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Vancouver to open with latest Almodovar's Volver

The 25th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) will open on September 28 with a screening of Pedro Almodóvar’s VOLVER. Festival Director Alan Franey also announced a few of the special events and thematic highlights of this year’s festival, which will take place September 28 to October 13 at ten theatres in the Vancouver area, again centred at the Empire Granville 7 Cinemas.

“In our 25th year, rather than reflecting on the past, the VIFF looks to the future with much curiosity and some degree of alarm,” Franey noted. “It seems like just yesterday that our 20th Anniversary festival took a look back at achievements of our first two decades. This season, in keeping with the dawn of year-round programming at the Vancity Theatre and with the forward-looking films that we are most excited to be programming, our emphasis is on where we are going. By where we are going, we mean where the world is going, for it’s certain that the most interesting question encouraged by this year’s festival selection is ‘what sort of world lies ahead?’”


Time figures large in this year’s special events and in the festival films in general. A sensation at Cannes, Pedro Almodóvar’s VOLVER is a return in more than one sense of the word for the Spanish auteur. The director revisits his birthplace of La Mancha to tell a story about mortality and memory, with three generations of strong women (shared winners of Best Actress at Cannes, Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo and Chus Lampreave), each struggling in different ways with the past; whether it’s a ghost who won’t leave, or men who, too often, do. This is something of a departure for Almodóvar; sex takes a back seat to death, and there’s nary a transsexual in sight, but VOLVER is an instant classic, shot through with quicksilver bolts of humour and passion. VOLVER will be released this Fall in Canada by Mongrel Media.

The VIFF also announced two other Special Presentations for this year’s festival. Never before seen outside of Europe and only screened once previously with English subtitles—at the British Film Institute this past April—Jacques Rivette’s legendary phantom film OUT 1: NOLI ME TANGERE (France) will receive its North American Premiere in Vancouver. The French New Wave equivalent of reading Proust or watching Wagner’s Ring cycle, the 12 ½ hour film will first screen in eight episodes at the Vancity Theatre over September 23 and 24, and again during the VIFF, introduced at that time by noted film critic and Rivette expert Jonathan Rosenbaum. The fascinating OUT 1: NOLI ME TANGERE concerns the parallel efforts of two theatre companies to put on Aeschylus plays. Two oddball loners (Jean-Pierre Léaud and Juliet Berto) separately circle the groups. Characters change names and reveal secret identities. Connective tissue fills in, only to fall away. Léaud’s character is the thickening mystery’s self-appointed detective, fixated on cryptic messages about a 13-member secret society, a subplot that Rivette borrowed from Balzac’s suite of novellas History of the Thirteen. Building on his improvisational experiments of L’Amour Fou (1968), Rivette worked without a script, relying instead on a diagram that mapped the junctures at which members of his large ensemble cast would intersect.

Screening as a World Premiere, the Cariboo-set Western KLATSASSIN (Canada) is renowned Vancouver artist Stan Douglas’ Rashomon-like exploration of time and perception, bound together to create British Columbian history. Using the events surrounding the killing of a Tsilhoqot’in chief named “Klatsassin” (which means “We do not know his name”), Douglas layers characters and events in five different time periods, separating the tangled skeins of constantly shifting stories and versions of the truth, to reclaim the past. Projected directly off a computer hard drive, the film permutes for six days without exactly repeating. A six-hour excerpt will show as an installation in the Vancity Theatre on October 3, and a special 75-minute presentation will also take place two evenings later.

Time Stopped

Photography is time frozen, and this year the VIFF features a number of films made by or about famous photographers. The VIFF is pleased to welcome director/photographer Lauren Greenfield to Vancouver to present her documentary debut. Set in a South Florida facility for the treatment of eating disorders, THIN is an unblinking look at the ravages of anorexia and bulimia enacted upon the bodies, and spirits, of four women. The ability of documentary to create a meta-narrative, a frame within a frame, is one of the more fascinating ideas on evidence, a quality that is especially marked in Jack Youngelson’s and Peter Sutherland’s TIERNEY GEARON: THE MOTHER PROJECT (USA). Gearon came to notoriety when, because of photos of her own naked and often masked children, she was charged with child pornography in the UK (charges that were later dropped). The documentary follows Gearon, her world-wise kids, and her manic depressive/schizophrenic mother during the creation of the photographer’s newest show. The mixture of art and family can almost be too close for comfort, but like many of Gearon’s photographs, there is a strange beauty that arises out of the incongruence between morality, the mundane and madness.

Another case of a photographer and the legal system is examined in Paul Yules’ documentary THE PHOTOGRAPHER, HIS WIFE, HER LOVER (UK) about American photographer O. Winston Link, his wife and the ensuing legal battle over his artistic legacy. Jennifer Baichwal brings us MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES (Canada), a superb feature-length documentary on the world and work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky, who makes large-scale photographs of “manufactured landscapes”­—and raises all kinds of questions about ethics and aesthetics. This screening is presented in conjunction with Presentation House Gallery who are exhibiting Burtynsky’s “China Series” from September 16 to November 5. (Burtynsky will be present for the screenings of the film.) To make MORE THAN 1000 WORDS (Germany/Israel), documentary filmmaker Solo Avital followed celebrated photojournalist Ziv Koren for a few years, fashioning this alternately intense and introspective look at the photographer’s life and work. Koren is famous for chronicling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this film shows why certain powerful images take on a historical life of their own.

