Reviewer: Ed Farolan
Venues: IN-Cineplex Odeon International Village, CENT= TheCentre for the Performing Arts, CINE-The Cinematheque, RIO-Rio Theatre, SFU-SFU's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, VCT-Vancity Theatre, PLAY-Vancouver Playhouse
The Second Mother
Brazil 2015, Dir. Anna Muylaert
Dates and Venues 1 Oct CENT & 6 Oct IN10
Splendid comedy. A crowd pleaser in Brazil and also here at VIFF when it opened last October 1st. This film has won awards in Berlin and Sundance. Regina Case is wonderful as the housekeeper of a high class family in Sao Paolo. Beautifully acted. A must-see movie.
Italy, 2015, Dirs. Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
Dates and Venues 1 Oct CENT & 6 Oct IN9
Maraviglioso indeed! And educational, to boot. This is one of the many classics, similar to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, that all students should know when studying the classics. Boccaccio's Decameron is composed of 100 stories, but the Taviani brothers uses only four of these stories. Beautiful costumes and settings inspired by Boticelli's paintings. Must-see.
Canada 2015. Dir. Paul Gross
Dates and Venues 26 Sep CENT & 29 Sep IN10
Paul Gross (Passchendaele) returns to the battlefield with this film—which he also wrote and stars in as an intel officer —set in the waning days of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan. During the photo/interview session, I asked him why another war film and he said he went to Afghanistan to visit the troops there and was inspired when he visited the base at Sperwan Ghar, near Kandahar, to write this script based on interviews with soldiers there. This is an outstanding film and will surely show in commercial theatres. A must-see film.
Canada 2015. Dir. Atom Egoyan
Dates and Venues 28 Sep PLAY & 29 Sep IN9
What a riveting film! During the photo/interview session last September 28, before the screening, I asked Egoyan about Christopher Plummer, the main protagonist of his film. He said he was a brilliant actor and he worked with him before. He liked things done specifically (as theatre actors are wont to be), and he said he liked that in an actor. Egoyan got a standing ovation right before the Q & A session after the screening, and he said he really appreciated that. He said he remembered coming to the Playhouse and he now is here onstage with his film, a dream fulfilled. This Canadian Hitchcock of a director is simply fabulous. The shocking ending of the play is what makes Egoyan a splendid director. Together with the screenplay by Benjamin Guest, the direction by Egoyan, and the acting by Plummer, Martin Landau and Jurgen Prochnow, this is a must-see film.
Ireland/Canada 2015. Dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Dates and Venues 28 Sep CENT & 2 Oct IN10
The first part of the film was irritating and a bit boring. Mother and child confined in a shed converted into a room, fighting all the time. The acoustics in The Centre was so bad that I had to close my ears. The sound was screeching. But then, the excitement starts when the great escape happens around the middle of the film. I think the film should have ended here because afterwards, there was another hour of the aftermath which again started to drag the film into a boring post--climax.
Canada 2015. Dir. Deepa Mehta
Dates and Venue 25 & 29 Sep CENT
During the photo/interview session last September 25, before the screening, I asked Mehta why this film and she answered, "Why not? Women can do anything." I gathered from this answer that not only men like Scorcese, Coppola and Tarantino can do gangster films, with all the blood and gore, but rather women can do them too. In fact, she seems to be the only female director that's done a film on gangsterism. The film had a comedic and colourful quality to it, unlike other gangster films where everything is grim. In this film, there's tragedy like all gangster films but what makes it unique is it's Indo-Canadian and there's humour involved, despite its tragic ending.
My Internship in Canada
Canada 2015. Dir. Philippe Falardeau
Dates and Venues 25 & 27 Sep CENT,IN9
This is a charming and funny film, and it got a warm applause from the Vancouver audience. Good timing too with the elections coming up in two weeks' time. The intern of MP Steve Guibord (Patrick Huard) is a Haitian played by Irdens Exantus. This actor is a comic genius. Paul Doucet as the piano and guitar-playing Prime Minister of Canada was funny in a deadpan way. Roadblocks, peace activists, miners, truckers, politicians, Aboriginal groups are all involved in this political comedy where the MP from Prescott-Makadew à Rapides-aux-Outardes must decide if Canada will go to war in the Middle-East.
USA 2015. Dir. Jon Watts
Dates and Venues 26 & 27 Sep RIO & IN9
This "altered states" film is entertaining indeed and full of adrenaline as a villainous cop (moustachioed Kevin Bacon) is in hot pursuit of two eight-year-olds who steal his car. Interesting concept and the film keeps you on your toes from beginning to end.
