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





Canada 2016 Dir. Benjamin Duffield 94 mins.

Dates and Venues 7 Oct RIO; 9 Oct IN08

This futuristic film is quite relevant today as we see the youth with smart phones as though attached to their bodies.This film takes us even further when the grandchildren of these millenials have no more communication to the real world because the real world no longer exists. They cannot speak; the computer speaks for them. But there is light at the end of the tunnel when Darwin escapes his cell and sees nature with its trees and even a group of people he finally connects with on a human basis. I like this film. Unlike other dystopian films that end negatively, this one ends on a positive note.




A Copy of My Mind

Indonesia/South Korea 2015 Dir. Joko Anwar 116 mins.

Dates and Venues 10 Oct IN08; 14 Oct CINE

At first you would think this is one of thoseAsian soft porn films but towards the middle, it turns out to be a thriller when a beautician, Sari, our heroine, accepts a job doing a facial of a bossy woman prisoner who lives in pampered luxury. Every Indonesian recognises this woman, a political fixer who’s been jailed for corruption. Sari can’t resist stealing a DVD from the woman’s shelves, thinking it's just a mega-monster film, but it turns out to contain some legal evidence compromising a presidential candidate. The ending isn't spelled out to us, and like many of these young directors who leave the end up to the viewer, there is a hint that the compromising DVD will get out to the public. Perhaps one more scene should be added to complete the film: viewers watching the DVD and a reaction in their faces.



The Student

Russia 2016 Dir. Kirill Serebrennikov 118 mins.

Dates and Venues 2 Oct PLAY; 7 Oct SFU

This is a powerful film showing today's Russia from a teenager's point of view. In a classroom situation, a teenager with Christian fundamentalist values verging on fanaticism challenges his biology teacher on everything from the Big Bang Theory in creation to anti-Semitism and homophobia. Excellent acting by Pyotr Skvortsov (Venya) and Viktoria Isakova (Elena).



To Keep the Light

USA 2015 Dir. Erica Fae 89 mins.

Dates and Venues 7 Oct CINE; 9 Oct IN10

What a feat from a filmmaker who does practically everything in this film: acts, directs and produces. I'm impressed by the cinematography, the camera angles, the 19th century period costumes, and the dialogue. The story is based on true events from female lighthouse keepers, at a time when women's liberation was non-existent.




The Phantom Detective

South Korea 2016 Dir. Jo Sunghee 125 mins.

Dates and Venues 1 & 3 Oct IN10

A mix of Tarantino and film noir, this film is about a detective who is looking for the man who murdered his mother but ends up fighting against a cult that is about to commit genocide on an entire village. It's a thriller, and like all detective movies, you're wondering where the next clue will lead you. Asians look much younger than their age and in this particular case, our hero Hong Gildong (Lee Jehoon) looks like a teenager.



Sins of the Flesh

Egypt 2016 Dir. Khaled El-Hagar 124 mins.

Dates and Venues 5 Oct IN08; 7 Oct IN09

I look at this as a morality play by award winning director, Khaled El-Hagar, who comes up with a tragic Romeo and Juliet story. As the love triangle ensues, the media broadcast the overthrow of President Mubarak. But the theme seems to suggest that wrongdoing doesn't go unpunished as we can see from the tragic ending of the main protagonists. I like this film and could probably win another award for El-Hagar.




After the Storm

Japan 2016 Dir. Kore-Eda Hirokazu 117 mins.

Dates and Venues 7 Oct PLAY; 13 Oct CENT

Everything about this film is technically correct: the camera angles, the closeup shots, the long shots, etc. You could tell Hirokazu is an expert filmmaker. What got me while watching this film is how much of a global village we live in today. Everything about Japan is so westernized, especially in the big cities. Women now seem to dominate the scene. For example, in this film, it's the woman who divorces the protagonist because of his gambling habis. In another subplot, a woman hires him to follow her husband and take pictures so she can get a divorce for adultery. But all in all, this isn't a bad movie and it reflects the reality that goes on in many families both in Japan and the world.




Sin Alas (Without Wings)

USA/Cuba 2015 Dir. Ben Chace 84 mins.

Dates and Venues 7 Oct IN09; 9 Oct RIO

I enjoyed watching this film. The title is taken from a poem about Narcissus "Muerte de Narciso", from a 20th century Cuban poet Jose Lezama Lima:"Narcissus, at high tide, escaped without wings."  Those are the final words of the poem. Writer/director Ben Chace' makes an impressive feature debut, the first American film to be shot in Cuba since 1959. I was in Havana around 10 years ago and I could feel the pulse of the city as I was watching this film. Excellent acting from the main protagonists Carlos Padron and Yulisleyvis Rodriguez.






