Looking back at my introduction article to last year's Vancouver International Film Festival, I found it hard to believe that a year had passed since the 2003 edition. It had been an interesting year at the movies and one that I was hoping to out-do with the 2004 edition. In the end, I ended up seeing 43 movies both during the festival itself and during the press screenings that us media types get to attend for a couple weeks prior to the event. Even though that was an improvement over the past year's total, it didn't come close to some of my friends' totals, which were so high they were scary. Now, yet another year later, things are shaping up for another exciting two weeks of early fall movie-going. Will I be able to top last year's total or will I bottom out and see less? We'll be sure to find out, but if today's launch press conference is any indicator of what's to come, it's going to be another banner year for VIFF.
Starting up a bit later than last year, this year's festival runs September 29th through October 14th and features a total of 329 films, including 230 features and mid-length features and the usual assortment of shorts. Not unlike last year, people in my family will begin to think I've moved out as my family becomes the film critics who populate these screenings.
As is usually the case, the Vancouver International Film Festival follows hot on the heels of the Toronto festival, which as of the time of publication is gearing up to begin tomorrow. This year marks a difference in that I'll be getting a bit of a taste of Toronto, as I head east for five days of movies before coming back for another 30 or so here. Am I nuts? Perhaps, but it's truly movie heaven for people like me. This year's Vancouver slate as always includes a couple of films playing TIFF, including Danish director Lars Von Trier's Manderlay, the sequel to the minimalistic drama Dogville starring Nicole Kidman. Also appearing at both fests is the Palm D'Or winner, L'Efant, from France's Dardenne brothers, which will be this year's closing gala in Vancouver. Canadian films are well represented in both festivals, with each festival choosing to open with Water from Deepa Mehta, and a number of high-profile Canadian films are debuting in VIFF's "Canadian Images" programme. Also noteworthy is the inclusion of Cache from Micheal Hanke, who picked up the directing prize in Cannes for his tense thriller starring Juliette Binouche. Charlize Theron also makes a return appearance (on film anyway) with Niko Caro (Whale Rider)'s North Country.
Just as has been the case in recent years, this year's festival has been split into a number of different series. "Canadian Images" includes features from Larry Kent, Sean Garrity, and Dylan Akio Smith, who directed last year's VIFF short Man Feel Pain, winner of the BravoFact Short Film award. Sean Garrity's film Lucid looks promising, as does The Hamster Cage from director Larry Kent and featuring local actress Carly Pope, who always seems to have her presence felt both on and off screen at the festival. Fans of French Canadian cinema will have the chance to catch C.R.A.Z.Y., a box office smash from Quebec.
"Dragons and Tigers: The Cinemas of East Asia", programmed once again by Tony Rayns, contains a number of highly-acclaimed Asian films. If neither Canadian nor East Asian films catch your eye, there's also the very popular and ever-expanding "Non-Fiction" series.
From September 29th to October 14th, Vancouver film fans will have something new and interesting to check out besides the usual lineup of Hollywood blockbusters. Granville Street will be buzzing day and night with fans lining up to catch the film world's next big surprise festival hit. Screening at 10 screens split over five venues, including the all new Vancouver Film Centre at Seymour and Davie, this will be yet another fine film festival, both for Vancouverites and those who make the trek into town from places like Victoria and Seattle.
I'm back this year with more exciting coverage. Be sure to check out all my reviews, interviews, and general happenings here on this website. Although I can't see everything, my schedule does already include a number of exciting-looking films, and with a number of close friends around to tell me about must-see hits and misses, it will be ever-changing as I strive to bring you all the coverage possible from what is essentially a one-man operation. For those who can't attend, I hope my coverage will do the festival justice, and for those who can, I'll see you at the movies. Look for the guy from my picture with the pass running down Granville Street between venues and hopping from screen to screen at the multiplex venue.
More information on the 2005 Vancouver International Film Festival can be found on-line at www.viff.org or by calling the Information Line at 604-683-FILM (3456). Look for a dedicated 2005 VIFF section on this site launching in late September.
Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.