Edward Lachman, costume designer / executive producer Sandy Powell, production designer Mark Friedberg and — particularly — composer Carter Burwell will ensure Wonderstruck, with its gradual swell of emotion that builds to a belter of a tear jerking climax, will emerge as a significant awards season contender."

And that will wrap the Vancouver International Film Festival for 2017.

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

The Vancouver International Film Festival Comes to a Close for Another Year

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:17 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

October 9, 2017

VIFF 2017: Films To Ensure You See Before VIFF Ends

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, viff, final week, films to see

Today on VanRamblings, the must-see films screening in the final week of VIFF 2017, those films lauded by VIFF patrons, films with critical acclaim extraordinaire, films which will either provide you with early insight into what movies will be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday, March 4th, 2018, or provide you with the opportunity to see outstanding cinema for the final time at VIFF 2017, cuz these films ain't a-gonna be making their way back to our shores any time soon, or (in fact) ever again. So, you know what to do ...

Playing once and only once at the 2017 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival, a last-minute addition to the VIFF lineup, the most talked about American début feature of the year, having taken both the Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals by storm, and set for a raft of Oscar nominations come Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 — including a Best Actress nod for Saoirse Ronan, and long overdue Best Supporting Actress recognition for Laurie Metcalf, not to mention Best Screenplay and Best Director nominations for — indie actress Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird ... Screens today, Monday, October 9th at 4pm at The Centre. See ya there!

Don't forget: Aki Kaurismäki's VanRamblings-recommended The Other Side of Hope screens directly after Lady Bird, 6:30pm at The Centre. At 9:15pm, VanRamblings' favourite film of 2017, Andrei Zvyagintsev's magnificent Loveless screens at the Vancouver Playhouse, on Hamilton Street.

On Tuesday, 6:15pm at the Vancouver Playhouse, you simply don't want to miss the single most buzzed about film at VIFF 2017, director Amanda Kernell's powerful multiple award winner, Sami Blood — the Grand Jury Prize and Best Actress (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) winner at last spring's Seattle Film Festival; Special Jury Prize winner and another Best Actress win for Sparrok at Tokyo's 2017 Film Festival, with a Best Director of a Début Film win for Amanda Kernell at this year's prestigious Venice Film Festival.

Nor do you want to miss Alain Gomis' Grand Jury Prize winner at the Berlinale this year, Félicité, a raw, near documentary-style music-infused reverie, an often dreamlike portrait of Félicité, a singer who is just barely scraping by in modern-day Kinshasa, a dirty, hardscrabble, lawless but irrepressibly energetic city. Screens twice at Cineplex International Village, both times in Cinema 10, on Tuesday, October 10th at 9:30pm, and the next day, Wednesday, October 11th at 4:30pm.

On Wednesday, October 11th there's a veritable cornucopia of fine cinema that will screen at VIFF 2017 on its third to last day ...

  • Ismael's Ghosts, VIFF fave Arnaud Desplechin's most daring film yet, a tour-de-force of mise-en-scène and a prismatic portrait of a filmmaker haunted by his past, starring Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel, which screens for the final time at 10:45am at Cineplex, Cinema 9;

  • Or, at 11:30am at Cineplex Cinema 9, you could take in British writer-director Francis Lee's remarkable, award-winning accomplished first feature, God's Own Country, about which VIFF patrons and critics alike have been raving, the story of a troubled, taciturn and volatile young man living on a remote Yorkshire farm that although it didn't court Brokeback Mountain comparisons directly enough with its tale of two young sheep farmers finding love in a hopeless place nonetheless seals the deal. Says VanRamblings critic favourite Guy Lodge in his review in Variety, "By the time the tightly controlled soundscape blooms into the widescreen baroque pop of Patrick Wolf for the closing credits, the resulting heart-swell feels thoroughly earned";

  • And let us take pains to remind you of how much we loved Alexandra Dean's kickass documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, which screens for a final time at 3:45pm at the Vancouver Playhouse.

And then there are entirely remarkable evening screenings on Wednesday, October 11th that are not-to-be-missed ...

  • Sour Apples, VanRamblings' own David House's favourite VIFF film (and a VIFF cineaste favourite, too), writer, director and star Yilmaz Erdogan's boisterous and engaging Turkish epic, which spans decades as it recounts the story of Aziz Özay and his three beautiful daughters, as warm-hearted and inclusively crowd-pleasing a film as you could wish for, a perfect palliative and counterpoint to VIFF's usual Cinema of Despair programming (VanRamblings will find ourselves at 6:15pm at the Vancouver Playhouse to take in the final screening of Sour Apples);

  • Or, how about Phillippa Lowthorpe's Swallows and Amazons, Youth Jury Award and Best Feature winner at the Seattle Film Festival, an absolutely perfect film to take the kids to, incredibly engaging family fare, which will screen for a final time at VIFF, at 6:45pm at Cineplex's Cinema 9;

  • Or, Janus Metz's Borg vs McEnroe, at 6:30pm at The Centre, a compelling drama that has you in its grip from beginning to end, and a film that just knocked our socks off, easily 1000x better than Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' failed Battle of the Sexes, and a must-see if you possess any love at all for remarkable humanistic sports films;

  • Or at 6:15pm at The Rio, the final screening of Mina Shum's love letter to Asian mothers, Meditation Park, a small but significant picture, and a film about quiet, dignified resignation that will resonate with anyone who cherishes their family life.

And, heck, those are just the early evening screenings on Wednesday.

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival débuts Stephen Campanelli's Indian Horse

Indian Horse. A quintessentially Canadian story, adapted from Richard Wagamese's award-winning novel, Stephen Campanelli's moving drama sheds light on the dark history of Canada's residential schools and the resolute spirit of our nation's Indigenous peoples, focusing on the story of Saul Indian Horse of Manitoba's Ojibwe nation who, as a child, is separated from his family by Canada's reprehensible residential school system, where he and fellow Indigenous students suffer routine physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Teachers do their best to destroy the children's identities, in the name of the Christian god and the Canadian state.Then, Saul discovers hockey, where his talent helps him escape the school, on his journey to becoming a professional player. Only through his passion for the game and his rapidly improving skills does he glimpse a path beyond the horrors that have confined him. But is hockey enough to save him, or will his struggles to come to terms with the traumatic experiences of his past continue to haunt him? One of the buzz films at VIFF 2017, Indian Horse screens for a final time at VIFF, 9pm at the Vancouver Playhouse.

