Five must-sees at the Vancouver International Film Festival

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      By Curtis Woloschuk

      The 42nd edition of our Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) brings 138 features and 93 shorts to 10 of our city’s screens. In addition to sharing more than 200 directors’ distinct sensibilities, these films unfold in 70 different countries and are voiced in 76 languages.

      I’m proud to say that this year’s festival comes courtesy of the largest programming team we’ve assembled in five years. This is an important first step in us ensuring that our curatorial voices reflect the many Vancouver communities that we aspire to serve.

      I’m also happy to share five must-see films at this year’s VIFF. But I feel it’s important to say that, were you to ask any other member of our programming team, you’d likely receive very different answers. In fact, if you were to ask me on another day, or even two hours from now, you’d likely receive very different answers. In this instance, I’ve opted for some titles that may not yet be on your radar.  

      There are so many exciting paths you can take in exploring this year’s program. I encourage you to perhaps use just one of these films as your entry point, and then find your own way from there.  

      Chronicles of a Wandering Saint (Crónicas de una Santa Errante)

      Dutiful and devout, Rita keeps a clean church but yearns for something more: beatification. Embarking on an ill-advised scheme to stage a miracle and enshrine her reputation as a living saint, this god-fearing senior instead falls victim to a cruel twist of fate that leaves her, well, a living saint. In the wake of its protagonist’s rebirth, Chronicles of a Wandering Saint pulls back the veil on reality, revealing the angels, demons, and other wonders who loaf about this earthly plane.

      Director: Tomas Gomez Bustillo (Argentina/USA)

      When/where: October 6, 4pm; October 8, 6:30pm; both showings at The Cinematheque


      In Brussels, a Romanian construction worker about to leave on vacation crosses paths with a Belgian-Chinese biologist writing a dissertation on moss. Such is the slender but fruitful starting point of Belgian filmmaker Bas Devos’ sensuous fourth feature, a film so attuned to the rhythms and textures of the everyday that even its characters’ names are an afterthought. A luminous exploration of the visible world, Here is a film about two people united by their mutual delight in their surroundings.

      Director: Bas Devos (Belgium)

      When/where: September 28, 6:15pm, Vancity Theatre; October 1, 4:15pm, The Cinematheque

      Hey Viktor! 

      Twenty-five years after the success of the seminal Native American classic Smoke Signals, a disheveled former child actor, Cody Lightning, decides to create a sequel to relive his fame. This edgy meta-mockumentary follows him on the chaotic uphill journey to do whatever it takes to make it big again—and ropes in original cast members Adam Beach, Simon Baker, and Gary Farmer to help him out. Surprisingly dark and raunchy, it's proof positive that healing comes through laughter.

      Director: Cody Lightning (Canada)

      When/where: October 4, 9:15pm; October 5, 6pm; both showings at International Village

      Orlando, My Political Biography (Orlando, Ma Biographie Politique) 

      Taking inspiration from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, French writer and theorist Paul B. Preciado uses the transgressive novel as a framework to investigate the very real contemporary struggles of trans and non-binary people, casting 26 Orlandos of multiple ages, identities, and nationalities. Exuberant, joyful, and deeply thoughtful, this poetic cinematic essay is a thought-provoking and deeply felt work of art.

      Director: Paul B. Preciado (France)

      When/where: September 28, 9pm, The Cinematheque; October 8, 8:30pm, Vancity Theatre

      Smoke Sauna Sisterhood

      Within the confines of a smoke sauna deep in an Estonian forest, groups of women gather to cleanse themselves in both body and soul, sharing in traditional sauna-based rituals—while also revealing their hurts and longings, joys and pains. In this Sundance-winning documentary, filmmaker Anna Hints boldly combines an intimate documentary approach with sensuous lyrical expressionism. Less an act of individual portraiture than a kind of collective diary, the film sees a hotbox become a place of healing.

      Director: Anna Hints (Estonia/France/Iceland)

      When/where: October 1, 9:15pm; October 7, 6:30pm; both showings at The Cinematheque

      Curtis Woloschuk is the programming director at VIFF, which runs from September 28 to October 8 at theatres across the city.