Tag Archives: VIFF

VIFF 2017 Wraps Up

Cinema

This year, I’m late again in wrapping up my experience at the VIFF. Actually I’m way earlier than last year. This time, I publish my wrap-up just three weeks after it ended.

The 2017 Vancouver Film Fest ended on Friday, October 12th. Crowds came again and again. There was a lot to offer with over 300 films from 69 countries. There were 19 films that are official entries for the Academy Awards category of Best Foreign Language Film for this year. Eleven films made their World Premiere at the Festival, nine their International Premiere, 37 their North American and 46 their Canadian Premiere.

The VIFF again offered Hub events and special lectures on film making topics from various professionals in its many fields. There was the Buffer Festival dedicated to the topic of online film making which included lectures on such filmmaking and even a Q&A featuring a lot of top Canadian YouTube personalities.

The award winners were announced at the closing gala on Friday:

BC Spotlight Awards

Sea To Sky Award

Presented by Telus
WINNER: Never Steady, Never Still (dir. Kathleen Hepburn)

Best BC Film Award
Presented by the Harold Greenberg Fund, Encore by Deluxe
WINNER: Luk’l Luk’l (dir. Wayne Wapeemukwa)

BC Emerging Filmmaker Award
Presented by UBCP/ACTRA & William F. White
WINNER: Never Steady, Never Still (dir. Kathleen Hepburn)

Canadian Film Awards

Narrative Features

Best Canadian Film
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Black Cop (dir. Cory Bowles)

Emerging Canadian Director
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Never Steady, Never Still (dir. Kathleen Hepburn)

Documentary Features

Best Canadian Documentary
Presented by the Rogers Documentary Fund
WINNER: Unarmed Verses (dir. Charles Office)

Short Film Awards
Best BC Short Film
Presented by CreativeBC
WINNER: Rupture (dir. Yassmina Karajah)

Best Canadian Short Film
Presented by Lexus
WINNER: Shadow Nettes (dir. Phillip Barker)

Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film
Presented by Delta Air Lines
WINNER: The Crying Conch (dir. Vincent Coi)

VIFF Impact Award
Presented by The Lochmaddy Foundation

WINNER: BLUE (dir. Karina Holden)

Audience Awards

Super Channel People’s Choice Award
WINNER: Indian Horse (dir. Stephen Campanelli)

VIFF Most Popular International Feature
WINNER: Loving Vincent – Poland & UK (dirs. Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman)

VIFF Most Popular International Documentary
WINNER: Faces Places – France (dir. Agnes Varda Jr.)

VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary
WINNER: Shut Up And Say Something (dir. Melanie Wood)

#mustseebc Presented by Storyhive
WINNER: Shut Up And Say Something (dir. Melanie Wood)

As for my volunteer experience, this was a unique experience in doing driving for the VIFF for a change. It wasn’t all about driving VIPs or those involved in film. There was one Friday just days before the VIFF where we had to bring two cars, an SUV, a moving van and a hauling truck from a Langley rental agency over to the VIFF theatre. It was crazy because this was my first time learning on how to drive an automatic car. All my life, I’ve started cars by turning the key. This was completely different and even had me freaked out. Nevertheless things got easier over time.

Our shifts were mostly simple. We’d wait at the Sutton Hotel to find out who we’d be picking up and from where. My first day was a Tuesday and it was confusing as I was getting used to driving the downtown Vancouver streets for the first time. Believe me, Burrard St. has very limited left-turn options and it was annoying. The second trip on my first day driving was crazier as we had to drop some people off at the back entrance of a hotel. The entrance is located at a ramp to a parkade and there was a car being us trying to enter the parkade as I was dropping the people off. vacating the hotel was a headache. The days after were easier as I mostly had to pick people up either at the Sutton Hotel or at the theatres and drive them to the airport. There were even a couple of times I had to pick people up from the airport and bring them to the Sutton Hotel. One of which I was transporting an orchestra’s musical instruments in the moving van. That was definitely interesting. On closing Friday, I was with five people who had to bring five of the ten vans back to the auto dealer’s headquarters. I thought I knew my way, but Surrey’s highway system is extremely confusing and I got lost. I did make it there, half an hour late.

As for films, I feel I saw a good variety of film. I saw thirteen feature-length films and at least one shorts segment. I was lucky to see at least three Canadian features. I saw a lot of foreign films. I saw two films that were official Oscar entries for the Best Foreign Language Feature category. I even saw an African film for the first time. I saw at least three Altered States films that were either bizarre or ridiculous. The biggest standout for this year’s films I saw had to be experimental films. I saw three such films: two Canadian. One was good while the two others came off as either a failed experiment or just something ridiculous. That’s one thing about experimental films. You have to welcome them first and then make your own judgement after.

For the end of the VIFF, there was a volunteer party held the Saturday after closing. Volunteers were treated to films shown at this year’s VIFF. Three of the best. After that, they were treated to a Mexican buffet and to karaoke singing. It was fun and I even sang three numbers. I always sing at least one Elvis number at a karaoke party!

So there you go. The 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival ended very well and it was another good year of films and volunteering for me. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 27th to October 11th, 2018 and should offer a lot, if not more. I may end up being an usher or I may end up driving again next year. I’ll see what they have to offer me. In the meantime, see you next year!

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VIFF 2017 Review: Forest Movie

ForestMovie

This year seems like the year I’ve seen more experimental film at the VIFF than ever before. The latest experimental feature I saw was Forest Movie. It was shot all in  Vancouver and it does a lot with the 65 minutes it has.

The film begins with images of a forest and then phases into a young woman sleeping. The young woman was actually dreaming of the forest. She sends a text message to her friend that she can’t meet up: she’s sick. The friend accepts.