A Fantastic Woman, (Grade: A). Chilean director Sebastián Lelio's follow up to VIFF 2014's Gloria offers a sensitive, expressive melodrama about grief and the cost of being authentic in a world that too often fails to acknowledge gender variance and the lived, non-binary experience. A working of searing empathy, A Fantastic Woman traces the emergence from devastating grief of Marina (Daniela Vega), the film's young transgender protagonist, who is treated like a criminal in the wake of her older partner's sudden death from an aneurysm. A certain Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, there's even talk that Vega — who dominates virtually every mesmerizing frame of the film — will emerge as the first transgender woman to secure a Best Actress Oscar nomination, or as Guy Lodge writes in his review for Variety ...

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.

There are a great many films that will screen on Thursday and Friday, the final two days of VIFF, that we'll write about later in the week. We are looking forward to VIFF 2017's final screening, Todd Haynes' transcendent:

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

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:45 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

October 7, 2017

VIFF 2017: Entering the Final Week of Our Film Festival

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, viff, final week, films to see

Only seven days to go, including today, before the glorious 36th annual Vancouver International Film Festival fades into warm memory.

There are a great many VIFF films that will make their début this coming week, as well as VIFF films that will screen for a final time — films all that are deserving of your time, attention, dollars and the inevitable 'you've got to arrive an hour early' interminable (yet, friendly, warm and welcoming) ticketholder and passholder line-ups outside the various VIFF venues.

For instance ...

Loveless, (Grade: A+): The new masterwork from Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev (Leviathan) was both the critical favourite at Cannes this year (there was a broad critical consensus that Loveless would win the Palme d'Or, which it didn't do — instead, the execrable The Square garnered that undeserved honour), and the winner of Cannes' Grand Prix award.

A withering, pitiless and devastating indictment of contemporary Russia (who knows why Russia has chosen Loveless as their Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee), as potent a cinematic exploration of anomie as you're ever likely to witness on screen, Zvyagintsev's Loveless emerges as nothing short of a masterpiece, not simply an apocalyptic study of a failed marriage and a failed system of justice involving the disappearance of a 12-year-old boy — about which not one character on screen cares a wit — set in the midst of a loveless modern Russia where residents exist at the mercy of implacable forces, Loveless' pristine, punishing and purgatorial narrative offers with crystalline perfection viscerally intelligent and merciless filmmaking, every shot chosen with care, the bitter stillness of the near black-and-white cinematography capturing lives in disintegration, as harrowing a film as will be released in 2017. All of which makes Loveless a VIFF 2017 must-see. There's one final VIFF screening of Loveless: Monday, Oct. 9th, 9:15pm, Vancouver Playhouse.

3-year-old Paula Robles and 6-year-old Laia Artiga, the stars of Carla Simón's Summer 19933-year-old Paula Robles & 6-year-old Laia Artiga, star in Carla Simón's Summer 1993

Summer 1993, (Grade: A): Although it has completed its run at VIFF 2017, VanRamblings wishes to have recorded for posterity that Spain's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry, Summer 1993, has emerged as our favourite film at VIFF this year. A polar opposite to the pitiless Loveless, Carla Simón's tender autobiographical directorial début is the single most humane childhood drama to grace the screen in years, the performance of 3-year-old Paula Robles the film's beating heart, who throughout embodies a sense of dread for what might, and does occur — which is to say that Anna is twice placed in harm's way, her life force in jeopardy — perhaps at the hand of 6-year-old Frida, as Frida attempts to recover from the devastating loss of her parents, the answer to all questions coming in the film's devastating final scene, which transforms Frida from a hard-to-read, enigmatic figure into a profoundly sympathetic figure, the film's final scene providing context for all that has occurred before, with an overwhelming sense of melancholy, yet transformative and even hopeful, every person in the audience with whom VanRamblings took in the screening of the delicate Summer 1993 on the floor, inconsolable, unable to catch their breath.

The two most moving and humane migrant dramas screening at VIFF ...

Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Immensely Moving A Season in France

A Season in France, (Grade: A). Set to screen one more time, this upcoming Tuesday, October 10th, 1:30pm at Cineplex International Village's Cinema 9, Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's deeply felt, dark yet profoundly compassionate tale of illegal immigrants struggling in the lower depths of Paris relates the heartbreaking story of two brothers who attempt to make a new life in a cold, grey, uninviting and unwelcoming France, their futures at the mercy of bureaucrats, their anguish portrayed with the sombre eloquence of humanity, the story centering around schoolteacher Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney) who arrived from his war-torn city of Bangui (in the Central African Republic) a year previous and who now works a menial job selling vegetables while his two young children (an exquisitely sympathetic Aalayna Lys, and Ibrahim Burama Darboe) always on the move while hoping to stay enrolled in school. The film's last, stark images are sure to prick the conscience of anyone who takes in a screening of this immensely touching, punch-in-the-gut proletarian tragedy.

Aki Kaurismäki's droll, deadpan migrant drama The Other Side of Hope

The Other Side of Hope, (Grade: A). Set to screen two more times: this upcoming Monday, October 9th, 6:30pm at The Centre, and on VIFF's last day, Friday, October 13th, 6:30pm at SFU Goldcorp, master Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's droll, deadpan migrant drama marks a nostalgic and ever-so-cheeky return to form, in a film that combines poignancy, breezy laughter and expansive humanism in relating the story of Khaled (Sherwan Haji), an illegal migrant who has escaped the rubble of Aleppo for Helsinki. A gruff, moral, complex, at times hilarious, engaging and near visionary fairy tale, The Other Side of Hope is well worth a VIFF screening.

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

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:01 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

October 3, 2017

VIFF 2017: The New York Film Festival Comes to Vancouver

15 Films Screening at New York's Film Festival are also screening at Vancouver's Film Festival

Each year for most of the history of the Vancouver International Film Festival, the prestigious, heavily juried and much smaller New York Film Festival kicks off on the same date as VIFF, creating something of a logistical problem for the print traffic folks at Vancouver's film festival (and New York's, as well), arising from the fact that the respective film festivals generally share 15 films (out of a total of 25) — as is the case again this year — and the logistics of transporting the one-and-only "print" of the film back and forth can be, and has often proved to be, something of a terrible, pull-your-hair-out nightmare for the print traffic folks at both film festivals.

Thanks to VIFF "print logistics co-ordinators" extraordinaire, Jackie Hoffart and Amanda Thomson — with able assistance from Kathy Evans (who did the job for years, along with Selina Crammond in recent years) — all has generally proved well, the DVD's on which the "films" are to be projected often set up at the last minute, just in time for the planned screening, the digital projection occurring on state-of-the-art equipment supplied and optimized by the on scene craftspersons at CHRISTIE Digital Cinema.

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's Film International Festival

As was indicated above, 15 films currently screening at NYFF55 are also, near simultaneously, screening in Vancouver as part of VIFF2017. Here they are, with remaining VIFF screening times following each compilation of three films below. A bit of New York in the autumn in Vancouver. Enjoy!

