The Vancouver International Film Festival 2016 — a preview

The Vancouver International Film Festival 2016 — a preview September 28, 2016


Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 35th Vancouver International Film Festival (September 29 – October 14). I’ve been attending every year since 1994, when I was an editor at one of the UBC student papers, so this will be my 23rd year at VIFF.

I probably won’t get to see anything this year until Friday at the earliest, but for now I figured I’d do a quick rundown of some of the films I’m interested in.

Films with a religious or spiritual angle (dates they’re showing in parentheses):

  • The Birth of a Nation (Oct 1) — Nate Parker’s depiction of the Nat Turner slave rebellion in 1831 focuses on how scripture and religion were used to justify violence, both by the slave owners and by the slaves who turned against them.
  • The Confessions (Oct 1, 4) — An Italian-French film about a monk who hears the IMF chief’s confession at a G8 meeting in Germany shortly before the chief commits suicide. In the words of one critic, “there is much to chuckle over as the plodding, plotting politicos are outmaneuvered by the monk’s sheer goodness.”
  • The Student (Oct 2, 7) — A Russian film about “a fanatically Orthodox teen” and his atheist biology teacher. Here’s hoping the film doesn’t just religion-bash.
  • Strangers on the Earth (Oct 2, 5, 9) — A documentary about modern pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, including a man who carries a cello on his back.
  • Sieranevada (Oct 7, 10) — Romanian director Cristi Puiu’s latest film is about an Orthodox tradition — a family meal honouring a recently deceased relative — that gets delayed by various complicated family dynamics.
  • The Son of Joseph (Oct 8, 12) — I’ve mentioned this French film before.
  • Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience (Oct 14) — The festival’s closing gala is a screening of the 40-minute, Brad Pitt-narrated version of Terrence Malick’s latest cosmic musings. (The festival will not be showing the feature-length, Cate Blanchett-narrated version.) Malick’s films have often had spiritual or religious overtones, so I’d expect this one to be no different.

Films I’m interested in simply because of the director:

  • Graduation (Sep 30, Oct 5, 11) — It’s directed by the Romanian auteur Christian Mungiu, who previously made Beyond the Hills and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. That’s pretty much all I know. It’s pretty much all I need to know.
  • The Unknown Girl (Sep 30, Oct 3, 14) — Reportedly not the best film ever made by the Dardenne brothers, but even middling Dardennes is still Dardennes.
  • Maliglutit (Searchers) (Oct 4, 6) — From Zacharias Kunk, the Inuit director of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, recently named Canada’s best film ever.
  • Personal Shopper (Oct 6, 8, 13) — I was a huge, huge fan of Olivier Assayas’s Carlos and Summer Hours, so of course I have to check out this film, which reunites him with Clouds of Sils Maria co-star Kristen Stewart.
  • Elle (Oct 7, 10, 12) — Paul Verhoeven’s latest film is a critically-acclaimed (and no doubt subversive) rape-revenge story starring Isabelle Huppert. It is also France’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
  • After the Storm (Oct 7, 13) — Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu previously made such humanistic gems as After Life and Like Father, Like Son.
  • The Salesman (Oct 10, 12) — Asghar Farhadi won Iran’s first Oscar ever for A Separation, and before that he made the compellingly mysterious About Elly.
  • The Teacher (Oct 12, 14) — I haven’t liked everything Czech director Jan Hrebejk has done lately, but I was a big fan of Divided We Fall back in the day, so.

Films I’m interested in partly for the animation:

  • The Red Turtle (Oct 1, 6) — A French-Belgian-Japanese co-production about a man who tries to leave a deserted island. The trailers look really good.
  • Tower (Oct 1, 3, 14) — An animated documentary about the 1966 school shooting at Texas University that killed 14 people and wounded 32 more.

Finally, I have to mention that my friend Nathan Douglas has a short film, Cave of Sighs, in the Let’s Compare Mythologies (Oct 2, 9) anthology. The one-sentence synopsis, as per the program: “A casual hook-up’s path to the bedroom is obstructed by a collection of Byzantine icons and the conversations they inspire.”

The lists above are certainly not exhaustive by any stretch — they don’t even constitute a complete list of the films I plan to see over the next two weeks — but they’re a pretty good sampling. For more on the festival, check out its official website.

Hope to see you around the festival!

— The image at the top of this post is from Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time.

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