Entertainment Local

Humanity illuminated in ambitious VIFF lineup

By Zoe Grams

A scene from The Bolshoi, a stunning, ritzy look at the complex life and work of ballerinas in Russia’s greatest dance company.  (Submitted Photo)

A scene from The Bolshoi, a stunning, ritzy look at the complex life and work of ballerinas in Russia’s greatest dance company. (Submitted Photo)

Canada may have just celebrated television victory with multiple Emmy awards for Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but Vancouverites should turn their heads to the big screen for a cosmopolitan highlight of the calendar: Vancouver International Film Festival.

The two-week run of films, beginning September 28, is — once again — divided into eight different “streams”, helping audiences more readily choose from the dozens of debut, award-winning or soon-to-be-lauded titles. True North highlights the work of Canadian storytellers, while Sea to Sky showcases those from British Columbia. M/A/D unveils music, art and design in two-dimensional form, while ALT offers just that: an alternative, “genre-bending” approach to cinema.

Some of the most lauded work can be found in Panorama: a snapshot of the landscape of international film.

AlphaGo documents the battle between man and machine, as borne out in games of Go between Lee Sedol, the greatest player in the world, and Google’s AlphaGo artificial intelligence program. It’s a quietly riveting perspective about a task of logic — and how our very humanity may even help that.

Borg vs. McEnroe recreates a different game: the famed, nail-biting 1980 tennis match between the two tennis greats, as now played by Shia LaBeouf and Sverrir Gudnason. Speaking of exertion, The Bolshoi is a stunning, ritzy look at the complex life and work of ballerinas in Russia’s greatest dance company.

Such big personalities require big stages, no more so than Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. This biopic shares a story so bizarre it should be fiction: that of the brilliant Hedy Lamarr, a glamorous `40s Hollywood star with a messy life of ex-husbands, addiction and debt who also invented a secret World War Two communications system that’s now the basis for WiFi.

Art is ever-increasingly processing and protesting our changing world. Who better to continue that discussion than Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and activist Chris Hedges? His film, American Psychosis, searingly discusses consumerism and corporate power in a world of illusions.

Azar is Mohammad Hamzei’s debut film that unveils gender inequality in Iran through the story of a husband and wife duo with ambitiously progressive values in the state. Across the border, tribute is paid to the brave work of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bomb Disposal Unit in the dangerous Afghanistan/Pakistan border in Armed with Faith.

The discussions about the need for transforming the world continue in the Impact stream: films dedicated to exactly this.

Human Flow is an ambitious, mesmerizing documentary from artist/activist Ai Weiwei that both reframes and magnifies the worldwide refugee crisis affecting more than 65 million people with footage from 40 refugee camps in 23 countries.

Hondros honours one journalist who helps to bring such stories to the world: war photographer Chris Hondros, who was killed in Libya at age 41, and is now celebrated with a moving portrait by friend and fellow journalist, Greg Campbell.

An important, but chilling film, in light of the recent massacres of Myanmar, The Venerable W. embeds viewers in the country and its tensions by having us follow a Buddhist monk who happens to be an Islamaphobe and Trump supporter. Director Barbet Schroeder forces an audience acknowledgment of intolerance that is so often ignored.

A softer, but no less moving documentary is Keep Talking, sharing the story of four young women Kodiak, Alaska, working to regenerate the use of the Kodiak Alutiiq language. A blend of personal stories, history and interviews with academics and elders, this is a deftly-woven ode to language as identity and community.

Immerse yourself.

Programming information and tickets available at www.viff.org.