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's Film International Festival

BPM (Beats Per Minute). Has completed its run at VIFF2017. BPM (Beats Per Minute) may return as part of the VIFF 'best of' programme in the week following the end of the Festival. Or, VIFF / Vancity Theatre programmer Tom Charity could book BPM (Beats Per Minute) into the Vancity Theatre at some future point. And then there's this: as BPM (Beats Per Minute) is France's entry into the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar sweepstakes, BPM could even conceivably garner a run at your local Cineplex theatre.

Call Me by Your Name. There are three upcoming screenings, all at The Centre: Thursday, October 5th at 9pm (where you'll find VanRamblings); Sunday, October 8th at 9pm; and Thursday, October 12th at 3:15pm.

Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? One and only screening completed.

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's International Film Festival

Faces Places. An upcoming screening this Friday, October 6th, 6:45pm, at the Vancouver Playhouse.

Félicité. Screening twice next week, both times at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10, on Tuesday, October 10th at 9:30pm, and the next day, Wednesday, October 11th, at 4:30pm.

The Florida Project. One Special Presentation screening upcoming, this Saturday, October 7th at 6pm.

15 Films Screening at New York's Film Festival are also screening at Vancouver's Film Festival

Ismael's Ghosts. Final screening: Wednesday, Oct. 11th, 10:45am at The Centre.

Lady Bird. A late addition to the VIFF line-up, the most talked about début film feature of 2017, a massive hit at both the Toronto and Telluride film festivals, and a lock for multiple Oscar nominations. Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird screens once, and only once, at VIFF 2017, on Monday, October 9th, 4pm at The Centre.

The Other Side of Hope. One of VanRamblings favourites at VIFF 2017, Aki Kaurismäki's latest film screens twice more: next Monday, October 9th, 6:30pm at The Centre, and the final day of VIFF 2017, Friday, October 13th, 6:30pm at SFU Goldcorp.

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's International Film Festival

A Skin So Soft. Alas, it's gone. No more screenings.

The Square. Also gone. Good. We hated it.

Thelma. One more screening: Monday, October 9th, 6:30pm at the Vancouver Playhouse.

15 New York Film Festival films screening at Vancouver's International Film Festival

The Venerable W. One more screening, this Friday, October 6th, 6:15pm at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 8.

Western. A Bulgarian film VanRamblings quite liked (one of our favourites), probably too slow for many folks — be we thought that as a character study, Western worked. And that gorgeous countryside, and the Bulgarian people! Western's two final screenings, both times at SFU Goldcorp: Wednesday, October 4th, at 6:15pm, and VIFF's last day / last screening, on Friday, October 13th, at 9pm.

Wonderstruck. The VIFF 2017 Closing Gala film — if you want to go to the Gala and party afterwards, the screening takes place at The Centre, on Friday, October 13th at 7:30pm, but as for VanRamblings, we'll take in Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck the same night at The Playhouse, at 9:15pm.

Yes, that's the trailer for Carla Símon's début feature, Summer 1993, one of VanRamblings two very, very favourites at VIFF 2017, Spain's nominee for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar set to screen for a final time on Thursday, October 5th at 7:15pm, at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 10. There ain't no distributor in place, Netflix isn't a-gonna be picking it up, so ... see Summer 1993 on Thursday evening, or you'll miss out on one of the most spectacular and utterly humane films to screen at VIFF this year.

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

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:41 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 30, 2017

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 3:15 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 29, 2017

VIFF 2017: Vancouver's Illustrious Film Festival Off to a Fine Start

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival's SFU Goldcorp Theatre audience

Thursday evening late, the first (somewhat truncated) day of the 36th annual Vancouver International Film Festival ended, VIFF officially having gotten underway, the lineups of patrons awash with good feeling ("What a lineup - so many strong films this year"), and audiences once seated at The Rio, SFU's Goldcorp Theatre or The Centre for the Performing Arts (the three opening night venues, with four more venues being added today) wildly enthusiastic, with welcoming hugs all around, and an appreciation that our little festival by the sea has once again returned to our shores to open a humane window on our often troubled, yet still hope-filled, world.

VIFF 2015 venue, The Centre for the Performing ArtsThe Centre, VIFF's Opening Gala venue for Mina Shum's new film, Meditation Park

VanRamblings was simply swept away by a VIFF opening night film, the Canadian première of Alexandra Dean's exceptionally fine Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, a film which employs extensive research on Lamarr's life conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes, published in his book Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, the documentary also relying on first-person accounts from stars who knew Lamarr in her day, including a poignant yet humorous account by comedian Mel Brooks.

VanRamblings asked the permission of VIFF (and VanCity Theatre) programmer, Tom Charity, to publish his list of VIFF 2017 favourites ...

"From Germany (and Bulgaria), Western, an observant film about men, without question one of the best films from Cannes this year, Valeska Grisebach's third feature the long-awaited follow up to VIFF 2016 favourite, Longing. A Season in France (which screens tonight at The Rio, at 8:45pm), the latest film from Chad's acclaimed auteur Mahamat Saleh Haroun, moving and deeply empathetic, the film's compelling narrative presented from the too often ignored migrant point of view. Then there's B.C.'s Never Steady, Never Still (Kathleen Hepburn), one of the strongest Canadian début features I have seen in years, the work of a natural filmmaker. Luca Guadagnino's Call Me by Your Name manages to make the first love / coming of age story feel like it's never been done before."

So, there you go, a panoply of can't miss VIFF 2017 films from Vancity Theatre programmer, Tom Charity. I mean, don't you just love the films Tom programmes year-round at Vancouver's most welcoming cinema.

Meanwhile, VanRamblings' very own Mathew Englander — who this year, as he does annually, attended Toronto's film festival, where he screened 29 films — is over-the-moon enthusiastic about Michael Haneke's new film, Happy End, his very favourite at TIFF 2017, about which he has written, "Happy End is my favourite movie of 2017 so far. Haneke's new film is being compared to Amour because it has some of the same cast, but it kept reminding me of Benny's Video, only updated for the social media era."

Mathew also highly recommends two more films screening at VIFF 2017:

  • Directions (dir. Stephan Komandarev). Six taxi rides in Sofia, each shot in a single take. Komandarev's previous film, The Judgement, emerged as one of my VIFF 2014 favourites, but whereas that film had wide-open precarious mountain settings, Directions has an urban modern-noir look. The two films do, though, share a sophisticated sense of irony.

  • Sami Blood (dir. Amanda Kernell). This is a compelling début feature about a 13-year-old Swedish, indigenous Laplander, Sami (Lene Cecilia Sparrok), an under-the-radar film that met with an enthusiastic reception at TIFF 2017, and should be considered a must-see at VIFF.

