The 33rd Annual Vancouver International Film Festival kicked off last night with the gala screening of "Wild," directed by Canada's own Jean-Marc Vallée. Although he and his cast were not in attendance -- VIFF rarely sees the level of glitterati our sister festival to the east receives -- the audience was electric.
The film festival season unofficially begins in snowy Sundance followed by Tribeca, Cannes and all of the corresponding hype that follows. Come fall, it's Canada's turn to host the glitterati and a roster of impressive filmmakers beginning in September with TIFF, followed by two fests on the West Coast that filmsters flock to.
Set amidst a modern Mumbai, beautifully capturing the color and energy of the city, The Lunchbox will give audiences something to smile about. Written and directed by Ritesh Batra, the story is peppered with perfectly-timed comedic moments, which balance the melancholy of the lead character. Khan is dashing - think India's answer to Tom Selleck - and a delight to watch in this follow up to his role in last year's Life of Pi. I should also mention the mouth-watering dishes, which will give you a hankering for Indian food from the moment the credits roll.
In 2007, Chicago-based historian and collector John Maloof discovered 100,000 negatives and hundreds of hours of Super 8 film footage and audio recordings which he acquired during a storage locker auction. What he didn't know was he was on the cusp of uncovering some of the most prolific American street photography of the 20th century. Vivian Maier spent next forty years working as a nanny for various families of Chicago's upper crust neighborhoods. She also spent much of her time with a Rolleiflex camera hanging from her neck, shooting people and scenes around the city, a hobby she kept quiet throughout her life. Her subjects ranged from the rich and affluent to the poor and impoverished with a penchant for politics and highlighting historical moments.
Written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Gia Milani, All the Wrong Reasons is a film about the difference between being selfish or selfless in matters of love. Milani maneuvers the heartbreak of PTSD thoughtfully, as Kate is faced with small challenges until her biggest hurdle is what defines her future with James, who has ventured down an impulsive path of his own.
Usually, outdoor ordeal films, at least of the horror genre, involve members of the middle classes suffering for their privileges, and ultimately being forced to defend them violently against poor people with a righteous grudge. Besides having a glaring class dimension, another aspect of the appeal of such films, is that they present cityfolk in the audience a chance to vicariously test our mettle: can we "do what is to be done under such conditions -- eat raw meat, sleep on the bare ground, betray our comrades, kill someone?" Or has city life made us too soft? 2013's VIFF has no shortage of films that ask these questions, with film after film plunging its characters into ordeals in the wilds, from which they may not emerge. Not all of these are horror films -- though even ones that aren't partake of elements of the genre
Nothing quite like a good midnight movie. Savvy, cinephilic audiences meet provocative, culty film fare at a time when, as Dick Miller observes in Martin Scorsese's After Hours, "different rules apply." The programming for VIFF's new late-night series, Altered States -- handled by longtime Vancouver journalist and VIFF staffer Curtis Woloschuk -- certainly reflects this observation. And what's striking about the series as a whole, is that the movies featured have much of the sophistication usually spotlighted by VIFF -- they're just cranked up a notch.
VIFF has a reputation of attracting a bit of a film snob set in comparison to its much larger sister festival in Toronto. Don't believe the hype. VIFF fosters a fabulous celebration of film, whether it's your first time or you've been going for years. Many people ask me how to approach the film selection process. With so many screenings spanning a two-week period, how does one decide what to see?