It might be an exaggeration to say the well-attended 16-day Vancouver International Film Festival is the greatest little-known film festival on the continent, or it might not be. It is, by design, an audience festival rather than a film critic destination. Opening just weeks after the Toronto International has closed, it offers few major premieres but plenty of quality films shuttling between Venice, Cannes and Toronto, before heading into wide release or traveling further onto the festival circuit.
This year’s edition kicked off on Thursday, September 27, with a gala screening of Midnight’s Children, a Canada-India co-production from Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, and closes on Friday, October 12, with Leos Carax’s Holy Motors. In between are screenings of Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winner Amour, Ken Loach’s Cannes Jury Prize winner The Angel’s Share, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (Best Actor at Cannes), