Vancouver International Film Festival returns for its 42nd iteration from September 28th through October 8th, with a fully in-theatre experience playing on big screens across the city.
As usual, we set ourself the (enormous!) challenge of selecting our shortlist of films from the 140+ included in this year’s program to feature in our (by no means complete) “must watch” list, loosely arranged by theme and in no particular order, below… (Links to tickets and more details in film titles.)
Right off the bat, two new full-length animations have got us all worked up: the ‘comeback’ of Japanese octogenarian filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli co-founder known for Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbour Totoro), The Boy and the Heron is an otherworldly and thinly veiled (according to rumour) self-inspired story set in Japan circa WWII, that probably requires no further justification; and the quirky Quebecois body-horror/humour animation, When Adam Changes (Adam change lentement), about a hyper-impressionable teenager whose body is automatically morphed by other peoples’ judgements, that also includes appearances by a legless cat and a dog that can be ridden like a horse…say no more!
There are four Canadian documentaries featured in this year’s VIFF program that we badly need to see, each with very different yet equally intriguing subject matter: I’m Just Here for the Riot investigates the aftermath of the notorious 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot with a social media slant; the first feature documentary by journalist and seasoned interviewer, Asher Penn, Physician, Heal Thyself, delves into (local author and icon) Dr Gabor Maté’s personal story; for her full-length documentary directorial debut, Jamila Pomeroy turns her her lens on Vancouver’s historic Black neighbourhood, Hogan Alley, to bring us the insightful “visual portrait”, Union Street; in Someone Lives Here, the story of one carpenter-slash-humanitarian’s inventive and controversial solution to Toronto’s homelessness problem seems like essential, albeit discomfiting viewing – especially leading up to another long winter. Bonus: VIFF is primed for the inevitable slew of questions and yen for discussion that no doubt will be provoked by such topical films, and (excluding Someone Lives Here) all of the aforementioned films include screenings with Q&As with the filmmakers.
This year there are two spooky French-language coming-of-age flicks vying for our attention (and blood): Bitten (La Morsure) and Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (Vampire humaniste cherche suicidaire consentant). The former is a stylishly produced scenario from new French filmmaker, Romain de Saint-Blanquat, about one teenage Catholic schoolgirl’s supposed “last night” out before her final meeting with death; whereas the latter feature by Quebecois filmmaker, Ariane Louis-Seize, has a premise (a reluctant teenage vampire figures out a clever and conscientious solution to her feeding problem) that promises at least as many laughable moments as it does scary ones.
The new biopic about Priscilla Presley (née Beaulieu), simply titled Priscilla, is the latest film from Sophia Coppola who has built a reputation for her unconventional period pieces, as well as her treatment of women characters – and, thusly, has a standing reservation in our hearts. Hitting another dramatic, albeit very different (literally) classical musical note is the latest offering from Montreal director, Chloé Robichaud. An up-and-coming female orchestra conductor is at the centre of Days of Happiness (Les jours heureux), which conjures echos of Todd Field’s Tár – but we’re not complaining about it.
‘Wildness’ is the common denominator of several films screening in this year’s VIFF that we want to see. Here’s a quick rundown: The Animal Kingdom (Le règne animal) is a “French sci-fi drama” about a boy’s transformation into a beast, co-starring two of our long-time favourite French actors (Romain Duris and Adèle Exarchopoulos); Finnish/Estonian documentary, Lynx Man (Ilveskuiskaaja), is a fantastic look at one man’s eccentric fascination with the Eurasian lynxes he encounters on his land; the Swedish forest is the setting for One Day All This Will Be Yours (En dag kommer allt det här bli ditt), a family drama with cartoonish interjections (the protagonist is a cartoonist); from Spain, On the Go promises to be one helluva buddy road trip flick, recklessly driven by existential crisis and passion, with no shortage of exceptional detours along the way.