The Five Best Films We Watched at the 2020 Vancouver International Film Festival

Earlier this Fall we made our VIFF must-watch list. Now that we’ve had ample time to digest the dozens of hours of screen time we consumed and our eyes have finally (mostly) refocused, we’ve compiled a list of five films that we recommend seeking out while sequestering yourself at home in the weird months ahead…


Despite having one of the weirdest premises of this year’s program – a love affair between a young woman and the titular amusement park ride – this movie also delivers one of the most genuine portrayals of human emotion and relationships in recent memory. Noémie Merlant – you may barely recognize her from her role in the 2019 VIFF film Portrait of a Lady on Fire – is brilliant and entirely, un-ironically convincing as the misunderstood woman in love.


A low-key sci-fi film about an underdog who begins a gruelling contract with a controversial technology company through questionable means, in order to support his brother who is undergoing experimental treatments for a timely new affliction. This off-beat American tale is, probably not unsurprisingly, completely in sync with the times.


This film by Canadian filmmaker Tracey Deer, Beans was inspired by her own experience of the Oka Crisis, and is a compassionate portrayal of the historic events told through the perspective of an impressionable twelve-year-old Mohawk girl. This is essential watching for its poignant storytelling, as well as an unfortunately apropos reminder of the damning nature of history repeating itself, and how media is complicit in the shaping – or misshaping – of actual events.


Subtle yet powerful, this film about the impacts of the death penalty, by Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, is so effective because of its ability to catch the viewer off-guard. Each of the four stories comprising There Is No Evil approaches the subject from completely different and often inconspicuous angles, illustrating the perhaps unexpected or unconsidered ways in which the death penalty takes its toll. Rasoulof defied a lifelong ban to create this film and deliver its message, and it definitely deserves our attention.

Black Bear

If you enjoy having your brain tangled in Lynchian knots and/or you like getting lost in the depths of Aubrey Plaza’s darkly funny yet sultry persona, then Black Bear is for you. This “comedic thriller” follows Plaza’s character, Allison, alongside her partner Gabe (Christopher Abbott) into a remote cabin in the woods, and down many a twisty rabbit hole. Be prepared to feel uneasy and gross, confused and titillated, while laughing and clenching – all at the same time.

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