VanRamblings' David House has screened writer / director / star Yilmaz Erdogan's Sour Apples saying, "Raymond, you are going to love this film from Turkey, not only a visual feast of colours, costumes, light and locations — not to mention, Turkey's entry for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film — but because, well, I mean ... just look ...

Yilmaz Erdogan's new film, Sour Apples, sure to be a hit at VIFF 2017

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

VanRamblings also recommends you keep an eye out for the new film from Agnès Varda (who directed VanRamblings favourite film of all time, Vagabond, starring the exquisite Sandrine Bonnaire, for which she won the Best Actress César) — Faces Places, part of the Spotlight on France series, and a featured film at this year's prestigious 55th annual New York Film Festival, which kicked off yesterday and runs through Sunday, Oct. 15th.

Today, VanRamblings will catch the 1pm screening of Joachim Trier's Thelma, at Cineplex International Village (which we also refer to as "Tinseltown", which it used to be and is a much better name), in Cinema 9, followed by a break for a late lunch before catching Petra Volpe's The Divine Order, at Tinseltown, Cinema 10 at 4:30pm, after which we intend to wander around town aimlessly bothering people on the street before lining up at The Centre for the 9pm screening of Ruben Östlund's Palme d'Or winner at this year's Cannes Film Festival, The Square. Oh yes, VanRamblings has already written about these three films on our blog.

Now, Andrew Poon — VIFF's Gateway / Dragons & Tigers media co-ordinator (we visited the whole VIFF publicity team yesterday, at the Sutton Place Hotel, and what a fine group of folks they are) — will have our head if we don't write about the 65+ films from Asia that will screen at VIFF this year. So, we'll set about to do that very soon. In the meantime ...

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

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:44 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 25, 2017

VIFF 2017: A Potpurri of Films That Oughta Be on Your Radar

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, A Potpurri of Films to Consider

VanRamblings preview coverage is getting down to the crunch, given that the 36th annual Vancouver International Film Festival will nominally get underway this upcoming Thursday, and kick off in its full glory on Friday, September 29th. So many fine films to preview for readers, so little time.

If you've not read VanRamblings' opening orientation column for VIFF 2017, you'll want to click on the link that has just been provided you. If you're looking for all of our coverage to date, simply click here.

In 2017, in addition to coverage of VIFF, VanRamblings is covering the Vancouver civic by-election, which somewhat 'less partisan' coverage oughta ramp up this week. Arising from our coverage of the by-election, VanRamblings' coverage of VIFF 2017 will be somewhat prejudiced. Still, we're almost as addicted to the film festival as has long been the case that we may not be able to help ourselves in providing more VIFF coverage.

Each September, the fine folks at VIFF present advance screenings of films set to 'unspool' at VIFF, films where VIFF will bring in writers / producers / directors or actors associated with a film. Of all the films in preview, by far the film with the most buzz is Melanie Woods' Shut Up and Say Something, the must-see BC Spotlight film screening at VIFF 2017 on Wednesday, Oct. 4th at 6:15pm and Sunday, Oct. 8th at 12:30pm, at the Vancouver Playhouse. Spoken word artist Shane Koyczan (the "protagonist" in the film) and the film's director will be in attendance at both screenings.

Each year the prestigious and heavily juried New York Film Festival takes place at the same time that the Vancouver International Film Festival does. Can't make it to New York for NYFF55, not to worry — this year the 55th edition of the New York Film Festival shares 12 films with VIFF, which we'll write about this upcoming Thursday, the kick off day for both festivals.

The trailer for Thelma, above, is there for a reason — cuz Thelma will screen this Friday, Sept. 29th at 1pm at the International Village (and again on Monday, October 9th, 6:30pm at the Vancouver Playhouse — and will also screen Friday and Saturday, October 6th and 7th at NYFF55 (just in case you want to take a break from VIFF and catch a screening of Thelma in New York). This Norway/Sweden/France/Denmark film directed by Joachim Trier (oh, c'mon, you know that Trier's 2011 award winner, Oslo, August 31st just knocked your socks off) is another must-see at VIFF.

Here's what Rodrigo Perez, in his review on The Playlist, has to say ...

Trier's beguiling, thought-provoking and icy supernatural thriller is his most ambitious film to date and yet still possesses the essence of the young filmmaker's preoccupations about mental disorders and souls grappling with subconscious turmoil.

Moody and chilly, Thelma brings foreign language and arthouse sensibilities to the genre of the inexplicably psychic and mystical and this mélange — Stephen King fascinations and Ingmar Bergman's fearful, existential relationship with God — makes for an utterly spellbinding portrayal of the unconscious mind and the terrible implications of transformative power. And yet, for all its genre tropes, Thelma is character-driven first and foremost and plays out like a vivid and nightmarish version of a coming of age story.

One more note before we close out today's column: the big buzz film at Telluride this year, the film that knocked the socks off of filmgoers and critics alike at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, the film that is a lock for a slew of Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture (which it could win) and Best Actress a lock for Saoirse Ronan, with a very probable Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for the always wonderful Laurie Metcalf, a simply stunning out of the blue début success for its novice director and longtime indie actress Greta Gerwig, yes, we're writing about Lady Bird, which will screen at VIFF only once: on Monday, October 9th, 4pm at the Centre for the Performing Arts, after which it'll be a whole month before the film opens in wide release Friday, November 10th.

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

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:21 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 22, 2017

VIFF 2017: The Award Winning Films Just Keep on Comin'

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival Award Winning Films

Cinéastes of the western, eastern, northern and southern world are counting down the days to the start of next Thursday's much-anticipated 36th annual edition of the glorious Vancouver International Film Festival.

Today for your edification, VanRamblings presents a preview of three much-lauded films: Call Me by Your Name, the film that took Sundance by storm and won the Audience Award at the Melbourne Film Festival; BPM (Beats Per Minute), the 1990s-set AIDS activist drama, the celebrated Grand Prix and FIPRESCI award winner at Cannes this year; and Léa Mysius' Ava, the coming-of-age story about a young girl who goes blind, which won the SACD Cannes Critic's Week Award supporting new writers.

The smash at Sundance in January of this year, and equally lauded at Telluride earlier this month, Call Me by Your Name is a lock for several Oscar nominations, the film picked up at Sundance by Sony Pictures Classics (to be distributed by Mongrel Media in Canada), and set for a wide release on Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. (and Canada), on Nov. 24th.

At VIFF, sometimes you want to be the first person among your group of friends to see a film early, and not have to wait a couple of months to catch it in regular theatres. For VanRamblings, and for many others, that's probably the case with Call Me by Your Name, which will screen three times at VIFF, each time at The Centre for the Performing Arts: Thurs., Oct. 5th at 9pm, Sun., Oct. 8th at 9pm, and Thurs., Oct. 12th at 3:15pm.