What she does right after is put on a jacket and bring along her bag and portable chair. She simply leaves from her apartment suite near Powell St. and Nanaimo St. and walks to a forest inside the city. The visit is simple as she walks across the paved trails over the rocks and branches with her cellphone turned off. A complete getaway. There are times she takes breaks like for when she eats something or feels she needs to write poetry or prose in her notebook. Other than that, just simply walking through the forest.

Then she finds a grassy spot that’s open and surrounded by the trees. She uses that spot as a place to set up her chair and relax. There’s a twenty-minute shot of the area of the forest she witnesses from her chair. It just consists of that view, changes of sunshine or cloud, and the surrounding sounds of the outdoors or her dealing with her chair, bag or notebook.

Night soon falls. She actually fell asleep during her time sitting in the forest. Night approaches. She’s all alone in the dark relying on her cellphone as a flashlight. She rushes to find the exit to the forest, but is lost. Images of her attempt to exit consist of her cellphone light shining or complete darkness with nothing but sound. Morning breaks and we see her walking back to her apartment as if nothing dreadful happened.

No question this film can be defined as experimental. The film is what it is. It’s a story about a young woman seeking tranquility in a forest and is willing to deal with whatever comes to her. The director Matthew Taylor Blais was in the audience and would later hold a Q&A after. Before the film started, he said: “No two people will have the same impression of this film.”

I got what he was after in this film: he wanted us to create our own thoughts, impressions and opinions about this film. That explains why actress Ana Escorse is given no dialogue at all in this film. The film is all about what we see and what we hear. I was open to this. The film gives us images and scenes that try to get us to form our own opinions. For starters, I actually thought the woman really was sick from the texts she sent. I though she went to the forest possibly for natural healing therapy. That scene in her apartment that shows an Aboriginal dream catcher could may have made some, including myself,  believe she’s into Aboriginal spirituality and may see the forest as the medicine she needs. Even the scene where you see trees just outside a condo leads you to think this is an urban forest close to downtown Vancouver in Stanley Park, when it’s actually shot in Pacific Spirit Regional Park close to UBC.

Later shots add into the opinions we form about this film. The scenes where she takes out her notebook and writes or draws might get one to think she’s using the forest for creative inspiration. That twenty-minute shot of the forest’s view is an attempt to get us to rely on the background sounds to form our own opinions about what’s happening from this view. The end scene of her trying to leave the forest at night is also one that gets us to rely on our thoughts of what’s happening. The scene with the biggest impact is the scene where the camera makes like we see her escape through her eyes. It consists of the background sounds and the cellphone light cutting in and out. It’s actually the scene with the most drama as one would wonder will she make it? Will she get lost?

Matthew Taylor Blais does a very good job with this film. I was more welcoming with the experimentation in this film than I was in PROTOTYPE. I think Blais’ intro before it began helped me to be more welcoming.  It’s an experimental film that pays off and allows the audience to create their own impression. It allowed me to create mine. However it is to say that it does take some creative risks that would be questionable. I welcomed that twenty-minute shot of the forest scenery, but some were not so welcoming. In fact I saw a few people leave the theatre during that scene, including a group of four. That’s one of the risks of creating an experimental film like this. Not everyone is as welcoming as me to such experimentation.

Forest Movie is an experimental film that allows the audience to exercise their imagination and make their own judgements about what’s happening in the story. This is experimental film that pays off greatly.

VIFF 2017 Shorts Segment: New Skins And Old Ceremonies

CinemaOne thing of the VIFF I consider to be a treat is whenever I attend a shorts segment. The segment I saw entitled New Skins And Old Ceremonies was a selection of seven shorts from Canadian directors. They were all unique in their own way.

Lost Paradise Lost: dir. Yan Groulx- Two people named Julie and Victor are out of love and find themselves boarding a bus full of strangers to anywhere. Where it takes them is a bizarre place for those out of love and rivals and threats to deal with. An eccentric short nonetheless, but it captures the feel well and makes sense in the end.

Flood: dir. Amanda Strong- It’s an animated short about an indigenous person and how the Canadian system did what it could to make them and their people feel inferior. It’s a story worth telling. The mix of stop-motion for modern images and traditional indigenous art adds to the story. The film ends with a renewed sense of pride.

Cherry Cola: dir. Joseph Amenta- Two drag queens are out on a night to dress up, have fun, and get revenge on an ex-boyfriend. It seems confusing at first, despite being intriguing to watch. You first think it’s a comedy, but the story ends on a dark note. It exposes an overlooked heartache some transvestites have.

The Good Fight: dir. Mintie Pardoe- A young woman goes into a sex toy shop to buy a toy. This woman is a nun about to be ordained. She struggles with her sworn commitment to celibacy, but the secret does get exposed. And with a surprising ending. Directed by a recent UBC graduate, the story is basically for the sake of shock value as it appears no actually research on the Catholic Church and vocations were done. Basically that’s all it is: entertainment for hedonists.

Sea Monster: dirs. Daniel Rocque and Kassandra Tomczyk- Tomczyk co-wrote, co-directed and stars in this short. Charley and Aria are a couple cooped up in a hotel madly in love, but both are coping with trauma. Aria dreams of a squid. Then the two make out on night in the fashion of a squid, followed by a bizarre aftermath. This is a film that’s nothing short of experimental. This film is good at getting creative in its time frame and setting.

