<< UPDATE >> Looking for our VIFF 2010 film reviews? Click here

Here at East of Main, we get real excited about Vancouver's film fest each year. Hours of circling and double-circling the program + a healthy dose of gut instinct (trust us, our VIFF hunches have been pretty much right on in the past) = our hand-picked flicks for the 2009 festival. "Regular" movies go first; we will follow up with selections from the documentary program.

Autumn (Sonbahar) Director: Özcan Alper, Turkey A strong debut for first-time filmmaker Alper. A political dissident, just released from one of Turkey's repressive prisons, returns home to the seaside. His interactions are limited to seeing an old friend until he meets a Georgian prostitute in a nearby town. A bit like Gus van Sant, Alper uses long, unhurried shots of the surroundings to (in large part) tell the story. Sat. 10/10 @ 12:00 PM ($9) | Tue. 10/13 @ 6:40 PM ($11) | Wed. 10/14 @ 9:15 PM ($11) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

Backyard (El Traspaito) Director: Carlos Carrera, Mexico A timely drama that sheds some light on the ongoing disappearances of women in Juarez, Mexico. A lone detective fights against ever-increasing odds to unravel this mystery. Subject matter that hits close to home for BC viewers, with local tragedies still very resonant - the Highway of Tears, Pickton murders, and ongoing disappearances from the Downtown Eastside. Early reports say both the cinematography and actors' performances in Backyard are top-notch. Wed. 10/07 @ 9:30 PM ($11) | Sun. 10/11 @ 12:00 PM ($9) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

Be Calm and Count to Seven (Aram bash va ta haft beshmar) Director: Ramtin Lavafipour, Iran After his father goes missing while delivering "cargo" for human traffickers, with his whole family now left for him to support, a boy in a fishing village in Iran gets more and more involved in the dangerous business of smuggling. Tue. 10/06 @ 7:15 PM ($11) | Thu. 10/08 @ 11:20 AM ($8) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

Breathless (Ddongpari) Director: Yang Ik-June (Korea) Can't wait for this one! One of my personal favorite picks, Breathless is another directorial debut - with a twist. Ik-June also wrote, produced, and played the male lead role in this story of a loan collector that meets his match in a high-school girl. Both have damaged, traumatized personalities and a precarious dance develops while they get to know each other. The film deals with the themes of violence (domestic and otherwise) quite directly - so it's not for the squeamish. Fri. 10/09 @ 1:15 PM ($8) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

Extraordinary Stories (Historias Extraordinarias) Director: Mariano Llinas (Argentina) LLinas' first drama offering (sense a trend here?) weaves together numerous sub-plots that spin off from a few central stories. More like a good novel (its structure brings to mind Perec's Life: A User's Manual, while the themes of bureaucracy are a nod to Kafka), this four-hour feature promises to be an epic of plot and character development. ADD-ness is one of the movie's more alluring features - the various stories are allowed to unfold and taper off almost at random, tangents are explored freely. The unassuming, mundane settings and ever-present narration are other elements that could easily be a flop, but apparently work well here. Impressive flick, especially given its relatively small budget. Thu. 10/15 @ 6:45 PM ($11) | Fri. 10/16 @ 1:30 PM ($8) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

The Market - A Tale of Trade (Pazar - Bir ticaret masali) Director: Ben Hopkins (Turkey) This movie plants you right in the no-holds-barred world of Turkish black markets in the early 90s. Familiar territory for this reviewer who has very colourful memories of buying and selling in the 90s markets just across the Black Sea, in Ukraine. A small-time merchant has big dreams of having a legitimate business. His hopes of having start-up capital are hedged on initial good luck in some shady deals. When those go awry, he is forced to make some tough choices. While this kind of "shit hits the fan" premise is a bit overused in the world of foreign film, it works to desired effect here, producing some good laughs and moments of serious reflection. Fri. 10/09 @ 11:40 AM ($8) | Wed. 10/14 @ 7:00 PM ($11) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

