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VIFF announces the opener, closer and a very promising schedule for this year’s festival

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

It looks like a particularly strong line up that’ll be showing at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year. Many of the titles are high profile and highly anticipated because of the publicity they’ve already received or awards they’ve already won.

The big winner from Cannes, for instance, Parasite will be here as will other winners from there and other festivals. There’s no Joker or Mr. Rogers but there’s plenty of star power (Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory, Isabelle Huppert in Frankie, Cannes best actress Emily Beecham in Little Joe, Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse, Christian Bale as a car guy, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a married couple in Noah Baumbach’s new film. And of course, many lesser-known names that fans of world cinema will recognize or want to see.


VIFF announced at its look-ahead press conference Wednesday that Guest of Honour, will be get the coveted opening-film slot (plus two other screenings). It stars David Thewlis as a restaurant health inspector but it’s the director, Atom Egoyan, ex-Victoria, now Ontario-based, who is the big name here. Judging by the trailer we were shown it’s lighter than his usual films and probably worth checking out. He’ll also be here for a master class about his film technique.

La Belle Époque, a French comedy drama about time travel is the closing film. It’s said to be hilarious or in the words of one programmer, “vastly entertaining.”

Four films have been added so recently they don’t even appear in the guide book. Ford v Ferrari, Harriet, Marriage Story and The Laundromat are likely to be hot tickets.

There are 39 world premieres, 48 North American premieres and 57 Canadian premieres. Also the largest number of Canadian and BC films anywhere.

Ash was given special mention. It’s a drama set against the forest fires of last year.

Also from BC: a new one that Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Maija Tailfeathers created together and one  that has John Cassini wandering Vancouver streets after a tragedy looking for human connection. From Niagara Falls there’s a neo-noir called Clifton Hill and from the far north a new one from Zacharias Kunuk.

I’ll be interested to see how the veteran German director Doris Dorrie has managed to make a sequel to her very popular charmer from 11 years ago Cherry Blossoms. (She’ll be here, by the way). And how gut-wrenching is The Painted Bird. It’s a Holocaust drama so disturbing that half the audience at the Venice film festival walked out, or escaped.  And what about JoJo Rabbit with Hitler as a boy’s imaginary friend?

Charles Wilkinson’s film about Haida Gwai artist Robert Davidson will screen as will 63 Up, Michael Apted’s latest check-in with the group of people he’s been documenting through seven films over six decades. He’ll be here to talk about it too.

Hedy Frye, the Liberal MP was at the press conference with a funding announcement. (There is an election coming up isn’t there?) Ottawa is contributing $1.4 million for a renovation at VIFF’s Vancouver International Film Centre, aka the VanCity Theatre. It’ll get a new micro auditorium and a virtual reality lounge, enabling the programmers to add smaller films to their bookings and to keep up with technology.

The festival itself runs Sept 28 to Oct 11. The schedule is now up at

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