film festival tourism

Vancouver

Why Go: Superior programming, especially for recent Asian cinema, and a chance to experience one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Website: www.viff.org

Dates: 16 days at the end of September-beginning of October

Festival Description

Launched in 1981, the festival skims off some of the top titles from Sundance, Cannes and Toronto. It’s large: in 2009 379 films were show. A generous selection of new East Asian cinema, ably programmed by Tony Rayns and Shelly Kraicer, is the highlight.

Tony Rayns

Shelly Kraicer

Venues

With its modern screening facilities, the Vancouver International Film Centre and the Vancity Theatre, the Vancouver Festival enjoys enviable conditions for seeing movies. The facilities got an upgrade in 2013 when the festival abandoned the aging Granville multiplex and its seedy environs for the state-of-the-art International Village Cineplex. Seeing a film on one of the Fest’s three screens at the Cineplex  involves a 25-minute walk from the festival’s host hotel, the Sutton Place, but those who are housed further afield will be gratified to find that the new venue is right on the Chinatown skytrain stop.

International Village Multiplex

the Vancouver Film Center

the Vancouver Film Center

Schedule

Screenings begin mid-morning and continue until late at night. The last films begin at 9:30-10pm. As many as ten films may be shown concurrently.

Tickets

These can be easily purchased on-line for $12 [Canadian]. Passes and packages are also available. Films do sell out at times, so it’s best to buy early.

Program Notes

A large program book contains serviceable descriptions of the films, some reprinted from other sources.

Surroundings

Perched between the Rocky Mountains and the Strait of Georgia, Vancouver has been called one of the most spectacularly sited cities in the world. Prosperous and easy to navigate, this Canadian gem offers visitors magnificent views in all directions along with first class amenities. As an added bonus, its mild climate supports a rich array of parks and gardens. Sophisticated, yet with a laid-back west-coast attitude, Vancouver possesses a vibrant culture in which the strong Asian flavor provided by its sizable population of Hong Kong Chinese and other Pacific Rim groups is joined with Canadian friendliness.

Downtown Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver

Accommodations

I like the Century Plaza Hotel, a three-star modern high rise with terrific views just a stone’s throw away from the major festival theaters. All rooms come with full kitchens. 1015 Burrard St. Vancouver, BC Canada V6Z 1Y5 (800) 663-1818 www.century-plaza.com

A room at the Century Plaza Hotel

A room at the Century Plaza Hotel

In 2009 I stayed at the Sutton Place, the festival hub. More luxurious than the Century Plaza, it has a beautiful pool and sundeck. My room boasted a large balcony with great views of the sunset and surroundings.  845 Burrard Street, Vancouver, Canada  V6Z 2K6  604.682.5511  www.vancouver.suttonplace.com

The lobby and entrance of the Sutton Place Hotel

The lobby and entrance of the Sutton Place Hotel

Getting There

The new Canada Line of the Vancouver skytrain system goes from the airport to downtown in less than 30 minutes.

Getting Around

If you stay on the southeast side of downtown, you’ll be able to walk to most of the major theaters, though the International Village complex is a bit of a hike. Alternately, find cheaper accommodations outside of downtown but close to a skytrain station. The skytrain is fast, modern and reliable.

Excursions

Besides walking around in this lovely city, there are many possibilities to feed anyone’s taste for either cultural or natural sustenance. Among them are…

  • On-off bus tours. Stops at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Stanley Park with its giant evergreens, Granville Island’s Art Colony, and a host of other treasures the city has to offer. http://www.bigbus.ca/

  • Vancouver Art Gallery. Not one of the world’s première museums, but worth visiting and not far from the Granville multiplex. Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver. (604) 688-2233. www.vanartgallery.bc.ca
  • Museum of Anthropology. The museum is located at the UBC campus on the next peninsula south of Vancouver’s downtown area. So you’ll need wheels to get you there, but it’s well worth a visit. The museum’s collection is focused on Northwest Indian culture. Try to time your visit to take advantage of the free guided tours; they’re superb. 6393 Marine Drive NW, Vancouver. (604) 822-5087 www.moa.ubc.ca
Museum of Anthropology
Museum of Anthropology