MetaCritic reviews of Luca Guadagnino's Call Me by Your Name

Almost as celebrated as Call Me by Your Name, as Guy Lodge wrote in his Cannes review for Variety, Robin Campillo's BPM (Beats Per Minute) jumps off the screen as a "sprawling, thrilling, abrasive, consoling and emotionally immediate portrait of 1990s Parisian AIDS activists, melding the personal, the political and the erotic to heart-bursting effect."

And, as we wrote above, BPM (Beats Per Minute) was the Grand Prix winner at Cannes this year, not to mention the Cannes 2017 recipient of the prestigious International Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI award.

As Peter Bradshaw writes in his five-star review in The Guardian ...

Robin Campillo's passionately acted ensemble movie about ACT UP in France in the late 80s - the confrontational direct-action movement that demanded immediate, large-scale research into AIDS, compellingly combines elegy, tragedy, urgency and a defiant euphoria, ACT UP's goal to rouse the gay community from fatalism and torpor — and strike back against the hostile complacency of the political and Big Pharma.

The extraordinary power of the ACT UP campaign has assumed in cultural history is that it was something that valued life, but also made people think about death — the last taboo. It made staring into the sun not merely possible but necessary. For most people in their twenties, death is just a rumour. For the gay generation of the 80s and for ACT UP, mortality, illness and bereavement were facts they had to confront, without help from the agencies of the state.

This film has what its title implies: a heartbeat. It is full of cinematic life.

BPM (Beat Per Minute) screens twice at VIFF, both times at The Playhouse, Saturday, Sept. 30th at 3:15pm, and Monday, Oct. 2nd, at 6:15pm.

Part of the annual 10-film Spotlight on France VIFF series, the North American première of Léa Mysius' celebrated La Semaine de la Critique (SACD) award at this year's Festival de Cannes, Ava tracks 13-year-old Ava in the months following the information that she will lose her sight sooner than expected, and as she confronts the attendant problems in her own idiosyncratic way. Okay, that wasn't very articulate: let's try this ...

  • Jessica Kiang, Variety. Ava's (Noée Abita) loss of sight perhaps mirrors her loss of innocence and coming of age. Ava is a film that doesn't simply explore the textural possibilities of 35mm film for the hell of it, it makes thematic use of them, to stunning, evocative effect. Co-screenwriter, along with director Mysius, cinematographer Paul Guilhaume's visually exquisite storytelling provides a compelling resonance in a story about vision, creating images of a peculiar richness in which the colours are saturated but the lens seems progressively more stopped-down so that even the brightest sunlight can feel portentous. "She's blonde and sunny, and I'm dark and invisible" says Ava, self-pityingly comparing herself to her fair-haired love rival. But Ava's darkness is anything but invisible; it has a glowering luminosity in a film that shines darkly.

  • Wendy Ide, Screen Daily. A 13-year-old girl fights back against her impending blindness with guns — literally — blazing full bore in this insouciant tale of adolescent rebellion, the arresting visual sense of Léa Mysius' feature début boasting a robust resistance to the cinematic clichés of the usual portrayal of disability, the film's cello-infused, brutalized score providing a sense of menace, the film seeded with black: the dog, the police horses & the circles that Ava paints on her bedroom wall evoking both the fear of and fascination with her loss of sight.

That's it for today. You may expect more previews of award winning (and lauded) films set to play VIFF 2017 this weekend, and next week.

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

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:04 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 18, 2017

VIFF 2017: Yet More Award Winning Films Screening at VIFF

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival

Today on VanRamblings, we'll present three more award-winning films that are set to screen at the 36th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, films without Canadian distributors in place, films you are likely to miss unless you purchase a ticket for an upcoming VIFF screening, worthwhile — even life-changing — cinema that you simply don't want to miss.

A good example? Renowned Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's The Other Side of Hope, the tale of a Syrian refugee who stows away to Finland, Kaurismäki, as always (and always to good effect), mines the narrative with the deadpan humour for which he is justly famous, all the while refusing to flinch from heartbreak and hardship. Winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlinale this year, here's another VIFF 2017 film that is not to be missed.

Here is how The Telegraph's Tim Robey begins his 5-star review ...

The Other Side of Hope, Aki Kaurismäki's gorgeous and cuttingly poignant comedy, begins with a young Syrian asylum seeker emerging from a coal pile in Helsinki's industrial port. He is Khaled (Sherwan Haji), and has wound up here by accident, after escaping violent persecution by jumping aboard a freighter in Eastern Europe.

Coated black, head to toe, he finds his way to a shower and cleans up, before asking a local official where to find the police. "Are you sure?" asks the man, a young black guy, quizzically — a question that's pure, distilled Kaurismäki, in its loving irreverence, implied empathy, and suggestion of a community that wants to help the down-and-out however it can.

Khaled, though, wants to do things by the book. Handing himself in as an illegal migrant, he checks in to a Reception Centre and is grilled about his journey to Finland from the rubble of Aleppo, which is so laden with aching tragedy and racist abuse that you wonder how on earth Kaurismäki can bring a smile back to our faces, let alone the torrents of laughter, later on, that his film manages to unleash."

Excerpts from other critics' review, all of which reviews are laudatory ...

  • Rory O'Connor, The Film Stage. People like Aki Kaurismäki, Haneke, and von Trier, amongst others, might try, on the surface, to feign a certain resistance to humanism and yet their kind seem to be the only ones capable of delivering something as vital as this. The Other Side of Hope is a film that talks about hope without pretension, while maintaining a defiant faith in human decency — not to mention the faith that cinema itself still has the ability to translate that decency, with humour and clarity, to the screen.

  • Jessica Kiang, The Playlist. Kaurismäki's wonderful new Berlinale Silver Bear winner makes a stonefaced, droll but paradoxically urgent case for a truth that desperately needs to survive these post-truth times: people are people and borders are bullshit. Warmhearted, sad-eyed and straight-faced, a film with a jaunty Finnish-folk-heavy soundtrack, The Other Side of Hope offers granular, tragicomic, personal and often despairing filmmaking, wrapped up in a story that is full of hope.

For the past 21½ years, month in, month out, each and every month (including the months when we were dying of cancer), VanRamblings has submitted a 1,000 word 'philosophical' column on some aspect of the film industry — to The Fraser Journal, the baby of my longtime editor Mari Miyasaka, who has not only found a way to put up with me over all those years, but has worked steadfastly to create a Japanese language magazine that while distributing in Metro Vancouver, has found a loyal audience across far-flung locales and countries spanning the globe.