Thug: dir. Daniel Boos- We first see how three friends– Eman, Simon and Josh– are shooting a low-budget gangsta film. Director Josh recommends to Eman that he creates a hold-up scene on Simon unexpectedly to make the film more ‘real.’ Eman agrees, despite the risk to their friendship. It does a lot more; it arouses suspicion from the local police. Later, Eman and Simon talk about roles they wish they could play before Eman auditions for a role as a gangster thug. This short film sends a message about how minorities in acting get the short end of the stick in terms of the roles they are offered and are often limited to racial stereotypes.

Let Your Heart Be Light: dirs. Deragh Campbell and Sophy Romvari- Both Deragh and Sophy write, direct and act in opposite names in this short. Sophy is confined to spend Christmas alone after a break-up. Deragh pays a visit and makes her Christmas. The film is slow and lacking in energy, but it does a good job of making use of its time and keeping with the Christmas vibe.

In summary, all seven were different in their own way it terms of both style and quality. There were a couple that were either inconsistent in story or lacking in energy. There were a couple that were eccentric, but the eccentricities worked for the film. There were also some films that made you think. The ones that made me think were my favorites as the messages came across very well and very effectively.

New Skins And Old Ceremonies makes for a unique array of seven shorts by Canadian directors. Some were good, some were bad, but all were an opportunity for the directors to make names for themselves.

It’s VIFF Time Again

Cinema

Yes, the Vancouver International Film Festival is back for 2017. Today begins the 36th installment of the Film Festival. This year promises more excitement, more films and more events.

The biggest thing VIFF will have for this year is its Films+ talks. This is where there will be talks and lectures on film and its technicalities. The Creator Talk events promise big names and top experts in the field such as: Carlton Cuse, showrunner for Bates Motel; director Jeremy Podeswa and cinematographer Greg Middleton from Game Of Thrones; and costume designer Ane Crabtree from The Handmaid’s Tail. The festival also includes Industry Hub events which are full-day events focusing on industry activity and promoting film in the future. Such events include VR: Expanding frontiers In Storytelling, one day focused on the indie film industry, industry exchange events and a Buffer Festival.

As for volunteering, this year there were 1100 volunteers signing up. That is as big as it was during last year. Because of that, they’ve developed a new system for how volunteers can see a film for free. They would now have to wait in the rush line and wait until availability is know in order to get a seat for the film. Makes sense since it is quite common for volunteers to horde a lot of free showings during the fest. There is a plus: volunteers that serve their shift in its entirety can receive a voucher to get their own free ticket for certain films. It has to be done online. That makes better sense. I anticipate to see a lot of good films. I’m doing something new for volunteering. This year, I’ll be a driver. I am to drive people from the Sutton Hotel to the cinemas, the hotel to the airport, or pick people up from the airport to the Sutton Hotel or wherever they want to be dropped off. They will range from actors to directors to film crew to special guests. This is something new to look forward to. And I drive a Lexus SUV!

This year’s roster of films promises a lot of attractions This year’s VIFF claims to show over 300 shorts and feature films from 84 countries or regions. As of press time, 11 films are official submissions for the category of Best Foreign Language Film for this year’s Oscars. A footnote worth adding is Quit Staring At My Plate from last year’s VIFF is Croatia’s official entry in the category for this year. Canadian films will remain the focus as has been in past Festivals.

This year’s top sponsors include Telus, Telefilm Canada (which is celebrating its 50th year), Christie screens, Delta Airlines, Lexus and Creative BC. SuperChannel will take over the People’s Choice awards again.

As for highlights, here’s a list of some of the films headlining the VIFF:

  • OPENING GALA: Meditation park – Chinese Canadian director Mina Shum directs a live-action story set in Vancouver. Stars Sandra Oh..
  • CLOSING GALA:  Wonderstruck – Todd Haynes worked with Julianne Moore in 2002’s Far From Heaven. Here, Haynes and Moore return in a film that promises to be another delight.
  • Borg vs. McEnroe – A film starring Shia LaBeouf about one of the greatest tennis rivalries of all-time.
  • Breathe – Andy Serkis’ directorial debut about a young couple (Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy) whose young marriage is threatened by the husband’s sudden disability.
  • Call Me By Your Name – Stars Armie Hammer. A story about sexual awakening in the 1980’s.
  • A Fantastic Woman – A Spanish film of a trans woman dealing with life after losing the man she loves. won Best Screenplay at the Berlin Film Festival
  • The Florida Project – Willem Dafoe stars in this film about a hotel manager with a hard heart who changes thanks to a six year-old girl.
  • Happy End – Michael Haneke is back! This is a story of a privileged family living alone in their estate with their fortunes threatened over time.
  • The Hidden Sword– Considered to be the biggest highlight of Asian film in the festival. This promises a lot of sword action.
  • Indian Horse– This is a Canadian story that’s far-reaching. It focuses on a boy who’s a victim of the Canadian Residential School System but finds an escape in dance.
  • The Killing Of A Sacred Deer – Yorgos Lanthimos, director of The Lobster,  is back along with Colin Farrell to create another dark comedy. This time Nicole Kidman joins in this bizarre dark story. won Best Screenplay at Cannes.
  • Loving Vincent – An animated film with a focus on the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh. More than 120 paintings are involved in this film.
  • Okja–  A South Korean drama about a young girl who develops a friendship with a giant animal in the mountains.
  • The Square – Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, this is a bizarre comedy about an artist who creates his own eccentric world and bounds.
  • The Party – British film about a politician (Kristin Scott Thomas) who holds a dinner for her contemporaries, only to wreak a lot of verbal havoc.

So this is what this year’s VIFF has in store. It all starts September 28th and it all ends October 13th. Looking forward to it.

