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There's a VIFF of something sweet in the air...
by Greg Ursic

As the gondolas and sinking architecture retake centre stage in Venice, and the red carpets in Toronto have been put away for another year, Vancouver cinephiles are busily booking holidays in anticipation of Canada’s other big Film Festival. Now in its 26th year, the Vancouver International Film Festival aka VIFF, runs from September 27th to October 12th during which time there will be almost 600 screenings of over 300 films from around the globe (at last count 50+ countries had entries in the festival) at multiple venues throughout the city (okay, technically most of them are in within about a 3 block radius…)

With the sheer volume of films to choose from, knowing what to see is a daunting task even for an inveterate film junkie like me. Sure you may know of some of the more high profile fare like Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution or Brian De Palma’s Redacted, but what about all the docs, the shorts, or Cinema of Our Time features? The list seems endless.

Sure, you could go online and Google to your hearts content or go blind screening through lists on IMDB (and if you don’t know what that stands for, shame on you), but that’s not exactly an efficient use of your time. The Empire Theatres Sneak Preview Guide to the rescue: available at numerous locations around town including all the festival venues, Blackdog Video, Chapters, Duthie’s Books, Oscar’s Book Warehouse, Starbucks and Videomatica it’s great place to start. With synopses on over 250 films and basic information about the festival (tickets and pass information, venues, etc.,) it gives you more than enough info to start planning. And it also happens to be free, a rare thing these days.

For more detailed information, check out VIFF’s online site at www.viff.org. Once there, click on Vancouver International Film Festival - the little spotlight even lights up to let you know you’re in the right place and you can imagine you’re going on your own little red carpet foray. Or not. Next, click on [b[Films in the top row and you can search by country, date of screening director, title, venues, or even by interest (“Sex & Eroticism” definitely caught my interest solely for its artistic aspects of course…). Or you can click on the link http://www.viff.org/tixSYS/2007/filmguide/title/detail/ and go straight to the source.

In the unfortunate event that you arrive to find that your movie of choice is sold out and you need access to info fast you can call the Starbuck’s Hotline at 604-683-FILM (3456). Your other option is to reference your handy dandy VIFF souvenir guide: for the low, low price of $8 (by comparison TIFF’s tome will set you back $36) you get 200 pages chock full of information including cast and credits, an in-depth synopsis and screening times and venues. Trust me, it’s a lifesaver (or at the very least a sanity saver…)

So you’ve booked your time off, picked your movies and ordered your tickets. There’s nothing left but to show up right? Wrong. What follows are a few valuable fine points that will make your experience more efficient and pleasant. First, due to construction on the Canada line, buses no longer run along Granville Street, which means there is actually parking right by the venues. The only downside is you basically have to sell your first born (and possibly your second) to pay for the meter parking. It also means if you’re taking the bus, you will be getting off on Seymour Street, one block east of Granville and the Empire Theatres Granville 7 Cinemas (the main festival venue) or on Howe Street, one block west of the Granville. Always make sure that you give yourself ample time in the event that transit is late.

Which brings me to my second point: always try to be at least a half hour early for the screening start time so you can get in early and get a good seat, whether that means being in the dead geographic centre of the theatre or plastered up against the screen in the front row, that’s wholly up to you. Also remember that certain rows are set aside for pass holders so it’s not a complete free for all.

Any festivalgoer worth his or her salt knows that weekends and evenings tend to be pretty crazy, so the more weekday morning screenings you can get to the better. And as you’ll likely be attending multiple viewings you’ll need sustenance – while outside food is frowned upon, as long as you’re not dragging in Tim Horton’s chili containers and two liter bottles of Pepsi, the staff will likely overlook your indiscretion. If you make sandwiches the night before, you’ll not only save yourself a fortune, you’ll know what’s in it. Just remember not to wrap it in crinkly plastic or you may be pelted by a rain of popcorn as you struggle to open it during a screening. While there’s always the onsite Starbucks cappuccino cart to keep you going, you may also want to consider some Gatorade to keep you hydrated, and a couple Power Bars for those early morning screenings. If you don’t feel like packing a lunch there are at least a dozen food outlets within a one block radius of the Granville 7 including a newly opened McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Time, pizza, sushi, donairs, etc. And if you go venture into the bowels of the Pacific Center Mall – you enter through Sears at Robson and Granville – you’ll find a food fair by The Bay with a wide array of choices, some even healthy.

