The full schedule for the 30th Vancouver International Film Festival went live over last weekend with 375+ films from 75 countries. The Fest will open with Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In on September 29 and close two weeks later with the Dardenne Brother’s The Kid With a Bike. VIFF and its stellar array of films might be overshadowed by Toronto’s buzz, glitz and glam (not to mention the other film festival also known as VIFF), but Vancouver packs 16 days with an eclectic mix of films, including the largest East Asian selection outside of that region and the influential Dragons & Tigers Award.
In competition for the Dragons & Tigers Award are eight films: three from the Philippines, two from South Korea, two from Japan, and one judiciously stated from China, parenthetically, Tibet. This year’s jurors are producer Simon Field (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives, I Can’t Sleep Alone), director Ann Hui (July Rhapsody, The Way We Are and this year’s A Simple Life) and actor/director Yang Ik-joon (Breahtless). The award, announced October 8, has had a long history of recognizing some of the most important young talent coming out of the region, including the debut features of Jia Zhangke, Hong Sang-soo, Lee Chang-dong and Hirokazu Kore-eda.
There are 46 Asian features in the Dragons & Tigers Program, and rounding out the award nominees are new films from well-known directors (Johnnie To’s Life Without Principle, Hong Sang-soo’s The Day He Arrives, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s I Wish, Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Headshot and Takashi Miike’s Harakiri: Death of a Samurai) as well as a number of highly anticipated titles (Wei Te-sheng’s four-hour epic Warrior’s of the Rainbow: Seeqid Bale, Xu Haofeng’s The Sword Identity and Jang Hun’s The Front Line.) But it is the remaining discoveries of under-the-radar Asian films, curated by Tony Rayns and Shelly Kraicer, which make the Dragons & Tigers Program a unique treasure trove.
On the international stage VIFF offers regional premieres of some of the most talked about films on the festival circuit. Fresh from Cannes and direct form Toronto, VIFF 2011 will include Aki Kaurismäki’s first feature in five years Le Harve, Gerardo Naranjo’s follow-up to I’m Gonna Explode, Miss Bala, Wim Wender’s 3D documentary Pina, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, novelist Julia Leigh’s debut Sleeping Beauty, Frederick Wiseman’s newest Crazy Horse, Jafar Panahi’s This is Not a Film, filmed under house arrest, and Bela Tarr’s purportedly final film, The Turin Horse.
Equally exciting is the long list of buzz worthy titles making an appearance at VIFF. Markus Schleinzer’s debut film Michael seems worthy of controversy. Recently picked up by Strand, Michael taps into the taboo subject of pedophilia. Also sure to divide audiences is Yorgos Lanthimos’ follow-up to Dogtooth, ALPS. Lanthimos employs more of an ensemble for his newest that has been called an “absurdist ghost story.” Also of note: one of the latest in a exploding US independent scene, The Color Wheel from Alex Ross Perry; the SXSW and Hot Docs favorite from Tristan Patterson, Dragonslayer; the sophomore features from Julia Loktev (The Loneliest Planet), Ben Wheatley (Kill List) and Canada’s own Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz.)
The Vancouver International Film Festival, in its 30th year, runs from September 29 to October 14. I will be there from September 30 to October 14, covering the festival daily for Twitch and providing festival overviews for In Review Online and KFAI.