VIFF 2016 Wrap-Up And Introduction To My New Blog

Cinema
I’ll admit I’ve been delaying my wrap-up to this year’s Vancouver Film Festival for the longest time. Heck, VIFF 2016 ended exactly two months ago! Hey I’ve been bogged down with work, school and this surprisingly blizzard-like weather which is extremely rare in Vancouver. On top of it, VIFF stats I was hoping to get after the Fest didn’t come. Nevertheless I feel a wrap-up is still worth publishing even if it’s this late.

The 2016 Vancouver Film Fest ended on Friday, October 13th. This was the first VIFF since 2011 that took place during Thanksgiving weekend. Crowds came again and again. There was a lot to offer with over 300 films from 70+ countries. There were even VIFF late night Hubs around the VIFF theatre held during the first ten days of the festival. I missed my chance because I was thinking of catching a hub during the second week. I didn’t know they ended that soon. Maybe next year.

The award winners were announced at the closing gala on Friday:

BC Spotlight Awards

Best BC Film Award
Presented by the Harold Greenberg Fund, Encore by Deluxe
WINNER: Window Horses (dir. Ann Marie Fleming)

BC Emerging Filmmaker Award
Presented by UBCP/ACTRA & William F. White
WINNER: Hello Destroyer (dir. Kevan Funk)

Ignite Award
Recognizes the outstanding work of a female key creative on a BC-produced feature or short.
Presented by TELUS
WINNER: Cabbie (dirs. Jessica Parsons, Jennifer Chiu)
Honourable Mention: Here Nor There (dir. Julia Hutchings)

Canadian Film Awards

Narrative Features

Best Canadian Film
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Window Horses (dir. Ann Marie Fleming)

Emerging Canadian Director
Presented by Directors’ Guild of Canada
WINNER: Never Eat Alone (dir. Sofia Bohdanowicz)

Documentary Features

Best Canadian Documentary
Presented by the Rogers Documentary Fund
WINNER: Living With Giants (dirs. Sebastien Rist, Aude Leroux-Lévesque)
Honourable Mention: Quebec My Country Mon Pays (dir. John Walker)

Short Film Awards
Best BC Short Film
Presented by CreativeBC
WINNER: Here Nor There (dir. Julia Hutchings)
Honourable Mention: Srorrim (dir. Wayne Wapeemukwa)

Best Canadian Short Film
Presented by Lexus
WINNER: Ceux qui restent/Those Who Remains (dir. Mathieu Vachon)
Honourable Mention: Fish (dir. Heather Young)

Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film
WINNER: Parent, Teacher (dir. Roman Tchjen)
Honourable Mention: Old Man (dir. Alicia Eisen)

Impact Awards

Radcliffe Foundation Refugee Crisis Awareness Short Film Competition
Presented by The Radcliffe Foundation
WINNER: Helpful Hand (dir. Alex Nagy)

VIFF Impact Award
Presented by Leonard Schein to one of the nine issue-oriented documentary films in the Impact Stream

WINNER: Power to Change – The Energy Rebellion (dir. Carl-A. Fechner)

VIFF Industry Builder Award
Presented by MPPIA to celebrate BC Creates with support from Western Economic Diversification and CreativeBC

2016 Honoree: Chris Carter

Audience Awards

Super Channel People’s Choice Award
WINNER: Maudie (dir. Aisling Walsh)

VIFF Most Popular International Feature
WINNER: I, Daniel Blake (dir. Ken Loach)
Runner up: The Salesman (dir. Asghar Farhadi)

VIFF Most Popular International Documentary
WINNER: Human (dir. Yann Arthus-Bertrand)

VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary
WINNER: Spirit Unforgettable (dir. Pete McCormack)

#mustseebc Presented by TELUS Optik Local
WINNER: Cadence (dir. Alex Lasheras)

As for my volunteer experience, it was all at the International Village this year and it was a good experience. I had a mix of shifts from early morning to late evening to middle of the day. I volunteered both during the Sunday and Monday of thanksgiving. I also volunteered all day Thursday the 12th. I had more chances this year to watch films than I did last year. Last year, I only had the luck of seeing one during my volunteer work. If you can ask me what my favorite film of the ones I saw was, I would have to say it was the first one I saw: Barakah Meets Barakah. It was entertaining and very intelligent.

For the end of the VIFF, there was a volunteer party held the Saturday before Halloween. Volunteers were treated to films shown at this year’s VIFF. Three of the best. After that, they were treated to a Jackrabbit Slims party which consisted of the VanCity Theatre turned into a 1950’s diner, like in Pulp Fiction, and people treated to hamburgers, cupcakes, a complimentary drink and dancing to a jukebox. It was fun and it had me looking forward to next year.

My New Blog

One of the things I’ve been thinking about this year is the way I do blogging. This is nearing my sixth year. I’m not getting the amount of hits I was hoping to this year. Blog topics that normally get a lot of hits on my site didn’t this time. In fact this year is set to have the least amount of total hits for the year since 2011. I won’t quit blogging but the lack of hits have taken away from my ambition and I don’t post as often as I normally do, as you may have noticed.

One thing I’ve thought of doing is setting up one blog focused on a single topic. The first single-topic blog I’m starting is about the Vancouver Film Festival and it’s called VIFFin’ It Up. It will consist of reviews I’ve seen at the VIFF and reviews of VIFF films I saw after the fest. It will also consist of news related to the Fest and the usual annual previews and wrap-ups. If you want to follow it or enter your email to subscribe, just click here. Right now I just have the intro. Over the days, I will post reviews and previews of past VIFFs starting with 2011: the first VIFF I blogged about.

So there you go. The 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival ended with continued success if not a record and fun for all volunteers. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 28th to October 12th, 2017 and should be bigger and better. Hopefully next year I’ll attend a hub. See you next year!