Now that you know how to avoid starvation, what should you wear? After all you may be spending upwards of ten hours in the same clothes. This is one time when it’s better to feel good than to look good: layering in loose fitting clothing is always a good idea given our less than predictable weather and you will definitely want to have comfortable shoes. A light windbreaker and a collapsible umbrella are also indispensable. You may even wish to consider bringing one of those inflatable donut pillows or a regular throw pillow to avoid “Busted Butt Syndrome” a malady affecting many extreme movie viewers. A small flashlight that hooks onto your keychain comes in handy as well. Okay all done. Almost.

While festivalgoers are an excellent source of advice and are always willing to give their opinion about which films they enjoyed or didn't, everyone also has the opportunity to make their opinion known by voting for their favorite International or Canadian film.

The person announcing the film you're about to see will let you know whether it is eligible for The People's Choice Award for Most Popular International Film - the title is pretty explanatory. Not only will it give you a chance to help pick the winner, you could win some great swag in the process: everyone who completes a ballot is eligible to win one of two gift baskets worth $1,000. Baskets include a Sony Ericsson W580i, free rentals for a year from Rogers Video, 13 free DVDs from Rogers Video, magazine subscriptions and a chance to join Larry and Willy for their morning show on 96.9 Jack FM. I've got a whole stack that I'll be filling out.

Don't have time to write? You can phone in your vote (okay technically it's texting but close enough...): text the word [b[VOTE followed by the 5-letter VIFF Program Code (published in all guides and on tickets) followed by their rating on a scale of 1 to 5 - 1= "Poor", 2= "Fair", 3= "Good", 4= "Very Good" and 5="Excellent!"- to 604-644-3977.

You can also vote for the Vancity People's Choice Award For Most Popular Canadian Film - all Canadian films in the Festival are eligible for this award. Every vote qualifies you for a chance to win a $500 Vancity mytreat Visa gift card. Ballots are available in the festival venue lobbies. So vote - you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

During the pre-screening announcement, the volunteer will ask everyone to turn off their cell phones, pagers, Blackberries, laptops, et al. And then, roughly 10 minutes into the screening, inevitably one phone will go off. And in some cases people will, astonishingly, answer said phone and start to carry on a conversation. To avoid being strangled by your fellow filmgoers, please double check to ensure that your mobile device of choice is silenced. It should go without saying, but any prolonged conversations during a movie are contraindicated. Speaking of volunteers…

The festival volunteers are extremely helpful, cheery individuals with a wealth of knowledge who are usually called upon to multi-task. If they don’t know the answer to something they will be able to refer to someone who does. Quite simply without them, there simply wouldn’t be a festival. Please note however, contrary to some attendee’s beliefs, said volunteers are not omnipotent – it is not there fault that the reels for your film were miscued or that a show was sold out. So please take the second or two it takes to say “good morning” (adjust accordingly for time) or “thank you” if they’ve helped you with something. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll feel better as well, because after all, we’re here to have a good time.

Quick Venue info

It kind of helps to know where you're going if you want to see flicks, so here’s a quick listing of the Screening Venues as listed in the guide and their abbreviations.

GR - Empire Granville 7 Cinemas, 855 Granville
PCP - Pacific Cinematheque, 1131 Howe [at Helmcken]
RID - Ridge Theatre, 3131 Arbutus St.
VCT - Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St.


Country: UK
Director: Joe Wright
Year: 2007
Runtime: 123 minutes
Screening: Monday, Oct 1st 10:00am Visa Screening Room@ GR 7, Sunday, Oct 7th 7:00pm Visa Screening Room @ GR 7 & Thursday, Oct 11th 11:00am GR 4

People often spend their lives trying to atone for things they’ve done. In the case of Briony, a moment of childhood foolishness forever alters her life as well as the lives of her older sister Cecilia and the man she loves. Before the damage can be rectified, the clouds of war will cast a further pall over their dilemma.

