HAPPY 40th to VIFF!

How convenient and nice of  the Vancouver International Film Festival to let us stream most of the 2021 movies, documentaries, short films + animations from the comfort of home.  But what was really wonderful after such a long hiatus, was to be able to view these amazing films in person “in-cinema.”  Seems like a long time.

Highlights:

VIFF could not have been more excited to roll out the red carpet this year with Special Presentations that were a cause for celebration. The scope of work that was showcased was simply phenomenal, featuring auteurs like Terence Davies and Kenneth Branagh; stars such as Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch; and a spectrum of stories ranging from intimate human dramas to towering historic narratives.

Belfast is a 2021 British-Irish black-and-white coming of age comedy-drama film written and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Special Presentations included one world premiere, one Canadian premiere, and the latest addition to the VIFF lineup: The Power of the Dog by Jane Campion, which focuses on the charismatic rancher Phil Burbank who inspires fear and awe in those around him until his brother brings home a new wife and her son, tormenting them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love; starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Additional highlights included the world premiere of The Sanctity of Space by Renan Ozturk and Freddie Wilkinson, which follows the directors as they traverse Denali National Park and uncover the story of pioneering photographer and cartographer Bradford Washburn; the Canadian premiere of Red Rocket by Sean Baker (The Florida Project), a luminous, seriocomic fable about America’s underclass through the eyes of a washed-up porn star in Texas; and Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the director’s first film in English starring Tilda Swinton as an expat orchid grower in Colombia with a strange malady.

Power of the Dog – Jane Campion, Australia/New Zealand, 2021.  In her strongest movie since The Piano, Jane Campion turns the machismo of the Western film on its head. Benedict Cumberbatch is the tyrannical cattle rancher at war with his own brother (Jesse Plemons) in this stark, revelatory drama.

The only animation I screened was Lamya’s Poem, the animated feature whose voice cast includes Mena Massoud (Aladdin), Millie Davis (Wonder) and Faran Tahir (Iron Man). 

The film charts the story of a 12-year-old Syrian refugee who is given a book of poetry of classic 13th-century Persian poet, Rumi. As the perils of her journey mount, the book becomes a magical gateway.  It was amazingly well executed. 

I followed that with Disney blockbuster “Cruella” featuring the two “Emma’s” – Stone and Thompson – both outstanding if you haven’t already seen it.   Reminded me of “The Devil Wears Prada.” This was not part of the VIFF lineup; but it made me ponder the notion of having watched an excellent animation that was based on a real person with historical fact followed by a movie acted out by real people that was based on animated fiction.  

We hope you join us next year.  In the meantime you might be able to catch “best of the fest” at https://viff.org/Online/default.asp

Happy Viewing