VIFF 2017: All the must-see movies


This year marks the 36th for the Vancouver International Film Festival, and in 2017 it features 365 films from more than 70 countries. That’s a lot of screen time.

From Hollywood heavyweights to indie darlings to foreign fare that can shake up your world view VIFF is a veritable cinematic candy store. With so much programming though a first glance at the schedule can be a bit overwhelming. For rookie attendees homework is highly recommended. Get your hands on a festival program (various locations in Vancouver and online) and treat it as your bible.  Have a plan and be open minded. Festivals like this are very much a place for discovery.

 In a bid to help out here’s a list of must-see films.

Big Buzz

Director: John Carroll Lynch
Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Skerritt and Beth Grant
This should have you at Harry Dean Stanton. Stanton, who died on Sept. 15 at age 91, plays a dusty, routine-following atheist who is looking for some answers. This slow burn walkabout that marks the directorial debut of actor John Carol Lynch (Fargo, The Drew Carey Show, Body of Proof), is both a nod to Stanton’s amazing career and the age old question: what makes us human?
First showing: Sept. 28, 9 p.m., SFU’s Goldcorp Centre

The Square

Director: Ruben Östlund
Cast: Claes Bang, Dominic West and Elizabeth Moss
The director behind 2014’s thought-provoking Force Majeure film is back with a vengeance with this year’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner The Square. This Swedish/German/French/Danish co-production is centred on a curator of contemporary art who suffers an existential crisis after losing his phone and being subjected to a wacky PR campaign. We can all relate to that, right?
This one asks the big questions with droll and often pointed humor. First showing: Sept. 29, 9 p.m., The Centre for the Performing Arts

The Party
Director: Sally Potter
Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall, Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Cherry Jones and Bruno Ganz.
A black comedy that sees a celebration dinner at a fancy politicians house go from polite to flat out perilous sounds wonderful doesn’t it? The invited guests are no easy dates and so it’s a treat to have them played by this juggernaut of a cast.
First showing: Sept. 30, 1:30, Rio

The Florida Project
Director: Sean Baker (II)
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, Brooklynn Prince, Christopher Rivera and Valeria Cotto
Sure a Disney park might be dubbed the happiest place on earth but that glow sometimes ends right at the gates as is apparent in this film about down on their luck families that live in the run down and depressing motels near Disney World in Orlando. At the heart of this film are a group of sort of feral kids and other assorted characters living day — to-day. Defoe has been praised for delivering one of his best performances of his career. Now that says something.
First showing: Oct. 7, 6 p.m., The Centre for the Performing Arts

Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Tom Noonan and Millicent Simmonds
Haynes’s latest film closes this year’s VIFF. The movie is based on Brian Selznick’s critically acclaimed YA novel of the same name about a pair of children from two different times but with the same dream of finding better lives and exploring New York City. Good news is this is a film you can take your kids to and for a change they can be entertained by something real.
First showing: Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. The Centre for the Performing Arts

Meditation Park
Director: Mina Shum
Cast: Pei-Pei Cheng, Sandra Oh, Tzi Ma, Don McKellar, Liane Balaban and Zak Santiago
Directed and written by Vancouver’s Mina Shum, this film has the honour of opening year’s VIFF. Shum is back in her favourite playground mining the Chinese immigrant experience. In the film she looks at one woman’s bid to uncover her loathsome (his favourite drink is red wine and Coke, duh) husband’s indiscretions and in turn what she discovers is herself.
First showing: Sept. 28, 7 p.m., The Centre for the Performing Arts

Indian Horse
Director: Stephen Campanelli
Cast: Sladen Peltier, Forrest Goodluck, Ajuawak Kapashesit, Michael Huisman and Martin Donovan
An adaptation of the acclaimed Richard Wagamese novel the story revolves around a native kid named Saul whose skill on the ice rink physically frees him from the residential school but never clears him of the lasting damage of the abusive institution.
First showing: Sept. 30, 6:30 p.m. Playhouse



