Vancouver International Film Festival

Dates and Venues 29 September – 14 October 2011 | In and around downtown Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan


Brick Novax's Diary

16 minutes, USA, 2010, dir. Matt Piedmont

This jury award-winner of the 2010 Sundance Festival tells the story of the international super legend Brick Novax as he recounts his life-story In a seedy motel with only weeks to live, narrating tales of his amazing, crazy and multifaceted life to preserve his legacy as the coolest guy in the history of the world. Done with plastic dolls, an interesting and entertaining appoach to film-making.



112 minutes, Spain, 2011, dir. Fernando Leon de Aranoa

The themes of immigration and aging are the topics in this film by Aranoa which was jam-packed on opening day. I was surprised why this was so, but after watching the movie and hearing the applause of the audience, I was convinced about the near perfection and excellence of this film. Spain is now crowded with immigrants, especially from South America and Morocco. In this almost suspenseful, hitchcockian-style of a film, I was impressed with the attention to detail by the director. Magaly Solier (Marcela) is an immigrant from Peru (I think) and she lives with her boyfriend who is a womanizer. She is pregnant, needs money and is desperate to find work, and so she takes a job as nurse/aid to the bedridden Amador (Celso Bugallo). But he dies after she works for only a few days. So she plans a scheme which very cleverly steers into what Aranoa intends his film to be: black comedy and a social critique of the seniors who receive pensions, and what relatives do with the money. I won't divulge the ending, but this is a must-see film and you won't be sorry afterwards.


Best Intentions

105 minutes, Hungary/Romania, 2011, dir. Adrian Sitaru

In the first part of the film, I didn't hear the audience laughing because, like me, they were unsure whether this was a comedy or a tragedy. But towards the second half, I started laughing at the tongue-in-cheek situations, at the almost Italian-type of a comedy that Sitaru intended it to be. It is a dark comedy, a genre I enjoy watching. Alex David (Bogdan Dumitrache) is somewhat a mama's boy who worries too much about his mom, especially when she suffers a stroke. He travels back and forth from Bucharest to his hometown, where he tries to deal with his mother's sickness, seeing her at the hospital every two hours, sometimes at weird hours, despite the fact that his mother tells him not to worry. He argues with everyone around him, and the hospital ward where his mom stays is like a carnival, with all her friends visiting her and bringing her all kinds of treats. The ensemble cast is perfect, and I'm reminded of an Italian family with everyone talking at the same time. After all, Romania is Latin in some ways. The patient beside his mother is a woman whose face was scarred in a car accident,and she sports a rabbit mask, another touch of dark humour from the director. Alex's worries have no basis because there really is nothing wrong with his mother, and that's the crux of this dark comedy:: we're paranoid about things that aren't worth worrying about. This is a good film for people who worry a lot so they can see and laugh at themselves.


The Natural Phenomenon of Madness

135 minutes, Philippines, 2011, dir. Charliebebs Gohetia

I found the use of black and white interesting. The director's images were clear, and his directorial approach, taking longshots, and close-ups, was plausible. However, I found this film too long (over two hours), and scenes that were repetitive. For a film of this nature, It needed more editing. If this were a Cameron Mitchell epic, then I'd understand a more-than-two-hour show, but this type of film which is heavy and sometimes boring, should have been cut to at least one hour and a half. It's somewhat vague towards the end of the film, whether the filmmaker was trying to put in the message of incest when "she" says "kuya" at the end. "Kuya" in Tagalog means "big brother". Was her lover a real brother, or sometimes, in Tagalog, when one says "kuya", it means an older person, a sign of respect. The love triangle theme (well, not really, because "she" loves "he" who loves another woman) and the remorse that "he" has for raping "she" is constantly drummed in the audience's head. One gets tired of this, and the trouble with young filmmakers is they don't have a good story, and we end up listening to the same old story repeated over and over. I think Gohetia should look for a good script before filming. I like his directorial techniques--clear images, shots, the b/w approach, but storywise, boring, boring, boring.

acaciasLas Acacias

85 minutes, Argentina/Spain, 2011, dir. Pablo Giorgelli

This was a short, simple and sweet film. A middle-aged Argentine truck driver (Germán de Silva) en route from Paraguay to Buenos Aires, carrying his usual haul of freshly cut acacia timber, picks up a young Paraguayan woman (Hebe Duarte) and her five-month-old baby. Somewhere in the course of the journey, there is a brief conversation about the Paraguayan dialects and somewhere further along we learn that the truck driver has been estranged from his wife and his adult son for many years. The truck driver who is businesslike at first and treats her and her baby harshly, eventually bonds with her and the baby in this overnight trip. After dropping her off, he finds the separation painful, but what redeems the happy ending of the film is that little light of hope that they'll get together again in another of his road trips.

© 2011 Ed Farolan