Philippines 2016 Dir. Adolfo Alix Jr. 80 mins.

Dates and Venues 9 Oct CINE; 12 Oct VCT

The director comes after a generation of Brocka enthusiasts. Brocka in the 1980s who was much influenced by the Ingmar Bergman style of directing brought a new genre of films to the Philippines. I noticed this influence in this film: long close-up shots, curt dialogues, emphasis on the persona. Alix focuses on the persona of Mrs. Ventura (veteran actress Elizabeth Oropesa) and all the tangents surrounding her: cracked walls in her house caused by earthquake damage, fending off her needy sister and daughter in Vancouver who’d like the house to be sold, participating in a cult session with another daughter (a bit comical), problems of her live-in home-help, her long-lost son (she doesn’t know if he’s dead or alive) who left to fight in Mindanao as a political activist. At first I thought that there were too many subplots taking our focus away, but upon re-thinking, I realized that there was indeed a focal point to the story, and that was, obviously, the persona of Mrs. and the problems surrounding her life.





Turkey/USA/Germany 2016 Dir. Ceyda Torun 79 mins.

Dates and Venues 1 Oct CINE; 3 Oct IN09

This is an amusing film especially for catlovers. The Turkish word 'Kedi' means cat, and that's what this is all about: how Turks love cats. The director interviews various residents of Istanbul asking them why they love cats. The answers are interesting, some saying cats are aliens, and others saying that it's good therapy and that cats are God-sent.






Sweden/Germany 2016 Dir. Mans Mansson 78 mins.

Dates and Venues 29 Sep VCT; 2 Oct SFU; 11 Oct VCT

This is a drab and depressing film about a  middle-aged Swedish poet who makes ends meet by performing manual labour alongside immigrants. Unlike Kafka where the victim has no hope, our hero (or anti-hero) in this film finds a way to get back on the job after he's fired. He even gets a promotion for being a whistleblower.




Power to Change - The Energy Rebellion

Germany 2015 Dir. Carl-A Fechner 94 mins.

Dates and Venues 4 Oct IN09, 6 Oct IN08

This is a well-documented film by Fechner who interviews people like technology entrepreneur Amir Roughani, a green-friendly innovator. The film gives us a wake-up call: unless we change our attitude to fossil fuels and nuclear energy that pollute our environment, we're going to end up with an environmental collapse. Fechner looks at alternatives that include celitement, biogas, kite-powered ships, and passive houses. There has been bad propaganda against these alternatives because oil barons want to continue pushing oil as the only means of energy. However, these green-friendly innovations are making headway and give us hope if only to save our planet and humanity from destruction.




Bulgaria/Greece 2016 Dir. Petar Valchanov 99 mins.

Dates and Venues 30 Sep IN10; 9 Oct IN08; 14 Oct SFU

This is an interesting film. It has a good storyline: a railway worker finds money while working along the tracks and turns it in to the authorities. But does his honesty pay off? That's when the plot unravels and we begin to see the biblical implications of how the good people of this earth are unjustly persecuted. The only two peeves I have of this film is that most of the camera shots are shaky which got me dizzy watching some scenes. The other one is the ending. I don't like endings that leave you hanging in the air.




Ain't Love a Many Splendoured Thing?

Various 112 mins.

Dates and Venues 7 & 9 Oct SFU

I've chosen to review five of the films under this subtitle of VIFF's International Shorts. Apres Suzanne by Felix Moati is about a young man dumped by his girlfriend and is introduced by his best friend to another girl who already has a boyfriend. They have an affair. It's immoral he says but she says she's there to comfort him. That's the French way, I guess. When amour is there, right or wrong doesn't matter. Bodas (Between Them) by Brazilian filmmaker Alexia Maltner is about a couple who break up during their 50th wedding anniversary. It's a well-directed short, and I like the ending when the wife walks away with her bag in the middle of the celebration. Friday Night by Alexis Michalig is a well-done short dealing with the terrorist attack in Paris where a mother looks for her daughter who was in one of the clubs. I like the way the film ends. When Day Is Done by Brandon Roots is a nice nostalgic documentary with archival footage narrated by the director's grandmother who talks about how she met her husband who was a sailor in WWII. The title is from a popular 1935 song which she sings at the end. Laura Jou's Don't Leave Me gave me the impression of a work in progress. A full-length movie can be made if scenes before and after this short are produced. Looking forward to it if this is the director's intention.



Disquiet in Paradise

Various directors 112 mins.

