|by Greg Ursic
After complaining about our scorching summer we'll now be able to complain about the rain (because, well, we'll get a lot of the latter before we get the former again). It's also time to start planning for some Extreme Film Viewing as the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is back for its 34th year. Running from September 24th - October 9th VIFF will screen over 360 films from 70 countries.
You Can't Tell The Players Without A Program
With so many choices you may be tempted to just wing it, but I'm going to suggest you don't, not just because you might accidentally send your religious parents and their friends to an innocent sounding film that contains hard core sex scenes (happened to a friend of mine; he didn't go home for a few days afterwards). You want to make the best effort to ensure that your see something that interests you and will make your festival experience that much more positive.
If you know the name of a movie you want to see, you can search by title, browse all films by A-Z or browse by Series, Genre, or Venue (.http://www.viff.org/festival/series). 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 (for a list of locations go to http://www.viff.org/festival/where-to-get-a-program-guide).It includes a handy dandy pullout guide that you lets you plot your schedule if you're actually that organized (I always plan to do it, but end up forgetting it at home...). You can also check-out VIFF on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
To begin your search, you can check out the different series of films (note: several new series have been added this year): Altered States (Blood and Bombast) Arts and Letters (Earnest and Erudite) , BC Spotlight (Local Leads) , Canadian Images (Passells of Pride) , Canadian Shorts (New) (Swift and Sweet) , Cinema of Our Time (Serious Screening) , Dragons and Tigers (Asian Fusion) , Episodic Stream (New) (TV Teaser), Galas (Big and Boisterous) , Hidden Pasts Digital Futures (new) (Melding Mind and Media) , High School Outreach (Film for Freerangers) , International Shorts (Momentary Masterpieces ) , Nonfiction Features (Reality Reels), On Comedy (new) (Frank and funny) , Special Presentations (Wondrous One Offs) , Spotlight on France (Gallic Gourmet) , Style in Film (new) (Food and Fashion) , The Great Divide (New) (Princes and Paupers) , and VIFF Impact (New) (Truth Telling)
Where It's At
Once you've figured out what you want to see, you need to know where it's playing (very important if you're seeing multiple films at multiple venues). Luckily if you're a returnee, they're using all the same theatres as last year. Also, as they're all easily accessible by transit you may wish to leave your car behind.
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)
A few points to ponder
Always know where your screening is and what time it starts - there is nothing (okay, maybe a few things) worse than showing up for your 10 pm screening at The Rio to find out it was actually at 10 am at Vancity.
If you can swing it, check out weekday screenings wherever possible as you-ll stand a better chance of getting in to the flicks you want to see. If you can-t get away early (and really, if your job is interfering with your moviegoing you really may want to consider a career change), always try to get to theater early (at least 35 minutes if possible) especially if you're going to an evening screening on the weekend. Even if your screening is sold out, the festival may schedule another screening (and the most popular ones often get make it to the Vancity after the festivals so keep your eyes peeled).
Remember to dress appropriately; unless you're going to a Gala screening followed by a party, leave the suit at home. Instead you may wish to embrace your inner Lululemon, especially if you're planning on settling in for three or more movies a day, as you want to be as comfortable as possible. In addition to a light windbreaker, you may want to pack a fleece (it can get chilly) and a small collapsible umbrella especially if you're changing venues.
Before every screening, there will be the inevitable "Please remember to turn off your cell phones, pagers and other devices" announcement. You'd think this would be common knowledge by now, but in 15 years of VIFFing I've been to less than a half dozen screenings where someone's phone did not go off. So for the love of all that is unholy, turn off your toys or at the very least put them to vibrate.
And under no circumstances should you be checking your phone or texting; if you do, note, film festival audiences are nowhere near as subtle as "regular" audiences: at best you'll be chastised, at worst you may have something (or multiple things) tossed at you. That also extends to conversations - leave it till the film is over.
One very important aspect of film festivals that may people don't realize is that aside from funding (which is obviously essential), without volunteers, the festival simply could not take place. The festival volunteers are always friendly and helpful and if you manage to stump them with a question, they'll always find someone who can answer it.
Please note, contrary to some attendee's beliefs, volunteers are not omnipotent - it is not their fault that there was a problem with the projector or that the show you were dying to see was sold out. So please take the second or two it takes to say "HI" or "Thank you" if they've helped you with something. They'll appreciate it and you'll feel better as well, because after all, everyone's there for a good time.