Director: Jason James
Cast: Thomas Middleditch, Jess Weixler, Diana Bang, Randal Edwards, Marilyn Norry and Eric Keenley-side
Vancouver-based director James has pulled together a great little film about a mentally unstable man who falls in love with an unattainable woman while ignoring a great thing right in front of him. I know you are thinking ‘oh that old trope.’ Well, don’t as things get pretty wonderfully weird in this one.
First showing: Sept. 30, 6:15, Rio

Once There Was a Winter

Director: Ana Valine
Cast: Kate Corbett, Teach Grant, Juan Riedinger and Kris Demeanor
To cut right to the point this film was nerve-racking. The story evolves from a simple stop at a double-wide trailer into a full-blown battle (mostly emotional and sometimes very violent) between two brothers. Caught in the middle is a woman who was just getting a ride back from a job. Old wounds lead to this fresh hell where everyone suffers.
This showing is the film’s world premiere.
First showing: Oct. 1, 9 p.m., Rio

Public Schooled
Director: Kyle Rideout
Cast: Judy Greer, Daniel Doheny, Siobhan Williams, Russell Peters and Grace Park
Judy Greer is great, pass it on. No really, Greer is always a benefit to any project. In this endearing comedy from actor turned director Kyle Rideout she plays an overbearing mother who must deal with her home schooled kid pushing his way out of the house and into the hallways of an actual high school. It’s a coming of age story for mother and son.
First showing: Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m., Rio

Foreign Faves

The Divine Order
Director: Petra Biondina Volpe
Cast: Marie Leuenberger, Maximilian Simonischek and Rachel Braunschweig
The winner of the best actress (Leuenberger) and audience award at this year’s Tribeca film festival, this film from Switzerland goes back to 1971 and one women’s personal awakening and then pledge to promote other women. In this case the awakening leads to the fight to get women the vote. Shocking (not) her quest of course ruffles some feathers in some Tyrolean hats.
First showing: Sept. 29, 4:30 p.m. International Village #10

Bad Genius
Director: Nattawut Poonpiriya
Cast: Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Eisaya Hosuwan and Teeradon Supapunpinyo
Part of the Dragons & Tigers series that celebrates East Asian talent this Thai film earned best film at the New York Asian Film Festival and best director at Fantasia 2017.
The film follows a high school genius that uses her brains for evil not good and earns money cheating on tests for others. One big task soon becomes her big test.
First showing: Oct. 6, 10:45 a.m., International Village #10

The King’s Choice
Director: Erik Poppe
Cast: Jesper Christensen, Anders Baasmo Christianson, Karl Marovics, Tuva Novotny, Arthur Hakalahti and Sven Tindberg
In April 1940 the Germans rolled into Oslo forcing the Norwegian King to make the decision to standup to the Nazis and put his country on the line. An audience award winner from Edinburgh this year this Norwegian film was also shortlisted for best foreign film Academy Award earlier this year.
First showing: Sept. 30, 11 a.m., International Village #9

King of Peking
Director: Sam Voutas
Cast: Zhao Jun, Wang Naixun, Han Qing, Si Chao, Geng Bowen and Yi Long
A China/Australia/US co-production this winner of the best director award for Voutas at the LA Asian Film Festival is a comedy/drama that tells the story of a projectionist that bonds with his young son over the projectionist’s dubious practice of redubbing and bootlegging big blockbuster movies.
First showing: Oct. 8, 3:15 p.m., Playhouse


The Nile Hilton Incident
Director: Tarik Saleh
Cast: Fares Fares, Mari Malek, Yaser Ali Maher, Ahmed Selim, Slimane Dazi and Hichem Yacobi
Set against the backdrop of the Egyptian Revolution, this thriller sees a cop looking into the murder of a sex trade worker. However, what initially looks like a cut and dry case soon becomes a complicated web centring on Egypt’s elite.
This Egypt/Sweden co-production won the grand jury prize, world cinema dramatic at this year’s Sundance festival.
First showing: Oct. 4, 3:45 p.m., International Village #9

