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Vancouver's favorite IFF is back and there are no buts about it
by Greg Ursic

With the loss of its main venue in 2012, many naysayers made dire predictions about the Vancouver International Film Festival's (VIFF) future, however, like our reliable liquid sunshine, festivalgoers came out in droves delivering one of the festival's strongest showings in 2013. And it shows no signs of slowing down: in the span of 16 days (September 25th to October 10th ) VIFF 33 will have multiple screenings of 360+ films from over 70.

If it seems like a Herculean task trying to figure out what to see, let's be honest, it is: the "devoted" (some might say obsessed) spend days going through the guides planning exactly what they'll see and when, usually weeks before the festival begins.

To begin your search, you can check out the different series of films: 3D Special Presentations (In Depth Perceptions) New:, Altered States (Confusion and Contusions), Arts and Letters (Earnest and Erudite), BC Spotlight (Provincial Pride), Canadian Images (Cross Country Cuisine) Cinema of Our Time (Foreign Fables), Dragons and Tigers (Cinematic Smorgasbord), Galas (Super Screenings), High School Outreach New (Moulding Millenials), International Shorts (swift and sweet), Late Additions, Nonfiction Features (Doing the Docs) and Special Presentations (Wondrous One Offs) Spotlight on France

You can narrow down search by Films by Title, Films by Director, or Films by Country, and can even employ of the multiple filters available under each of those tabs. You can also click on the first letter of the film by alphabet and scroll through it. One thing to note: if you choose to do a search by title alone using the you need to type in the exact name of the title. If you don't happen to have a computer, tablet, or mobile device handy, or prefer having hard copy that you can flip through and scribble on, you can pick up the VIFF film guide, available for free at multiple outlets around town, including all the festival venues (see below). It includes a handy dandy pullout guide that you can fill out between screenings.

If time is a scarce commodity, you can flip through reviews in most of the local papers or better yet, just keep reading.

The Venue Menu
CENT - The Centre for the Performing Arts- 777 Homer Street (at Robson)

CINE - The Cinematheque, 1131 Howe (at Helmcken)

IN08-10 - Cineplex Odeon International Village (three screens) - 88 W Pender St (at Abbott - Stadium Skytrain Station) (bonus: free parking - just remember to keep your ticket stubs)

PLAY - Vancouver Playhouse (PLAY) 600 Hamilton Street (at Dunsmuir)

RIO - Rio Theatre (RIO) - 1660 East Broadway (at Commercial - near Commercial Skytrain Station ) (note: as liquor is served at this venue, guests must be 19 or older, ID is required).

SFU - SFU's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (SFU) 149 W Hastings St (between Cambie and Abbott - SFU Woodwards)

VCT -- Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St (at Davie)

Things to Remember

If you're gearing up for some extreme viewing (more than two films per day), dress comfortably and in layers where possible, and Gortex and/or a folding umbrella are a good idea if you're hitting multiple venues.

Remember to hydrate (and no, five cups of espresso is not hydrating).
If you bring food, make sure it's not covered in tin foil or other noise creating wraps - film fan(atic)s are not subtle in their displays of displeasure.

Turn off your mobile devices. This means you Do not Tweet, Talk, Text or any similar verb during the film.

Acknowledge and be polite to the festival volunteers - without them there would be no festival.

The Good, The Bad and the Huh?!?
A quick rundown of the ratings:
1 to 1.5 Unless you're a masochist, walk on by.
2 to 2.5 If you have a free ticket and time to kill, it's an option
3 to 3.5 Definitely worth the price of admission
4 to 4.5 4 to 4.5 Make room in schedule even if you have to move things around
5 Miss this and you will regret it till your dying days

Based on its opening sequence - a frank discussion between a filmmaker and a cab driver - you' be forgiven for thinking that Tales is a documentary. Director Rakhshan Bani-E'temad's Scheherazade worthy interwoven storylines - ranging from corrupt bureaucracies to heroin addicts to spousal abuse -not only blend seamlessly, the pacing is faultless, the dialogue feels genuine and the cast is superb. It's shame that her countrymen (and women) will probably never get to see it.

4 out of 5

Oct 01 12:45 pm CENT
Oct 08 09:30 pm SFU

Virtually devoid of dialogue (the first words are spoken roughly 30 minutes in) Yakona relies on underwater scenes, wildlife and soothing music to paint a picture of the San Marcos river. Unfortunately the stream of consciousness editing which includes graffiti covered buildings, pitched battles between natives and soldiers and fractured timelines are as confusing as they are boring and muddy the waters of intent. This is no Koyaanisqatsi

1.5 out of 5
Sep 26 07:00 pm VCT
Sep 29 11:30 am IN10
Oct 09 09:15 pm CINE

Director Anthony Baxter takes a second swing at the sordid world of mega golf course developments in A Dangerous Game , most notably in Croatia, uncovering political capitulation, failed job creation and how keeping up the greens is draining and destroying water sources. Unfortunately Baxter squanders an excellent opportunity to raise awareness with his obsessive efforts to rehash the bullying ways of the balding blowhard billionaire and we're left with a tame sequel to 2011's You've Been Trumped .