Adapting novels for the big screen is always a risky undertaking, especially when it is a critically acclaimed work like Ian McEwan’s Atonement, but writer Christopher Hampton and director Joe Wright have succeeded and then some. Having accurately captured the look of the era, Wright weaves in the less than subtle class elements that pervade everyday life and provide the much needed subtext for the story. The camera work, including the wonderful tracking shot as the forces are leaving Dunkirk, is top notch and I was also enamored of the novel use of the staccato typing as background score (you have to hear it to understand). It is the simmering sexuality and denied passion between Knightley and McAvoy, both of whom arguably deliver the best performances of their respective careers that seals the deal. If it weren’t so damn depressing it would probably be my favorite feature.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Country: USA
Director: Sidney Lumet
Year: 2007
Runtime: 123 minutes
Screening: Tuesday, Oct 2nd 9:15pm Visa Screening Room GR7 & Thursday, Oct 4th 4:00pm Visa Screening Room GR7

Hank and Andy, two brothers in dire financial straits, come up with a salvation solution: knock off a mom and pop jewelry store score some quick cash and nobody gets hurt. Of course their simple little plan goes horribly awry and the repercussions are beyond anything they could have imagined.

I kept trying to like this film, yet despite great work by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Albert Finney, and Marisa Tomei’s breasts (hey, she’s the one that puts them out there repeatedly…) I couldn’t. The script is ridiculously predictable, the egregious use of flashbacks is infuriating, the runtime could have been cut by a good 25 minutes and I kept praying that someone would smack Ethan Hawke to end his incessant whining. Make that a couple dozen smacks. Shame on you Sidney, we deserve so much better.

Country: Turkey
Director: Abdullah Oguz
Year: 2007
Runtime: 105 minutes
Screening: Thursday, Oct 4th 10:00am Visa Screening Room @ GR7, Monday, Oct 8th 6:20pm GR4 & Tuesday, Oct 9th 11:00am GR4

After being tainted by rape, Meryam is sentenced to death to purge her family’s shame. Cemal, recently returned from the army is tasked with taking her to Istanbul to carry out the decree, but he has second thoughts. They are taken in a kindly benefactor, who is trying to escape his own demons and together the trio take to the safety of the seas. Unfortunately a group of enforcers is dispatched to prove that “justice” has been done.

The examination of clashing cultures and social values in Bliss is especially fascinating because the individuals in the story live only hours from one another, yet inhabit seemingly different centuries. The story, which fluctuates between horror and elation, is bolstered by an astonishingly varied kaleidoscope of breathtaking landscapes, an addictive, haunting score and complex characters. Ozgu Namal is the stand out of the piece, perfectly capturing Meryam’s transformation from victim to liberated woman (within the proper context of course).


Country: Lebanon/France
Director: Nadine Labaki
Year: 2007
Runtime: 91 minutes
Screening: Friday, Sep 28th 6:20pm GR 4 & Monday, Oct 1st 2:00pm GR 4

The Si Belle salon, like its contemporaries around the globe, provides a sanctuary for the employees and customers alike: within its cloistered walls women are free to discuss anything with impunity. Beyond its threshold however they must cope with the real world, which includes messy relationships, infidelity and cultural and sexual mores. If only life could be ripped away like the sweet depilatory of choice.

Before being shattered by sectarian violence, Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East. First time writer/director Nadine Labaki (who also stars in the feature) focuses on that legacy and examines women’s role within a society that sees itself as modern (they have seatbelt laws?!) yet embraces ancient codes. Equal parts love story, comedy and drama the writing is upbeat, fresh and witty. The cast does a remarkable job of bringing out the subtle nuances of the characters and the chemistry between the actors is obvious. A gem of a film that is sure to be a crowd favorite.

Help Me Eros
Country: Taiwan
Director: Lee Kang-sheng
Year: 2007
Runtime: 103 minutes
Screening: Monday, Oct 1st 9:15pm GR 3 & Tuesday, Oct 2nd 2:30pm GR 3

After his stock market dalliances leave him broke, Ah Jie spends his time wandering about his spacious well appointed apartment tending to his pot plants, getting stoned and obsessing over an anonymous help line caller. He momentarily forgets when he meets a beautiful betelnut girl but the diversion is only temporary.