 

It’s VIFF Time Again

Cinema

Yes, the Vancouver International Film Festival starts again. Today begins the 35th installment of the Film Festival. This year will not only be exciting because of what to see but also what new additions are happening.

This year’s theme is: “Expand the frame.” Part of the aim of this year’s VIFF is to make the Festival more accessible and more creative. One of the new additions is the VIFF Hub. The Hub and surrounding area will be the location for lectures and exhibitions surrounding film and art. There will even be art exhibitions, virtual reality exhibits and music performances from DJs, local performers and performers from around the world. Some events are free of charge as long as you’re a VIFF member while some may be ticketed events. The VIFF website will explain it all.

Film is still the centre of it all. There will not only be films shown but lectures from industry professionals as well. Directors, producers and actors will appear at some showings for Q&A’s including an appearance of Tatiana Maslany. Deal-making will also be included in the process. This year, for the first time, there will be an IMAX film shown over at the Telus World of Science for the Closing Gala.

As for volunteering, this year there were 1100 volunteers signing up. Way higher than the usual 800 that serve the required 32 hours of work. Because of that, volunteer seating will be limited during many films or not allotted at all. Nevertheless I should be able to get in to see a lot of good films. This year promises to have hundreds of shorts and feature films from 73 countries, including five ‘globetrotting’ films. As of press time, 13 films are official submissions for  the category of Best Foreign Language Film for this year’s Oscars. A footnote worth adding is A Flickering Truth from last year’s VIFF is New Zealand’s official entry in the category for this year. Canadian films will remain the focus as has been in past Festivals. This year’s top sponsor is no longer Rogers but a more local big name in telecommunications: Telus. SuperChannel will take over the People’s Choice awards.

As for highlights, here’s a list of some of the films headlining the VIFF:

  • OPENING GALA: Maudie – A biographic film of Canadian folk artist Maude Lewis starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke.
  • CLOSING GALA:  Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience – An IMAX spectacle of the universe from the beginning of time to today. Written and directed by Terrence Malick and narrated by Brad Pitt.
  • American Honey – A drama about a teenage orphan trying to grow up. Directed by Andrea Arnold and stars Shia LaBeouf.
  • The Birth Of A Nation – This Sundance’s hot ticket and the hottest thing to come from the fest in years. Nate Parker writes, directs and stars in this drama of a slave rebellion that occurred decades before the Civil War.
  • Elle – The latest black comedy from controversy-causing director Paul Verhoeven. Isabelle Huppert plays a video game CEO with a lust for power and revenge.
  • The Girl With All The Gifts – A British zombie drama directed by Colm McCarthy and stars Gemma Arterton and Glenn Close.
  • Graduation – A Romanian drama of a doctor doing what he can to insure his daughter gets into a presigious university. Director Cristian Mungiu won Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Fest for this.
  • The Handmaiden – A Korean drama of a pickpocket who plays a Japanese maid of an heiress whose fortunes he plans to steal. Divided by chapters and loaded with sensuality.
  • Human – A documentary by French director Yann Arthus-Bertrand. It focuses on the world from on high from positive things like love to even negative things like murder.
  • I, Daniel Blake – This year’s Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, this film focuses on a man getting his disability status reassesses and denied benefits. Ken Loach’s look at one man rivaling the system.
  • Julieta – Pedro Almodovar is back! Spain’s submission for the Best Foreign Language film for this year’s Oscars, Almodovar returns to the heart-on-the sleeve melodramas with female lead characters he’s most famous for.
  • Manchester By The Sea – Another highlight from this year’s Sundance. Director Kenneth Lonergan showcases a story of a man (Casey Affleck) returning to his Massachusetts home after the death of his brother and trying to sort out his family’s past.
  • Milton’s Secret – A Canadian hot ticket directed by Barnet Bain, it’s a unique story of how a troubled 12 year-old teenager finds relief from the frustrations of his life through his grandfather. Stars Donald Sutherland and Michelle Rodriguez.
  • Moonlight – Director Barry Jenkins showcases a drama of an African-American man struggling to come out despite the past troubles that haunt him.
  • Toni Erdmann – Germany’s submission for the Best Foreign Language film for this year’s Oscars, the film tells the story of a woman frustrated with her conniving father and his female disguise that irritates her to the point of leaving him behind after her promotion.

So this is what this year’s VIFF has in store. It all starts September 29th and it all ends October 14th. Lots of excitement to come.

 

 

2015 VIFF Wrap-Up: An Excellent Year

CinemaDISCLAIMER: Okay, I know this is a month late but I’ve had some busy times and two colds plus I was waiting for some certain facts that took forever to come. Nevertheless I decided to finally publish this VIFF wrap-up today.

The Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped itself up the night of Friday, October 9th. The sixteen days were full of excitement throughout the city. It was also quite warm which allowed for some people to pass up films in favor of savoring whatever sunny weather we’ll have left for the year. Nevertheless this year’s VIFF was still bustling.  The format that worked the two previous years continued to work again this year. The three Tinseltown theatres gave the VIFF four extra days.

Volunteering was also good this year. Funny thing is this year we were only to do a single theatre this time around. I originally requested to volunteer for the VanCity theatre. Thing is it was loaded with volunteer requests. They asked me to do one of the other theatres. I obliged to do Tinseltown. That worked for the most part but the thing with me is I like to volunteer on both opening day and closing day: the two days Tinseltown isn’t part of the VIFF. That led me during the volunteer training to negotiate with one of the heads of volunteering and she gave me the option of doing Cinematheque those two days. I was happy with that, especially since I could get free popcorn.

