Saturday, September 24, 2011

VIFF 2011: Preview 3

Further to my preview of the 2011 Vancouver International Film Festival, which you can read about here and here, here are ten more noteworthy films that are playing at VIFF.

Miss Representation (USA; directed by Jennifer Seibel Newsom)

Rosario Dawson interviewed in Miss Representation
Newsom’s bold documentary explores the (mis)representation of women in contemporary American society and culture. Gathering her considerable resources, Newsom (wife of progressive San Francisco Mayor Gavin) explores what it means to be a woman in 21st Century America, through interviews with such luminaries as Gloria Steinem, Dr. Condoleeza Rice, Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric, Nancy Pelosi and Jane Fonda. In early 2011, no less than Oprah Winfrey announced her acquisition of this film for her OWN network, to be aired at a later date. Why wait when you can see this at VIFF first?

My Little Princess (France; directed by Eva Ionesco)

Still of My Little Princess
Isabelle Huppert seems to be no stranger to controversy to film festivals. Her prize-winning role in 2001’s La Pianiste caused outrage thanks to its volatile subject and presentation, but that didn’t stop the film from clearing the board. Director Ionesco is known as the former five-year-old whose mother sold erotic photographs of her and caused international scandal as a result. Huppert will embody that infamous mother, Irina Ionesco, in one of her trademark difficult but eminently watchable performances. (Those with a long memory will recall that the controversy inspired Louis Malle’s 1978 film Pretty Baby, starring Susan Sarandon and Brooke Shields.)

The British Guide to Showing Off (UK; directed by Jes Benstock)

One of this year’s LGBT entries is this enticing, comic documentary on the Alternative Miss World pageant. Originally started in 1972 as a fringe festival-type event, it has since become a hallmark of London gay life and has attracted the participation over the years of Elton John, Derek Jarman, Andy Warhol, the Sex Pistols, David Bowie, Brian Eno and Boy George. The event has grown in stature and size since, and combines fashion, music and dance in an “anything goes” show that elevates it to the level of high performance art. You can read more on this unique phenomenon on festival founder Andrew Logan’s website.

The Front Line (South Korea; directed by Jang Hun)

Chosen as South Korea’s official entry for this year’s Academy Awards, The Front Line chronicles a battle during the Korean Warand the heavy toll it takes on both sides. Stylistically reminiscent of 2006’s Letters from Iwo Jima and Saving Private Ryan, this work gets up-close-and-personal with numerous soldiers in the hours leading to the signing of the Armistice in 1953. Hun’s young career has made him one of the foremost Korean directors, and includes the romance 3-Iron and The Bow, which was screened at Cannes in 2005.

The Turin Horse (Hungary; directed by Béla Tarr)

We’re aware of Nietzsche’s body of work, but what happened to him in the end? It is rumoured that his witnessing the whipping of a horse caused his mental breakdown in 1889, one that caused him to go silent and live in relative obscurity for another ten years. But what happened to the horse? Who owned the animal and how did they react? This film provides a speculative look at the quiet, desperate lives of its owner and his daughter, their hardscrabble survival, and their encounter with one of the foremost philosophers in history. Winner of the Jury Grand Prix at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, this is influential director Tarr’s final work, as he has announced his retirement from filmmaking.

Flamenco, Flamenco (Spain; directed by Carlos Saura)

Long-known for his signature work on flamenco-infused dramas such as his 1983 dance remake of Carmen, Saura returns to the world of flamenco and views how it is used, interpreted and updated to today. Instead of a conventional narrative that he turns upside-down, Saura instead films a straight-forward documentary on his favourite subject. Done with passion, style and music, sometimes that’s all you need to use in cinematic language and make it sing.

Cloudburst (Canada; directed by Thom Fitzgerald)

What happens if you spend an entire lifetime waiting for the right to get married, and the big day finally arrives? Fitzgerald’s latest film stars Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as a lesbian couple who are temporarily split up due to an incident with an amorous contraption (yes that is a euphemism) but fight to get married no matter what. A combination of road movie, family drama and raucous comedy, Cloudburst is presented as part of VIFF’s queer film series.

Our Future (Japan; directed by Iizuka Kashou)

School’s out, but not for a young woman who is exploring her gender identity at age 18. Already shamed in Japanese culture by her parents’ divorce, she is further humiliated at school but befriends two new friends: a young gay boy and a transgendered dance. What does it mean to be labeled as masculine, feminine, neither or both in contemporary Japanese society, and is there a place for anyone who falls outside of the gender binary?

Still of The Prize
The Prize (Germany; directed by Elke Hauck)

It’s been two decades since the Berlin Wall fell, but how has it affected those who were behind the Iron Curtain and were suddenly confronted with unimaginable freedom and viewed free will as a threat? A former East Berlin architect goes back to his old neighbourhood to design a building and sees first-hand just how terrible the concept of democracy and freedom is to those who have spent their entire lives entirely sheltered from it. Will The Prize be this year’s answer to the most acclaimed fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall film of our time, 2004’s Goodbye, Lenin!?

Heaven and Earth (Austria; directed by Michael Pilz)

The titular feature of this year’s environmental film series, Pilz’s magnum opus captures life in a small Austrian town over three years and their relationship to nature and one another. Clocking in at a staggering 297 minutes (that’s nearly five hours), the film boasts majestic views captured in stunning cinematography. The film boasts an impressive treatise which you can view here.