For every Best of Fest there is a Worst of the Rest, that one film that you stick with even after half the audience bails, in the hopes that there will be some redeeming quality. And there isn’t. While a cautionary tale about consumer culture is alluded to, it is never fleshed out and story is for the most part aimless, the characters are virtual shadows and the sex scenes are bland. In stark contrast are scenes that appear to have been included solely for their shock value: a fish being carved up and served live in the opening scene, a corpulent woman masturbating in a tub full of live eels, etc. Look for a different screening or get some lunch.

London to Brighton
Country: UK
Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Year: 2007
Runtime: 90 minutes
Screening: Monday, Oct 1st 9:00pm GR4, Wednesday, Oct 3rd 4:00pm Visa Screening Room @ GR7 & Monday, Oct 8th 7:00pm

Fearing for their lives, Kelly and Joanne make themselves scarce when a trick goes horribly wrong. As it turns out, the john who lies bleeding to death on a bathroom floor just happens to be a notorious gangster. His son Stuart pays a visit to Duncan the pimp responsible for procuring the duo and gives him an ultimatum: turn over the girl in 24 hours or pay the price.

An ugly story that holds out the potential for atonement and redemption, this film is in your face right from the opening sequence. The combination of the harsh settings, innovative camerawork and natural dialogue bolster the storyline and with the exception of a few slow spots it is well paced and maintains a palpable air of tension. It is the relatively unknown cast however – notably hookers-on-the-run Lorraine Stanley and Georgia Groome – that maintain the desperation and urgency of the piece.

Lust, Caution
Country: China , Taiwan , USA
Director: Ang Lee
Year: 2007
Runtime: 158 minutes
Screening: Wednesday, Oct 3rd 9:15pm Visa Screening Room @ GR 7 & Friday, Oct 5th 3:30pm Visa Screening Room @ GR 7

In 1940’s Shanghai, the members of a patriotic theatre group decide to take action against the Japanese collaborators. One of the members is tasked with seducing and gaining the confidence of Mr. Yee, the head of the Secret Service. Once he has dropped his guard her comrades will slip in and dispatch him. But when extreme emotions collide, plans often take their own course.

Whether it’s Ang Lee’s penchant for flexing between English and Chinese language films that accounts for his ever heightened attention to detail, both physical and emotional, I can’t say, but his latest effort is astounding. While the outfits and mood scream noir, it is also a thriller, erotic journey (the sex scenes are intense) and in a warped sense a romance, and the chemistry between leads Tony Leung and newcomer Tang Wei is simply electrifying.

The Savages
Country: US
Director: Tamara Jenkins
Year: 2007
Runtime: 120 minutes
Screening: Saturday, Sep 29th 9:30pm GR7 & Sunday, Sep 30th 1:00 GR7

Siblings Wendy and Jon Savage are living lives of quite desperation: she's an aspiring playwright who hones her skills as an office temp and he's a Brecht scholar with commitment issues stuck in perpetual research mode. Their middle aged malaise is disrupted when their dementia plagued father - who abandoned them as children - needs to be placed in a home after his girlfriend dies.

With a growing number of baby boomers easing into retirement and beyond, expect geriatric ailments to figure more prominently in movie plots: indeed two of the strongest female performances in 2007 - Julie Christie in Away From Her and Ellen Burstyn in The Stone Angel - were in films that dealt with such issues. Here however the focus is on the children and how it effects their lives. Combining equal parts pathos with wry humour it exposes the raw fragility of our human lives and family dynamics. The brilliant script is enhanced by stellar performances from Phillip Seymour-Hoffman and Laura Linney.

Country: South Korea
Director: Sai Yoichi
Year: 2007
Runtime: 120 minutes
Screening: Thursday, Sep 27th 11:00am GR7, Saturday, Sep 29th 9:15pm GR3 & Sunday, Sep 30th 12:15pm GR 6

Notorious underworld assassin Tae Soo has laboured for decades to find his long lost twin brother Tae Jin, when he gets a call from a stranger out of the blue. Within hours Soo is standing on the street looking at his sibling. As the two walk towards one another, Tae-Jin is suddenly shot dead. Soo buries his dearly departed brother and takes on his identity in order to find those responsible and wreak sweet, bloody vengeance.