Suggestions: To See Or To Shun
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
On the surface, Pakistan's Red Mosque madrassas (Islamic schools) appear benevolent in that they feed, clothe and shelter tens of thousands of children from poor families, but when you watch their "lessons" you realize they're essentially Jihadi prep schools. Among the Believers examines the gulf between secular education and religious indoctrination and the impact it has for the country at large. Though repetitive at times, it is both disturbing and informative, yet remains grounded by the stories of two of the students caught up in the struggle and provides a scintilla of hope.
3 out of 5
Oct 03 06:15 pm IN09
Oct 05 01:30 pm IN09
Fashion designers hope their creations will land them fortune and fame; at worst they'll suffer a drubbing from the critics. In fifteenth century Korea, however, a wardrobe wunderkind learns that upstaging The Royal Tailor and messing with the King's clothes could mean death. A novel take on the palace intrigue concept Tailor features some slapstick comedy, a talented ensemble cast, a multi-layered story, a stirring score and of course, amazing costumes. Too bad it runs about 25 minutes too long and has such a flat title (A Tale of Two Tailors perhaps?)
3 out of 5
Oct 05 10:45 am IN09
Oct 08 06:45 pm IN10
It's much easier to get over the tragic death of a lover when they don't physically manifest every time you're making out with your new love interest and mess up the bed. Obsession, grief, guilt, buckets of blood, loads of nudity, and three ways involving a corpse all feature prominently in Nina Forever , an initially clever look at the messiness of relationships. If only it chose not to become so self-referential and repetitious and the characters played things a little more real (there's very little shock considering the circumstances). This would have played much better as a short.
2.5 out of 5
Sep 26 11:00 pm RIO
Sep 29 04:00 pm IN08
If not for Paco de Lucia, flamenco guitar would likely have remained a curiosity outside Spain, but thanks to his virtuoso skills and willingness to incorporate other musical stylings – despite the objections of the "purists" - resulted in it spreading across the globe. Paco de Lucia: A Journey features a wealth of archival footage, humorous anecdotes, a slew of insightful interviews and an array of amazing performances. A must-see-film for flamenco fans.
3.5 out of 5
Sep 25 11:15 am IN09
Sep 28 09:15 pm CINE
Oct 01 10:45 am IN09
You would expect the story of an orphaned black girl growing up in Paris to provide a wellspring of emotional drama. Sadly, despite the deaths, abandonment, a series of poor life choices and glancing jabs at classicism My Friend Victoria is remarkably unremarkable. In addition to the glacial pacing, an overblown score and wanting storyline the main character is aloof at the best of times making it hard to relate to her or care about the circumstances she finds herself in. Quel dommage.
2 out of 5
Oct 01 06:15 pm IN09
Oct 03 12:45 pm IN09
Many cartoonists dream of getting published in the New Yorker, and based on Very Semi-Serious it's even harder than you imagined. The camera follows cartoon editor Bob Mankoff as he ponders his memoirs and interviews contributors present and past, revealing that many of these prolific purveyors of puns are troubled souls (as one woman notes after her work is accepted "It makes me feel like less of a loser" - apparently comedy is pain). The stories of these quirky archetypes provide the most fascinating fodder and the behind the scenes moments and collection of classic cartoons are simply an added bonus.
3.5 out of 5
Sep 26 06:30 pm SFU
Sep 28 04:00 pm PLAY
Oct 08 09:15 pm VCT
Irked that taxpayers bailed out banks in the 2008 financial crisis while the rich hid billions in Swiss accounts, a security specialist copied information from 100,000 accounts and gave the info to the French government, setting off a global tax evasion scandal. Falciani's Tax Bomb: The Man Behind the Swiss Leaks is well researched, informative, features some genuine intrigue and highlights the hypocrisy of the banking system. Be warned thought, it's also long, dry and at times very difficult to follow due to the number of players and legalities involved.
2.5 out of 5
Oct 01 10:30 am IN08
Oct 08 06:30 pm CINE
Trying to avoid medical bankruptcy Parker takes a job spying on a young woman from an abandoned building; things quickly go from boredom to bizarre. Don't expect any easy answers (or any for that matter), from Observance : a psychological mind warp it rapidly descends into paranoia, delusions and cringe inducing body horror (and what's with the jar of mysterious black ooze?). It is well-acted and the sound and visual editing greatly enhance the disconcerting effect of the piece. And just when you think you know what's happening, you realize you don't; points for messing with my head.