Real Life

Unarmed Verses
Director: Charles Officer
The winner of the best Canadian feature documentary at Hot Docs this year looks deep into the issues facing a community forced to re-locate. The focus is trained on a stunning 12-year-old girl with plenty to say. This is art-giving voice at its best. You might want to cheer a bit watching this one.
First showing: Oct. 4, 1 p.m., SFU Goldcorp

Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey
Director: David O’Leske
So here in Vancouver the love of the outdoors is often a defining characteristic. With that in mind this film should be of interest to everyone with an MEC membership. Meet Fred Beckey, the legendary American “Dirtbag” mountaineer. This out of the box character has a climbing resume as interesting as his lifestyle choices.
First showing: Sept. 29, 6:30 p.m., Playhouse

Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters
Director: Natalie Boll, LaTiesha Fazakas
Kwakwaka’wakw artist Beau Dick’s works are staggeringly good. Recently deceased Dick was celebrated far and wide for his creative approach to his art. This Canadian film takes viewers into the life of the master carver and activist. Enjoy this film then go see Dick’s work in real life. The Audain Art Museum in Whistler is a great place to see some of his most important works.
First showing: Sept. 30, 9:15 p.m., SFU Goldcorp

David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts
Director: Phil Grabsky
The beauty of film festivals is the chance to experience other forms of art like say the work of one of the world’s greatest living artists Britain’s David Hockney. Filmmaker Phil Grabsky looks at Hockney through two different exhibitions.
First showing: Oct. 6, 6:30 p.m., SFU Goldcorp


Director: Karina Holden
This marks the North American premiere for this Australian film about the dreadful and drastic decline of our oceans. The facts are a bummer but this film sets out to talk about what can be done to reverse the marine mess.
First showing: Oct. 9, 12:15 PM, SFU Goldcorp

Marv Newland is back with his new animated short Scratchy. SUBMITTED / PNG

Short and Sweet

Director: Marv Newland
The master animator behind the cult classic Bambi vs. Godzilla is back with this cautionary tale about scratching ones itches. Also you have to give a thumbs up to any piece that rhymes Mars and Venus with my dog’s penis, right?
First showing: Home & Garden shorts program Oct. 2, 9:15 p.m., International Village #8

Amanda Plummer is seen here in Molly Parker’s new short Bird on at VIFF 2017. SUBMITTED / PNG

Director: Molly Parker
Actor turned director Molly Parker’s short stars Amanda Plummer as a struggling woman who visits her ailing parents and has to chase her mother’s bird after it escapes the house. Sad and poignant this is a great directorial debut for Parker and reminder of Plummer’s skills.
First showing: Home & Garden shorts program Oct. 2, 9:15 p.m., International Village #8

Crème de menthe
Director: Jean-Marc E. Roy, Philippe David Gagné
In this film, which premiered at Cannes Director’s Fortnight, a young woman is faced with clearing out her hoarder father’s house. In going through his things she is confronted with her relationship with her Rush (yes, the band) loving dad.
First showing: Stranger in Strange Lands shorts program, Oct. 5, 9:15 p.m., International Village #8

Do We Leave This Here
Director: Julia Hutchings
Talk about awkward you’re a freelance journalist and you have gone to the remote Peace River Valley to cover the Site C Dam story and then suddenly you end up in the middle of a fractured marriage. Yikes.
First showing: Stranger in Strange Lands shorts program, Oct. 5, 9:15 p.m., International Village #8

Director: Yassmina Karajah
This Vancouver-shot film uses first time actors and war survivors to tell the story of four Arab kids looking to cool off in a public pool on a hot summer day.
First showing: Left to Their Own Devices shorts program, Oct. 3, 9:15 p.m., International Village #8

Source: Vancouver Sky


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