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VIFF 2008 Preview

The 27th annual Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) will be held from September 25 to October 10, 2008. VIFF is delighted to be able to bring to Vancouver many of the top prize-winners from the major world film festivals. Acclaimed earlier this year at Cannes were THREE MONKEYS (Turkey), for which Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the Best Director award; IL DIVO, by Paolo Sorrentino, which won a Jury Prize; A CHRISTMAS TALE (France) by Arnaud Desplechin, which won a Special Prize; TULPAN (Russia/Kazakhstan/Germany/Switzerland/Poland), by Sergey Dvortsevoy, which won the Best Film prize in the Un Certain Regard sidebar; CLOUD 9 (Germany) by Andreas Dresen, which won the Cannes’ Heart Throb Jury Prize; HUNGER (UK), by Steve McQueen, which won the Camera d’Or; and NEXT FLOOR (Canada), a short by Quebec’s Denis Villeneuve, which won top prize for shorts at Cannes.

Sundance prize winners coming to VIFF include CAPTAIN ABU RAED (Jordan/USA), by Amin Matalqa, which won the World Cinema Audience Award and BALLAST (USA), by Lance Hammer, which won the Directing Award.
Winners from the Tribeca Film Festival include LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Sweden), by Tomas Alfredson, which won Best Narrative Feature, MY MARLON AND BRANDO (Turkey), winner of the Best New Narrative Filmmaker prize for Hüseyin Karabey, and OLD MAN BEBO (Spain), which garnered the won Best New Documentary Filmmaker award for Carlos Carcas.
VIFF is also screening some Berlin Film Festival winners, including THE SONG OF SPARROWS (Iran), by Majid Majidi, which took Best Actor honours for Reza Najie, and HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (UK), by Mike Leigh, which netted Best Actress honours for Sally Hawkins. I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (France), by Philippe Claudel, took the Ecumenical Jury Prize and the Berliner Morgenpost Readers Jury prize, while CORRIDOR #8 (Bulgaria), by Boris Despodov, took the Forum Award. REVANCHE (Austria), by Götz Spielmann, won the Panorama, the Label Europa Cinemas and Femina Film Awards. BE LIKE OTHERS (Iran/Canada/UK/USA), by Tanaz Eshaghian, took the Teddy Awards Jury Prize and The ELSE Siegessäule Reader’s Choice Award. The Youth Jury gave special mention to SITA SINGS THE BLUES (USA), by Nina Paley.
New Series: “The Ark: Elements and Animals”
Our environmental film series offers a rich spectrum of documentary and fiction films that demonstrate cinematic artistry, new perspectives and fresh information about nature and our place in it. Rather than the "Climate for Change" banner we used to present last year’s sidebar (with its dominant theme of global warming and peak oil) this year’s program is called The Ark: Elements and Animals. The series is highlighted by films that explore the fate of our most precious element—water—and by films that allow us to reflect on our historical co-existence with animals. The ethics of sharing the planet with many other orders of being and the lines between domestication and wildness have never needed to be better understood. These films will both charm and provoke a lot of discussion.
A concern with the commodification of water takes centre stage with the World Premiere of director Sam Bozzo’s documentary based on Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke’s book BLUE GOLD: WORLD WATER WARS (USA/Canada), as well as in Sanjeev Chatterjee and Ali Habashi’s ONE WATER (USA).
Before Maude Barlow there was Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring helped launch the environmental movement. Christopher Monger’s film A SENSE OF WONDER (USA) recreates Carson’s last days.
A retreat to the land and to a simpler way of life is professed in a number of films, from Molly Dineen’s passionate lament for the disappearing small farmer in England in THE LIE OF THE LAND (UK), this year’s BAFTA documentary winner. Gerard Ungerman and Audrey Brohy’s BELONGING (Canada) draws explicit connections between the parasitic approach humans have taken towards the natural world and current environmental repercussions. An ancient way of life in Wales is vanishing, one aged resident at a time, in Gideon Koppel’s SLEEP FURIOUSLY (Wales). On the other hand, an optimistic vision of Africa fills Brice Láine’s debut film, THE DANCING FOREST (UK).