2.5 out of 5
Oct 03 06:30 pm SFU
Oct 05 10:00 am CINE
Oct 09 12:15 pm VCT

What's quiet guy Jorge to do when he and his family are constantly tormented by the man who shot his son and the police are unsympathetic? The question is asked and answered (and then some) in Alejandro Fernandez Almendras' To Kill A Man . Almendras eschews Deathwish style histrionics, choosing instead to ramp up the tension until the viewer demands a response. Buoyed by a superb cast and deliberate pacing, it's the contemplative tone of the piece that will stay with you.

4 out of 5
Sep 25 12:15 pm CINE
Oct 03 09:15 pm CINE
Oct 04 11:00 am IN8

As any Buffy fan can tell you, the only thing more dangerous that demons and demigods is obsession; apparently Alleluia's conman/gigolo/sorcerer didn't get the memo, and finds himself saddled with a manic mortician who keeps whacking his marks before his grifts are complete. The pacing is erratic, the narrative is skewed by flights of freaky and the proceedings are largely fluid free until the final act which is messy in more ways than one, serving up more confusion than resolution.

2.5 out of 5
Oct 05 11:30 pm [ RIO
Oct 08 04:00 pm [ SFU

The lives of a seemingly happy well-to-do family in Rio slowly unravel thanks to dad's lousy business dealings and his irrational desire to keep up with the Silvas. There is an underlying story here that wanted to be told but Casa Grande's writer seemed intent on throwing everything at the screen resulting in a mish mash of poorly executed comedic elements, coming-of-age tropes, melodrama and some indignation and class revolt for good measure. The pacing is inconsistent; the cast struggle to flesh out their characters and the final act is frustratingly vague. A disappointment.

2.5 out of 5
Sep 27 01:30 pm [ RIO
Oct 08 04:15 pm [ RIO
Oct 10 09:00 pm [ SFU

Still Life follows John, a civil servant on his final case to track down the relatives of a recently deceased loner in order to provide him with a dignified departure, who along the way discovers that he has been neglecting his own life. Writer/director Uberto Pasolini's quiet character study, boasts a dry wit, is a testament to resilience and features an ending that is anything but Hollywood. Eddie Marsan deserves kudos for infusing the world weary John with the perfect blend of pathos, tenacity and likeability. An understated gem.

4 out of 5
Sep 26 11:30 am IN10
Oct 06 04:00 pm PLAY
Oct 08 07:15 pm PLAY

Travis is a cartoonist who revels in pushing the boundaries of good taste, but when he insults a local crime lord he pays handily for it, only his severed limb isn't about to go down without a fight. Bloody Knuckles is the epitome of late night features, featuring a ridiculous story, including several fights between Travis and his former hand, atrocious dialogue, horrible acting and outrageous gore. And yet among the silliness, it also manages to poke a middle finger in the eye of censorship. If you're looking for something light to cleanse your palate after a run of serious films at the fest this should do the trick.

3 out of 5
Oct 03 11:30 pm RIO
Oct 04 03:45 pm IN10

In The Wild Years director Ventura Durall documents the poverty and brutality faced by a trio of homeless pre-teens on the streets of Addis Ababa over a three year period. While shots of the kids living in an abandoned car or the constant fighting between gangs are jarring, the one-on-one interviews are the most revealing; although these kids have had to "man up" they're clearly not equipped for adulthood. The decision to omit any reasoning for the homelessness epidemic ultimately leaves the doc feeling incomplete.

3 out of 5
Oct 08 07:15 pm CINE
Oct 10 12:30 pm CINE

It sounds like the makings of a great farce: two brothers who are doctors and run a practice together fall in love with the mother of one of their patients until the ex-husband comes back into the picture. But Miss and the Doctors is apparently intended as a romantic drama, the problem is there's little drama, the romance is muted, the story often feels awkward and manipulative, and it runs about 15 minutes too long.

2.5 out of 5
Sep 25 04:30 pm CINE
Sep 28 05:45 pm IN09
Sep 30 10:30 am IN09

As if bands of armed marauders weren't enough to worry about, Kendall discovers that her well is tapped out; to escape she just needs to find a part for her plane and avoid getting killed. The washed out colors and parched landscape The Well actually make you thirsty and writer/director Tom Hammock does an admirable job creating tension. the cast proves capable, even if they lean towards melodrama, . and some of the repetitive scenes could have been cut to make room for a longer and more carefully choreographed final showdown that the movie deserved.

3 out of 5
Oct 07 04:30 pm RIO
Oct 10 09:15 pm RIO

24 Days is a fact based drama about a 24 year-old Parisian man who was kidnapped in 2006 because he was Jewish and the efforts to get him released. The story is riveting and writer/director Alexandre Arcady makes you feel like you are part of the action, maintaining squirm-inducing tension throughout and the cast is outstanding. The only thing that would have made this film better is if the director had trimmed the ending. One of the most powerful films you're likely to see this year; just make sure you pick something lighthearted to follow it. Or hug a puppy.