As you might well expect, then, over the years VanRamblings has developed a great affection for Japanese cinema, most particularly those films which screen at VIFF that are often sponsored by The Fraser Journal. Films such as Close Knit, part of VIFF 2017's Gateway / Dragons and Tiger series, winner of both the Teddy Jury Award, at Berlinale 2017, and recent Audience Award winner at the 2017 New York Asian Film Festival.

The international première of Naoko Ogigami's magestic film Close-Knit in the Panorama Special section of Berlinale 2017 was met with raucous applause as the ending credits rolled, with an additional enthusiastic two minutes of applause once the lights were up.

One of Berlinale 2017's triumphs, Close Knit will screen twice at VIFF 2017, both times at the Cineplex International Village in Cinema 10, on Tuesday, Oct. 10th at 6:30pm, and again on Thursday, October 12th at 4:15pm.

Here are excerpts from two reviews of Close-Knit ...

  • Rory O'Connor, The Film Stage. Combining cinematographer Kozo Shibasaki's naturalistic aesthetics and attention to texture and detail with a central theme of nurture taking over from nature, Ogigami's film could quite easily be mistaken for the work of her contemporary Hirokazu Kore-eda, another great director of modern Japanese melodrama. The fact that she has chosen to focus on an LGBT experience, something that has been absent from Kore-eda's work to this point, might suggest that Close-Knit is somehow a departure from that tradition of filmmaking. Surely the contrary is true: it's another story of Japanese life, not a different story necessarily, and it's presented exactly so. Director Naoko Ogigami's film never feels weighed down by its delicate subject matter, nor does it underplay it or come across as didactic in its delivery. Indeed, with 11-year-old Tomo's (Rinka Kakihara) future and (for want of a better word) simple goodness in the balance one might find the tremendous emotional swells of Close-Knit so moving at times that one can barely hear the sound of fresh ground being broken in Japanese cinema.

  • Guy Lodge, Variety. A nuanced, softly lit family portrait, with compassion and conflict held carefully in balance, Naoko Ogigami's gentle, sweet-souled celebration of alternative family structures, in which a maternally neglected young girl finds security in the care of her uncle and his transgender partner, Close-Knit offers a warm, practical, pastel-shaded cardigan of a film, with a winning but not too cutely played performance by Rinka Kakihara as 11-year-old Tomo, a young girl who has had to grow up a little faster than her peers, thanks to the fecklessness of her mother (Mimura), an overgrown adolescent who thinks nothing of disappearing on a whim for days on end. Note: Close-Knit is not to be viewed on an empty stomach; much of the film's key dramatic interaction takes place around lovingly prepared meals.

So, above, we have another standout film to add to your VIFF schedule.

An absolute must-see at VIFF 2017, Sami Blood arrives as a multiple award winner: the Grand Jury Prize and Best Actress (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) winner at last spring's Seattle Film Festival; Special Jury Prize winner and another Best Actress win for Sparrok at Tokyo's 2017 Film Festival, with a Best Director of a Début Film win, for Amanda Kernell, in Venice. If the trailer above doesn't have your heart pounding in anticipation of screening Sami Blood at VIFF 2017, you may want to check your pulse.

There's no Canadian distributor in place for Sami Blood. See it at VIFF 2017, or miss out entirely on the opportunity to see one of cinema's most celebrated Scandanavian films to arrive on our shores this decade.

Here are lengthy excerpts from two reviews of Sami Blood ...

  • Michael O'Sullivan, The Washington Post. Sami Blood — a beautiful, haunting film, anchored by a startlingly accomplished lead performance by Lene Cecilia Sparrok — relates the story of the Sami people of Scandinavia, an indigenous race that has been the victim of ethnic bigotry and systemic cultural suppression in Norway, Sweden and other Nordic countries. Set mostly in the 1930s, the poignant feature début by filmmaker Amanda Kernell, Sami Blood serves up a slice of that troubled history, with its story of 14-year-old Sami reindeer herder Elle-Marja, a precocious spitfire who, with her little sister Njenna, has been sent from the village where they grew up to a Swedish state-run boarding school for Sami children.

    Played by real-life sisters Lene Cecilia and Mia Erika Sparrok, Elle-Marja and Njenna are delights, but it's the elder sibling's performance that is the revelation. With her wide features and darting eyes — half furtive and half curious — the teenage newcomer beautifully embodies the survival instincts and self-loathing of a girl who has internalized the prejudice surrounding her and who uses her brains and moxie not to deflect attacks but to deny her own identity. This lovely, lyrical little film never seeks to hammer its point home with the viewer. Rather, Sami Blood leaves its questions about identity hanging in the air, like the scent of something or someone that passed by long ago, but that still lingers — mysterious and mesmerizing — in the breeze.

  • Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice. Amanda Kernell's scrupulously shaped coming-of-rage drama opens with Christina (Maj-Doris Rimpi), an elderly woman wearing sparkling pearls and a pitiless countenance, turning bitterly obstinate when taken back to the Lapland of her birth for her sister's funeral. She'll speak to no one, vows not to stay the night, and has zero tolerance for displays of yoik, the local throat singing. Stuck in a hotel despite her protestations, she watches a helicopter lift, the green-humped mountains behind it frosted at the peaks. The world around her is gorgeous, a true pleasure to regard, and she stares at that chopper as if it were her only possible rescue from damnation.

    Then we flash back eight decades. Sami Blood plunges into the origins of that anger, examining with rare anthropological acuity the abuse of the indigenous Sami people of northernmost Europe — "the filthy Lapps," we hear a blond boy spit as young Christina (now named Elle-Marja and played by Lene Cecilia Sparrok) troops through the woods with her schoolmates. Writer-director Kernell, making an auspicious début, expertly tracks Elle-Marja's adolescent development — her longings, the process of growing into her own body — and her realization that, no matter her intelligence or aptitude, Sweden offers nothing to a Sami beyond the plains she was born on.

    A courageous and compelling, yet quietly observant film, even given the matter-of-factness of its scenecraft, Sami Blood is a film about girlhood and racism, passing and escape. It's also about guilt, about the toll taken on a life of rejecting one's minority origins in accordance with (and in defiance of) the majority's unjust prejudice. The finale finds a ninety-year-old Elle-Marja — now Christina — flooded with grief about the family she left behind. It's overwhelming.

That's it for today's post, then, with three more films that are set to screen at VIFF 2017 presented for your consideration. More VIFF 2017 previews will be published on VanRamblings later in the week.

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

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 6:30 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 17, 2017

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 3:08 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 16, 2017

VIFF 2017: Award Winning Cinema Set to Screen in Vancouver

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival

In 2017, the Vancouver International Film Festival will screen 26 award-winning films — Grand Prix, Jury, Audience, Critics and Best Film Awards, along with films boasting Best Director, Actress, Actor and Best Screenplay accolades — arriving on our shores from the Berlin, Tokyo, Melbourne, Seattle, Cannes, Shanghai, Venice, Dubai, Tribeca, Locarno, Rotterdam, Edinburgh, Taipei and Sundance Film Festivals.