From factories and landfills to India and the Pacific Ocean, find out where your plastic goes in Ian Connacher’s ADDICTED TO PLASTIC! THE RISE AND DEMISE OF A MODERN MIRACLE (Canada).
THE LOST COLONY (Netherlands) is Astrid Bussink’s film on the once great Sukhum Primate Centre in Abkhazia, contrasting scenes of loveliness with archival footage of Soviet-era science. PEACE WITH SEALS (Czech Republic/Italy) is Miloslav Novak’s search for the elusive basking monk seal, which is quickly losing ground to basking humans.
Though Montreal prides itself on reinventing the modern animal-free circus, the traditional circus still survives in some places. For nine generations, the Rosaire family toured the world with their legendary circus, but their troupe has become a victim of changing. Robyn Bliley’s documentary CIRCUS ROSAIRE (USA) traces the family’s history. Harris Fishman's singular documentary CAT DANCERS (USA) chronicles the lives of Ron and Joy Holiday, a pioneering exotic-cat entertainment act.
Together, these remarkable films reframe our place in nature and our options for a more sustainable planet.
Nonfiction Features
An amazing one-third of the Vancouver International Film Festival is nonfiction; fully 100 documentaries will be presented, drawing audience of some 50,000 people. Whether the subject is arts, politics or the intensely personal, nonfiction cinema is made from the heart and has attained a general standard of excellence that eludes all but the cream of the fiction crop. That’s why, since 1992, the VIFF has given the most cinematic of documentary and essay films front-and-centre status, and it is also why the VIFF is now internationally recognized as one of the world’s largest and most successful showcases of nonfiction cinema in a general festival context. These films are not only enlightening and entertaining; they have the power to renew one’s hope in the possibility of positive change in our world.
Arts & Letters
Within our Nonfiction series are a wonderful array of films on Arts and Letters. Music films take us all over the world, beginning at the dawn of music recording with Philip Scheffner’s THE HALFMOON FILES (Germany), a film haunted by the ghosts of aural history that takes us to a WWI POW camp near Berlin where colonial prisoners’ songs were recorded for a vast archive of world song still preserved at Humboldt University. TALKING GUITARS (Netherlands/USA), by Claire Pijman, shows us the master luthier and repairman, Flip Scipio, with his celebrity clients, from David Lindley and Jackson Browne to Ry Cooder. Fans of the popular Buena Vista Social Club might delight in CAFÉ DE LOS MAESTROS (Argentina/USA/Brazil), by Miguel Kohan, which reunites legendary Argentinian tango musicians, or THROW DOWN YOUR HEART (USA), by Sascha Paladino, which follows Bela Fleck’s journey to Africa to jam with master musicians from Mali to Tanzania.
YOUSSOU N’DOUR: RETURN TO GOREE (Switzerland/Luxembourg), by Pierre-Yves Borgeaud, traces the music through Africa to today’s jazz musicians. TEAK LEAVES AT THE TEMPLES (Indonesia), by Garin Nugroho, combines ancient Javanese music with free jazz. WILD COMBINATION: A PORTRAIT OF ARTHUR RUSSELL (USA), by Matt Wolf, shows the iconoclast in archival footage as well as interviews with Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass. OLD MAN BEBO (Spain), by Carlos Carcas, follows Bebo Valdes on his legendary return to Cuba after 40 years in Europe. CELIA THE QUEEN (USA) is Joe Cardona and Mario de Varona’s tribute to the queen of salsa. THE WRECKING CREW (USA), by Denny Tedesco, takes us behind the scenes and back in time to the most-heard and least-seen studio band responsible for creating the hits and the iconic sounds of the 60s. TRIP TO ASIA – THE QUEST FOR HARMONY (Germany), by Thomas Grube, follows the Berlin Philharmonic’s trip through Asia. DANCING WITH TIME (Germany), by Trevor Peters, revisits four dancers nearing their 80s in Europe.
