Time to let your cinephilia run wild! The Vancouver International Film Festival is back for its 33rd year this September. VIFF is one of the largest film festivals in North America presenting nearly 350 films from over 70 countries for 16 days, including many critically acclaimed films and audience favourites. And for the cherry on top, dozens of directors, writers, and actors will be visiting the festival for insightful and provocative post-screening Q&As.
The complete 2014 festival program was announced last Thursday, and it boasts some heavy-hitters and many worthy gems. VIFF has always been a filmmaker’s festival, showcasing high-profile features, while highlighting many auteur works of art as well. But to note, VIFF has also presented one of the largest collections of Asian films in any festival. The Dragons and Tigers series has been a mainstay for over two decades, and once again, there will be many exciting Asian films to look forward to this year.
One of the main attractions this year is undoubtedly Ishii Yuya’s Vancouver no Asahi about the famous Japanese baseball team that played at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver’s Japantown in the 1930’s and 40’s, and won numerous championships in the face of racism and discrimination. Ishii Yuya and the stars of the film, Tsumabuki Satoshi and Kamenashi Kazuya will be in attendance, and advanced tickets for the first of three screenings are already sold out.
Another highlight from Japan is Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya by Takahata Isao, the other anime master who directed such classics as Grave of the Fireflies and Pom Poko. And to go along with the anime theme, VIFF will also be presenting Amazing Anime, a shorts program featuring 10 of this year’s best animated shorts from Japan and one from South Korea.
Bong Joon-ho is back… sort of. This time around, he’s the Producer of the new thriller, Haemoo, about a fishing-boat skipper who smuggles a group of North Korean illegals ashore. Based on a real incident in Korea, don’t expect to see monsters like in The Host, but look forward to the same level of thrills and intensity.
For something a little gentler though, check out Hill of Freedom, the new film from Hong Sangsoo. If you’re familiar with this director’s work, you can expect more of the same that he’s known for. But if you’re being introduced for the first time, expect sharp dialogue, dry humour, a slower paced film, and a minimalist touch.
China has made quality films for decades so it’s no surprise when it starts picking up awards at festivals around the world. Black Coal, Thin Ice is China’s biggest art-house box office hit so far. This film noir thriller won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival this year and stars fan favourite, Gwei Lun Mei, and Liao Fan who also won the Silver Bear for Best Actor in Berlin.
Veteran Hong Kong director Ann Hui blew audiences away two years ago with A Simple Life, selling out every screening at VIFF. While her new film, the three-hour biopic The Golden Era, doesn’t have Andy Lau, she has cast Lust, Caution’s Tang Wei as Chinese author Xiao Hong whose life ended shockingly during the upheavals of the Japanese invasion of China. Ann Hui, Tang Wei… what’s not to look forward to?
It seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a film from horror director, Fruit Chan. Perhaps The Midnight After is his “comeback” film. This apocalyptic thriller – reminiscent of 28 Days Later – follows a group of survivors trying to solve a mystery that has left Hong Kong completely deserted. If you know Fruit Chan, you know this is not for the faint of heart.
But if you rather have a more relaxing, and equally enjoyable, time where you can stare at a group of real good-looking people for 70 minutes, then Heiward Mak’s Uncertain Relationships Society is the film for you.
Many (and arguably, all) of the South Asian countries still don’t have a thriving film industry. But they, nonetheless, still continue to produce many projects that surprise and excite. In particular this year, is Vietnam’s first sci-fi eco-thriller, Nuoc 2030, (directly translated as “Water 2030”). Made by UCLA-trained writer/director, Nguyen-Vo Nghiem-Min, the film is a cautionary tale about a near-future when rising sea levels have flooded most of the arable lands of the Mekong delta.
If a bit of local Asian flavour is what you’re after though, we suggest you check out Vancouver filmmaker Julia Kwan’s Everything Will Be. This documentary examines the erosion and transition affecting the culture and economy of Vancouver’s Chinatown.
This is only the icing on a very large cake. There are many more films available for your viewing pleasure over the 16 days of the festival, and we recommend you see as many as you possibly can while they’re here. VIFF 2014 runs from September 25th to October 10th at various venues around Vancouver. To peruse all of the films the festival has to offer this year and where they will be screening, be sure to pick up their free program guide, or visit www.viff.org.