by Chris Mason Stearns | 16 days. 9 screens. 365 films from 70 countries. With so much on offer at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, the possibilities can be overwhelming. What to catch? What to skip? Where to start? Thanks to recent improvements like a comprehensive (and free) viewer’s guide, as well as more straightforward ticket sales, navigating your way through the festival isn’t the labyrinth that it was in years past. But the central problem remains: what should you see?
Never fear. We’ve searched through everything on offer and singled out 9 films that should make your shortlist. (Omitted are films you’ve heard about everywhere else, and those which will see a mainstream release in the coming year). Read on for trailers and an introduction to each of the 9, and we’ll be seeing you soon in a darkened room soon…
Canada / Norway, 2014 | Director: Andrew Huculiak | Full details & Showtimes
Vancouverites may better know first-time director Andrew Huculiak as the drummer for hometown rock outfit We Are the City. Violent serves as a companion to the bands’ new album, but stands alone as a luminous exploration of memory and a young girl’s coming of age. The film is awash in abstract imagery layered upon the brooding landscape of Norway’s western fjords.
YOU’RE SLEEPING NICOLE
Quebec, 2014 | Director: Stéphane Lafleur | Full details & Showtimes
In this subtly wacky drama shot in gorgeous black & white 35mm film, twentysomething Nicole idles as summer draws itself around her in pointless circles. Lethargic days and insomniac nights are spent loafing with her best friend, enduring her shiftless musician brother, and warily deflecting a horny (and disconcertingly adult) kid she used to babysit. “Will this be our summer?” Nicole asks, as the events building around her threaten to shatter her torpor.
THE VANCOUVER ASAHI
Japan / Canada, 2014 | Director: Ishii Yuya | Full details & Showtimes
This Japanese feature (in its world premiere) dramatizes Vancouver’s lost Japantown and the fabled Asahi baseball team which once played in Oppenheimer Park. The team overcame hostility and racism to achieve many notable victories throughout the 1920s and 30s, before being disbanded due to forced internments during WWII. Today the Asahi are enshrined in Canada’s baseball Hall of Fame.
Brazil, 2014 | Director: Gabriel Mascaro | Full details & Showtimes
Director Mascaro’s first non-documentary film, shot in strikingly framed static compositions, circles an isolated and eroding seaside village in northern Brazil. Summer wanes as Shirley, an aspiring tattoo artist who has come from the city to care for her grandmother, practices her art and basks in the attentions of her boyfriend – until he finds a human skull while diving. As the August winds rise and the skies darken, a corpse floats quietly ashore.
ART AND CRAFT
USA, 2014 | Directors: Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman, Mark Becker | Full details & Showtimes
Mark Landis is a most unusual art forger. He creates spot-on copies of famous masterworks using the humblest materials: pencil crayons, coffee stains, frames from Walmart. Then he does something even more remarkable: he gives the forgeries away, donating the works to credulous (or complicit) museums across the U.S. This documentary follows the hunt for Landis by one enraged curator, and explores the tactics and museum culture that enable his scams to succeed.
LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT
France, 2014 | Director: Thomas Cailley | Full details & Showtimes
It’s that classic rom-com setup: Madeleine is a hard-boiled survivalist tomboy fixated on the end of times, given to drinking whole-fish smoothies and being generally aggro. Arnaud is a lackadaisical pacifist who seems content to coast through his summer (and the rest his life) idling around the family business. When their worlds collide, he is instantly smitten, and after Madeleine decamps to attend a “super hard” paramilitary boot camp, Arnaud follows. A bright and cutting comedy with winning performances from both young leads.
THE CREATOR OF THE JUNGLE
Spain, 2014 | Director: Jordi Morató | Full details & Showtimes
For nearly a half-century, the Catalonian forest outside the village of Argelaguer was haunted by a bizarre hermit, a man known as “Garrell” who dressed as Tarzan and acted out a life of jungle adventure inspired by pre-war Republic serial dramas. Garrell wove his fantasies from the forest, raising whole villages of elaborately ornate structures in the woods. This documentary charts his escalating obsession and the inevitable invasion of his fantasy domain by the outside world.
THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA
Japan, 2014 | Director: Takahata Isao | Full details & Showtimes
Last year saw the final film by famed anime director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro). This year, his Studio Ghibli counterpart Takahata Isao also offers his directorial farewell, with a film of profound emotional and impressionistic beauty. Based on an ancient folk tale, the film follows Kaguya from her birth inside a glowing bamboo shoot through her tumultuous adolescence, her secret past, and the terrible fate that awaits her. Tour de force animation from one of the true greats of the genre.
THE SALT OF THE EARTH
France/Italy/Brazil, 2014 | Dir: Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado | Details & Showtimes
This documentary traces the path of Sebastião Salgado, one of the most important photographers of the past century, from his late start as an artist through his revolutionary and epic documentary work depicting workers around the world (some of the most well known portray Bangladeshi ship-breakers and Brazilian gold miners). In later life, Salgado’s attention has turned also toward efforts to protect and reclaim the Amazonian rain forests of his home country. Salgado’s masterful and heroic images are a must-see on the big screen.