Architecture on film this year shows us the story behind the summer Olympic’s unique centre-piece venue. BIRD’S NEST: HERZOG & DE MEURON IN CHINA (Switzerland), by Christoph Schaub and Michael Schindhelm, documents the engineering feats and cross cultural intrigues that resulted in this architectural marvel. In Heinz Emigholz’s LOOS ORNAMENTAL (Austria) cinema is used to meditate on the work of modernist architectural master Adolf Loos.
Nonfiction Highlights
The best of several new films from Nepal is Ishbel Whitaker’s THE LIVING GODDESS (UK). Eight-year-old Sajani is considered the living embodiment of the Goddess Kali. She's also an ordinary kid who likes candy and video games. In DONKEY IN LAHORE (Australia), by Faramarz K-Rahber, an ex-Goth puppeteer from Australia finds love in Pakistan, converts to Islam and embarks on a culture-shock journey to try and fulfill his desires. One of the most influential Muslims of the 20th century is profiled in Georg Misch’s A ROAD TO MECCA: THE JOURNEY OF MOHAMMED ASAD (Austria). Asad was born an Austrian Jew and led an amazing life that had him, among other things, helping with the establishment of the country of Pakistan. THE INFINITE BORDER (Mexico) is Juan Manuel Sepúlveda’s insider’s look at the tribulations faced by Latin Americans trying to start a new life by jumping the US border. In MY LIFE INSIDE (Mexico) Lucía Gajá tells the heartwrenching story of an illegal immigrant in Texas serving life behing bars after a tragic accident. Post-Katrina, Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie’s FAUBOURG TREMÉ: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BLACK NEW ORLEANS (USA) tells the stories behind New Orlean’s Sixth Ward, the now-impoverished birthplace of the civil rights movement and American jazz.
An enduring relationship between novelist Christopher Isherwood and artist Don Bachardy is celebrated in Guido Santi’s and Tina Mascara’s CHRIS AND DON: A LOVE STORY (USA/Ireland), whih features home movies of friends Tennessee Williams, Igor Stravinsky and Paul Bowles. Being gay in Iran is against the law – and the subject of much abuse – but sex changes are not. Tanaz Eshaghian’s Berlin prize-winner BE LIKE OTHERS (Iran/Canada/UK/USA) provides an intimate look at Iranian sexual politics. Rithy Panh’s (S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine) PAPER CANNOT WRAP UP EMBERS (Cambodia/France) is a heartbreaking portrait of prostitutes in Cambodia. Artist Kathy Acker's post-feminist work, in the words of one critic, had "something to offend everybody.” She is profiled in Barbara Caspar’s WHO IS AFRAID OF KATHY ACKER? (Austria). Peter Woditsch’s SECRET MUSEUMS (Belgium) exposes some of the world's largest collections of erotic art, housed in the Vatican, the Louvre, the British Museum and the Hermitage.
From a European perspective, Daniel Mermet and Olivier Azam celebrate critical thinking in CHOMSKY AND CO. (France), a film that folds in commentary from several other leading anti-establishment intellectuals. Based on John Perkins' best-selling book, Stelios Koiloglou’s APOLOGY OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN (Greece) is a fierce exposé of the secret history and dubious practices of a highly secretive economic cabal created to foster the triumph of the American global empire. Rudy Joffroy’s THE FALLEN: A SILENT COLLAPSE (Mexico) reveals the corporate and government collusion in the deaths of 63 miners lost at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in Mexico.
In Clayton Brown and Monica Ross’ THE ATOM SMASHERS (USA), rival American and European physicists race to discover sub-atomic particles that may help to explain the very nature of the universe itself.
Mouthwatering cuisine is the delicious subject in José Luis López-Linares’ THE CHICKEN, THE FISH AND THE KING CRAB (Spain), a chronicle of the world’s top culinary competition, the Bocuse d'Or (2007 edition).
