Films worth seeing this weekend at VIFF
This weekend at the Vancouver International Film Festival you can find a great film from Quebec and two pretty good films from Ontario and B.C. And much more. (And today there are links)
Here’s the list:
I Am A Good Person
Wind and Fog
Waking the Green Tiger
Plus films with buzz and previous picks
Day 9: Friday
STARBUCK: What a pleasant surprise. This film from Quebec, where it was a huge hit this summer, has a title and a story arc that suggests it might be either a raunchy comedy or a maudlin redemption tale. It turns out to be a sweet, often poignant and, yes, funny take on growing up, family and fatherhood.
Patrick Huard stars as one of those never-matured men we’ve seen in countless movies. His chief ambition is to grow more weed. He frequently messes up at work and has loan sharks on his back. Then he’s told that 142 young adults are filing a class action suit to get his name because they want to meet him. Years before, he had made a living donating at a sperm bank and, in effect, had fathered over 500 children, anonymously. One is now a pro soccer player; another an aspiring actor. He meets several in succession and secretly attends a meeting of all of them. Funny scenes give way to moving drama, a transition that Huard portrays well and the film delivers without sappiness. (Screens Fri., Sat. and Sun.)
I AM A GOOD PERSON /I AM A BAD PERSON: After last year’s vacation trip in the charming MODRA, Ingrid Veninger offers another travel tale but this one has some bite, not just good vibes.
She writes, directs and plays what she knows, a director from Toronto taking an avant garde film to festivals to get it some publicity. First stop, Bradford, England where only 15 people attend her screening, but the Q&A will be familiar to VIFF regulars. Then, she flies to Berlin, while her daughter, played by her real daughter Hallie Switzer, heads to Paris. (I’m going to both cities too in a couple of weeks, but I digress). The film cuts back and forth as the two women see a few sights, Ingrid doggedly promotes her film, and each works out a personal issue that’s revealed only gradually to us. One is quite a zinger. Whimsical, comic and sad episodes drift in and out in a close approximation of the untidy progression of real life and the mother-daughter bond is well-defined through the dialogue. (Also screens Sunday)
WIND AND FOG: This film about children in Iran doesn’t have a grain of cynicism. It offers only humanity in a simple story about a boy who is bullied at school because he can’t speak, is parked along with his sister at his grandfather’s farm while his father works in the city to earn money and finds distraction from an on-going war by helping an injured goose to recover.
Bombs exploding during a trip to the village and refugees walking the road remind us what’s going on outside. We mostly focus on the boy’s story, though, his efforts to rescue the bird (secretly because the hunters who shot it down own it) and his sister’s efforts to protect him. She mounts a frantic search when he wanders off one night into the fog, a sequence that’s scenic and mythic at the same time. Earlier, there was a spectacular scene showing children flying kites among fires flaring at an oilfield. Small film, big issues. (Also Mon. and next Thurs.)
WAKING THE GREEN TIGER: Gary Marcuse’s Vancouver-made, China-filmed documentary gets a world premiere Friday night, and plays again Tuesday.
Through a protest of a dam building project, Marcuse studies a rising environmental movement in China. This is a very good film about a potentially monumental development, especially as we see it contrasted with Chairman Mao’s “tame nature” dictum.
DAY 10: Saturday
Two films I’m looking forward to:
BLACK BREAD: This multi-prize winner from Spain is said to be both disturbing and compelling as a boy seeks to clear his father of a murder charge amid Republican versus Fascist outbursts.
THIS IS NOT A FILM: If you’re forbidden to make films, make this. Iran’s Jafar Panahi (along with a co-director) has created a documentary and self-portrait that extols the power of art. Toronto’s Eye Weekly rated it 10 out of 10.
And several films I recommended previously get another screening
The Sandman, How Much Does Your Building Weigh Mr. Foster?, My Little Princess, Blood in the Mobile, and Imams Go To School.
DAY 11: Sunday
POLICEMAN: An Israeli film that for once is not about the Palestinian issue or disputes with the Arab states. It raises many of the same issues that drove those demonstrations in Tel Aviv and other cities a few weeks ago. The widening gap between rich and poor is chief among them. “A state of masters and slaves,” a character labels the nation as she tries to compose a manifesto to be read on TV.
The heart of the film shows a group of revolutionaries, more passionate than organized, taking a group of billionaires hostage and detailing their crimes (wage cuts, union busting, excessive profits). They’re trying for a 1960s style political action. The film spends so much time hearing the charges, it’s clear that’s where its message lies, even though the people delivering it are a somewhat hapless bunch. Before we meet them, we spend almost half the movie with a group of anti-terrorist officers who cook up a plan to deflect blame for an action they messed up. The two halves together amount to a fierce critique of modern Israel, controversial for sure but here driving a good movie with a riveting climax. (Also Mon. and next Thurs.)
DONOVAN'S ECHO: There's a good story in this BC film and good performances from a cast that includes, Bruce Greenwood, Sonja Bennett and Danny Glover. There's also a rather plodding pace and a few too many coincidences.
Glover plays a scientist who returns to Fort Langley some 30 years after his wife and daughter were killed by an under-age driver in a stolen truck. He's still in mourning and almost silent. Bruce Greenwood, as his brother-in-law, takes him but becomes annoyed and eventually loses all sympathy for him because he claims to forsee the future. There's an auto accident. Then a skil saw falling off a scaffold, moving him to tackle a young girl; to save her, he says. Then there's a bridge he predicts will collapse. How this Twilight Zone stuff connects with a nuclear scientist is not quite clear, but Glover portrays a believable, misunderstood prophet and the increasingly fantastic plot is fun to follow even as it fails to be convincing. More pep could have covered for that. (Also Tuesday)
Previously recommended: Miss Representation, Taste the Waste, You’ve Been trumped, Benda Bilili and 7 Sins Forgiven