09/26/2012 03:47 EDT | Updated 11/26/2012 05:12 EST

VIFF 2012 For First-Timers

2012-09-25-20120915ParadiseLove.jpg Paradise: Love

From Sept. 27 to Oct. 12, Vancouver will again play host to filmmakers, media, movie critics and film aficionados from the West Coast and beyond for the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival. Having attended VIFF consistently for several years, it's exciting to see how this world class festival has grown since its inception in 1982.

VIFF is among the five largest film festivals in North America with three programming platforms that make it a unique experience for the festival goer. VIFF screens the largest selection of East Asian films outside of our region; it showcases one of the largest selections of Canadian film in the world and has one of the a largest non-fiction programs outside of a documentary film festival.

Critics have said that VIFF is a festival "designed for the people who love film and the people who make them." While I wholeheartedly agree, I think many movie goes are intimidated by the term "film festival" So this post is for you -- the people who love a good cinematic experience but are first-time festival goers.

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? Given this isn't my first time to the rodeo, I have a few words of advice if this is your first time attending VIFF.

  • Try to avoid scanning the film schedule for North American films exclusively. Yes, you will come across actors and directors that you're familiar with, but don't let this be your guiding light as many of these films are destined for commercial release.
  • Try to search out those gems that you won't necessarily have the opportunity to see anywhere else.
  • Take a risk with a few quirky stories, some poignant documentaries and foreign films that bring about a new and refreshing perspective. Be inspired by film!

Here are my picks as a 2012 VIFF preview. (Summaries are from VIFF):

Rust and Bone

He's a damaged boxer with a young son in tow and she's a whale trainer at Antibes' Marine Land who, after suffering a shocking accident at work, allows him into her life. Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard star in this tender but brutal Côte d'Azur-set drama, which premiered during the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.


Senegalese kora and western trumpet make fabulous music together. Volker Goetze's enthralling documentary melds dazzling visuals and haunting songs to serve up a feast for the senses. Griot introduces us to Goetze's own soulful trumpet stylings and the extraordinary voice and calabash harp artistry of Ablaye Cissoko. Rumour has it, they're set to play a special live concert performance in Vancouver during the festival!

Neighboring Sounds

After a series of burglaries on a bourgeois Recife Avenue, a private security team is hired by the residents -- with ominous results. A gripping and expectations-upending slow-burn thriller from Kleber Mendonça Filho. "A powerful yet subtle X-ray of contemporary Brazilian society... Superbly constructed, skillfully acted and beautifully lensed," said Variety. Winner, FIPRESCI prize, Rotterdam 2012.

Any Day Now

A '70s-set account of a gay couple's struggles to overcome prejudice and adopt a developmentally disabled teenager. Travis Fine's stirring drama "packages heartfelt sentiment in foul wry observations by Cumming that would make John Waters proud," said Screen.

The Invisible War

This deeply unsettling investigation of sex crimes in the U.S. military certifies that "Kirby Dick has become one of the indispensable muckrakers of American cinema, zeroing in on frequently painful stories about how power functions in the absence or failure of accountability," said The New York Times. "This is not a movie that can be ignored." Winner, Audience Award: Documentary, Sundance 2012.

Una Noche

Variety says: "Marked by a vibrant evocation of Havana street life and excellent performances from three non-pro naturals, Una noche throws off a restless energy well attuned to its tale of impetuous Cuban teens preparing to make the dangerous ocean journey to Florida. Writer-director Lucy Mulloy's sexy, pulsing debut feature amounts to a bracing snapshot of desperate youths putting their immigrant dreams into action." Winner, Best New Narrative Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, Tribeca 2012.

The World Before Her

This energetic doc follows two young Indian women: a Hindu fundamentalist and a beauty pageant contestant. While each vies for her place in a male-dominated society, both are circumscribed by the very life-paths that claim to liberate them. Director Nisha Pahuja asks: What does the future hold? Winner, Best Documentary Feature, Tribeca; Best Canadian Documentary, Hot Docs.

Paradise: Love

The first installment in Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy, Paradise: Love focuses on Teresa (the very game Margarethe Tiesl), a middle-aged Austrian vacationing on a "comfort safari" to Kenya. Seidl's lead starts off looking for a "boyfriend experience," and in her dealings with the Kenyan beach boys, she at first attempts to re-colonize them sexually, hilariously attempting to instruct them in how to make love her way.

For films and schedules, visit For my film reviews during the festival, visit