Dates and Venues 4 & 7 Oct IN08

IThree shorts caught my attention . Albedo Absolute by Vlad Marsavin, a somewhat sci-fi film, gives kids a lesson in disobedience. The morale: disobey and face the consequences. Litterbugs by Peter Stanley-Ward is a charming and funny film. Two nerdy kids hit it off as friends and they take revenge on three girl bullies. Jonathan Stein's Out of the Village is a moving film about an orphaned boy and his little sister whose village is devastated with Ebola and are helped by a compassionate doctor.




Fragments of My Existence

Various directors 103 mins.

Dates and Venues 6 & 8 Oct IN08

Eclair by Hugo Keuzer is a somewhat unusual film. When a woman proposes a strange request from her dinner date, he is caught in a dilemma but then makes a decision at the end. It's interesting and unique. Eden Hostel by Gonzaga Manso is narrated by a statue of the Virgin Mary hanging in a hostel room. There's some offbeat humour as we see different types of people renting this room. Encounter by Fabrizio Rinaldi takes us to a dystopic future where robots look like humans. Only at the end of the film do we know who's who. Interesting in a strange and sci-fi way.




Hong Kong 2016 Dir. Chan Tze-woon 133 mins.

Dates and Venues 2 Oct CINE, 4 Oct IN08

Hong Kong, since mainland China took over in 2000, has had problematic and tense relationships with the politics of Communist China who, in turn, is careful not to antagonize this former British colony because HK serves as the capitalist bread and butter of China's economy. And so, in 2014, the Umbrella Movement arose where students camped out for 79 days in the main districts of Hong Kong. This documentary is interesting but too detailed and too long. I think this film should have been edited to at the most 1.5 hours, instead oif the more than two hour marathon of long and repetitive scenes.



Living with Giants

Canada 2016 Dirs. Sebastien Rist and Aude Leroux 79 mins.

Dates and Venues 3 Oct IN10, 12 Oct IN08

This tragic documentary reflects in a microcosmic way the problems that aboriginal youths encounter: drugs, alcohol, violence and suicide. The locale takes place in a tiny Inuit village in the Canadian Arctic and the main character is Paulusie, an optimistic, imaginative and sensitive Inuk teen who loves the solitude of hunting. But when he gets drunk and violent, his life is turned upside down. I won't give out the tragic ending, but the film gives us another picture of problems suffered by the Native youth in the North.



Two Trains Runnin'

USA 2016 Dir. Sam Pollard 82 mins.

Dates and Venues 29 Sep CINE, 8 Oct RIO, 12 Oct IN09

This is a well-executed documentary. In fact, at the end of the screening, there was a warm applause from the audience. Mississippi in the summer of 1964 was a dangerous place to be because of the Civil Rights Movement. Two groups of music enthusiasts from opposite coasts (San Francisco and New York) converged there to search for long-forgotten Delta blues men. Luckily, they were unharmed. Archival footage of these blues greats are incorporated in the interviews of these men, now in their seventies, who went looking for these singers.




Freightened: The Real Price of Shipping

Spain/France 2016 Dir. Denis Delestrac 84 mins.

Dates and Venues 30 Sep IN10, 2 Oct IN09, 12 Oct CINE

Greenpeace Prize winner for Banking Nature (VIFF 15), documentarian Denis Delestrac, returns with an interesting investigation into the economical and environmental ramifications of cargo shipping. It shows how pollution is not only caused by cars but also by these freighters. In fact, the pollution they emit is even worse than millions of cars combined. This play on words "freightened" could in fact frighten us with things about this cargo industry we don't know about but is revealed in this excellent documentary.




The Confessions (Le Confessioni)

Italy/France 2016 Dir. Roberto Andò 100 mins.

Dates and Venues 1 Oct CENT, 4 Oct IN10

The set-up of this film takes place at a G8 meeting in Germany, where a monk is invited by the IMF chief to hear his confession, before committing suicide. It's some kind of a thriller where everyone questions the monk about what was said in the confession. Of course, the monk can't reveal this because this is a sacred oath of Catholic priests: what's said in the confessional stays there. The ending was a bit corny, some kind of a disappearing act, on the part of the monk, after his funeral homily and I don't understand why. But I think the thrust of the film is the same old adage of good versus evil, sprituality versus materialism, IMF manipulating wealth and poverty in the world. I'd give this film seven out of ten.





Portrait of a Garden (Portret van een tuin)

Netherlands 2015 Dir. 
Rosie Stapel 98 mins. 

Dates and Venues 30 Sep VCT, 2 Oct IN09, 12 Oct CINE

Gardening fans, you might like this. I dabble a bit in gardening, as a lot of retired people do to pass the time, and this might prove interesting. However, I found it too long and repetitive. 60 minutes would have been just right for this documentary which starts in January with the pruning, and ends in December when new plants are brought in. The locale is in the grounds of a centuries-old Dutch estate. Perhaps for the diehard gardener, one can learn something about horticulture from the master pruner of this documentary.