There has been a spate of revenge flicks of late and where this South Korean entry differs notably is the weapons of choice: knives, which make for a much more personal experience. That or Korea doesn’t have enough guns, which is too bad as Soo could have used something to ramp up the adrenaline – there is virtually no action for the first hour. Mix in some appalling dialogue, atrocious overacting (the audience laughed during the “emotional” scenes) and an indestructible protagonist (seriously, even the Terminator took longer to recover) and you feel every minute of the two hour runtime.

The Stone Angel
Country: Canada
Director: Kari Skogland
Year: 2007
Runtime: 115 minutes
Screening: Friday, Sep 28th 7:00pm Visa Screening Room GR7, Saturday, Sep 29th 1:00pm Visa Screening Room GR7 & Tuesday, Oct 9th 7:15pm GR6

Never one to acquiesce, when she learns of plans to ship her off to a nursing home, Hagar Shipley sets out in search of the seaside home where she spent the happier days of her youth. During the journey her mind flits between past and present, sketching out the events that have shaped her life. Paramount among those memories are the very character flaws that she disliked in her father and were reborn in her: pride and an inability to forgive others.

Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel is arguably one of the most widely read Canadian novels owing to its popularity among high school teachers and university professors (I read it nigh on twenty years ago…). They can rest easy with Skogland’s big screen adaptation: with the exception of the toned down symbolism and a few timely updates, the story and its fully drawn characters have remained largely intact. Ellen Burstyn gives a career crowning performance as Hagar, nimbly balancing the character’s firebrand independence and caustic wit with moments of heartfelt vulnerability and a deteriorating mindset. Newcomer Christine Horne meanwhile, shines as the young Hagar, guiding her from along the path from unbridled enthusiasm to the early onset of bitterness - she’s definitely one to watch. Even pacing, unpretentious cinematography, a ripe infusion of humour along with the gamut of emotions make this one of the best of the fest.

The Tracey Fragments
Country: Canada
Director: Bruce Macdonald
Year: 2007
Runtime: 80 minutes
Screening: Saturday, Sep 29th 11:30am GR 3 & Sunday, Sep 30th 7:00pm RDG

When she isn’t dealing with her catatonic mother and verbally abusive father, Tracey has to endure the unrelenting daily torment of her peers. After her little brother Sonny disappears, Tracey sets out for the big city of Winnipeg in the hopes of finding him and herself.

It’s been some time since I saw this film and I’m still mulling it over in my mind. Bruce Macdonald’s decision to utilize a split screen mirrors Tracey’s fragile state and is effectual on that level, yet it quickly feels gimmicky especially when combined with the ever collapsing timelines and bouncing camera work. There is no doubt however with regard to Ellen Page’s performance as Tracey: she breathes life into a character that is a study in contradictions – one moment you admire her, the next she’s annoyingly frustrated. This would have worked much better as a short.

Country: Canada
Director: Allan Moyle
Year: 2007
Runtime: 90 minutes
Screening Sunday, Sep 30th 9:30pm GR 3 & Tuesday, Oct 2nd 1:00pm Visa Screening Room
@ GR 7

Strung out slackers Dex and Royce are having a bad day: the shylock they’re in to for a couple grand has come for his pound of flesh and they have 24 hours to set things right or they’ll have to learn to get by without opposable thumbs. Then, while trying to bury their best friend who accidentally overdosed, they run afoul of a group of determined Satanists and a planned B&E goes awry. Oh what a night…

After a day of marginal screenings, I went in hoping this would be quick and painless only to be wowed by what I’m predicting will be the funniest film of the fest. Despite the ludicrous plot, it is so carefully interwoven that it actually lingers within the realm of believability. The script is crammed full of brilliant zingers, one-off lines and subtle plays on words that if you’re not careful you’ll miss. Most importantly, the duo of Wes Bentley and Scott Speedman work in lockstep, sharing near-perfect comic timing. It only goes to prove yet again that the phrase “A good Canadian film” need not be an oxymoron.

Young People Fucking
Country: Canada
Director: Martin Geron
Year: 2007
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Screening Friday, Oct 5th 9:30pm RDG & Tuesday, Oct 9th 4:00pm
Visa Screening Room @ GR 7

Sex is supposed to be pretty straightforward affair, but it never is: people’s expectations inevitably vary depending on the nature and stage of the relationship. For the different couples on display (in more ways than one), there are physical and emotional dimensions that none could have predicted as they struggle through the stages from foreplay to afterglow.

