With little else to do during lockdowns, watching films at home was one way many people rode out the pandemic.
But with restrictions having been progressively lifted, cineastes can celebrate the emergence from domestic hibernation as Vancouver’s biggest annual cinematic cornucopia is marking its 40th iteration with a return to theatres.
"Isolated in our homes, we turned to movies for a connection to a larger world, full of perspectives, ideas, and culture,” VIFF’s new executive director Kyle Fostner stated.
While Fostner points out that this year’s edition allows attendees to “shares the singular joy of experiencing incredible storytelling safely together”, the festival will draw upon the online adaptation in 2020 by continuing to offer “the opportunity and accessibility gained with last year’s model”.
Although the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) has traditionally commenced in late September with a two-week run, the 2021 hybrid edition will be somewhat truncated, running from October 1 to 11 with a program comprised of over 110 feature films, 77 shorts, and 20 events.
This year, all films will be presented at screening venues while 85 percent of film titles in this year’s program will be available online for viewing across B.C., and will expand for the first time with some selections available across Canada, at the festival’s streaming platform, VIFF Connect, according to Fostner.
In addition, VIFF Expanded will partner with two B.C. venues to present films in-cinema to British Columbians outside of the Lower Mainland: eight screenings at Tillicum Twin Theatres in Terrace and 12 screenings at the Patricia Theatre in Powell River.
All in-cinema screenings will follow B.C. COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and the B.C. Vaccine Card program applies to movie theatres (specific details about the program and how to obtain the card were announced by B.C. health officials yesterday).
The U.K. biopic The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, by Japanese-English director Will Sharpe (The Darkest Universe, Flowers), will open the festival with a portrait of a Victorian illustrator, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, who rose to fame for his drawings of large-eyed cats.
Acclaimed Portrait of a Lady on Fire auteur Céline Sciamma from France delivers the closing feature, Petite Maman, about a girl who befriends a girl who resembles her, leading to revelations about the past and the present.
The array of titles given special presentations assembles a collection of works by leading filmmakers spanning the globe, from One Second (China) by Fifth Generation filmmaker Zhang Yimou; Memoria (Thailand/Colombia/U.K./Mexico/France/Germany) by Thai indie director Apichatpong Weerasethakul; and Drive My Car (Japan), Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s adaptation of a short story by author Haruki Murakami to Belfast (U.K.) by British filmmaker Kenneth Branagh; Bergman Island (France/Belgium/Germany/Sweden) by French writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve; and The Worst Person in the World (Norway/France/Sweden/Denmark) by Danish-Norwegian director Joachim Trier.
Also, as part of VIFF’s 40th anniversary celebrations, the festival will present a free online tribute talk. VIFF Leading Lights will spotlight Japanese auteur Kore-eda Hirokazu (Like Father, Like Son) in conversation with South Korean filmmaker Bora Kim (House of Hummingbird), whom Kore-eda chose as an emerging director to discuss filmmaking with.
Other speaking engagements at VIFF Talks will feature film professionals sharing their expertise, ranging from documentary filmmakers Julie Cohen (My Name is Pauli Murray) and Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Flee), whose films include LGBT+ issues, to the writers and creators of upcoming B.C. TV series, the legal drama Family Law and the Knowledge Network documentary series British Columbia: An Untold History.
Canadian productions are also receiving special presentations, including the Indigenous sci-fi drama Night Raiders (Canada/New Zealand) by Cree-Métis director Danis Goulet, starring Vancouver’s Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, and All My Puny Sorrows (Canada), director Michael McGowan’s adaptation of Miriam Toews’s 2014 novel.
The True North program, which presents Canadian productions, features several world premieres, including a number of B.C. films: Elizabeth Lazebnik’s Be Still, Gloria Pancrazi and Elena Jean’s Coextinction, Lukas Maier’s Darkroom, Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux and Kirk Thomas’ Handle With Care: The Legend of the Notic Streetball Crew, and Trevor Mack’s Portraits From a Fire.
International premieres of titles from around the world include A Chat (China), Ayukawa: The Weight of Life (New Zealand/U.K./Japan), Bone Marrow (Iran), The Endless Moment: The Painter Rolf Kulhmann (Germany/Greece), Father Pablo (Mexico), Godavari (India), The In-Laws (Poland), The King of North Sudan (USA/China/Egypt/Thailand), and Records (Canada).
Other highlights include VIFF AMP, the annual forum for music in film, which runs from October 8 to 10; VIFF Totally Indie Day on October 2, devoted to independent filmmakers and cinema; and the VIFF Immersed exhibition, held from October 1 to 11, to showcase virtual reality and augmented reality storytelling.
For full details, visit the VIFF website.