Volunteering started off somewhat easy on opening day at the Cinematheque. Things became a bit more difficult when I worked the Tinseltown theatres. There one would have to deal with big crowds. Almost reminding me how busy it was over at the late Granville 7. There was even one time Tinseltown was so booked with volunteers, I was asked to volunteer the Sunday at the nearby SFU theatre. One film was a special event film where one corporate sponsor was giving people popcorn. Problem was food couldn’t be allowed in the theatre. You can imagine how peeved the people were. I also remember how busy closing Friday was. I had to do something over at the Centre for Performing Arts in between volunteering at the Cinematheque. Hey, film fests are busy things.

As for films I watched, I saw fourteen including the Reel Youth shorts fest. The feature-length films I saw came from Canada, USA, UK, Germany, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Greece, Ireland, India and Denmark. I saw a lot of good live-action movies as well as some good documentaries. I think the edgiest film I saw was Nina Forever. Hard to say what my favorite was. I found 100 Yen Love the most entertaining and A Flickering Truth to the the most eye-opening documentary I saw. I was hoping to see some Canadian live-action but it just wasn’t to be this year.

Anyways here is the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival by the numbers:

140,000: estimated gated attendance

710+: Film and Television forum delegates

930+: hours of film screened

900+: volunteers

-520+ accredited industry guests

549: public screenings

370: films shown (shorts and feature length)

99: Canadian Films and shorts shown

85: countries entering films

114: Canadian premieres

  • 35: North American premieres
  • 24: International premieres (first screening outside home country)
  • 11: World Premieres

-198:  meetings with industry leaders and delegates at VIFF Industry Exchange

104: guest speakers

14: entries in the Best Foreign Language Film category for this year’s Oscars shown

16: days of showing films

9: screens showing films

7: theatres participating in the VIFF

Now I know some of you want to know the award winners. Here they are:

ROGERS PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

-BROOKLYN (UK/Ireland/Canada), dir. John Crowley

VIFF MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARD

-INGRID BERGMAN: IN HER OWN (Sweden), dir. Stig Bjorkman

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN DOCUMENTARY AWARD

-HAIDA GWAII: ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, dir. Charles Wilkinson

VIFF IMPACT: CANADIAN AUDIENCE AWARD

-FRACTURED LAND, dirs. Damien Gillis & Fiona Rayher

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN FILM AWARD

-ROOM (shared with Ireland), dir. Lenny Abrahamson

VIFF IMPACT: INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE AWARD

-LANDFILL HARMONIC (USA, Paraguay), dir. Brad Algood

#mustseeBC Award (for most anticipated BC film)

-TRICKS ON THE DEAD, dir. Jordan Paterson

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM AWARD

-SLEEPING GIANT, dir. Andrew Cividino

EMERGING CANADIAN DIRECTOR AWARD:

-THE SOUND OF TREES, dir. Francois Peloquin

BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM AWARD

-BLUE-EYED BLONDE, dir. Pascal Plante

MOST PROMISING DIRECTOR OF A CANADIAN SHORT FILM:

-NEVER STEADY, NEVER STILL, dir. Kathleen Hepburn

BEST BC FILM:

-FRACTURED LAND, dirs. Damien Gillis & Fiona Rayher

BC EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD:

-THE DEVOUT, dir. Connor Gaston

Those were awarded at Friday’s closing gala. After the VIFF closed, VIFF repeats happened at the VanCity theatre until Thursday the 15th. The volunteer party went from being held close to the end of the fest to being held on Halloween. It all started at the VanCity theatre as volunteers were treated to three circus-themed thriller films. The first one was held at 10 in the morning and was 1933’s Freaks which is frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies. The second was the 1960 British film Circus Of Horrors. The third and last was 1966’s Berserk starring Joan Crawford. Goodies and pastries were around for us to much on. Of course there were candies. There were prizes given away as well as prizes for costumes. Then the festivities ended with a three-hour dinner and dance at a nearby cabaret. It was a fun Halloween, that’s for sure. Great to see this year’s VIFF end on an exciting note.

So there you go. The 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival ended with continued success if not a record and fun for all volunteers. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 23rd to October 8th, 2015 and should be bigger and better. It’s 10 months away but I still can’t wait. Anyways we’ll see how things go for next year’s VIFF. See you next year!

VIFF 2015 Review: Deathgasm

Deathgasm is a New Zealand horror comedy of metalheads taming up to save the day.

Deathgasm is a New Zealand horror comedy of metalheads taming up to save the day.

Deathgasm was one of those fringy movies shown at the VIFF that was shown at the Rio Theatre at 11pm on certain days. It was entertaining to watch after a long night and became a guilty pleasure of mine.

Brodie is a metalhead coming from a dysfunctional home. His mother was institutionalized and he is sent to live with his devoutly religious Uncle and Aunt and his obnoxious jock cousin David. Life at his new school isn’t the best and it’s only made worse by his cousin David’s bullying. However he is able to catch the eye of a classmate named Medina and he meets a few metalheads like him: Zakk, Dion and Giles. The band goes well and with good camaraderie but Brodie doesn’t know Zakk came onto Medina

Since the four of them all like heavy metal, they form their own band which Brodie names Deathgasm. One day, they break into an old house which they later find one of their heavy metal idols Ricky Daggers living there. Ricky gives them some magical sheet music but only before he’s killed by a cult leader after they left. The band plays the music only to find that one part of the song sends to send off demonic spells. Nevertheless they’re tempted to play it.

One day they play the ‘demonic’ part so intensely, it casts a curse on the neighborhood. Almost everyone outside of the band affected by the music has turned into a zombie. On top of it, the demon has been released and must be destroyed. It’s a gory battle trying to kill all the zombies in town. Fortunately David finds himself an eventual casualty. He had it coming! However that was just half the battle. They have to find the demon to end everything for once and for all. It ends on an entertaining note and leaves you thinking “That was fun!”