My Dog Tulip Directors: Paul & Sandra Fierlinger (USA) This endearing chronicle of an older gay gentleman and his beloved pooch features a compelling and unique direct-to-screen animation style, giving the film a very DIY crafty look. Voiceovers are provided by a star cast, among them Christopher Plummer and Isabella Rossellini. Go see this to feel all warm and fuzzy. Sun. 10/11 @ 4:00 PM ($9) | Mon. 10/12 @ 6:40 PM ($11) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

Police, Adjective (Politist, adj.) Director: Corneliu Porumboiu (Romania) Romanian cinema continues to shine. Porumboiu follows up his excellent 12:08 to Bucharest with this tale of crime and observing crime. A street cops stalks a youth believed to be a drug dealer, but comes to different conclusions in the end. Observation is encouraged with use of silent shots, while another interesting narrative device involves the incident report appearing on screen bit by bit. The long ending scene makes unexpected revelations and memorably wraps the film up. Winner of Jury Prize at Cannes 2009. Sun. 10/11 @ 9:15 PM ($11) | Wed. 10/14 @ 12:00 PM ($8) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

The Prophet (Un Prophete) Director: Jacques Audiard (France) The Prophet shows the makings of an underworld figure. Young Arab men in a French prison must pay their dues by turning on fellow Muslims. When one is strong enough to challenge the kingpins, he can carve out his own piece of the pie. Sat. 10/10 @ 6:45 PM ($11) | Sun. 10/11 @ 12:45 PM ($8) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

Son of the Sunshine Director: Ryan Ward (Canada) Our pick for best Canadian film at VIFF this year. Another first-time filmmaker, Ryan Ward, plays Sonny. In this original, compassionate look at living with Tourette's, Sonny has the disorder and it frequently makes his life difficult. Then an operation to ameliorate the condition has other, less expected effects ... Tue. 10/13 @ 6:30 PM ($11) | Wed. 10/14 @ 2:50 PM ($8) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

The White Ribbon (Das Weisse Band) Director: Michael Haneke (Austria) Master of dystopia Michael Haneke (Seventh Continent, Funny Games, Piano Teacher &c.) brings us his masterpiece. The White Ribbon has stunning B&W cinematography, excellent performances - especially from its younger cast members, and is genial at creating a sense of suspense. In a small German town after WWI, sinister events and the roots of fascism are all tied to what goes on inside a school. Viewers are kept on the edge of their seats by a myriad hints and details that all might help discover the truth - but which of them do? With its unsettling, paranoid tone reminiscent of The Name of the Rose and the subject matter, this film is definitely food for thought. Winner of the high-roller Golden Palm prize at Cannes 2009. Mon. 10/12 @ 9:00 PM ($11) | Thu. 10/15 @ 3:00 PM ($8) VIFF Screenings & Tickets

Honourable Mention:

  • 1999 (Canada) - Young Tamil immigrants cope with life after escaping civil war and the realities of gang life in Toronto. | 10/14 @ 6:30 PM ($11) | 10/15 @ 3:45 PM ($8) | VIFF Link
  • Crackie (Canada) - Drama about growing up tough in small-town Newfoundland. A family of women try to reconcile their relations, with some help from the titular dog. | 10/12 @ 6:45 PM ($11) | 10/15 @ 12:00 PM ($8) | VIFF Link
  • Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl (Portugal) - go see this love story from Manoel de Oliveira if only because the man's been making great films since the 30s and is now 100! | 10/06 @ 1:30 PM ($8) | 10/14 @ 7:00 PM ($11) | VIFF Link
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (USA) - Terry Gilliam's latest epic is only down here because you can easily see it after VIFF. Watch out for appearances by Tom Waits and Heath Ledger.
  • Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire (USA) - Now sold out and rush only, line up early if you decide to go. I'll be honest, I used to own 'Push' and just gave it away after a while; it didn't seem like it'd be worth my time picking from my big TBR pile. The cynic in me wishes I kept it, the first edition would be worth something now everyone's raving about this film adaptation. It's kind of a coming of age story of a woman from Harlem, one we can always go see when it's released widely after VIFF [cough]torrent[/cough] | 10/07 @ 9:15 PM ($11) | 10/09 @ 2:30 PM ($8) | VIFF Link
AuthorWells Stringham