Time Ending

“Making a film over four years, you come to realize how many things in life don’t reveal their meaning until much later,” says director Steven Ascher. Film is a time-based medium, and so is human life, and nowhere is this more evident than in SO MUCH, SO FAST (USA), the story of Stephen Heywood, a young man diagnosed at age 29 with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Filmmakers Ascher and Jeanne Jordan (Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern) follow Stephen and his family in a race against time to find a cure. Conversely in Fernand Melgar’s profound documentary EXIT: THE RIGHT TO DIE (Switzerland), a group of Swiss volunteers help the terminally ill to end their lives with grace and dignity.

Music and Time

Music and time share an intimate connection and the VIFF is very pleased to present a number of feature films and documentaries that explore music’s ability to affect social, political and personal change. When director George Gittoes met a young black soldier in Iraq he was shocked by the young man’s assertion that Iraq was a cakewalk in comparison to his own neighbourhood in South Miami. Gitoes’ RAMPAGE (Australia) is a revelatory look at gangs, guns, drugs and peoples’ ability to make music in the darkest of circumstances. Alberto Arvela’s TO PLAY AND TO FIGHT (Venezuela) is about the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra System, a homegrown initiative that grew into an international phenomenon; the film demonstrates music’s ability to change the youngest of lives. Musicians come together to create something ephemeral that nonetheless can unite people divided by religion, culture, and ethnicity. Stephen Olsson’s SOUND OF THE SOUL: THE FEZ FESTIVAL OF WORLD SACRED MUSIC (USA) brings together people from remarkably disparate cultures to sing and praise together. So too, the gypsy musicians in Jasmine Dellal’s WHEN THE ROAD BENDS (USA) share a common need to make a holy noise. Similarly the various oddballs united in their love of all things Mozart in Larry Weinstein’s MOZARTBALLS (Canada). Music can comfort, incite revolution, or give voice to those who have none, but maybe the best thing it can do is make us feel more noble than we are, to create moments of transcendence.

Time Reborn

The truism that children are the future, like most clichés, has some element of truth in it. “Distance proves a horse, but time proves a man,” says Phra Khru Bah, a rogue monk and former Thai boxer, who runs the Golden Horse Orphanage, a refuge for some of Thailand’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens in Mark Verkerk’s BUDDHA’S LOST CHILDREN (Netherlands). In neighbouring Cambodia, two very different women fight for the rights of girls (some as young as three) sold into the booming sex trafficking industry in Charles Kiselyak’s THE VIRGIN HARVEST (USA/Cambodia), a World Premiere. Anne Makepeace’s RAIN IN A DRY LAND (USA) tells the tale of two different Somali Bantu families. From overcrowded refugee camps, they are relocated to the US, where the American dream turns out to be far more complicated than the immigration films would have you believe. The grinding forces of economic necessity and cultural difference quickly come to bear on each family in different ways, yet they remain brave and hopeful, often simply trying to understand the place they have come to call home.

In Chantal Richard’s dramatic feature LILI AND THE BAOBOB (France), the future of one child is poised on a young woman’s decision: a Solomon-like dilemma that raises issues of globalization, race relations and colonialism, embodied in the tiny figure of a new baby. Mark Dornford-May’s SON OF MAN (South Africa) is also the story of one mother and one child, even though that child is Jesus and his mother the Virgin Mary. Set in contemporary Africa, the film is filled with searing images and music so powerful it may stop your heart.


A quarter century ago, the Vancouver International Film Festival decided to show some films, but things are not so simple today. It’s become extremely difficult indeed to envision what the future will hold, say, 25 years from now. What is in store for the VIFF, for film festivals in general, for the film business, and for the constantly expanding global resources for sharing moving images? Fortunately the VIFF can look forward to these massive uncertainties with the confidence that the social aspect of a festival will take on ever greater meaning in the era of small apartments and the personal accumulation of “shared” files by seemingly more isolated individuals. The Vancity Theatre can look forward to year-round programming for many years to come and to working with an ever-wider array of partners and clients to realize the potential of a state-of-the art facility with a central location and large social space.

Industry Hour

Taking advantage of the spacious atrium of the Vancouver International Film Centre (VIFC), the VIFF is pleased to announce the creation of a new networking initiative throughout the festival. INDUSTRY HOUR will run almost daily during the Festival (with the exception of the occasional Gala day and other conflicting events). From 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm, the VIFC will be the venue for local and visiting filmmakers, producers, buyers and festival guests to meet on a casual basis. The event is open not just to festival guests but will provide an opportunity for our local industry to interact with our out-of-town and international participants. Our festival guest pass holders will have access, as will Forum delegates, specially invited local guests, and Industry Pass holders. This is a terrific outreach opportunity for our local industry and one that we are certain will grow into a valued mainstay of the Festival Program.

Mobile VIFF

In partnership with ACM Media and synercom/edi, the VIFF will also offer new ways for Vancouverites to interact and inter-relate with the Festival. Mobile VIFF will allow filmgoers to download information directly onto their cell phones and mobile devices, access festival program guide content, background material, timely schedule announcements, and interactive opportunities. Mobile VIFF will also offer the potential to interact with other users, and allow Festival-goers to make informed decisions on films to attend, give an instant and democratic voice to those who wish to contribute and connect festival attendees in mobile space. Festival-goers will also be able to vote for their favourite films using Mobile VIFF.

The full line-up of the 25th Vancouver International Film Festival will be announced at the Media Conference on September 6. The Vancouver International Film Festival has a reputation for presenting the best in world cinema. More than 150,000 patrons are expected to attend 550 screenings of more than 300 films from 50 countries, making it one of the largest and most successful film festivals in North America. Beginning September 6, comprehensive information and schedules will be available at and the Starbucks Hotline at (604) 683-FILM (3456). Tickets go on sale September 9 through the VISA Charge-by-Phone line at 604-685-8297 and on the web at

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