In addition, the VIFF is very happy to present the winner of the CICAE Award from the Cannes Film Festival's Directors' Fortnight, Juraj Lehotsky’s BLIND LOVES (Slovakia), a ravishing documentary mixing whimsical animation and the real lives of four blind people who have overcome their so-called ‘disabilities’ and found both love and life.

VIFF 2008 offers films in the following series:
Nonfiction Features (see film descriptions above)
The Ark: Elements and Animals (see film descriptions above)
Dragons and Tigers: The Cinemas of East Asia — The largest annual exhibition of East Asian films outside of Asia is internationally recognized as one of the most significant in the world, and attracts a strong list of filmmakers, distributors, film critics and scholars each year. This ongoing major focus highlights the cutting-edge film and video work from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Begun in 1985, this focus addresses the continued excellence in East Asian cinema, Vancouver's key geographic position as the gateway to the East, its unique ethnic mix and the many initiatives taken by all levels of government to enhance economic and cultural ties between Western Canada and the Pacific Rim. The Dragons and Tigers series is programmed by London-based Asian film expert Tony Rayns and Beijing-based Torontonian Shelly Kraicer, a respected scholar of Chinese cinema.
Canadian Images — Each year the best current features, documentaries and shorts from all regions of Canada are presented in what has become one of the largest annual public exhibitions of new Canadian film in the world. From an average of more than 600 submissions, our programmers select the top 100, and the Vancouver public responds very enthusiastically, making this one of our best-attended series. Canadian Images along with our Film & Television Forum help make the VIFF the most important event in the region for industry development and exhibition.
Cinema of Our Time — Our international section is comprised of the year’s most innovative and exciting cinematic developments from around the globe. With a selection of works from more than 30 countries—including all of the major (and many soon to be major) film producing nations—“Cinema of Our Time” is the place to see the very best films from the world’s leading contemporary auteurs, award-winning cinema from the most prestigious film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin and Venice, and exclusive premieres of some of the most highly anticipated features that will hit cinemas later in the year.
Spotlight on France — This ongoing series highlights the fertile cinematic culture that is still very much alive and well in France, owing to its rich heritage in cinematographic art. Since 1997 our series has been presenting about 10 to 15 films each year, including both indigenous productions and co-productions with other countries. It aims to reflect the range and diversity of talent, new and old, working in that country today. Within the series, we aim to achieve a balance by programming films dealing with a variety of subject matter and genres that reflect different regional representations, and showcase the works of both veteran and neophyte filmmakers.
Adjudicated Awards
Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema, sponsored by Brad Birarda ($10,000)
Citytv Western Canada Feature Film Award ($12,000)
Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film Award ($2000 + Avid Media Composer Software valued at $2500)
VIFF Nonfiction Feature Award
Women in Film & Television Vancouver Award
Audience Awards
Rogers People's Choice Award for Most Popular Film
VIFF Most Popular Canadian Film Award
documentary Audience Choice Award for Most Popular Documentary
NFB Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award
VIFF Environmental Film Award
The VIFF is among the largest film festivals in North America, and is one of the largest cultural events in Canada. An autumn fixture on the international film festival calendar, this outstanding festival is a microcosm of its home city: cosmopolitan, innovative, friendly, culturally complex and very accessible.
An estimated 150,000 people are expected to attend approximately 575 screenings of 350 films from more than 60 countries.
Many more features and shorts will soon be announced. The Sneak Preview Guide will be available August 30. The complete program, including the festival schedule, film descriptions and photos, goes online at on September 6. Film information also is available via the festival info line at 604-683-FILM (3456) from September 4 to October 10, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Visa cardholders may buy tickets and passes one week ahead of the general public starting September 6, at anytime or, from noon to 7 p.m. daily, by phone at 604-685-8297 or in person at the Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St. The Souvenir Program Guide will be available at noon on September 12. The box office opens to the public starting September 13.

Media contacts at VIFF office: 604.646.4770,
Ellie O’Day, Media Director, publicist for Canadian Images and Spotlight on France,
Helen Yagi, publicist for International films,
Andrew Poon, publicist for Dragons and Tigers, 604.318.1882,
Melanie Thompson, Media Coordinator,
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