When my mother came to visit me from Toronto one fall five years ago, she was pleasantly surprised to discover her trip coincided with the Vancouver International Film Festival. As someone with a passion for films outside of the mainstream (read: American blockbusters) and little patience for anything glitzy, Mother Lev soon became quite keen on our city’s official celebration of cinema.
She’d given up on Toronto’s festival years ago, as it had grown to be amongst the biggest in the world. Mother Lev felt that the celebrities it attracted and the glamorous galas that were inevitably thrown had overshadowed the films. The line-ups were getting long and it was becoming challenging to get into movies she wanted to see. So now, every fall, she makes a trip out to Vancouver in part to visit her daughter, but mostly to make up for the film festival time she had lost over the years.
For those who are unlike my mother and go to movies based on the amount of promotional airtime they get on Entertainment Tonight, I’ve sorted out some festival picks based on unique circumstances. (Thanks to the festival’s Ellie O’Day for helping me piece this together!)
FILMS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE COOL WITH SUBTITLES
When Day Breaks
A film by Serbia’s leading director Goran Paskaljevic that tells the story of a retiring music professor who discovers he was a Jewish baby left with a farming family when his parents were shipped to the concentration camp.
Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth
A documentary by Frauke Sandig and Eric Black that documents how the Maya cosmology is juxtaposed to the stripping of their land in Guatemala for the largest gold mine.
The Last Time I Saw Macao
Directors Joao Pedro Rodgrigues and Joao Rui Guerra da Mata merge fiction and documentary, and the Macao’s combination of Portuguese and Chinese culture.
FILMS TO SEE ON A DOWNER DAY
The Great Northwest
A found scrapbook in a thrift store leads to the recreation of the exploration of the Northwest by four women in 1958.
Breakfast with Curtis
A family feud is brokered by a hippy and his 14-year-old introverted neighbour.
Two Little Boys
Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie (Brit!) stars in this absurd and gruesome yarn.
Congolese kids ejected from the family as witches form a band and team up with an impresario and one-time recording star. You can count on this to be an ebullient musical.
FILMS FOR A FIRST DATE THAT WILL LEAD TO A SECOND DATE
A Royal Affair
An exciting, character-driven historical drama, which shows how a passionate and forbidden romance changed the course of Danish history.
Love in the Medina
Rebellious son of a Koranic lawyer defies expectations, becomes an entrepreneur, flirting with his female customers, and falls in love.
Love is All You Need
A Danish romantic comedy starring Pierce Brosnan, of all people.
SOMETHING FROM ANOTHER UNIVERSE
Moksha: The World or I, How Does That Work?
The premiere of a Korean film where a man awakes on the ground in a park, chained, having no idea what is going on, and the people who eventually come along with their own peculiar responses.
Somebody Up There Likes Me
Max opens a blue suitcase, and stops aging.
The End of Time
Peter Mettler (Gambling, Gods LSD, Petropolis) creates another trippy world from incredible visuals.
This film follows dreamers and schemers who devote their lives to the moon.
FILMS FOR SOMEONE WITH A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN
The Misunderstood Gentleman from the Black Lagoon Pay the Price
At one minute each, these (extremely) shorts are part of the Reel Youth Film Festival. It’s the sixth year VIFF has presented these youth-made shorts.
VIFF also has four two-minute shorts, and five three-minute shorts as part of the Canadian Images and Cinema of Our Time series.
For more on these and other films, be sure to get familiar with VIFF’s incredibly informative and easy-to-navigate website.
Be sure to take advantage of this festival. As my mother can attest, it’s a gem.