  • Nitobe Memorial Japanese Garden. This place, too, is next to UBC and is not walk-able from downtown. However, a visit to this exquisite haven can be easily combined with a trip to the nearby Museum of Anthropology described above. 6804 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver.604) 822-9666 http://www.nitobe.org/
Nitobe Garden
Nitobe Garden

  • Queen Elizabeth Park. Vancouver’s mild coastal climate is ideal for gardening and a large percentage of the city’s population can claim British or Hong Kong ancestors. These two factors combine to make Vancouver a gardening Mecca. Lunch at Seasons in the Park, the Park’s restaurant, offers stunning views of the city. Here again, you’ll need transportation. Queen Elizabeth Park, West 33rd Avenue and Main St., Vancouver. (604) 874-8008 (restaurant) http://vancouver.ca/parks/parks/queenelizabeth/
Queen Elizabeth Park
Queen Elizabeth Park

  • Grouse Mountain. More fabulous views in a majestic setting just outside of the city. If you don’t have a car, tour buses will take you there for a day trip. Grouse Mountain, 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver. (604) 980-9311 www.grousemountain.com
The Grouse Mountain tram
The Grouse Mountain tram

  • Whistler. Another spectacular day trip. A new highway will cut travel time to this Japanese-owned ski resort to under two hours—or you could opt for a luxurious train trip. The mountain and lake surroundings, fresh air and views are idyllic any time of year. http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/index.htm
Whistler village
Whistler village

THE FESTIVAL YEAR BY YEAR

2005

2005 Program Book
2005 Program Book

Best Film I Saw

Water . Deepa Mehta’s tragic tale of the plight of widows in modern India features limpid images shot in Sri Lanka (substituting for Indian holy city Benares).

Water

Water

2006

2006 Program Book
2006 Program Book

Best Films I Saw:

  • Still Life (Jia Zhang-Ke, 2006) As China rockets towards a postmodern future under the sway of a corrupt capitalism, its people savor what small epiphanies they can salvage from the wreckage left in its wake. A deeply moving exercise in nostalgia for the present from one of the Sixth Generation’s première talents.
Still Life

Still Life

  • Family Law (Daniel Burman) The most assured offering to date from Argentina’s answer to Woody Allen. Especially notable: the long moments of silence and the tentative voice-over commentary from a protagonist who is only partly aware of his motives.
Family Law

Family Law

  • The Postmodern Life of My Aunt The tragic ending works better than the comic beginning in veteran Hong Kong helmer Ann Hui’s playful, self-referential tale of a Chinese woman attempting to escape from her past. But there is much here to enjoy. In a particularly delicious turn, Hong Kong heartthrob Chow Yun-Fat plays against type as a sleazy con artist.
The Postmodern Life of My Aunt

The Postmodern Life of My Aunt

Best Retrospective: Norman McLaren

Unexpected Pleasure

Chow Yun-Fat’s inspired comic turn as an aging con man in The Postmodern Life of My Aunt.

2008

2008 Program Book
2008 Program Book

Best Film I Saw: Ballast. A masterful tone poem of moody understatement from first-time director Lance Hammer.

Ballast

Ballast

2009

2009 Festival Poster

2009 Festival Poster

Best Films I Saw

  • Lebanon. A quartet of green recruits are trapped in a tank during Israel’s 1982 war on Lebanon in Samuel Moaz’s debut feature. A companion piece to the recent Beaufort, but far more gripping. Intense and heartbreaking.
Lebanon

Lebanon

  • Backyard. Mexican auteur Carlos Carrera (The Crime of Father Amero) brings a scorched-earth sensibility to this study of the femicide that has become routine in the border town of Juarez. Based on actual events, the film paints a ferocious portrait of an unregenerate patriarchy in which such horrors represent simply the hidden “backyard” of the social order.
Backyard

Backyard

  • Shameless. La Dolce Vita, Czech style. Jan Hrebejk (Divided We Fall, Up and Down)  carries the Czech New Wave sensibility into the new century with a satiric, yet affectionate look at the narcissism and frivolity  that has arisen as a result of the nation’s  new prosperity.
Shameless

Shameless

Best Performance by a Two-Year Old: Asia Crippa (La Pivellina).