3 out of 5
Oct 01 11:00 pm RIO
Oct 03 01:30 pm CINE
For new arrival Eilis, America turns out to be the land of loneliness rather than opportunity; just as she begins to find her footing, tragedy draws her back to Ireland, throwing her life into chaos anew. Rarely has the immigrant experience been provided with the nuanced day to day treatment that Brooklyn provides: running the gamut of emotions, it balances the true-to-life drama with a buoyant sense of humor. Boasting an excellent script, elegant cinematography, steady pacing and outstanding performances by Saoirse Ronan and scene stealer Julie Walters, it is one of the most engaging films of the year.
4.5 out of 5
Sep 24 07:00 pm CENT
Sep 26 01:00 pm CENT
Oct 05 12:30 pm CENT
After yet another losing streak, a degenerate gambler takes it on the lam to Churchill to check out the Northern Lights with his daughter before she loses her sight. Home grown flick Borealis is well acted with believable characters, an interesting story and just the requisite amount of quirkiness to keep viewers' interest. To its credit the movie doesn't rely on pyrotechnic excess typical of the genre or pander to viewers with a neat Hollywood ending. Overall, it's an enjoyable little film.
3 out of 5
Sep 28 08:30 pm IN09
Sep 30 04:00 pm IN10
When two eight year-olds find a seemingly abandoned cop car in the middle of nowhere, they do what any guy would and take it for a joyride, the problem is, the sketchy sheriff it belongs to, really needs something he left in the trunk, and sets off in hot pursuit. Cop Car is a pitch black comedy that moves along briskly, is well-written, offers some nice twists and stays true to its core to the final scene. The young leads deliver genuine performances and Kevin embraces his role with manic craziness (although his mustache is arguably the star).
3.5 out of 5
Sep 25 11:00 pm RIO
Sep 27 03:30 pm IN09
A group of outcasts form a death metal band and unwittingly unleash the legions of a powerful demon after playing music they find hidden in an album cover. Deathgasm is the latest splatterhouse entry from the land of Middle Earth, and provides an ample supply of viscera, teen alienation (do high schoolers actually play D&D anymore?) some well-earned laughs and a dose of grrl power, in its riff on Evil Dead, The problem is gorehounds are likely to get impatient as it takes almost 40 minutes for the blood to start flowing and the story is thin even for this genre.
2.5 out of 5
Oct 03 11:00 pm RIO
Oct 07 04:00 pm SFU
In the aftermath of a tragedy at an all-girls school the students suddenly begin fainting en masse: is it a case of mass hysteria or something more sinister? A barrage of surrealist imagery, seemingly random musical choices, and hints of lesbianism and incest set the mood for The Falling. Largely carried by Maisie Williams' bravura performance this edgy drama labours under the repeated fainting scenes, a largely inextricable plot (is it a commentary on the dangers of oppressing sexual awakenings?), a bizarre revelation in the third act and the generally uneven tone. An eclectic headscratcher it's sure to split viewers.
3 out of 5
Sep 26 01:30 pm IN08
Oct 05 08:45 pm IN09
Oct 06 11:30 am IN09
An industrial artist turns to car restoration to save her late father's garage, but doesn't realize that there are more than market forces working against her. Ayanda and the Mechanic utilizes a docudrama approach to highlight the continent's turbulent past and cosmopolitan nature of modern South Africa. Buoyed by a strong ensemble cast, it's Fulu Moguvhani, the film's lead, who suffuses the piece with energy. This refreshing charmer occasionally stumbles over the dramatic elements, but quickly finds its footing. Sure to be an audience fave.
3.5 out of 5
Sep 30 08:30 pm Rio
Oct 03 10:45 am IN09
Very loosely based on real events, the Beeba Boys are a bunch of flashy young Indo-Canadian thugs looking to take over the drug business from a "respectable" gangster. From the non-stop collection of cliches to the stilted dialogue, flat acting, unintentional hilarity, predictable twists, excessive profanity, ridiculous violence, and attempts to provide a sudden epiphany for the lead psychopath, it adds nothing new to the genre. Essentially a B-movie with decent production values it doesn't even measure up as an exploitation flick.
