Seven Films at VIFF You Absolutely Need to See

The 37th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival is set to take over the city’s big screens from September 27th to October 12th. The programming has continued to expand and diversify to over 350 films and film-related events. Yowza! The roster includes a live score by hip hop vet RZA to a classic Kung Fu flick, an interactive music performance with Kid Koala, plus creator talks and workshops…providing our minds and eyeballs with a buffet of scintillating indoor activities!

However, because we know that more options doesn’t necessarily make for easier decisions – and sometimes all we want is to hunker down in a dark theatre with a bunch of strangers and a bottomless bag of popcorn – we’ve combed through the catalog for you and picked seven movies that we think you should see. So pull up a comfy chair, arm yourselves with snacks, and get properly warmed up for the fest by watching these trailers and reading our brief synopses below…


Greece/Poland, 2018 | Director: Babis Makridis |  Showtimes and tickets
“Pity” centres on a sad sack lawyer who discovers his passion for wallowing in misery after his wife falls into a coma. The comedy goes from dark to pitch black when his newfound appetite for pity turns into an addiction. It’s a film that, both aesthetically and conceptually, could only be produced by a certain school of European filmmakers. Unsurprisingly, its credits include cowriter Efthymis Filippou who is known for his collaborations with fellow Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos of previous festival standouts “Dogtooth”, “Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” (Lanthimos’ own “The Favourite” is one of this year’s Special Presentations.) Snag tickets to “Pity” for your fix of dry wit from a slightly off the radar contemporary.


USA/Sri Lanka/UK, 2018 | Director: Stephen Loveridge | Showtimes and tickets
One of the most compelling, original and outspoken pop stars of the 21st century, M.I.A., gets her due filmic platform in this highly anticipated music documentary. Using over two decades’ worth of personal video footage, the film tells of the Sri Lankan rapper/singer’s rise from refugee to worldwide celebrity. Expect an incredible and eye-opening story that takes the music doc genre to a new level.

Nervous Translation

Philippines, 2018 | Director: Shireen Seno | Showtimes and tickets
Daily life in a Manila apartment is portrayed through the eyes of eight-year-old protagonist Yael, in what promises to be a delightfully twee film by Shireen Seno – not least of all owing to its retro set design, which is a portal to the 1980s. Seno taps into her personal experience growing up with Overseas Filipino Worker parents to address some heavy subject matter filtered through the naive perspective of one isolated child.

Mori, The Artist’s Habitat

Japan, 2018 | Director: Okita Shuichi | Showtimes and tickets
Director Okita Shuichi’s latest film gets its Canadian debut as part of VIFF’s “Gateway” series. “Mori no Iru Basho” (“Mori, The Artist’s Habitat”) is one imagined eventful ‘day in the life’ of famed Japanese artist Kumagai Morikazu, as he nears the end of his long life. Besides art, Morikazu is known for having spent three decades of his 97 years confined to his home and garden, from which he drew inspiration for his paintings. Despite its literal smallness in time and space, this film feels grand in scope, as well as humour.

An Elephant Sitting Still

China, 2018 | Director: Hu Bo | Showtimes and tickets
“An Elephant Sitting Still” is the first and final film of contemporary Chinese filmmaker Hu Bo, who committed suicide while struggling to complete it. Feelings of the young director’s hopelessness are strewn throughout every aspect of the movie, from its grey hue, to its soundtrack and narrative, which follows four desperate characters navigating their lives in modern day China. Be sure to bring along loads of tissues for this 230 minute epic.

Under the Silver Lake

USA, 2018 | Director: David Robert Mitchell | Showtimes and tickets 
This quirky, paranoia-fuelled Neo Noir thriller is the follow-up film from “It Follows” writer/director David Robert Mitchell. Andrew Garfield taps into his endearingly neurotic side (a character far more befitting of the actor than his Spiderman roles) as Sam, who switches from smitten schoolboy trope to amateur sleuth following the disappearance of his knockout neighbour (played by Riley Keough). With “Under the Silver Lake” Mitchell has veered from the horror flick genre that initially grabbed our attentions – and a bunch of awards – and delved into Lynchian territory to produce a film that could only be described as laced eye candy.

Virus Tropical

Colombia, 2018 | Director: Santiago Caicedo | Showtimes and tickets
This moving picture adaptation of the autobiographical graphic novel of the same name is a coming of age story about a young woman with the gumption and strength of personality unlike any animated character since Marjane Satrapi in her 2007 film, “Persepolis.” Besides the black and white style, though, the similarities basically end there. Set in Ecuador and Colombia, “Virus Tropical” recounts the life of precocious young Paola, from conception to young adulthood, as she navigates some unusual family and racial dynamics along with the usual growing pains. The whole thing is rendered in a captivating DIY style, bursting with pure punk energy.

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