VIFF 2022 - Vancouver International Film Festival

Dates and Venues September 29 - October 9, 2022 | The Centre In Vancouver For The Performing Arts, The Cinémathèque, Cineplex Odeon International Village, Vancouver Playhouse, Rio Theatre, SFU's Goldcorp Centre for The Arts, VIFF Centre, Annex, & St. Andrew's Wesley United Church

Reviewer John Jane


UK/USA, 2022, Director: Frances O’Connor, 130 minutes

Dates and Venues October 8 at Vancouver Playhouse & October 9 SFU Woodwards

Frances O’Connor’s period drama draws on the all too brief adult life of English writer Emily Brontë before writing her singular and enduring novel Wuthering Heights. The film speculates on how the middle sister of an isolated Yorkshire family could have developed such a story of vengeance and unrequited love. Frances O’Connor, who is also responsible for the screenplay, speculates that Emily may have actually lived it through a short, but tempestuous affair with William Weightman, a handsome curate, who was also her French language teacher and a questionable relationship with her brother Branwell. O’Connor certainly plays fast-and-loose with the timeline. When the Brontë family celebrates the first literary publication of Emily’s novel, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is conveniently forgotten.

Emma Mackey is perfect in the role of Emily Brontë. She is attractive without being really beautiful (she has an uncanny physical resemblance to Australian actor Margo Robbie) and is able to speak excellent without the need of a dialect coach. She is able to convey stoic aloofness, yet also vulnerability. Oliver Jackson-Cohen acquits himself well as Emily’s quixotic suitor, though overwhelmed by Emma Mackey forceful performance. Abel Korzeniowski’s atmospheric score is vigorous and appropriate to O’Connor’s expressionism.

Frances O’Connor’s affectionate portrait of Emily Brontë is one that we would love to be believe – too bad, that it likely isn’t true.


Spain/Italy, 2022, Director Carla Simón, 120 minutes

Dates and Venues October 7 at SFU Woodwards and October 9 at Vancouver Playhouse

In Catalan with English subtitles

With its use of non-professional actors and clipped scenes, Carla Simón’s family drama Alcarràs has more of a look and feel of a documentary. The film title comes from the Catalonian municipality in eastern Spain where the film is set. Patriarch Quimet Solé’s extended family has made a comfortable, though not especially prosperous one from their mid-sized peach orchid, but this year’s harvest threatens to be the last. Quimet’s father Rogelio purchased the house and the land on which the home and orchard are situated on nothing more than a promise and a handshake – there was no formal transfer of land title.

While the story revolves around the impact of big agriculture and the family’s pending, the film pulls the audience into individual undertakings. The pressure of losing their livelihood and lifestyle places most of the burden on Quimet, having the effect of being in conflict with rest of the family. Simón’s film brings out natural performances from the cast, and in particular the children whose characters have the most interesting dramatic arc.

However, this is a case where a good story suffers from poor editing. The film is probably about twenty minutes too long with Daniela Cajías’s camera frequently focused on issues of negligible importance. Also, hardly any scene is satisfactorily completed. Carla Simón perhaps deserves credit for placing the spotlight on a way of life that has been losing ground even before the turn of the century.


What We Do Next

USA, 2022, Director: Stephen Belber, 77 minutes

Dates and Venues September 2 at International Village 9, October 3 at The Rio & VIFF Connect

Originally conceived for live theatre, Stephen Belber’s three handed taut drama skips across the surface of large issues such as race, class and micro politics. Split into seven numbered chapters, the film is perhaps less involved individual guilt or innocence, but rather the many flaws in government institutional services. It delves into such conflict through three central characters of diverse personality and background: a black councilwoman (Karen Pittman), a white male corporate lawyer (Corey Stoll), and at the centre – a Puerto Rican teenager (Michelle Veintimilla) whose home life was so violent, sure murders her father in an act of self-defense. Belber’s low budget film is set mostly indoors in a New York City Borough, though likely filmed elsewhere. It asks many questions without offering answers – but perhaps that is the point! The film’s title is more of a question than an answer - What We Do Next – is hope.



Soviet Bus Stops

Denmark/Canada/UK/Sweden/Latvia, 2022, Director: Kristoffer Hegnsvad, 56 minutes

In English, Ukrainian, Russian, Estonian, and Lithuanian with English subtitles

Dates and Venue October 2 and October 4 at The Cinematheque & VIFF Connect

Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig’s personal project of bus stop hunting is really the singular focus in Kristoffer Hegnsvad‘s unique documentary. Pre- perestroika Soviet Union architecture of the 1960s and 70s was generally considered, even by Russians, to be utilitarian and mass-produced. So who would have guessed that the same political system would produce such imaginative and diverse publicly funded commissions and what are those designers doing now?

Herwig certainly goes out of his way to mine and photograph (presumably for a forthcoming book) the neglected aesthetic of roadside bus stops – some of which haven’t seen a bus pass by for several years. To get to these fascinating autobusnaya ostanovka, Herwig traveled through almost every former Soviet satellite state including Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and even the challenging Moldova and (now impossible) Belarus.

The USSR likely erected thousands of basic posts that informed buses where to stop and passengers where to stand, but there are hundreds of beautifully designed constructions still standing that might be considered extravagant, ostentatious or even gaudy. Arguably the most intriguing moments in the film are when Herwig spends time talking with some of the architects that designed these structures that are closer to being pavilions rather than simple shelters.