France 2015. Dir. Elie Wajeman
Dates and Venues 27 Sep CENT & 3 Oct SFU
This period piece was done quite well by Wajeman, but what was scintillating about it was the passionate scenes betwee Tahar Rahim (Jean) and Adèle Exarchopoulos (Judith). No wonder the French kiss is so popular, and they're doing it right in this film. The film is about a politically dispassionate cop (Rahim) in Paris tasked as an undercover agent to infiltrate an anarchist’s cell. Posing as a factory worker, he makes contact and gains the confidence of a group of idealists, whose idealism goes out the window when they decide to start burgling the homes of the bourgeoisie.
France/ Russia, 2015. Dir. René Féret
Dates and Venues 27 & 29 Sep CENT & 8 Oct PLAY
This period drama was superbly done. Based on the biopic of one of Russia's greatest playwrights, the film is done in laid back fashion, almost the way Chekhov wanted his actors to act: just being yourself and not the style of the times with broad Shakesperean gestures. Chekhov, in that scene where he directs The Seagull, tells his actors how to act realistically. This paved the way to Method Acting which Stanislavsky later adapted, and which the Actors Studio in New York with Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg used to produce the style of acting we saw in Marlon Brando, a prime example of this school. We see also in Chekhov's life in the film how his stories and plays mirrored true events with characters he took from his life.
Boda Boda Thieves
Kenya/Uganda/Germany/South Africa, 2015, Dirs. Donald Mugisha and James Tayler
Dates and Venues 24 Sep RIO & 26 Sep IN9
Just like Tandem in the Philippines, the same happens in Africa with the name Boda Boda. Films coming from developing countries often reflect poverty thus resulting in crime, especially thievery and robbery. That's the main theme of this film about a 15 year old teenager who takes over his father’s motorcycle taxi (the "boda boda" of the title) and is immediately confronted by a corrupt world, including corrupt cops (again, same thing like Tandem). I'd give this film 3 out of 5.
Canada 2015, Dir. Ryan McKenna
Dates and Venues 2 Oct IN9 & 4 Oct CINE
This is quite a h ighly stylized film from McKenna with droplets of surrealism and sometimes, depending on your outlook, tongue-in-cheek or deadpan humour. When Jeannette our heroine (Marie Brassard) inherits the heart of a deceased Malian woman, she’s befriended by her donor’s teenaged son (Youssef Camara), who’s convinced that she’s the reincarnation of his late mother.
The Sandwich Nazi
Canada 2015, Dir. Lewis Bennett
Dates and Venue 27 Sep & 3 Oct RIO
I'm still wondering why our hero in this documentary was referred to as "Nazi" when there was nothing Nazi about him. Call him weird, pornographic, crazy, but not Nazi. I was googling his deli "La Charcuterie" in Surrey and he had 21 reviews, all excellent, stating how his sandwiches for only $8 were huge. The good side about this man, despite his foul mouth, is his generosity. Every Christmas, he goes to skid row in Hastings and distributes sandwiches to the needy there. There are emotional moments in this doc where he talks about being sexually abused by his older brother when he was a child, and that's why he fled Lebanon and came to Canada. I ran into director Lewis Bennett while he was sticking posters on lamp posts outside the Centre during the red carpet gala opening and I asked him why Nazi. He said the clients were the ones who named him that. He was like the Super-Nazi character in Seinfeld, very strict with rules with signs on his door saying "no cell phones" and "Say Please and Thank You".
Canada 2015, Dir. Kyle Rideout
Dates and Venues 2 Oct IN9 & 5 Oct PLAY
I like this film, or any other film that's well-done like this one is--partly fictionalized but based on real life events. In this case, a biopic of the British photographer Eadweard Muybridge who became obsessed with capturing motion on film. He was a pioneer in the field of photography and motion pictures. He invented the zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting motion pictures that pre-dated the flexible perforated film strip used in cinematography.This is the directorial debut of BC’s Kyle Rideout.
All Eyes and Ears
USA/China 2015, Dir. Vanessa Hope
Dates and Venue 27 & 29 Sep IN8
This is the international premiere of Vanessa Hope’s documentary which focuses on contemporary China-US relations. The main thrust is Jon Huntsman Jr. who ran for President in 2012 but lost to Mitt Romney in the GOP nominations. It also focuses on his ambassadorship to China (2009-11) and his adopted daughter Gracie Huntsman, given up for adoption by her Chinese mother who felt the pressure of China’s one-child policy. The documentary shows scenes as she returns to her hometwon and is warmly received by the townspeople. Another angle in this documentary is an interview with blind rights activist and self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng in his fight against oppression. This is a well-made documentary, but focuses on too many subjects and perhaps can be divided into segments with different topics.
