Vancouver International Film Festival Picks for Day 11: Sunday
Through a convergence of new and repeat films, there are a lot of very good documentaries at VIFF today. Get set to attack two nearly sacred cows, meet two BC athletes and one artist and shudder at one harrowing film related to the Holocaust. If you look hard, you can also find some lighter fare. New films first, then the repeats.
DAY 11 Sunday Oct 10
SCHOOLING THE WORLD: This is surely the most radical documentary at VIFF this year. It dares to challenge one of our most cherished beliefs, that education is always good. For instance, the international effort called Education for All is said to be improving the situation of poor people around the world. It will help lift them out of poverty and give them a chance to share in the benefits of modern life. This film argues it has actually increased poverty, stripped people of their identity and created a mass of consumers for the good of corporations. Provocative stuff spoken by several experts including Wade Davis, the anthropologist and writer, formerly at UBC, now in Washington with National Geographic. Includes many scenes from traditional societies. This is the film’s world premiere. (Also screens Tuesday) 4 out of 5
WINDFALL: Now I understand why some people oppose wind power as an energy solution, as happened recently in Oregon and some time ago on Vancouver Island. This film looks at a small community in upstate New York where a company proposed to build windmills to generate power.
The area is mostly farmland, so with plenty of space and wind, it's a no brainer. Not so fast, there, somebody said. Others joined in and the town was split. Old friends weren't talking to each other and a hot election ousted the local council. People feared noise, a cluttered-looking horizon and a strobe effect called “shadow flicker” which is clearly shown in some dramatic film. They also objected to tactics of the energy companies who they called “modern day carpetbaggers.” Very interesting stuff in a lively film. (Also screens Wednesday) 3 ½ out of 4
A FILM UNFINISHED: In May 1942, a German film crew entered the Waraw Ghetto and started documenting life on the street, in houses and offices. They compiled a rough edit and then abandonned the project. Parts of that footage have shown up in documentaries about the Jews of Warsaw. This film with the help of some outtakes discovered later, diaries, letters and memories of survivors tells a far more scary story. Many of the scenes were staged. Some were filmed over again. The people were directed.
Isreali director Yael Hersonski explores the facts like a mystery and can only speculate why that film was made and then never finished. But the film she has assembled, which includes much of the footage, readings from testimony by the cameraman who shot it and present day clips of survivors watching it, is a bone-chilling look back at both the horror of the ghetto and the creation of propoganda. (Also screens Wednesday) 4 out of 5
ANOTHER YEAR: Mike Leigh is improvising again in this comedy-drama about everyday life. Just that. No plot, no story arc but many small dramas set in an endless wheel as the seasons go round.
Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen play a happily married couple in North London who are regularly visited by their emotionally-needy friends and family. They include a 30-year-old son unhappy that he is still single, an overweight friend worried about his appearance and a middle-aged secretary who drinks and bemoans her loneliness. The hosts listen to their stories and help when they can. Exactly as you might do for friends who drop over now and then. Critics have said this subtle character study with its mixture of humor, sadness and caring is Leigh's best work since Secrets and Lies. (Also Monday and Wednesday)
INTO THE WIND: There's a more complete picture of Terry Fox in this film than any I've seen before. He was stubborn. "You couldn't win an argument with him," says his father. He pushes himself dangerously on his Marathon of Hope. He believes in himself. He gets grumpy. He yells at a reporter on the phone. All these and more come out through memories from the people who were close to him, many choice archival clips and most of all through his diary. They give us an intimate entry into what he was thinking every day. "If I die, I'll die happy doing what I want to do," he says at one point. Amazingly it's not his death nor his ending the cross-country run that's the most emotional part of this documentary. It's when he arrives in Scarborough, Ontario and a huge crowd is there to cheer. That's when he finally saw he was making an impact. Steve Nash and his cousin Ezra Holland did a very good job with this film. (Also screen Tuesday) 4 out of 5