Entertainment Local

VIFF showcasing True North talent

By Zoe Grams

A still from KONELINE: our land beautiful.

A still from KONELINE: our land beautiful. SUBMITTED

Vancouver International Film Festival is written in ink in every culture aficionado’s calendar. Running Sept. 29 to Oct. 14 and celebrating its 35th anniversary, this year’s festival offers a “film plus” program — hundreds of films combined with talks and events that showcase the themes and ideas presented on screens throughout the city.


Opening the festival is “Maudie,” a biopic about Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis that played to audience and critical acclaim at the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival. A legend in Nova Scotia and beyond, Lewis’ Naïve Artwork paid for her curmudgeonly but supportive husband, Everett Lewis. Her remarkable nature, intuitive sense of art, and the couple’s strange yet durable relationship is lovingly portrayed by Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke.

Keenly aware of our own homegrown talents, VIFF presents two programming streams that showcase British Columbian filmmakers. True North showcases 10 BC-produced features as part of a series celebrating filmmakers from coast to coast across the country. “KONELINE: our land beautiful” is one of the many ambitious works included, documenting the fractious relationship between the Tahitan First Nation community in Northern BC and a large mining company – and the contrast between man-made lines and natural shapes that inhabit both the area and the creative filmmaking.

The Panorama series includes work from farther afield, with screenings from India, Iran, Africa and the Middle East that present some of the finest in world cinema. Highlights within this 20-strong genre include “The Salesman” from Iran. Hailed as a ‘finely cut gem’ by Variety, the film documents the unraveling of a relationship after assault.

Also under the Panorama banner is “Chocolat” – not to be confused with the Juliette Binoche/Johnny Depp semi-fantasy - but equally visually enthralling and creative. Chocolat refers to clown Rafael Padilla: a former slave who became one of the first black stars in France. His poignant, contradictory life is emblazoned on screen with theatrical acts and lush sets.

While creativity and aesthetic perfection is one of the pleasures of experiencing VIFF’s curated offerings, the opportunity to zoom into pressing issues in our world is equally appealing: not least because of the focused yet accessible way in which many important stories are told. The Impact series offers to “spark action and change the way we see the world”: an ideal role for art to play in our increasingly complex lives.

Understand the true cost of having large freighters on our shoreline with “Freightened” from celebrated documentarian Denis Delestrac. Showcasing the other side of the energy industry is “Power to Change”, which casts light on the inventions that could revolutionize how we consume energy – and the maverick and genius individuals behind them. “Bugs” suggests a squeamish if increasingly popular way to gain energy via food: consuming insects, as many cultures have done for centuries.

Style and substance: both can be uncovered in droves in the ambitious lineup of VIFF, the full extent of which is available at viff.org.

Zoe Grams is principal at ZG Communications: a marketing agency working with publishers, not-for-profits and socially-conscious organizations. She has written about performing arts in both Canada and the UK.