4 out of 5
Oct 02 04:00 pm SFU
Oct 06 09:15 pm CENT

A group of twenty-somethings struggle to cope when a member of their group is killed in an inexplicable car accident and try to figure out What Are We Doing Here? There is a germ of a good story here, the acting is decent, and but we know almost almost nothing about the character who dies except for a very brief introduction. Had he been fleshed out, even in flashbacks, it would have provided some much needed context, as it is, the stories seem disconnected.

2.5 out of 5
Sep 29 06:15 pm SFU
Oct 01 01:30 pm SFU

A gruff German teacher becomes the Class Enemy when one of his students commits suicide and her revenge-bent classmates blame him. Writer/director Rok Bicek does an admirable job capturing the classroom dynamic at every level, drawing powerful performances from his cast, all while stoking the growing tension; his clever use of the classroom as a metaphor for the nationalism and xenophobia that troubles post-Communist Slovenia is a simple bonus. This could have been a "Best of fest" if some of the repetitive scenes had edited out and the ending pared down.

3 out of 5
Sep 26 12:45 pm IN09
Oct 03 01:00 pm IN09
Oct 05 07:15 pm CINE

A young boy and his struggling handyman father are invited to spend Christmas at a country estate and things quickly go wrong. As with many Latin American films, class plays a central role in Gente Bien highlighting the inequities in Colombian society, but it would more appropriately be titled Boy Behaving Badly as the lead character is so undisciplined and foul tempered that you want him to get a permanent time out from the movie. This is one of the best ads for birth control you'll ever see; but as movies go, a definite miss..

1.5 out of 5
Sep 29 03:45 pm SFU
Oct 03 04:15 pm RIO
Oct 06 09:00 pm SFU

What's a degenerate gambler to do when he runs afoul of his bookies? If you-re a paramedic, you create an online deadpool and bet to see who will die next then sit back and wait for the cash to roll in. What could go wrong? The Gambler's premise makes it sound like a dark comedy, instead it's a slow moving vicious little drama that is hobbled by awful editing (one 360 pan goes on for three minutes), a soundtrack that sounds like it was created by a six year old with a toy synthesizer and generally unlikable characters. Don't take a chance on this one.

2 out of 5
Oct 05 09:15 pm VCT
Oct 07 09:00 pm SFU

If there's one lesson that orphans - and anyone else for that matter - should take away from The Womb it's beware childless middle-aged women who live alone in large mansions and appear to be charitable. To say anything more would spoil this slickly shot horror flick. The writing surpasses that typically found in the genre, the editing is superbly subtle (fade outs are rarely used to such devastating effect), the tension is almost unbearable and Vanessa Saba deserves credit for her unnerving performance.

4 out of 5
Sep 29 03:30 pm IN09
Oct 01 05:45 pm IN09
Oct 03 03:00 pm CINE

It's said that if you can travel with your partner for a month and still stand one another your relationship has a chance; the honeymooners in Red Knot could have used that bit of wisdom before embarking on a cruise to Antarctica. There really isn't much in the way of story here and the acting is adequate, but visually, this is one of the prettiest movies at the festival, brimming with stunning cinematography, featuring gorgeous, seemingly endless vistas as well as some great wildlife shots. Just be warned, when the boat's rolling, you may feel a bit seasick.

3 out of 5
Sep 27 06:00 pm IN09
Sep 28 04:00 pm RIO

Two Step follows the machinations of a creepy con man who talks senors out of money pretending to be their grandson, but a doublecross leaves him desperate and dangerous. Another nasty little drama, this one literally pulls no punches; the violence may prove to be a bit too much for some viewers. James Landry Hebert is disturbingly convincing as the bad guy of the piece, and the writing is well done, which makes the rushed ending so anticlimactic and disappointing.

3 out of 5
Oct 02 3:45 pm IN08

Everyone wishes they could go back in time to take back something they said or did, but as The Infinite Man's protagonist learns, re-do's come with their own complications. In spite of a capable cast, good production values, and some amusing slapstick, Man demonstrates what can happen when a promising idea is poorly executed. The final product is overly long, repetitive and unnecessarily complicated, which will ultimately deter viewers.

2.5 out of 5
Oct 04 04:30 pm RIO
Oct 09 09:15 pm RIO

The pixel perfect and photorealistic tendencies of animated features makes the basic yet vibrant styllngs of The Boy and the World all the more enjoyable. Looking like it was drawn by a skillful six year-old, it follows a young Brazilian boy's search for his father, it is a visual and aural delight that literally pops with kaleidoscopic bursts of color and turns music in to characters. Lest you dismiss it as a simple kid's movie one of its overarching themes is the dehumanizing dangers of industrialization.

3 out of 5
Oct 02 7:00 pm IN10

As if the risks of pregnancy and STI's weren't enough to make you practice safe sex, the characters in It Follows discover that the exchange of fluids can also transmit evil. The are some decent chills to be had here but they're not worth sitting through the hit and miss special effects, especially since you never really know what is happening or why and the overbearing soundtrack, is not only distracting, it actually becomes painful at time as it is way too loud.

2.5 out of 5
Oct 09 04:30 pm RIO

Keep checking back for further updates.

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originally posted: 09/20/14 15:16:03
last updated: 10/02/14 06:14:59
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