Twilight over Burma

Austria/Thailand 2015 Dir. 
Sabine Derflinger 99 mins. 

Dates and Venues 30 Sep IN09, 5 Oct SFU

Outstanding film. Based on the book by Inge Sargent with the same title, the film is about an Austrian student who unknowingly marries into Burmese royalty. Fine acting by Maria Ehrich and Daweerit Chullaspy. The drector took archival footage seen at the end of the movie and practically duplicated it in the film. This was a crowd pleaser on opening and there was a warm applause as the movie credits were rolling in.





Ghana/USA 2016 Dir. 
Kelly Daniela Norris 82 mins. 

Dates and Venues 30 Sep IN09, 9 Oct RIO

Dismal film. It portrays the stark proverty in most villages in Africa where people eat on dirt flours and eat with their soiled hands. It has also some graphic scenes showing chickens and goats being slit by their throats. A no-no for SPCA persons. Good acting, though by our hero Iddrisu (Jacob Ayanaba) who plays the role of a medical student who is called back to his village because of the sudden death of the father.





Greece 2016 Dir. Argyris Papadimitropoulos
104 mins. 

Dates and Venues 30 Sep IN09, 3 Oct RIO, 13 Oct SFU

A cross between Lolita and Fatal Attraction, this film that contains a lot of nudity is about a middle-aged country doctor who falls obsessively in love with a girl half his age. Winner of the Edinburgh and Odessa Festivals, this thriller keeps the audience at the edge of their seats as we see the transformation of our anti-hero's obsession into blind insanity.




Chile/Argentina/Spain/France 2016 Dir. Pablo Larrain
108 mins. 

Dates and Venues 2 Oct CENT, 9 Oct PLAY

Not as good as his 2012 film No. Larrain sets this film in 1948 Chile, and Gael García Bernal plays Oscar Peluchonneau, an inept detective who hunts the Communist poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco). The detective is probably a creation of Larrain, but it's true that Neruda was being sought after and the last scene showing him on horseback crossing the Andes to Argentina fleeing from his captors is biopic. He also had different names and identities as he eluded his captors. I didn't quite like this film because of the cinematic storytelling approach of the director, a tongue-in-cheek approach, so to speak, to Hugo's Les Miserables.





South Korea 2016 Dir. Park Chanwook
145 mins. 

Dates and Venues 2 & 7 Oct CENT, 14 Oct RIO

Definitely an improvement from Oldboy. This is a sexy film involving erotic Lesbian scenes. This film is reminiscent of the 2006 Oscar winning film Crash where we see the same scenes but from different camera angles and from different points of view. Very clever plot with twists and turns leaving the audience wondering what happens next. There's a lot of black humour too which adds to the relish of this movie.



The Unknown Girl

Belgium/France 2016 Dirs. Pierre & Luc Dardenne
113 mins. 

Dates and Venues 30 Sep & 3 Oct CENT, 14 Oct SFU

This film should be subtitled "The Good Doctor". Adèle Haenel (Love at First Fight, VIFF 14) is a committed young Belgian doctor who goes out of her way and in harm's way to serve her patients, making house calls, and caring for the poor and needy at the clinic where she works. When she receives a call from the police about a woman’s body that has been found on a nearby riverbank, she personally investigates the case because she was someone she had turned away from the clinic due to the lateness of the hour. Very good film. I give it 4 out of 5.



A Quiet Passion

UK/Belgium 2015 Dir. Terence Davies
125 mins. 

Dates and Venues 3 Oct CENT, 9 Oct IN09

Brilliant acting by Cynthia Dixon who plays the poetic genius Emily Dickinson in this biopic film. She was only recognized after her death. Just like most writers, she was a rebel. Despite her staunch Christianity, she didn't conform to going to church on Sundays or kneeling down to ask forgiveness for her sins. This is an exquisite film and it highlights the life of this recluse American poetess especially her love of family.



The Teacher

Czech Republic/Slovakia 2016 Dir. Jan Hrebejk
102 mins. 

Dates and Venues 12 Oct IN09, 14 Oct SFU

I like Czech humour which is rooted in the Kafkaesque absurdity. After all, Kafka was from Prague. In this film, Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarchovsky point out that nothing has changed in Czech and Slovakia despite its shift from communism to democracy in the 1990s after the Velvet Revolution. This satire on Czech society symbolized by Mrs. Drazdechova, the teacher (Zuzana Maurery, best actress at Karlovy Vary) is about a teacher who uses her position as head of the local Communist party to rake material benefits from the parents of her students, or else....The final scene expresses the same old vicious cycle.

© 2016 Ed Farolan