Overall it was a funny movie. It was an entertaining horror comedy to watch and it appeared like the real gruesome moments happened at the right time. I’ve seen a lot of horror movies that didn’t want to be comedies but ended up that way. This is one that tries to be a comedy and knows how and when to place the shots. In many ways, it reminds me of when I saw Housebound: a New Zealand movie that tries to mix thriller moments with comedy and succeeds as well. I’m sure most people will get the joke and treat the more gruesome moments as the jokes they’re intended to be. Scenes such as the airborne severed penis and one enemy strangled and decapitated with their bloody spinal column coming out, how can one not take it as a joke? I figure if people can sit through Saw, they can watch this.

The funny thing about this film is its inclusion of ‘metalheads’ in the story. Seeing the images of the metalheads, the ‘demonic’ heavy metal music and of the heavy metal fantasia brought back a lot of memories of the heavy metal phenomenon. It’s probably still in existence for some teens. You just have to look around. However this element is questionable if it could win over young people outside New Zealand. Would they be able to identify with metalheads or even get a lot of the humor? That’s something to think about.

I give credit to writer/director Jason Lei Howden for creating this comedy which happens to be his directorial debut. It was hilarious and enjoyable in a gory sort of way. Milo Cawthorne was funny and did his role as Brodie right. James Blake and Kimberly Crossman were great supporting players in this film. Even the minor supporting actors added to the humor of the film in their own way.

Deathgasm was a funny horror comedy from New Zealand that was a great entertaining way to end the VIFF with.

And there you go. Those are my reviews of the Vancouver Film Fest films I saw. Blog about how the VIFF went for the year coming soon.

VIFF 2015 Review: The Lobster

XColin Farrell, right, has bizarre experiences with being single, mating and being in love in The Lobster.

Colin Farrell, right, has bizarre experiences with being single, mating and being in love in The Lobster.

Once you see The Lobster, I’m sure it will make you think twice about going to one of those matchmaker hotels. Okay, maybe not but the whole scenario of matchmaking and the single life depicted in the film is downright bizarre.

The film is set in a dystopian future where single people are brought to a hotel in accordance to the rules of The City. The hotel gives people forty-five days to find a match. If they succeed, the couple is given a month to develop their relationship in a special section of the facility. After which, they are freed. If anyone fails in any which way, they are killed and reincarnated as an animal of their choice and sent into The Woods. People can extend their stay with The Hunt: people from The Hotel shoot tranquilizer darts at any of the ‘loners.’ One ‘loner’ capture gives one an extra day.

A man named David arrives at The Hotel. He brings with him a dog whom we learn to be his brother as he too was subject to The Hotel and failed to find a match in due time. David tries to get used to the hotel and its methods. He chooses to be a lobster if he does not succeed in finding a new woman. He even participates in The Hunt. He learns of the other leisurely activities at The Hotel. One awkward rule is masturbation is banned by painful punishment but stimulation from the maid is a requirement.

David first makes friends with The Limping Man and The Lisping Man. The Lisping Man would have to stick his hand in a toaster for masturbating one night. The Limping Man hopes to find a woman with a limp like him. Instead he’s attracted to a woman who has frequent nosebleeds. He fakes nosebleeds to win the love of The Nosebleed Woman.

David is inspired by this and first attempts to win the love of a woman whom everyone knows to have no heart. He’s impressed by her hunting skills and he’s attracted to her as she’s choking to death. He attempts to start a relationship with her but it turns out to be a disaster even to the point she kills the dog: David’s brother. He’s able to tranquilize her and bring her to the transformation room so she’ll be an animal forever.

It then gets to the point David can’t handle it anymore and escapes. He finds himself with the ‘loners:’ they live a wild life catching rabbits and hiding from the hunt. The rules are not as hard but they don’t permit any flirting or entanglement as they will punish it badly. David wins the affection of a short-sighted woman. This helps since he is short-sighted too. The loners give the two missions to go to The City and pose as a couple but it causes them to become more affectionate.

The loners go on a rampage where they try and split up the couples in The Hotel. David even goes as far as trying to split up The Limping Man and The Nosebleed Woman and others going as far as pulling a stunt with the Hotel Manager. Meanwhile the leader of the loners learns that David and the Shortsighted Woman are in love and blinds the woman. They attempt an escape. This leads to an ending as bizarre and unpredictable as the whole story.

It’s hard to see if this film was trying to make a point about dating life, being single and marrying. This is a very bizarre scenario from start to finish. Plus I would find it hard that such a situation would be for single people with our current human rights. Keep in mind this is set in the future. Hey, depictions of the future like that in The Hunger Games don’t paint a pretty picture. It’s interesting how the army of loners raid the Hotel. Makes you wonder if their mutiny is a form of rebellion or of personal anger.

I will have to say this is the most bizarre romantic movie I’ve seen since Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. That movie was what you’d call the ‘romance of the absurd.’ I do feel it is about love and surrounding human emotions magnified 100 times. The time limit put on those at the hotel to find love could be seen as the personal time limits one puts on one’s self to find love. The case of the leader of the loners trying to split all the couples up could be a case of one’s unhappiness and how one could try to impose it on others. Even those that end up in the hotel like the limping man, lisping man, heartless woman, nosebleed woman and the short-sighted woman may reflect on people’s insecurities. Meanwhile David is in the centre of it all. He starts out as possibly the most normal of the bunch but it isn’t until the end that he resorts to eccentric extremes of his own for the sake of love.

