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VIFF Daily Picks

The Vancouver International Film Festival gets right into the thick of things on Day 1, offering up the whole spectrum, from "nice" to the film that outraged Cannes. And much in between.

These are my best suggestions for the next few days. I've seen these films and recommend them. Dull, boring or pretensiously arty films don't make the list.  

And check back now and then. The list will change everyday as titles that finish their run drop off and others debut. 

DAY 1 (aka Oct. 1): 

A SHINE OF RAINBOWS: Heartwarming, precious, a bit maudlin. Yes, it's true but Vic Sarin's film also has a remarkable performance by a new child actor. John Bell plays a shy orphan who's forced to grow out of his shell and then has to face up to tragedy. With his supremely expressive face, he's entirely convicing and holds his own against Connie Nielsen and Aiden Quinn, as the couple who adopt him  and bring him to a picturesque, some say magical, island in Ireland. (Opening gala; also Day 2).     

ANTICHRIST: I'm recommending this for controversy trackers only. They will want to see what it has that caused walkouts at Cannes and outrage at other festivals since. Graphic sex, penetration, mutilation, violence, religious mockery, that's what. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe are husband and wife, grieving the loss of a son. For therapy, they go into the woods and a prolongued Adam and Eve allegory. Denmark's Lars von Trier goes way too far in this tale of depression and madness. (Also Day 3)

 

AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD: After his cameo in The Cove, Paul Watson is again taking on Japanese whalers. He's in the Antarctic this time, leading two ships into a hyper-active confrontation with the Japanese fleet. He's mostly seen talking to the world media on the satellite phone, while a second captain leads the minute-by-minute action. And there's plenty of it, including sabotage, a ramming  and a tense search for missing colleagues, all captured in beautiful cinematography. As Watson says early on: "We're officially a pirate ship." (Also Days 3 and 16) 

GIGANTE: This quiet film from Uruguay will have you rooting for a supermarket security guard. He's an amiable giant who watches the aisles on a bank of video monitors. He falls in love (at a distance) with one of the women who come at night to clean the floors. The film pulls you in as he learns about her ways (they have much in common),  follows her and even helps her out, all before saying as much as one word to her. The pace is leisurely; the interest, though, builds steadily. It was the audience favorite at the Berlin Film Festival. (Also Day 4)

 

JERMAL: Another of the "nice" films. This one is from Indonesia and has a young boy brought offshore to a fishing platform where his father is boss. The problem is, the man denies he's the father. The boy tries repeatedly to gain his love but is given work to do instead, among a pack of boys who both harass and teach him. It has Oliver Twist elements, a close up view of some illegal fishing practices and an endearing battle of wills between a naive boy and a gruff man with reasons to avoid connecting. (Also Day 10) 

ROCATERRANIA: When Renaldo Kuhler was a bored teenager he entertained himself by creating an imaginary country. Now that he's old and eccentric, he lets us see it all. You'll be amazed at the details. Through hundreds of drawings and his voice-over narration you learn all about this principality located between Quebec and New York State. He dreamt up an entire history, with changes of government, constitutional debates, an economy, prisons, an entertainment industry and even celebrities. The country also changed  in step with events in his own life.  He later became a renowned scientific illustrator but this is was an intriguing escape from reality.

(Also Day 10 and 12).

 

WE ALL FALL DOWN: This may be the best of the several films at the festival about the economic meltdown we're still in. It does the best job explaining what actually happened by introducing a key concept: "securitization". Understand that, and you won't be waylaid by "derivatives" and "insurance swaps". There are also foreclosure stories and then, something new: how the forclosures also hurt the neighbors economically. (Also Day 6 and 12). 

Two other financial documentaries playing on Day 1 aren't as succesful. AMERICAN CASINO's financial background is too dense to follow and AROUND THE WORLD WITH JOSEPH STIGLITZ is like a university seminar, albeit an effective one with a solid attack on globalization, the IMF and the World Bank by a former insider.       

Films that almost made the list .... 

BACKYARD: A police drama about women murdered in Mexico. Jimmy Smits appears. 

WE LIVE IN PUBLIC: An internet pioneer explains a bizarre surveillance experiment.  

DISCORAMA, BY GLASER: Jacques Brel and Robert Charlesbois are just two of the many performers seen in this documentary about a trailblazing TV show in Paris.   
 
 

DAY 2: 

A Cargo to Africa 

A Shine of Rainbows 

The Great Contemporary Art Bubble 

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus 

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daviel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers 

Mother 

Soundtrack for a Revolution 

Sweetgrass 

DAY 3: 

A Cargo to Africa 

Antichrist 

At the Edge of the World 

Boy Interrupted 

The Great Contemporary Art Bubble 

Let's Make Money 

Soundtrack for a Revolution 

That Damned Rain 

Young Victoria

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