If you're compiling a list of 2017 VIFF must-sees, the award-winning films VanRamblings will write about over the course of the next 12 days must be given your due consideration. We'll tell you about what awards these films won (and where), present trailers where available, and excerpt reviews from a variety of reliable critics' sources, ranging from Screen Daily, IndieWire, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety to The Playlist, The Guardian and The Telegraph, among other trusted review sources.

Winner of the prestigious Palme D'or at Cannes 2017, and having just taken TIFF 2017 by storm, according to British film critic Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian, Swedish director Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) presents a "sprawling and daringly surreal satire that turns a contemporary art museum into a city-state of bizarre and Ballardian strangeness. High wire cinema that sets out to make your jaw drop, The Square succeeds."

Here are excerpts from reviews of The Square coming out Cannes ...

  • Jessica Kiang, The Playlist. The Square's scathing sensibility remains a constant, dark delight, a schadenfreude boomerang set in the rarefied reaches of Sweden's art world that snip by snip, in scenarios dripping with acidly observed discomfort, clips precisely through the barbed-wire barrier fences of culture, sophistication and socialization that refined middle-class modern humans erect between our public selves and our private, animal natures;

  • Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter. A potent, disturbing work that explores the boundaries of political correctness, artistic liberty and free speech in provocative ways. Östlund digs into the matter, a virtuoso chef driven to try increasingly wild combinations of spices and ingredients, in a tale told through the perspective of a sophisticated, highly educated and instinctively liberal art museum curator, the story unfolding with humour, vivid light, social commentary and nuance, with Swedish dialogue spiked with a good bit of English;

  • Rory O'Connor, The Film Stage. An acerbic, sphincter-tightening dark comedy that works as a sort of drawn-out spiritual castration for its über chic Stockholm art curator protagonist, Östlund's film is about our relationship with art, but it's also about class, masculinity, and the psychological consequences of inaction (perhaps the key Östlund theme). More specifically it's about the way we project in modern society and that awful fear we all share that the person we present to the world might not be who we really are.

Perhaps not everyone's cup o' tea (but one doesn't attend VIFF to screen Disneyfied cinema), The Square is Sweden's Best Foreign Film nominee.

Watch the trailer for Summer 1993, above. See. The Vancouver International Film Festival isn't always about challenging avant-garde cinema. Winner of Best First Feature at Berlin 17 for tyro Spanish director Carla Simón, Summer 1993 relates the efforts of a six year-old trying to cope with grief, but it is with maturity, empathy and heartfelt emotion that the film conveys the uncertain reality that follows. Screen Daily's Sarah Ward writes ...

  • Simón's début is both tender and determined as it relates the tale of a young orphan trying to fit in with a new family, the film full of affectionate but yearning sentiment, the wise-beyond-her-years protagonist Frida knowing she wants something other than a struggling existence in the shadow of grief, as she tackles her situation with a practical and resilient outlook, peering at everything in sight with a clear but questioning gaze that constantly holds the viewer's attention. Disarmingly engaging and utterly authentic, Simón's début feature is loving in appearance as it handles even the most painful of emotions.

Here are two more reviews of Summer 1993 ...

  • Jay Weissberg, Variety. Cinematographer Santiago Racaj treats his camera as a living, breathing observer, often viewing the world at Frida's level. More people share the little girl's frame as the film progresses, though she often still remains a solitary figure, looking out at her new, disorienting rural surroundings with uncertainty. For the viewer though, summer's verdant abundance and long daylight hours are comforting rather than oppressive, and while the film is set in 1993, paralleling Simón's own experience, the production design avoids making the period feel too distant.

  • Jonathan Holland. The Hollywood Reporter. A delicately crafted and moving filmic memoir by Carla Simón, Summer 1993 draws deeply on personal recollection, every frame of this story about a 6-year old girl sent to live with her uncle and aunt following the death of her parents, the film imparts events with a directness and detail that is underpinned throughout by its performances, particularly those of the children. Childhood memoirs always are under threat from self-indulgence and sentimentality, but 1993 successfully sidesteps both, establishing Summer 1993's performers as future talents to watch. Palpable with emotion, and filmed with a fly-on-the-wall spontaneity Summer 1993 offers honest, authentic and captivating cinema from beginning to end, in a terrific, soulful feature début for Catalan director Simón.

This sleeper hit at Berlin is unlikely to return to our shores. Either you see it at VIFF 2017, or you risk missing Summer 1993 altogether.

Winner of Best Fiction Feature at the Dubai Film Festival, Kurdish director Hussein Hassan's Reşeba: The Dark Wind also closed out the 21st Busan Film Festival with his ambitious film about the 2014 Yazidi genocide in Iraqi Kurdistan. Elizabeth Kerr in The Hollywood Reporter writes ...

The Yazidi, an ethnically Kurdish religious community with roots dating back to Mesopotamia, are one of Iraq's most culturally distinct communities. As such, they are also considered devil worshippers by ISIS, which commenced a brutal campaign to eliminate them in 2014. The story starts in the Shingal region, with the happy engagement of Yazidi soldier Reko (director-actor Rekesh Shabaz) and Pero (Diman Zandi, luminous), a union blessed by both families.

The relative tranquility of the village is shattered when ISIS troops swoop in one day, razing the town to the ground, shooting resistant men, burning symbols of culture and raising an Islamic State flag in place of the Kurdish one. During the firefight, Pero hides with several other women, but they are found by ISIS and promptly taken from their home and trafficked. Shabaz infuses Reko with a determined gait and thousand-yard stare that masks inner conflict, but it's Zandi — in her quietest moments — that makes the horrors of war most vivid. Filled with agony and dread, Reşeba: The Dark Wind is harrowing yet redemptive filmmaking.

Fionnuala Halligan, Chief Film Critic for Screen Daily concludes her review, writing ...

Pero is lost in the mayhem, captured and sold in a street market; Reko, who escapes to the camp, pursues her with a quiet determination. The rescue of the traumatized Pero, movingly played by Zandi, is not the end of her problems, however, and although the Yazidis have "forgiven" the 5,000-odd captured women of their tribe, not all of the community elders fall into line. "They abuse and rape our women and sell them back to us," comments one tribesman. "They are more dead than alive."

Hassan and cinematographer Touraj Aslani favour wide shots of the Iraqi landscape and the camps which the Yazidis now call home, and begin to look more permanent throughout the film. This is a rare opportunity to see this part of the world framed in a dramatic scenario, and Reşeba: The Dark Wind is quietly authentic throughout, with Hassan restricting even the music to let his sad love story express the emotions of this desolated community.

