VIFF 2016—Now that the Hollywood glitz and glamour of TIFF has passed, we can focus on our own hometown arthouse film festival. The Vancouver International Film Festival celebrates its 35th year starting this week with an expanded focus on all visual forms of storytelling as well as showcasing over three-hundred local, Canadian, and international films celebrating contemporary world cinema.
Here are my ten picks for films you should see during VIFF this year:
American Honey (dir. Andrea Arnold, UK/USA)
Arnold's road trip drama starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, and Riley Keough looks strikingly visual and energetic. The Fish Tank filmmaker explores the hard partying ways of youth in the Midwest centred on a collection of misfits and runaways. (Panorama / Special Presentations)
The Birth of a Nation (dir. Nate Parker, USA).
Actor turned controversial filmmaker Parker, who is expected to appear, stars in this Sundance hit for a single special screening before an awards release later this fall. An intense and problematic historical epic about slave hero Nat Turner, The Birth of a Nation's behind the scenes production and release is just as intriguing and illuminating as the film should prove to be. (Panorama / Special Presentations)
The Girl with All the Gifts (dir. Colm McCarthy, UK)
Based on M.R. Carey's post-apocolyptic novel, the film focuses on a group of hybrid human/zombie children subjected to cruel experiments. Gemma Arterton stars as a school teacher who develops a special bond with a particularly special student as they escape peril. (Panorama / Special Presentations)
The Handmaiden (dir. Park Chan-wook, South Korea).
Park is a master of the suspense/thriller genre with a crackling sense of crafting cinematic tension. With his latest film, he turns a con artist story and twists it into a sexy, erotic thriller. He takes the British Victorian era Fingersmith historical crime novel and resets it in Korea under colonial Japanese rule. (Panorama / Special Presentations)
Hello Destroyer (dir. Kevan Funk, Canada)
Premiering earlier at TIFF, this Must See BC film explores the impact of hockey violence as a means to dissect institutional male aggression in the context of our national pastime. Funk, in his directorial debut, looks to explore our collective thirst for violence in sports through human drama. (Ignite / BC Spotlight)
Manchester by the Sea (dir. Kenneth Lonergan, USA).
Lonergan's latest is already a critically lauded New England family drama about duty and bonds. Starring Casey Affleck as a man dealing with his brother's death and struggling to get by while handling his nephew's guardianship, the character piece is a showcase for its sterling cast. (Panorama / Special Presentations)
Maudie (dir. Aisling Walsh, Canada/Ireland).
VIFF, in recent years, has a solid streak of choosing female-led, personal dramas (Wild, Brooklyn) to kick-off their festival's opening gala. Maudie, a biographical film about Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke as her husband, looks to be no different with its appealing cast and subject matter. (Panorama / Galas)
Moonlight (dir. Barry Jenkins, USA).
Jenkins' second feature is already lighting up praise at film festivals all over the world from Telluride to Venice and Toronto. A uniquely universal but specifically African-American story about a gay man struggling to find himself and told in three distinct time periods of life, it promises to be an illuminating story of identity wrapper in faith. (Panorama / Special Presentations)
Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch, USA).
Adam Driver stars in Jarmusch's latest as a New Jersey bus driver secretly aspiring to be a poet. In his usual style, the film is a quiet, mediative rumination on blue collar, suburban life while longing for artistic satisfaction. (Panorama / Style in Film)
Personal Shopper (dir. Olivier Assayas, France)
Straight from Cannes, Assays and Kristen Stewart re-team after Clouds of Sils Maria for a sexy, psychological thriller centred on an unconventional portrait of a young American woman going through a personal spiritual crisis. Set in Paris, the divisive French film features supernatural elements and a haunting ghost story. (Panorama / Style in Film)
Film screenings are not the only part of VIFF. There are many film-related programs including the VIFF Industry conference and talks, VIFF HUB, and special Late Night programming. VIFF 2016 runs from September 29th to October 14th. Check back here for all my coverage and get your tickets now.
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