A few more recommended films for VIFF’s last three days, Wed., Thurs. and Fri.
THIS IS NOT A FILM: One of the best movies in the festival isn’t a movie at all. It’s a sly protest by Iran’s Jafar Panahi. He’s banned from making movies and sentenced to prison, probably because he supported the opposition in that noisy election two years ago. The ban does not, he reasons, prevent him from just reading a script into a camera. With a friend doing cinematography, Panahi reads about a young girl prevented from attending university by her traditionalist parents. The presentation may sound dry but there’s so much going on in this film you won’t get bored. There’s a great deal of humor, a telling clip from a previous movie, an iguana, a yappy dog and its owner, phone calls to a lawyer and a trip down the elevator with a chatty and amiable young man picking up garbage. Not one to play it safe, Panahi also goes outside and shoots scenes of fireworks with his cell phone. As a statement of defiance and a demonstration of imagination, this not a film is superb.
SUNFLOWER HOUR: Some of Vancouver’s busiest actors and film people spent a few weekends last year to make their own movie. With little money but a lot of laughs they’ve created this mockumentary spoof of the entertainment industry and while it’s way too raunchy to feel real, it is pretty funny.
Four contestants are on the short list for a job on a children’s puppet show on TV. The producer (Peter New) used to make porn. His wife and former star (Johannah Newmarch) hates him and has brought only the worst candidates to the final tryouts. There’s a goth who calls herself Satan’s Spawn, a fake Irishman with delusions, an emotional young man with sleep apnea and a homophobic religious zealot. The humor is less than subtle and often pretty low class. There’s lots of sexual innuendo and foul language. But the film also has an anarchic spirit that slashes away at the underbelly of show biz. It won an award this summer year’s Karlovy Vary film festival in the Czech Republic. (Screens Thursday and Friday)
Previously recommended: Give Up Tomorrow, Wind and Fog, Blood in the Mobile and Policeman
FINAL DAY: Friday
THE KID WITH A BIKE: The Dardenne brothers from Belgium, Jean-Pierre and Luc, make small movies that appear to be overly spare and concerned only with everyday life. This new one, chosen as the festival closer this year, shows again that in their world nothing is simple. They find drama in ordinary lives and tell their deeply affecting tales, often about vulnerable children, with great humanity. The boy, played by Thomas Doret, yet another amazing child actor, is 11 years old, supremely petulant and headstrong. He’s been abandoned by his father and wants to find him. But in setting out to do so he snubs a woman (Cécile de France) who took him in like a son and
falls into the sway of a drug dealer who calls him “Pitbull” and involves him in a violent robbery. Meeting the dad doesn’t go so well either. What good can come of all this? Let me just say you won’t be leaving the theatre gloomy and depressed. The Dardennes find a solution that, as unlikely as it is, feels right. They won one of the top prizes at Cannes with this film. (Fri at 7 p.m. as the closing gala and again at 9:45).
BLACK BREAD: Here’s another chance to catch the film that beat out Pedro Almodovar’s latest to represent Spain at the Academy Awards. It’s a richly-textured gothic, set in 1944, as the world war was nearing an end but the fascists in Spain remained in power. Against that backdrop, a young boy learns about evil. His father says to stay true to your ideals. His happen to be left-leaning and he has to hide from a mayor who wants to pin a murder charge on him. Creaks in the night, rumors of a ghost and a wild man living in a cave are only part of mammoth scandal that is eventually revealed in bewildering gush of information. You’ll enjoy the look of this film and the momentum in its storytelling.
Plus two previously recommended: Benda Bilili and Miss Representation