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

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:44 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2017

September 14, 2017

Navigating VIFF 2017: films, tickets, venues, food, transit & more

2017 Vancouver International Film Festival

It's that very special time of year again, when the première arts event of the year — in this case the 36th annual edition of the entirely spectacular and humane Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) — is set to get underway, replete with 365+ films from more than 70 countries, commencing two weeks from today, on Thursday, September 28th, the festival set to run for the next 15 days through until Friday, October 13th.

VIFF is best approached like a planned climb of a massive mountain: with preplanning galore, for which eventuality VIFF provides some cursory advice, explained and explicated by VanRamblings in more detail below.

Best Actress Oscar winner Isabelle Huppert stars in Michael Haneke's new film, Happy End

What movies to choose?

On, you'll find films organized by the following major programmes:

Panorama: Comprised of galas and special presentations, contemporary world cinema, and the Spotlight on France and documentary programmes;

Sea to Sky: A showcase of the inspired works emerging from creative film artists residing and/or filming in our home province of British Columbia;

True North: A celebration of the extraordinary creativity and craft by Canadian storytellers from coast to coast to coast;

Gateway: Providing a journey into the compelling cinematic worlds envisioned by East Asia's most adventurous artists.

In addition, the smaller and more acutely focused film series include M/A/D (music, art & design), the Impact series (social activism), ALT (the international 'altered states' genre programme), and Youth (a programme catering to high school students, meant to foster imaginations, inspire, educate and entertain).

As always, a number of VIFF films will be returning to theatres for regular runs post-festival. When you look at the programme (free and widely available across Metro Vancouver), if there's a Canadian distributor in place for the film, you can bet the film will return sooner rather than later.

There'll also be a number of guests (actors, directors, producers) who'll attend VIFF this year to present their films. It can be both fun and enlightening to see these films during VIFF for added cinematic insight.

Apart from the Galas and Special Presentations, the vast majority of films in VIFF's 2017 programme are meant to appeal to smaller audiences, comprising independent world cinema which won't find its way back to our shores. See these films at VIFF in 2017, or miss them for all time.

How and where do I buy tickets?

You can buy tickets or passes online at and print your tickets at home. Note that there is a service charge for online and phone orders: $1 per single ticket, up to $4 per order. Before the festival opens, tickets can be bought in person at the Vancity Theatre on Seymour (at Davie) from noon until 7pm. Once the festival is underway, all festival venues (The Centre for the Performing Arts, The Cinematheque, Cineplex Odeon International Village, the Rio Theatre, SFU's Goldcorp Centre for the Performing Arts, the Vancity Theatre and the Vancouver Playhouse) will act as festival box offices.

Ticket packages and passes are a great cost-saving idea. More information may be found at

The real steal for those on a budget (think seniors) who love film, and want to bliss out at VIFF 2017? Consideration should be given to purchasing the Weekday Matinee Pass, for only $160, which if you were to plan your filmgoing properly would enable you to see all films up until 5:50pm Monday through Friday, translating into 48 (or more) screenings during the festival period, at just a bit more than $3 per film!

Throughout the Festival, VIFF offers a customer service line, open daily 9am to 7pm, staffed by friendly and informed volunteers, who can answer any of your questions. Simply call 604-683-FILM (3456) for assistance.

VIFF volunteer staff always helpful and ready to offer assistance to those waiting in line

What about all those lines outside the theatres?

Each VIFF screening will have three separate queues: a pass-holder line, a ticket-holders line and a rush or standby line. Standby tickets, for screenings that are sold out, go on sale 10 minutes before showtime, at full price (cash preferred). No matter which line you're in, arrive at least 30 minutes early, particularly if you're picky about where you sit.

What about food and drink?

Though most VIFF venues serve the usual popcorn/candy/soft drinks fare, some have a few extras (there's wine at the Vancity, and beer and wine at The Rio), while Cineplex International Village sports a wealth of restaurants.

Outside food & drink is officially not allowed in the theatrse, but VIFF-goers have been known to get away with it; be discreet, considerate and tidy.

The best way to get around at VIFF: walk or take Translink

What about parking and bus routes?

VIFF is pretty much a no-car zone — transit is definitely the way to go. Still, there's free parking available at Cineplex International Village for VIFF patrons, with a fair bit of parking in the area around The Rio. Otherwise, you're best taking advantage of Vancouver's transit system, or walking.

Daniela Vega stars in Sebastián Lelio's A Fantastic Woman

What movies should I choose? Part Deux

The can't miss films at VIFF this year include ...

Call Me by Your Name: Sundance's smash summer idyll tracks a young man's sexual awakening in the Italian Riviera of 1983;

The Florida Project: Director Sean Baker's Cannes favourite tells the compassionate underclass story of six-year-old Moonee who spends her days both dodging and creating trouble;

The Square: Ruben Östlund's Cannes 2017 funny and utterly humane Palme d'Or winner takes aim at the pomposity and hypocrisy of artists;

A Fantastic Woman: Rising Chilean director Sebastián Lelio 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;

BPM (Beats Per Minute): The Grand Prix at Cannes this year went to director Robin Campillo's wrenching, deeply humanistic look at the early-'90s war on AIDS;

Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev's devastating new drama, Loveless

Loveless: Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's ice-cold masterpiece delivers a desolate image of Russia's middle class, ruled by selfishness, envy, anger & anxiety, in a story told with riveting sincerity and nuance;

Meditation Park: Vancouver's Mina Shum's textured, tender, reflective and charismatic portrait of first and second generation immigrant life.

Michael Haneke's Happy End set to take VIFF 2017 by storm

Also keep your eye out for director Michael Haneke's follow-up to his Oscar-winning film Amour in a return to form (read: sinister grand tragedy) with Happy End, which is taking TIFF by storm; plus Best Foreign Film entries, Germany's In The Fade starring Diane Kruger who won Best Actress at Cannes this year and Switzerland's The Divine Order, an Audience Award winner at Tribeca about the Swiss suffragette movement.

In the coming days, VanRamblings will present a detailed preview analysis of three films — most days — that are scheduled to play at VIFF, beginning this Saturday concluding just before the Festival proper gets underway on Thursday, September 28th. The previews and excerpted capsule reviews we'll have on offer have been gleaned from superlative critic raves coming out of Telluride / Cannes / Locarno / Berlin / Toronto / Seattle / Los Angeles / New York / London / Venice / Sundance / Tribeca / SXSW.

VanRamblings will publish trailers where available, and as above include excerpts of reviews from The Guardian and The Telegraph, Screen Daily, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, The Playlist, The Film Stage, New York Magazine (The Vulture), CineVue, Paste Magazine, Consequence of Sound, The Village Voice, and other trusted review sources.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:16 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2017


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