Reviewer Ed Farolan
Liv & Ingmar
UK/India/Norway 2012. Director Dheeraj Akolkar
Dates and Venues Sep 27 2:30 pm, Oct 04 12:00 pm & Oct 11 07:00 pm Cinematheque
This is a must-see especially for film buffs, critics, and anyone involved in film. Excellent documentary showing the turbulent relationship between international film star Liv Ullmann and famed director Ingmar Bergman who was 21 years her senior. The film examines the tumultuous 42-year relationship of these two icons told from Ullmann's point of view, through interviews and narrations. The film includes archival photos as well as excerpts from films directed by Bergman, starring Ullmann. The marked resemblance of Max von Sydow to Bergman was perhaps the reason he always appeared as her leading man, and many of the films reflected the ups and downs of this couple's "painfully connected" relationship.
Canada 2013. Director Anne Wheeler
Date and Venue Oct 06 01:30 pm International Village #8
A touching documenary that follows Vancouver actress Babz Chula through the last years of her life. Wheeler, a long-time friend of hers, captures Chula, a fixture on the Vancouver film and theatre scene, a woman whose life-force—or chi—vibrates with vitality, in her last two years of life. At 62, she is in the advanced stages of an eight-year battle with breast cancer and simultaneously a rare blood cancer. Chula and Wheeler travel to Kerala, India, where she seeks ayurvedic treatment at a small, remote clinic. She recovers temporarily and when she returns to Vancouver, she is told that she had a few more months to live. I had the opportunity to see Chula at a VIFF event years ago and I could feel the "chi" radiating from her. This film is indeed a homage to the life of a great Vancouver actress from one of her closest friends.
Hue: A Matter of Colour
Canada 2013. Director Vic Sarin
Date and Venue Oct 11 10:00 am Vancity
Vancouver documentarian Sarin expresses his own personal feelings as he travels to Brazil with his family. He is Indian and his wife is Caucasian, and he expresses his ideas, based on his own life, about skin colour and prejudice. He also travels to Tanzania where albino babies are killed; to the Philippines where women bleach their skin to feel superior to the darker-skinned women; in South Africa where apartheid existed till the end of the last century; and in India where he's from, recollecting how his mother didn't want him to stay in the sun so he won't turn dark. A lot has changed since the last century. As we live now in the 21st century, skin discrimination is a thing of the past... But is it?
The Patience Stone
UK/France/Germany/Afghanistan 2012. Director Atiq Rahimi
Dates and Venues Oct 02 06:30 pm Centre for the Performing Arts & Oct 08 04:00 pm Vancouver Playhouse
This is another must-see. Superb acting by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani who won the Best Actress Award in the Abu Dhabi Festival in 2012. Based on his award-winning novel, Rahimi adapts his novel about a beautiful woman in war-torn Afghanistan who confesses her darkest secrets to her comatose husband. Can he listen in his comatose state? Will he awaken from his coma? What will he do to her if he awakens? This is an excellent film as it keeps us in suspense, and the ending is a powerful tour de force.
Field of Amapolas
Colombia 2012 . Director Juan Carlos Melo Guevara
Date and Venue Oct 08 07:00 pm Rio Theatre
A beautiful film and a rarity, as Colombian films hardly enter film festivals. The film depicts what's happening in Colombia today: a civil war between guerillas (FARC) against the paramilitary, cocaine from poppies (amapolas) produced by the drug lords, and the innocent citizens caught in the middle with little chance of maintaining a neutral position. But the focus of the film is a moving father-son relationship; and, the two young children who turn to a puppy for comfort. The ending is beautiful, almost symbolic, with the green lake as clear as the emeralds of Colombia, and in particular, the emerald bracelet the girl gave the boy. I'd give this film 9 out of 10.
La Jaula de Oro
Spain/Mexico 2013 . Director Diego Quemada-Diaz
Dates and Venue Oct 03 & 05 01:00 pm International Village #9
Immigrants to the United States and Canada have that dream that escaping from the harsh realities of third world countries and coming here is a privilege. This is partly true because Canada and the US are first world countries. But when they come here, they have to face a different kind of harsh reality: the language, the weather, the way of life, the work ethic, and so many other factors to adjust to. In this excellent film, three Guatemalan teenagers from the slums of Guatemala travel toward the US in cargo trains, walking on the railroad tracks, facing "coyotes", robbers, and the "migra". The ending is a happy/sad one, and reflects the joys and sufferings of immigrants who make it, as in this film, to the United States. And thus, the symbolism of the gilded cage--materially happy, but spiritually caged.
Argentina 2013 . Director Santiago Loza
Date and Venue Oct 06 04:45 pm Vancity
Winner of the best Argentine film of 2013, the film is about Liso who has had mental problems and has just gotten released from the hospital. His father pressures him to go to work and even teaches him how to use a gun. When his father asks him what he wants in life, he says, "I want to have a child." His mother tells him to do anything he wants. So he does. And just like the title of the film, Liso finds inner peace in La Paz, capital of Bolivia where he decides to follow his nanny of many years who decides to leave the employment of his rich family and return home. The film wasn't bad, and I'd give it 7 out of 10.
My Prairie Home
Canada 2013. Director Chelsea McMullan
Dates and Venue Sep 29 09:15 pm & Oct 01 04:00 pm Rio Theatre
This is a documentary about Calgary transgender singer/songwriter Rae Spoon. Spoon is a man in a woman's body. He dresses like a man but sings like a woman with her high-pitched voice. McMullan films him as he sings in different venues, and as he travels in Greyhound buses in Western Canada. The title is derived from the album just released. There are scenes with his girl friend Rina, and another scene where his father whom he calls a "tyrant" walks out of the cafe after he sings a song about him. This is a well-made documentary and just as racism is a thing of the 20th century, being gay in the 21st century is a common phenomenon.