1 out of 5
Sep 27 06:15 pm CENT
Sep 29 03:00 pm CENT
Neglected by her husband, newly returned son and spoiled daughter-in-law, the matron of a well-to-do family turns her attention to the new nanny in unhealthy ways. It's hard to decide if Hilda is an unsettling drama or jet black comedy, but it's skewering of Mexico's class system is unmistakable and succeeds thanks to Veronica Langer's disturbing evolution from wife to warden. Sure to leave a bad taste in your mouth, and, well, that's the point.
3 out of 5
Sep 27 11:00 am IN08
Oct 05 04:15 pm IN09
Oct 07 06:30 pm Rio
In order to complete Hyena Road , and take the battle to the Taliban, a Canadian intelligence officer enlists the support of a corrupt local warlord, but the appearance of a mythical mujahedeen leader may put a new spin on the game. Mythologizing Canada's role in Afghanistan is a risky play, as this could easily have come off as a cheap "Canadian Sniper" and a misplaced romantic angle, overuse of military jargon and long runtime could have killed this movie, but top notch production values, realistic battle sequences and an interesting story keep it afloat.
3 out of 5
Sep 26 06:30 pm CENT
Sep 29 04:15 pm IN10
A cable repairman out to exact vengeance on the people who injured his wife slowly becomes unhinged and a case of mistaken identity complicates matters. The disquieting silences in The Demolisher are punctuated by outbursts of emotion and an invasive soundtrack. Though initially effective, the ever deafening score, and excessive slow motion sequences grow tiresome and with zero context or character development to move the story along it becomes an exercise in futility.
2 out of 5
Oct 05 04:00 pm IN08
Oct 09 06:30 pm RIO
Young Jack has never known anything beyond Ma and the ten-by-ten Room they live in, but after celebrating his fifth birthday, he learns that there may be a world beyond their walls. It's difficult to say much of substance without ruining this movie, but suffice it to say it is claustrophobic, disturbing, and just when you think there has been a resolution; the real struggle has just begun. Atmospheric and well-acted it would have benefited from some editing to trim the run time.
3.5 out of 5
Sep 28 08:30 pm CENT
Oct 02 05:00 pm IN10
If Christopher Plummer doesn't get an Oscar nom for his portrayal of a Memento-esque 90 year-old Auschwitz survivor out to avenge his family with the help of a friend, then the Academy is dead to me. In addition its stellar cast Remember boasts a script that serves up thrills, tragedy, and some dark humor to lighten the tone - a bit. Briskly paced, it stumbles about two-thirds of the way through, but recovers nicely, and offers a very different take on the subject than similar films.
3.5 out of 5
Sep 28 06:30 pm PLAY
Sep 29 03:15 pm IN10
From the opening scene it's clear that The Dinner isn't about to pull any punches. A taut drama about two brothers - one a lawyer, the other a pediatrician - who face a dilemma when they suspect that their teens brutally assaulted a homeless person, it explores the notions of family dynamics, justice, morality and how far parents should go to protect their kids. The combination of an excellent script, a talented cast, and a refusal to provide easy conclusions, will have audiences discussing this one long after the lights come on.
4 out of 5
Sep 27 02:00 pm IN10
Marked by long languorous shots, resplendent outfits, and ethereal landscapes The Assassin is an enigma at the best of times beginning with the oxymoron of a title in that the protagonist has a moral aversion to killing (clearly she never spoke to a guidance counsellor before embarking on her chosen field). Dialog and action are sparse, the story moves at a glacial pace and it is one of the most confusing films I've seen in a very long time (and based on comments from fellow viewers I was not alone). As bewildering as it is beautiful, but not enough to keep most viewer's attention.
2 out of 5
Even if you never took a Psych course you're no doubt familiar with Stanley Milgram and his infamous experiment in which volunteers had to "shock" another person when they gave wrong answers to a test. Experimenter follows as Milgram, as he navigates his many contributions and a storied career and the experiment he could never live down. Peter Sarsgaard's matter-of-fact Milgram, is appropriately off-putting (no doubt a danger of genius) but he can't make up for the awkward pacing, the inexplicable decision to have the lead repeatedly address the audience which takes you out of the piece, the use of 50's style fake backdrops and the none too subtle metaphors. While the subject matter is interesting, it's a shame that the storytelling is so mediocre.
3 out of 5
Oct 07 08:45 pm Rio
Remember to check back during the festival for updates.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3825
originally posted: 09/18/15 12:14:23
last updated: 10/08/15 06:55:41