VIFF 2017 special guests: Okja, Game of Thrones, Handmaid's Tale, Hidden Sword, and more

    1 of 16 2 of 16

      So far, only a few of the special guests at this year's festival have been revealed but they include behind-the-camera talent who have worked on prominent shows such as Okja, Game of Thrones, Bates Motel, The Handmaid's Tale, and more—and there are quite a few literary adaptations in the mix.

      Among them is South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho who has several connections to Vancouver and VIFF.

      When he visited VIFF for a fourth time in 2010 with his film The Host (he first appeared at VIFF with his film-school graduation project in 2005), the Georgia Straight asked him if he would ever shoot a film in Vancouver.

      He said that he was working on adapting a French graphic novel entitled Le Transperceneige, which became his 2013 film Snowpiercer. He said Canada was a top consideration as a filming location, due to the wintry landscapes required for the film.

      Okja filmmaker Bong Joon-ho

      Although the film didn't end up being shot in Canada, he did partly shoot Okja in Vancouver.

      Although the animal-themed tale is a Netflix film, it had its world premiere on the big screen in Cannes in May. The tale will get the big-screen treatment locally on September 30 when it will be part of the VIFF Visionary Special Presentation, copresented by IATSE 891.


      The film follows the young Mija (An Seo Hyun) who tries to protect her longtime animal companion Okja, a giant pig, from the clutches of a multinational corporation.

      The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Byun Heebong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je Moon, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Woo Shik Choi, and Giancarlo Esposito.

      (Fun fact: Vancouver actor Lily Collins is the daughter of British pop star Phil Collins.)


      The VIFF event will feature a discussion with Bong as well as Method Studios visual-effects supervisor Erik-Jan de Boer, who helped bring Okja to life on screen.

      “Realizing Bong’s vision for Okja was inherently challenging because of her size," de Boer explained in a statement. "She is enormous and features prominently in shots, and we didn’t want to restrict the actors so we had to prepare for there to be a lot of contact with her on set. Also, since this is a story about love and friendship, naturally Mija would need to interact closely with Okja. We aimed to make Okja a realistic presence on set and really focused on making the young actress playing Mija comfortable even though her primary costar is an inanimate foam shape. Bong was very generous in allowing us to rehearse and prepare with Mija and gave us a lot of autonomy in how we approached scenes.”


      For more inside stories from behind the camera, audiences can attend sessions to listen to film industry professionals talk about their work at the VIFF Creator Talks series.

      This year's lineup includes Canadian director Jeremy Podeswa and cinematographer Greg Middleton (Passchendaele). While they more recently worked on Game of Thrones together, they also previously collaborated on the Canadian films Fugitive Pieces, an adaptation of Anne Michaels' novel, andThe Five Senses.

      Jeremy Podeswa

      Showrunner Carlton Cuse has worked on locally shot TV series such as Bates Motel and Colony (which recently relocated from L.A. to Vancouver).

      Costume designer Ane Crabtree will talk about her approach to creating wardrobes for series such as The Handmaid's Tale, the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel.

      Director and executive producer David Slade will talk about his work on shows such as American Gods and Black Mirror.

      Here are some brief descriptions of the Creator Talks guests:

      Jeremy Podeswa, Director, Game of Thrones and Greg Middleton, Cinematographer, Game of Thrones

      Emmy nominees, and the winners of multiple awards for their work, director Jeremy Podeswa and cinematographer Greg Middleton are two of Canada's most successful film and television artists. They most recently brought their skills to the HBO series Game of Thrones, directing and shooting the Season 7 premiere and finale. Earlier collaborations include the films Fugitive Pieces and The Five Senses.

      Gregory Middelton

      Carlton Cuse, Writer/Executive Producer/Showrunner, Bates Motel

      Showrunner Carlton Cuse has mastered the art of primetime storytelling. One of television's most successful scribes, he's currently writing, exec-producing and showrunning the upcoming series Jack Ryan for Amazon and Colony for USA. His TV credits include Bates Motel and the smash hit Lost. Carlton also wrote the hit film San Andreas. He is the recipient of 10 Emmy Nominations.

      David Slade

      David Slade, Director/Executive Producer, American Gods and Black Mirror

      David Slade will share some unique experiences from directing pilots and forming cinematic language for series including the critically acclaimed anthology Black Mirror and hit series American Gods. This talk will be preceded by a screening of the American Gods episode, "The Bone Orchard."

      Ane Crabtree, Costume Designer, The Handmaid's Tale

      A celebrated costume designer for film and television, Ane Crabtree made a lasting impression by creating the look for the Justified, Rectify, Outcast and The Sopranos pilots, along with designing multiple episodes of those shows. Most recently, she has designed costumes for the critically acclaimed series The Handmaid's Tale. Ane has received Costume Designers Guild Award nominations for Westworld, Masters of Sex and Pan Am.

      Ane Crabtree

      Meanwhile, one of the stars from the Chinese wuxia epic The Hidden Sword will be walking the red carpet at the October 4 screening, though his name is yet to be revealed.

      The Hidden Sword

      If you kept up with the news from the 2014 festival, you'll probably remember there was quite the hubbub about the arrival of two very special guests.

      Fans showed up in screaming droves at the world premiere screening of The Vancouver Asahi, a Japanese production that depicted the successful pre-Second World War historical Japanese Canadian baseball team from Vancouver.

      Japanese stars Tsumabuki Satoshi and Kamenashi Kazuya appeared at the world premiere of The Vancouver Asahi at the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival.
      Craig Takeuchi

      While the film itself was a homerun with local audiences (resulting in Vancity Theatre showing an extended run of the film), ensuing chaos resulted from a mob of fans because it not only starred two major J-pop stars—Satoshi Tsumabuki and Kamenashi Kazuya—but they also walked the VIFF red carpet and spoke at the premiere here.

      Those two idols are appearing at the festival again this year—but as they're only appearing on screen (as far as we know), you can hold your screams for the time being. However, this is a heads-up warning that these screenings may attract viewers from these J-pop stars' fanbase.

      A Beautiful Star

      Kamenashi Kazuya (also known as "Kame" by his screaming fans) is in A Beautiful Star (Utsukushii Hoshi), which will have its North American premiere at VIFF. With a curious blend of comedy and sci-fi, the film follows a family who believe they are descendants of aliens and are on a mission to save humanity from nuclear weapons. Kamenashi plays the son who is a freeter (a Japanese expression for someone who is unemployed) and believes he is from Mercury.

      The film is an adaptation of Yukio Mishima's 1962 novel.

      Gukoroku: Traces of Sin

      Meanwhile, Tsumabuki Satoshi stars in a much different, much darker film. Gukoroku: Traces of Sin is a mystery drama following a reporter (Tsumabuki) investigating a cold case involving the brutal murders of a businessman and his family. As he delves deeper into the case, he discovers that the family was not exactly what they appeared to be.

      While it's unlikely Kamenashi and Tsumabuki will make an appearance, desperate fans can continue to desperately hope for the best.

      In the meantime, stay tuned for VIFF to make further announcements over the coming weeks of who else will be showing up at the festival this year. Keep your fingers crossed.