The Spider's Lair
Philippines 2013 . Director Jason Paul Laxamana
Dates and Venue Oct 01 09:15 pm VCT & Oct 02 04:00 pm International Village #8
Laxamana does an impressive take on a topic that is current: internet dating. In this film, our hero is a scammer. He scams male and female admirers by posting a picture of a good-looking and rich guy in Facebook, and is successful in extorting money from them. However, he becomes a victim of yhe adage "what goes around comes around". The scammer also gets scammed in the end. In an email interview with Laxamana, he points out the moral of his film: watch out for scammers. And true enough, we know of many cases of tricksters and hackers online. I like this film, and I'd give it 8 out of 10.
All Is Lost
USA, 2013. Director J.C. Chandor
Dates and Venue Sep 27 06:45 pm & Sep 29 04:00 pm Rio Theatre
All is not really lost in this one-man show starring legendary actor Robert Redford. There've been many a film of this sort, and you really need a good actor to carry the film for 105 minutes. What went through my mind is why a senior citizen, even if his sailboat is well-equipped, dare sail alone and face the high seas with all the storms and sharks and whatever unknown elements are out there. The film kept us all in suspense wondering if he'll make it. It was a jampacked audience and I'm sure the next and last show will be sold out.
Slovakia, Czech Republic, 2013. Director Jan Hřebejk
Dates and Venue Sep 28 07:00 pm International Village #10 & Oct 01 10:30 am International Village #9
Excellent film! You can tell it's good if the audience applauds when the credits are flashed at the end of the film. I've reviewed films by this director in past VIFF events (Holy Quaternity, Divided We Fall), and I like his humour. In this film, he's moved away from his typical style, and he's come up with a part thriller, part gay-bashing and bullying (contemporary topics) kind of a film. In the first half hour of the film, you'd think this was going to be a Harold Pinter film, when the village optician (Jiří Černý), who identifies himself as Jan Benda, winds up crashing the reception of the newly-wed couple. Then, in the next hour, the thriller part creeps in. Who is this character? What's he doing here? The truth slowly unravels, and the film ends beautifully, almost classic in the Aristotelian sense.
Chile, Italy, Spain, Germany, 2013. Director Alicia Scherson
Dates and Venue Oct 06 06:45 pm & Oct 10 11:00 am SFU Woodwards
Chilean director Alicia Scherson adapts Una novelita lumpen by her compatriot Roberto Bolaño, the late novelist now considered one of Latin America’s finest writers. In this film, 19-year old Bianca is to provide sexual favours to the isolated Maciste ( Rutger Hauer), a blind former Mr. Universe and B-movie star, and, by gaining his trust, to discover where he keeps his rumoured fortune. The nude scenes of Bianca (Manuela Martelli) are artistically shot by Scherson, and even a scene where she has sex with a bodybuilder where she has a stoic expression all throughout the act. The ending of the film reflects the title: What's going to happen next?
There Will Come a Day
Italy/France 2012. Director Giorgio Diritti
Dates and Venue Sep 27 12:00 pm & Oct 07 06:30 pm Centre for the Performing Arts
Interesting juxtaposition of scenes from the tropics of the Amazons in Brazil and the snowy winters of northern Italy. The film ends with what the title connotes where our heroine, Augusta, a young Italian woman decides to stay on in Brazil in search of meaning in her life after a personal crisis sends her there, far from home on a search for faith and meaning in her life. She decides to accompany a nun as she ministers to Indigenous Brazilian villages along the Amazon River. Gradually disillusioned, she opts to stay in the port city of Manaus, where she joins a favela community and works alongside the family she adopts there. When tragedy strikes the family, where a child is kidnapped and presumed dead, she leaves and isolates herself in a remote beach where she embarks on a bold journey of self-realization. Conflicts between the Catholic religion and other beliefs are expressed in the film as well as how the government is dealing with the favela situation in Brazil. Beautiful aerial shots.
Village at the End of the World
UK/Denmark 2012. Directors Sarah Gavron, David Katznelson
Dates and Venues Sep 26 04:45 pm Vancity Theatre & Oct 10 06:30 pm SFU Woodwards
A documentary about the cycles of life in the remote northwest coastal Greenland village of Niaqornat. The remaining 59 citizens, most of them Inuit, are on thin ice, their traditions jeopardized by climate change and the influence of the outside world. For a Canadian viewer, this is quite similar as it shows parallels to the way of life of the Canadian Inuits and the Inuits in Greenland under the Danish government's protectorate. Perhaps the Canadian government could learn from this film with projects to enhance the standard of living of the aborginals in Canada.
The Ravine of Goodbye
Japan 2013. Director Omori Tatsushi
Dates and Venues Sep 30 04:00 pm Vancity Theatre & Oct 03 06:45 pm International Village #8
Awarded the Jury Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival last June, the film is based on Shuichi Yoshida’s novel which carries the same name.This film I found interesting because it's a reversal of the Stockholm syndrome. In other words, the rapist becomes the victim of the syndrome, and not the other way around. In fact, he keeps stalking her until she gives in and at the end, when she decides to leave him, he is determined to go after her. Part melodrama, part tragedy, this film follows the directorial style of Ingmar Bergmann, and at times, the takes are a bit too long.
© 2013 Ed Farolan