Particular editions of film festivals aren't created, they find their own way to viewers every year. That's one of the central messages available from the upcoming Vancouver International Film Festival–at least according to Alan Franey, the event's long-time director.
In his annual press conference on September 5, he and veteran program director PoChu AuYeung announced the lineup of this year's approximately 300 features from more than 50 nations, screening September 27 through October 12 at venues around town. They highlighted titles such as Iran's Persepolis, the German-Turkish The Edge of Heaven, and Romania's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days–all of which won major awards at the Cannes Film Festival in June.
The Dragons & Tigers series, which each year shows the greatest number of Asian films in North America, has a focus on China. Canadian Images programmer Terry McEvoy announced a number of homegrown releases, including Normal, from Vancouver's Carl Bessai, and Green Chain, a first effort from playwright and Georgia Straight contributor Mark Leiren-Young. And creative director Helen du Toit talked about this year's Film & Television Forum, happening September 26 to 29.
Most striking, perhaps, along with the massive number of nonfiction titles was the new Climate for Change series of environmentally minded films (not just docs) in conjunction with new partner Planet Kyoto, with a $25,000 juried environmental award for the movie that most effectively moves us toward a healthier world. Talking to the Straight a few days earlier, Franey was excited about the thorny material covered. For example, there's a title like Drowned in Oblivion, about black Mauritanians swept up in a sub-Saharan nightmare of the mid 1980s.
"It presents a problem in that, well, how do you sell a ticket to a movie in which people just tell you how horribly they were treated? But something like this stands for all mankind. The topic is distant to us, but very universal nonetheless, and just so strongly made. That's just one of a network of films dealing with human-rights issues in unexpected ways. This is, I suppose, because of what is happening in the world. People are seeing the use of force in a different light today."
Franey says the Latin American component is also significant, especially in political terms. Generally, the fest reflects a global culture that's turning away from the United States, using it as just a focal point of anguish while other players, like China, begin to dominate. The nexus between what we know and where things are heading is where the 26th VIFF seems to live.
A sneak-preview version of the fest catalogue has been released, and the VIFF box office will start selling tickets (by credit card) at noon on Saturday (September 8), at the same time the full program goes up at www.viff.org/. The printed program hits bookstores and ticket outlets on September 15, when cash sales also kick in.