India 2015, Dir. Shivaji Lotan Patil
Dates and Venue 29 & 30 Sep CENT
This Canadian premiere is an excellently done film based on the events that happened when Indira Ghandi was assassinated on October 31, 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards. It focuses on a Sikh family in Delhi that's running away from the Hindus who are rioting in the streets in outrage, killing and burning Sikhs along the way. I like this film because it's got suspense and thrills, and it's based on fact. I recommend it for an award in this year's VIFF.
My Enemy, My Brother
Canada 2015, Dir. Ann Shin
Dates and Venue 29 Sep & 6 Oct VCT
Miracles do happen. In this 18-minute documentary, two former enemies of the Iran-Iraq war meet again in Vancouver some 25 years later. What are the odds that this can happen? But it did. Very uplifting and emotional documentary.
Love, Theft and Other Entanglements
Palestine 2015, Dir. Muayad Alayan
Dates and Venues 25 Sep IN8 & 28 Sep VCT
Very rarely do we see a film from the Palestine territories. Shot in b/w, this film recalls the film noire of yore, but the filmmaker puts a little humour in his approach. There are a lot of entanglements in this film, from love to political prisoners, as our hero-thief tries to leave that part of Palestine that has been taken over by the Israelis, but ends up not leaving at all. If this were a good-feel movie, he would have been able to leave with his lover. But the pessimistic tone reflecting the Palestinian mind-set is expressed by Alayan. 7 out of 10.
Love Among the Ruins
USA/Italy 2015, Dir. Massimo Ali Mohammad
Dates and Venue 26 & 27 Sep IN10
What a gem of a movie. This mockumentary was a result of a miracle, an earthquake that struck the historic town of Ferrara, Italy resulting in a cracked wall in its municipal building revealing hidden several cans of old film, the long-lost silent film written and directed by the Lumini brothers of Ferrara in the early 1920s. I am just amazed how the film was restored, and what good filmmakers these brothers were. Their use of juxtaposed images, the close-up shots, and the use of archival footage--they were indeed the innovators of film during their time. A must-see film.
Philippines 2015, Dir. King Palisoc
Dates and Venue 25 & 26 Sep CINE
Based on a concept of Mikhail Red (who made VIFF’s 2014 “New Director” winner Rekorder), first-time director King Palisoc comes up with a crime thriller that can match the film noires of yore. We're kept in suspense as Roman (Nico Antonio) and his kid brother Rex (JM de Guzman) form a "tandem" team snatching bags and not making enough to live by. Then an opportunity presents itself with a major heist (snatching the payroll at a construction site), and their world starts tumbling down. Just like Lino Brocka's films in the 1980s, there is a social commentary in this film regarding poverty and corrupt cops that demand money for "protection". There are no more Dragons and Tigers Awards this year, but this film would've have been a good candidate for an award.
A Tale of Three Cities
HK/China 2015, Dir. Mabel Cheung
Dates and Venue 25 & 27 Sep CENT
Cheung does an interestingly historical and entertaining drama about Kung Fu superstar Jackie Chan's parents who grew up during the Japanese occupation and the Communist takeover of China in the 20th century. Although directors have the poetic license to partly fictionalize a story, that's what makes it interesting, especially towards the end when Daolong (Sean Lau ) saves Yuerong (Tang Wei) from drowning. It's a suspenseful thriller, based on Alex Law's script and Cheung's brilliant directing. This 130 minute film keeps you on your toes all throughout.
Frank and the Wondercat
Canada 2015, Dirs. Tony Massil & Pablo Alvarez-Mesa
Dates and Venues 28 Sep RIO & 1 Oct CINE
Frank Furko, an 80-year-old eccentric living in a Pittsburgh suburb, talks about Pudgie Wudgie, his 20-pound performing house cat who became an international celebrity appearing in TV shows like Maury and even in an Italian program. Furko shows documentarians Massil and Alvarez his huge collection of photos and VHS video footage showing how he trained his pet and how it performed all through the years. There are scenes that are both hilarious and emotional. This is a must see for cat lovers.
We Did It on a Song
France 2014, Dir. David André
Dates and Venues 5 Oct VCT & 7 Oct SFU
Five teenagers from depressed Boulogne-sur-Mer are going through their final year at school, preparing for the "baccalauréat" exams awaiting them at the end. This documentary reflects their angsts, dreams and ambitions, and what makes the film unique is the true-to-life characters sing songs created by themselves, as they express their relationships with their parents. The plot is not unlike what's going through in todays's world. We see paradigms of the generational gap--how teenagers have their own dreams, while parents are concerned about security and careers. The film is aimed at high school kids and parents with teenagers.
. © 2015 Ed Farolan