Although the provocative title may inspire visions of Porky’s or last year’s Shortbus , rest assured (or warned depending on your expectations), that this film is neither a teen comedy nor does it feature graphic sex scenes. Anyone who has been in a relationship will be able to identify with at least one if not several of the couples and the dilemmas they face. The script, which is tightly written, insightful and humorous, succeeds in large part due to the pairings between the actors: all the principles share a genuine chemistry which in turn makes their “relationships” and reactions feel credible. Consider it Superbad for the adult set.


Country: France
Director: Bertrand Normand
Year: 2006
Runtime: 77 minutes
Screening Friday, Sep 28th 8:00pm VAN, Saturday, Sep 29th 11:00am PCP & Sunday, Oct 7th 10:00am Visa Screening Room @ GR7

Ballet is experiencing a renaissance in Russia and the Mariinski Theatre (formerly the Kirov) is the place to be discovered. Normand follows the lives of five dancers at the school and I was exhausted just watching the regimes the women are put through. But I couldn’t help wanting to know more about them personally: how did their families cope, what sacrifices did they make, etc. The film also took on a dark tone – literally: at least 25% of the story takes place in dark rooms and you can barely see what’s going on. For ballet fans only.

The Big Sellout
Country: Germany
Director: Florian Opitz
Year: 2006
Runtime: 94 minutes
Screening Sunday, Oct 7th 10:45am VAN, Oct 8th 7:15pm GR 6 & Wednesday, Oct 10th 4:15pm GR 6

Imagine you were to wake up one morning to discover that the cost of electricity increased thirty fold overnight, or even more frightening that it was illegal to collect rainwater for your flowers. Sound ludicrous? Well not only has it happened, but if the trend of privatization sweeping the globe continues, these scenarios could become a daily realities. Simultaneously informative and outrageous, Optiz demonstrates the downsides of capitalism run amok and the bullying policies of the World Bank. And lest you feel smug, so-called developed countries aren’t immune: remember the little confederation sealing deal known as the CN railway which is no more? Unless we’re careful, we may soon find ourselves being charged for the very air we breathe. Riveting.

The Bodybuilder and I
Country: Canada
Director: Bryan Friedman
Year: 2007
Runtime: 95 minutes
Screening Monday, Oct 1st 10:00am Visa Screening Room@ GR 7, Sunday, Oct 7th 7:00pm Visa Screening Room @ GR 7 & Thursday, Oct 11th 11:00am GR 4

Despite decades of exposure bodybuilding is still viewed as an anomaly by outsiders. When the pumped up poser decked out in spandex speedos is creeping up on retirement age and also happens to be your father - Bill Friedman, the twice divorced former workaholic partner in a major law firm - it takes on a whole new dimension. Bryan Friedman follows Bill as he trains for the Grandmasters tournament in an effort to understand and come to terms with the man who has been absent from his life for 26 years. The result is a cathartic, often humorous journey which provides both father and son with a forum for self discovery, admiration and grudging reconciliation.

In Search of Mozart
Country: UK
Director: Phil Grabsky
Year: 2006
Runtime: 128 minutes
Screening Monday, Oct 1st 6:45pm GR2 & Wednesday, Oct 3rd 3:30pm GR2

While 1984’s Amadeus was an amusing romp it also happened to be almost entirely fictional and painted him as a fop, hardly befitting of the most creative and prodigious musical genius all time. Even if you’re not a classical music aficionado (which I am not) you can’t help but be enthralled by the story of the boy wonder who began composing at the age of five and went on to produce over 600 works in his short life. The narrative traces the chronological milestones in Mozart’s life and includes excerpts of letters to family and friends which reveal an abnormally normal young man given his unique abilities who wasn’t above toilet humour, and loved his wife passionately. These are accompanied by appropriate musical selections as well as copious interviews with musical historians, musicians and opera stars, each of whom finds deep meaning and brilliance in the most subtle nuances of his work. And I wasn’t bored for moment. An outstanding doc that is sure to have very broad appeal.