This is the brainchild of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. He has accomplished a lot in his directing career. His film Dogtooth was nominated for an Oscar five years ago. This is his first English-language film. In directing and co-writing the story with Efthimis Filippou, he creates a set of worlds that could easily look ridiculous on screen but worked with careful writing and careful directing. I see many cases with the hunt, the transformation room, the mutiny and even the character of the Heartless Woman that could have easily come across as dumb but was done right and was sensibly done.

Colin Farrell did a good job of playing this bizarrely comedic role well that’s completely different from any of his blockbuster roles of the past. He had to portray a man who treats this bizarre situation as something sane and normal. Even going from the sanest person in the film to committing an insane act for love at the right moment. He does it very well and gives the comedy the right tone. Although Farrell owned the film, Rachel Weisz as the Shortsighted Woman and Lea Seydoux as the Loner Leader were the strongest supporting performers. Some of the other minor characters were also very good such as Ben Whitshaw as the Limping Man, Angeliki Papoulia as the Heartless Woman and Jessica Barden as the Nosebleed Woman.

The Lobster is a film collaboration of five nations:  UK, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands and France. It won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was a nominee for the Palme d’Or. It has also won top film awards at the Rotterdam and Ghent Film Festivals.

The Lobster is both bizarre and amusing in its depiction of a futuristic world and its ways of dealing with dating. It’s both bizarre and charming at the same time.

VIFF 2015 Review: Umrika

Suraj Sharma, left and Tony Revolori, right, go on a mission in Mumbai of truth and lies in Umrika.lies

Suraj Sharma, left and Tony Revolori, right, go on a mission in Mumbai of truth and lies in Umrika.

After the VIFF ended on October 9th, I managed to take in a few film festival repeats immediately after. The day after, I saw Umrika and I thought it was an amusing story.

The film begins with Udai, a young adult from India in the 1970’s, leaving his family and younger brother Ramakant for a better life in the USA. The whole village says their goodbyes to him. The family wait a long agonizing time for his first letter. When it comes, the whole village is excited. It’s a letter with pictures of how life is in ‘Umrika.’ The letters with pictures keep coming for years and they’re filled with more exciting stories and pictures. It gets the whole village dreaming. Then suddenly in 1985, Ramakant’s father is electrocuted to death. Shortly after, Rama learns that the letters are all forgeries created by his father and uncle to keep his mother from agonizing. The truth is Udai vanished without a trace in the port city of Mumbai. Ramakant is determined to find him, even if it means his own trip to Umrika.

Rama learns the best person who would have knowledge of the whereabouts of his brother is the man in charge of illegal immigration. However to reach him, one would have to be like a delivery driver or messenger. Rama is opportunistic enough to steal a bike belonging to a delivery driver of a sweets bakery. Rama is the new driver. He’s able to deliver as well as win the favoritism of the man with each delivery he makes. Rama also learns of the dark secret of him, that he’s involved in a crime ring. One deliver Rama made was of a gun used by one of his men to shoot wrongdoers.

Soon Rama finds himself living in an area owned by a restaurateur and his family. The youngest daughter who’s a waitress takes a big liking to Rama. Soon Rama’s friend Lalu comes to visit Mumbai to catch up with him. Lalu has been concerned with Rama since he left. Lalu agrees to help despite film making ambitions of his own. Soon Udai is discovered. He’s a barber working in Mumbai and married to the Himalayan girl of the village, something his mother never would have approved of. Udai revealed he never would have left because of how much it would break his mother’s heart. But the truth cannot be revealed to their mother as it would cause disgrace to the whole family and the village. In the end, Rama, Udai and Lalu devise a scheme to ‘make things right.’ It gives the impression the story ends on the right note.

The film is an impressive comedy-drama. It captures a lot of moments in the right sense. In the first half, it captures the essence of the excitement upon reading the ‘letters’ and it giving American dreams to the village children. It even captures some light humor as they insist on believing the wieners in the hot dogs are actually barbecued carrots. The film switches to drama at the right moment starting with the father’s death and then the truth revealed. I feel the film made good choices in setting the stage for the pursuit when the mother says: “It hurts me to know your brother wasn’t here to light the flame. It should be the oldest.” Despite switching to drama, it does keep the viewer intrigued with Rama’s each move from taking on a delivery job to trying to find his brother. At the same time, it highlights what it is to be young and full of dreams even when it’s faced with stiff opposition and challenges.

I don’t think the film was trying to make too huge of social commentary. However I do feel it did a good job of displaying the corruption and the shadiness happening in the big cities of India like Mumbai. I also found the time setting for the story interesting. Writer/director Prashant Nair starts the story in the 1970’s and then moves to 1985-1986. I thought that was intriguing and wondered why he chose that time period. One thing I especially noticed was the scene inside the restaurant where Rama and all the others saw images of the Space Shuttle Explosion as it happened. Looking back I think Nair was trying to say even devastating moments for the US like this doesn’t stop people from India from having their American dreams.

I feel this is an excellent comedy-drama from Prashant Nair. This is only his second feature-length film and it was very entertaining. It kept your hopes up but ended not how one would expect but on the right note. It’s unique as it becomes a story where Rama doesn’t just search for his brother but chart a path of his own. Suraj Sharma was excellent as the protagonist Ramakant. I will admit it’s not as good as his performance in the Life Of Pi but he played his part well and very believable. Tony Revolori was also good as Lalu and made a great supporting player.

Umrika has had impressive results since it debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. At that Festival, it won the Audience Award for dramas and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the world Cinema categories. Shortly after its premiere, the film was sold by Beta Cinema to a wide variety of countries and became the most widely distributed Indian movie ever.

Umrika is a delightful Indian film that mixes both comedy and drama well. It captures a positive essence and even keeps it alive during its negative moments.