VIFF Announces More Films For This Year

The high-profile opening gala movie at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival is ....
A Shine of Rainbows.

It's said to be about "acceptance, kindness and the healing power of love" in the story of an orphan boy in Ireland who's life is changed by an extraordinary woman.

Some of the media at Wednesday's VIFF press conference thought that the news was awfully anti-climatic. They expected something more cutting-edge, avant garde or high profile as the opener.

Vic Sarin was beaming, though. "It's like an early Christmas present," he told me. "It represents recognition in my home town".

He co-wrote and directed the film, years after he first read the Lillian Beckwith novel. It stuck with him, he explained, and in a sense the film is his tribute to her.

It's the first time since 2005 that the festival is opening with a Canadian film.

VIFF Director Alan Franey said it's a title the festival wants to share with the audience while there are better nights than the opening gala for harder, even controversial films.

There are plenty of those showing this year, including Michael Haneke's White Ribbon, the big winner at the Cannes Film Festival, and Antichrist, which outraged many at Cannes for both extremely graphic violence and Director Lars Von Trier's claim that he is "the world's greatest director".

I've found three revenge-for-rape films and I've only studied about half this year's line up in any detail so far.

A few other highlights I've encountered ...

Two films that use old film clips woven into a new story. One of them turns Alfred Hitchcock into an actor. The clips are from various of his promotional films, including his tour of the Bates Motel.

An ambitious new series of films about the financial meltdown. They overlap and some are a bit like a PBS documentary but others have startling new slants on the issue, including emotional stories of people loosing their home. (There's competition, though. Michael Moore's look at the same subject arrives in regular theatres just as the festival opens).

He probably won't have the intriguing subplot explored with such entertaining elan in The Great Contemporary Art Bubble which is showing at the festival.

A new environmental series will have you angry at big oil for an ecological disaster in Ecuador and, in another film, convinced that something just as bad is happening in Alberta's tar sands. Fans of The Cove can see Japanese ocean practices under attack again as Paul Watson confronts their whalers in the Antarctic.

South Korea's Bong Joon-ho, who wowed us with The Host two years ago, is back twice. His name is even part of the title in the first, a celebration of his old film school. Then his new film, Mother, has a woman trying to clear her son of a murder charge.

Among the Canadian highlights, is the surprise Cannes sensation, J'ai Tué Ma Mère (I Killed My Mother).

Two major Sundance award winners will be shown. An Education is an English film about a May-and December romance and Precious is an extremely gritty American film about an obese illiterate teen girl in Harlem.

There's an equally powerful look back at life in the Great Depression in the American drama Redland.

Among the celebrities featured in films this year are Hildegard Knef, one of Germany's biggest stars, and wall-of-sound man Phil Spector. Yes, him, before he went to jail. A very good film that includes his first trial.

The full catalogue will be available as of September 19. The sneak preview pamphlet is already out there.

Alan Franey proudly pointed out the festival is showing more films than ever before. (There are over 375 screening this year, from 75 countries; more than 100 from Canada.) "It's probably the best line up we've ever had," he said.

That helped him deflect questions about VIFF's own finances, which took a hit this year when the provincial government cut back $70,000 in lottery grants.

Franey said that hasn't affected this year's budget too much and he'll worry about next year later. He also thinks one major sponsor from years past may be coming back.

Notice, though, individual tickets are a dollar more expensive this year. There are some offsetting price adjustments in the all-festival passes.

The 28th Vancouver International Film Festival runs from Oct. 1 to 16. I'll have have films I can recommend every day here at The Vancouver Observer.
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