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VIFF2012: Three Young Actresses Create Film Success

Mitzi Rhulmann in Michael Spiccia's Yardbird

Yardbird: Mitzi Ruhlmann in what may be VIFF2012's finest onscreen performance

Year in, year out the International Shorts programme emerges as one of the most overlooked aspects of the Vancouver International Film Festival. Attendance at screenings is sparse, buzz is muted, if present at all, and very few VIFF patrons — amidst what seems to be at times almost a cacophony of films — allow themselves to have the films in the shorts programme wash over them and change their lives forever going forward.

Early on Tuesday evening, in Theatre 5 at the Granville 7, VanRamblings took in a screening of the International Shorts programme, Teen Tales, a cinematically lovely and moving, curated programme of six international short films, five of which we are over the moon about, films as well-crafted as the most accomplished films at this year's Festival, the collective work of a group of young directors whose films we will come to admire for decades into the future, the skill of these shorts auteurs, simply peerless and embodying always a filmic intelligence, a love of the craft of filmmaking, with an absolutely shattering and utterly original presentation of narrative.

In conversation with VIFF's International Shorts programmer, Sandy Gow, following the Tuesday evening screening of Teen Tales, we were told that the affable and just slightly rumpled professorial-looking Mr. Gow had, over the past year, screened in excess of 300 short films while on the way to creating the curated and juried International Shorts programmes that have found their way onto VIFF's 2012 film schedule — representing (Sandy suggested) the best work of nascent film talent from across our planet.

Every now and then, we get to be our true selves, our best selves. Sandy, who like many of us is 'of an age', has come into his own in recent years — honest and forthright, humane and caring, employing wit and warmth and intelligence and an unparalleled love of cinema, in the job he has undertaken. As mentioned above, Sandy curates the international shorts programme. How very, very fortunate we VIFF cinéastes are to have in place for us, a VIFF staffperson of such unparalleled integrity, as well as abiding warmth of spirit, an individual who prioritizes films not just as 'craft', but of immense heart and cinematic intelligence. Sandy recommends all of the shorts programmes. Having seen Teen Tales, we cannot recommend that programme too highly. Here then, 5 brief capsule reviews:

  • First Match (United States): The first film in the Teen Tales shorts programme, Olivia Newman's inner-city father-daughter drama revolves around a young woman who, in wrestling with the boys wrestling team, works to build (and perhaps repair) the battered relationship she has with her father. That the film goes unexpected places, that the performances are heartbreaking, that the craft Ms. Newman brings to her début film allows us to see the early work of a filmmaker who will make a difference in our cinematic lives for many years to come ... and ... all that - and more - in just 15-minutes? Yes, oh yes, oh yes.
  • Run: Shelagh McLeod's Run is advocacy filmmaking of the highest order. This fine British work of outstanding craft has it all — involving performances, narrative intelligence, and a window into a world about which we may have not known a great deal going in, but by the end of its 19-minute running time, has pulled us into revelatory satisfaction.

  • Audacity. Indian filmmaker Anirban Roy's 14-minute exploration of the almost always contentious relations between fathers and daughters in the early teen years, resolves in the most lovely and humorous and heartening manner, such that your heart cannot help but flutter in appreciation, the hope and fidelity at film's end portending the change we would all wish to see in the parent-child dynamic.

  • Hourglass (Norway). Reminds us of VIFF2011's The Sandman — which VanRamblings and many, many others just loved. Pedro Collantes' accomplished 16-minute short promises much and delivers even more. The relationship between teenage friends Anna and Anton, and how their wishes come true, verges on the tragic, yet should you take in a screening of this short, you will find yourself unable to hold back laughter. A lovely, lovely film, and a short not to be missed in VIFF's 2012 international shorts programme.

  • Yardbird (Australia): My favourite of the six short features, an unimaginably inventive and creatively original updating of Brian dePalma's Carrie, an almost wordless and poetic and pastoral and hopeful film, with a central performance by Mitzi Ruhlmann that may be my favourite performance at this year's Festival (which is going some, given the breakout performance of Santi Ahumada in Thursday Till Sunday), Yardbird is the must-see at this year's Festival.

The Teen Tales shorts programme screens for a final time on Thursday afternoon, October 4th, at 1pm in the Granville 4. Not to be missed!

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If Santi Ahumada and Mitzi Ruhlmann are the revelations in the 2012 edition of VIFF, there is one more name to add to their numbers — Annika Wedderkopp — who as is the case with Ms. Ruhlman and Ms. Ahumada, provides the viewer with a 'way in' to the film in which she stars. Each actresses' presence on screen is central to the success of the film, acting as they do as the viewer's sympathetic and poignant interpreter of the onscreen narrative experience. Were anyone other than these three, first-
time actresses — who are nothing less than peerless in their interpretation of their characters — cast in the roles they own on screen, it is entirely likely the films would not be the success they prove to be, or perhaps even come close. Quite simply, all three young actresses command the screen.

Annika Wedderkopp, right, stars in Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt

The Hunt (Grade: A): If 5-year-old Annika Wedderkopp (above, right) is central to the success of Thomas Vinterberg's beautifully shot, bleak and chilling new psychological thriller, The Hunt, it is the fidelity of the initial, and subsequent breakdown of the, interpersonal relationships in the film, under the pressure of revelatory accusations of sexual abuse, that grip the viewer's attention. The Hunt is Scandanavian cinema, af ekspertise, with its lambently rural, autumnal mise-en-scène, and character realization, that catapults this film into the first rank of 2012 international film releases. Little wonder that Mads Mikkelsen won Best Actor at Cannes this year, or Thomas Vinterberg won the Ecumenical Jury prize. Screens again, Thurs, Oct 4th at 9:30 pm, Gr7; and Saturday, Oct 6th, 4pm, Vancity Theatre.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 3, 2012 12:08 AM in VIFF 2012


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