The Hermit of Treig

UK, 2022, Director: Lizzie MacKenzie, 79 minutes

Dates and Venue October 2 & 7, 2022 at The CInematheque & VIFF Connect

Octogenarian Ken Smith, who is the subject of Lizzie MacKenzie's affectionate documentary, decided to leave the rat-race some four decades ago to eke out survival in the wilderness – not in his native Yorkshire – but in a wood cabin on the banks of Loch Treig. Situated roughly fifteen kilometers east of Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands, Loch Treig is known to locals as “the lonely loch” and for good reason. Its access is difficult even for an all-terrain vehicle.

Without running water or electric power, Smith however, has managed just fine. While he can no longer claim to be “off-the-grid” since he receives a government pension and relies on the NHS (National Health Service) when he is sick, he largely sustains his food supply by fishing, foraging for vegetables and distilling his drinks. Smith doesn’t own any kind of vehicle. Any where he wants or needs to go he walks – even twenty miles to the nearest town. When he isn’t hiking for fun or walking out of necessity, he fills his time with photography and (hand)writing in his journals.

During much of the film, we hear punctuated conversations between Ken Smith and director Lizzie MacKenzie. And yes, they discuss how much longer he could continue to live in this level of isolation. Smith himself believes he can make it to 102!


Triangle of Sadness

Sweden/UK/USA/France/Greece, 2022, Director: Ruben Östlund, 149 minutes

Dates and Venue October 3 & 9, 2022 | Centre for Performing Arts

Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s latest satire will likely appeal to those people that it happily disparages; that is, the obscenely rich, the ridiculously entitled and followers of social media influencers. The title actually refers to the wrinkles seen between one’s eyebrows caused by stress, that may be fixed with Botox - if one cared enough.

Split into three uneven parts, the film opens in the superficial world of the fashion industry with the first chapter almost entirely focused on Carl, cleverly underplayed by Londoner Harris Dickinson and Yaya, played by former South African model Charlbi Dean (Charlbi sadly died recently from as yet unspecified causes at age 32). Carl and Yaya are professional models, who, apart from having problems with each other, also have money problems. When the couple find themselves on a fancy and fare-paid boutique cruise, the might actually be the nicest people among the passengers. It’s here that the film goes into overdrive, mercilessly lampooning the, oh so, capricious wealthy types in the most visually disgusting way.

The final chapter, that has passengers disembarking the scuttled yacht in an emergency evacuation, is a mash-up between Lord of the Flies and (the 1957 British film) The Admirable Crichton when the order of social rank is turned upside down.

At its heart, Ruben Östlund’s film is really about power, privilege and survival. It’s certainly a valid commentary on what western society has ostensibly become. Watch out for Woody Harrelson’s hilarious cameo in the role of the captain.


The Grizzlie Truth

Canada, 2022, Director: Kathleen S. Jayme, 97 minutes

Dates and Venue October 1 & 5, 2022 | Centre for Performing Arts

Judging the number of people in the audience at the Vancouver premiere of The Grizzlie Truth wearing replica shirts, the former basketball franchise Vancouver Grizzlies still holds a special place in the hearts of Vancouver sports fans. Film-maker and superfan Kathleen (Kat) Jayme has put together an informative and entertaining documentary to uncover the cause and effect of how and why the team was moved to Memphis after only six seasons.

When Vancouver sports fans reminisce about the Grizzlies, names that come to mind are: Shareef Abdur Rahim, Mike Bibby, Roy Rogers and yes, Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves – who was likely celebrated beyond his talent. A name less likely to spring to mind is Michael Heisley. It was self-made millionaire Heisley who bought the franchise and swiftly moved it out of Vancouver, after promising that he wouldn’t.

In her investigation into her favourite team’s demise and subsequent exit from the NBA, Kat Jayme, who spends much of the film’s 97 minutes run time on screen herself, keeps an open mind – particularly about who might be to blame. The interviews with the two people fans have been particularly vocal in condemning will probably feel that they received at least a modicum of redemption from this film – former general manager Stu Jackson and first choice draft pick Steve Francis who simply refused to play for the team.

Steve Francis actually doesn’t hide from being the subject of Grizzlie fans rancor and perhaps by way of fence-mending, Francis joined former Grizzlies Tony Massenburg, Antonio Harvey and George Lynch on stage for a post screening Q & A.

Bones of Crows

Canada, - director: Marie Clements, 2022, 127 mins

Date and Venue 29 September 2022, 6.30pm at the Centre for Performing Arts

In English and Cree with occasional English subtitles

Vancouver-born Indigenous director Marie Clements’ beautifully made, though at times disturbing, film follows the fictional story of Aline Spears, a Cree woman growing up in the Canadian Prairies, in the backdrop of the Indian Residential Schools system.

Clements’ storytelling is episodal, time-shifting back and forth through seven decades. The film begins, shot in stark monochrome, with an incident in Turtle Crossing, Manitoba in the nineteenth century involving a white trader playing a cruel trick on a Cree community. It then fast forwards to 1930 when Aline Spears and her siblings are taken from their parents and forced to attend a residential school, then to 1942 when the protagonist enlists in the RCAF and posted to England to operate as a Cree Code Talker.

Grace Dove, a member the Shuswap First Nations turns in a brilliant performance as Aline as a adult. She shares the roles with Summer Testawich as a child Aline and Carla Rae, who plays an older Aline, who both acquit themselves well. Alberta native Alyssa Wapanatâhk delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as Aline’s ill-fated sister Perseverance.

As the storyteller, Clements offers a powerful and moving story here of courage and consummation. However, as the director, she leaves fundamental gaps such as what leads up to Perseverance’s incarceration. While this film centres on one family, it is intended to represent the many Indigenous families that lost their culture and language.

A pre-festival showing of this film was offered as a special screening presentation. It could be seen on Thursday, September 29 and Tuesday, October 04 at the Centre for Performing Arts.

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