In The Shadow of the Moon
Country: UK
Director: David Sington
Year: 2006
Runtime: 100 minutes
Screening Friday, Sep 28th 1:00pm Visa Screening Room @ GR7 & Sunday, Sep 30th 7:00pm Visa Screening Room @ GR7

After reading the synopsis – archival footage of the moon interspersed with interviews of the surviving members of the lunar missions - I settled in expecting to see some great cinematography. I wasn’t disappointed: much of the footage is breathtakingly beautiful and often left me wondering how they got it. Even more enjoyable were the wonderfully candid interviews, such as Buzz Aldrin’s anecdote about his claim for a “first” on the moon. The missions clearly had deep impact on each of them, with some experiencing life altering epiphanies. Sumptuous, well paced and immensely entertaining; while it may sound clichéd, this really is a film that the entire family will enjoy.

Keepers of Eden
Country: USA
Director: Yoram Porath
Year: 2007
Runtime: 80minutes
Screening: Monday, Oct 1st 4:30pm PCP & Sunday, Oct 7th 9:15pm GR2

The Yunani National Park in Ecuador, which has been the home to the Huaorani tribe for thousands of years, is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. So why is the doc almost completely bereft of pictures highlighting its beauty? Sure it’s important to show how the oil companies are destroying this unspoiled nature reserve and the indigenous people, but contrasting the pools of oil sludge with shots of the resplendent fauna and flora in the region would provide some much needed context and make it stand out from legions of similar docs. A huge disappointment.

Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind
Country: USA
Director: John Gianvito
Year: 2007
Runtime: 58 minutes
Screening: Sunday, Oct 7th 7:00pm VCT & Monday, Oct 8th 1:15pm VCT

Just as the lights were dimming before the screening I saw the words “experimental documentary” in the press notes and cringed. The story uses shots of gravestones, followed by scenes of windswept fields and forest, to trace the history of revolt in the US from slavery to wage slaves and beyond. The concept is undercut by a lack of context – with no voiceover or text to explain who most of the graves belong to, any impact is nullified and it simply becomes repetitive (three people fell asleep around me). A novel idea that would have worked better as a 20 minutes minute short.

The Union: The Business Behind Getting High
Country: Canada
Director: Brett Harvey
Year: 2007
Runtime: 105 minutes
Screening Wednesday Oct 10th, 9:30pm GR2 & Thursday Oct 11th, 3:30 pm GR2

Everyone knows that Marijuana is addictive, kills brain cells, will give you cancer and is a gateway to harder drugs. The only problem is none of these “facts” is true, yet despite dozens of studies that contradict these claims governments continue to spend billions trying to quash pot use. Harvey’s homegrown doc demonstrates how the policies have actually perpetuated the problem and created a booming economy for illegal growers, law enforcement, and subsidiary participants. It includes interviews with a score of experts, including scientists, and current and former drug enforcement officers. Harvey also provides copious facts (citing sources in most cases) to support his claims. Simultaneously humorous , educational and frustrating, it will answer any question you’ve ever had about B.C.’s most famous export, and many you hadn’t thought of. And in case you’re wondering, I’ve never smoked up.

The War On Democracy
Country: UK
Director: John Pilger
Year: 2007
Runtime: 95 minutes
Screening Sunday, Sep 30th 9:15pm RDG & Saturday Oct 6 1:00 GR7

A successful documentary for me is educational, well researched and keeps my interest. It gets bonus points if it manages to piss me off. This one succeeds on every level. Despite its claim as the vanguard of democracy, in Latin America alone, since 1958 the US has tried to overthrow 50 governments and supported successive fascist regimes. Pilger is thorough and even handed in his treatment of the subject, using extensive archived footage and interviews to support his case. What really hits home is the juxtaposition of the interviews with former CIA agents, who admit to having trained death squads and overthrown democracies with those who suffered as a result of those policies. This doc is a fantastic primer for anyone interested in understanding how Latin American history and current US foreign policy are intertwined. And yeah, I’m still mad.

In closing I'd like to thank Ellie, Melanie, Helen, Andrew, Lena and everyone else in the media office for tolerating my neverending questions, requests for screeners, and setting me up with interviews. Whatever they're paying you it isn't nearly enough.

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2273
originally posted: 10/03/07 16:49:49
last updated: 11/22/07 03:34:53
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