Asia Crippa in La Pivellina

Asia Crippa in La Pivellina


Unexpected Pleasures

  • The sounds of a monster movie heard as we watched its rapt audience in Gigante.
  • The festival trailers. This year they were genuinely witty rather than simply weird.

Most Insufferable Visiting Filmmaker: C. W. Winter (The Anchorage)

2010

2010 VIFF Poster

Best Film I Saw: Inside Job. Charles Ferguson’s incisive documentary explains the recent global financial crisis in easy-to-grasp terms and manages to inject a sense of lively entertainment as well.

Eliot Spitzer interviewed in INSIDE JOB

Unexpected Pleasure: During the screening of Naghmeh Shirkhan’s intimate drama The Neighbor (Hamsayeh), I sat behind Parisa Wahadi, the movie’s four-year-old star, and her two best friends. No-one has ever enjoyed a filmso much as they did!

Azita Sahebjam and Parisa Wahadi in THE NEIGHBOR

2011

2011 Program Book

Best films I Saw

  • Life without Principle (Dyut meng gam) Hong Kong action director Johnnie To complicates his usual crime-centered plot by fixing his sights on the underbelly of advanced capitalism in this smart, kinetic and humorous examination of the recent global financial meltdown.

Life without Principle

  • Starbuck. Quebecois writer-director Ken Scott’s feel-good  comedy manages to avoid slipping into schmaltz through razor-sharp editing and deft, winning performances (most notably by star Patrick Huard as a hapless  sperm donor who unexpectedly finds himself the father of 500 children).

Starbuck

  • A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) A masterful control of tone and tempo coupled with wrenching performances establish a new high water mark for the current front-running Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi (About Elly).

A Separation

  • Le Havre. Aki Kaurismaki’s warm tribute to France’s Golden Age features a generous helping of distinctive Kaurismaki visual motifs such as  industrial backdrops and overscaled, boldly-colored geometric forms. The story focuses on a marginally employed denizen of the titular town who organizes his neighbors to help a young boy from Africa who is trying to reach his mother in London.

Le Havre

Shock and Awe: Starbuck’s white on white subtitles. Will they never learn?

2013

2013 Program Book

Best Film I Saw: A Touch of Sin  (Tia zhuding). Though lacking the mise-en abime frisson engendered by the use of documentary footage in his previous work, the latest effort from Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke compensates by including shocking moments of violence which erupt as an outgrowth of the soul-crushing despair bedeviling many modern Chinese.

A Touch of Sin

Unexpected Pleasures

  • The gender-reversed Mutt and Jeff image of the young lovers in Chadian filmmaker Mahamet-Saleh Haroun’s Grigris.

Grigris

  • The inspired silliness of Johnny To’s latest, Blind Detective (Mang tan), best described as Raymond Chandler meets the Keystone Kops.

Blind Detective

2016

2016 Poster

Best Films I Saw
  • Julieta. An unexpectedly subdued, elegant study of guilt and secrecy from Spain’s premier auteur Pedro Almodovar.

Julieta

  • Neruda. Pablo Larrain’s masterful depiction of the intersection of history and myth.

Neruda

  • Sieranevada. Romania’s Oscar entry portrays a tumultuous family gathering in a cramped apartment in the suburbs of Bucharest. Director Cristi Puiu stages the action to emphasize claustrophobia and confusion.

Sieranevada

Unexpected Pleasure: Rolf Lassgård’s priceless deadpan in the Swedish comedy A Man Called Ove (En man som heter Ove).

A Man Called Ove


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