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Vancouver International Film Festival Picks for Days 6 & 7: Tues and Wed

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ALTITUDE: You might want to catch this just to see what some of our local filmmakers are doing with genre movies. Four friends are on their way to a concert, in a plane piloted by Sara (Jessica Lowndes) who has just earned her license. She brought along her boyfriend who’s morose and spacey, which creeps out the others, especially the beer drinking jock. In quick order we get a bit of on-board bullying, a sudden storm, a dead radio, a mechanical failure that makes the plane uncontrollable and flying higher, hysteria, an impossible out-of-cabin repair (like a space walk) and a ridiculous monster. There is an explanation which would work in a comic book but not here. Kaare Andrews, the director, is famous for his work for Marvel Comics. (2 out of 5)

DAY 7: Wednesday Oct 6

FORCE OF NATURE: THE DAVID SUZUKI MOVIE: Yes it’s a lecture, but don’t be put off. It’s much more than a lecture, first of all because Suzuki is such a compelling speaker. You’ll be captivated and maybe convinced by his argument that we have to act like we’re part of the environment, because we are, and not above it. He’s says that every chance he gets but it doesn’t sound old here. It’s urgent and passionate and it comes in short bursts from a speech he delivered at UBC’s Chance Centre. Between those bursts the film traces his life story by taking him to where he lived it, including the Slocan Valley where his family was forcibly moved in World War 2, Leamington, Ontario where they re-located and he was the only Asian kid in town, Tennessee where he did first science work, UBC where he ran a lab, Hiroshima where the atom-bomb was dropped,  and Haida Guai, where he firmed up his environmental ideas. There’s a strongly emotional side that he lets out in these visits. You don’t see that often and helps make this a moving and dramatic documentary. (Also screens Thursday) 4 out of 5

UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES: We haven’t been given a media preview of this film from Thailand, so I’ll just have to report its reputation. Surprise winner of the top prize at the Cannes film festival. Strong reviews in many publications. A film about re-incarnation but said to defy easy description. It includes a ghost story and a folk tale.

The film tells of a tamarind farmer dying of kidney disease. When two relatives visit, two ghosts, his wife and his son, also appear. The son is now a monkey ghost. Stranger scenes happen next day. The director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, is Thailand’s best known filmmaker. His big award makes this a must see. (Also next Tuesday)

 

And these repeats …

REJOICE AND SHOUT: The first person you see is Andre Crouch. That tells you right there that this history of black gospel music is the real thing. Crouch is immensely influential as an artist, preacher, mentor and Grammy Award winner. He put on a great show at the PNE a few years ago but he’s never become widely-known like Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward or the Staples Singers. They’re all seen and heard in this rousing documentary, along with The Edwin Hawkins Singers, The Dixie Hummingbirds, and many others. We also get to hear the first ever gospel record. Best of all, the music clips, whether old or recent, are substantial, not just snippets. The story dates back to slavery days when the masters forced the people to become Christians and they put their own spin on it. (Also screening Oct 11)  4 out of 5 

SNOW WHITE: The charming little children’s story is now a thrilling, sensual and sexy French ballet. The costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier are skimpy and the choreography by Angelin Preljocaj is fluid or angry depending on the particular mood.

Nagisa Shirai (seen in the photo) dances an excellent Snow White but the real star for me is Caline Galli as the wicked queen. She exudes evil, thwarted status and more than a hint of sadism in her severe black costume and her stomping tirades. It’s a terrifying scene when she forces the apple into Snow White’s mouth and a particularly harsh fate that comes to her in this version of the story. The seven dwarves have a much reduced role here, although a lengthy sequence in which they rappel  up and down a cliff-side working their mines is spectacular. This stunning production was performed in Paris and other cities in France and then filmed for a TV special last Christmas. (Also Oct 8)  4 out of 5

12 ANGRY LEBANESE: Here’s an idea. Go into one of the worst prisons in the world, Roumieh prison in Lebanon, get 45 inmates, including murderers and rapists, and get them to rehearse for 15 months and put on a play. You’d have to be crazy. Well, it happened, under the cajoling leadership of a young woman named Zeina Daccache. She gets them to perform 12 Angry Men, the play about of a jury arguing and debating a young man’s fate in a murder case. The inmates are tough and doubting when they start but gradually meld into a cohesive cast as she pushes them on. Something more remarkable happens. Several  become introspective. They admit to their crimes and ponder exactly what caused them to commit them. The film leads to the big show where they’ll be playing to a VIP audience of officials and politicians. It’s a powerful film. 4 out of 5

STONEWALL UPRISING: To this day, there’s a big sign outside the Stonewall Bar in New York City proclaiming “Where Pride Began.”  This sprightly documentary shows how it happened that one night in 1969 when the police staged yet another raid on the Greenwich Village gay bar, thepatrons fought back. Or as one says in the film” “We discovered a power we didn’t know we had.” A couple of days of riot followed and ultimately triggered the gay pride movement. People who were there, including one of the cops and a writer from The Village Voice, reconstruct the event in minute by minute detail and the context is set by some hilarious news and educational films about homosexuality. (Also screens Wednesday) 3 1/2 out of 5

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A scene from Parasite, the Cannes winner that will be also screen at VIFF
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