Robust Lineup for VIFF 2017
Roberta McDonald – West Coast Editor
(September 19, 2017 Vancouver, BC) The 36th annual Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) promises to bring exquisite cinema and uniquely immersive experiences from September 28-October 13.
The opening night gala film Meditation Park by Vancouver filmmaker Mina Shum is fresh from critical acclaim at TIFF. With a stellar cast including Cheng Pei Pei as Maria, Sandra Oh as her confused daughter and Don McKellar as a snarky parking racketeer, the film is also an ode to East Vancouver.
World-renowned Kronos Quartet will bring a multimedia collage to this year’s festival on October 10th, performing Jacob Garchik’s score to Vertigo. Under the leadership of Guy Maddin, the eclectic piece features a “parallel universe version” according to Maddin. Rather than use footage from Hitchcock’s masterpiece, the one night event features images sourced from San Francisco, including 50’s noir, documentary, and studio classics. The legendary quartet is no stranger to film scores with credits including 21 Grams, The Great Beauty, and Requiem for a Dream.
Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck will get its Canadian premiere as the closing night gala film. The time travelling story, based on the Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick’s young adult novel, the film follows parallel narratives of two deaf 12-year-olds. Featuring Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and newcomer Millicent Simmonds, it is already being lauded as a love letter to New York and celebration of the tactile pleasures of creating by hand.
Beloved cultural icon Shane Koyczan is the subject of Shut Up and Say Something, Melanie Wood’s compelling documentary that will screen at its BC Spotlight Awards Gala on Saturday, October 7. Following Koyczan as he struggles to mend his relationship with his estranged father, it’s a testament to his capacity for vulnerability and truth telling, traits which have provided hope and connection through viral TED talks and his appearance at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
The Mountain of SGaana from Haida animator Christopher Auchter was realized at the NFB studios. A funky and lush piece that merges classic Haida art with surreal animations and present day distractions, it’s a gorgeous tale of a young woman who risks everything to save her partner from the murky spirit world of the sGaana (Haida word for killer whale).
Famed for his role as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Caesar in Planet of the Apes, Andy Serkis makes his directorial debut with Breathe. It’s a tender character study that explores the challenges faced by a promising young man Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) as he is paralyzed by polio. His wife Diana (Claire Foy) refuses to give up and the two work with inventor Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville) to create a breakthrough treatment.
Director Stephen Campanelli provides a searing look into the cruelties of the residential school system with Indian Horse. Adapted from Richard Wagamese’s acclaimed novel,it highlights the injustices and indignities faced by Indigenous peoples. Three gifted performers play the role of Saul Indian Horse as he is torn from his Ojibwe family: Sladen Peltier, Forrest Goodluck and Ajuawak Kapashesit. Scripted with empathy by Dennis Foon, it’s a testament to the unbreakable spirit of a human being hurled into caustic circumstances that finds a way to express his essence.
Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, Loving Vincent is an animated work touted as the “the world’s first fully painted feature” that uses a rotoscoping technique similar to that employed by Richard Linklater in Waking Life. It took 17 years to make and each of its 65,000 frames was hand painted by 115 professional oil painters. Part mystery and part biography, it immerses viewers in the surreal milieu occupied by one of the art world’s most compelling figures.
Also exploring the complexities of the art world, The Square offers a satirical look at the contemporary museum’s social strata in Stockholm. Director Ruben Ostlund illuminates the often narcissistic and self-serving elite that populates the donor soirees and posh events of gallery society.
The BC Spotlight stream highlights the work of creators working within British Colombia. Highlights include Never Steady, Never Still directed by Kathleen Hepburn. This assured debut is set against the magnificent backdrop of Northern BC and is an intimate portrayal of a young woman’s reckoning with the harsh reality of a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
The late great Beau Dick is celebrated in Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters. Getting its world premiere at VIFF, it’s directed by LaTiesha Ti’si’tla Fazakas and Natalie Boll and offers an intimate look at the charismatic artist whose work is revered and his activism celebrated.
Once There Was a Winter from Ana Valine is described as a “claustrophobic, white knuckle thriller” and stars Kate Corbett as a woman caught in a conflict between two brothers.
Canada wide productions are highlighted in the True North program. Alanis Obomsawin’s 50th documentary, Our People Will Be Healed takes viewers inside Norway House, a remote Cree community school. As the potential Indigenous leaders of tomorrow express both hope and sorrow, Obomsawin’s expertise as a masterful storyteller is on full display.
With such a rich and eclectic array of films, this year’s festival is sure to spark inspiration and dialogue throughout the year.
Click here for a link to the Vancouver International Film Festival and other September 2017 film festivals.
Based in Vancouver, Roberta McDonald is West Coast Editor for Northernstars.ca. She is a best selling writer, arts journalist and photographer. She has profiled extraordinary filmmakers, including Ang Lee and Sturla Gunnerson. Her short film The Spiral was released in 2014 and she is currently writing her first feature screenplay.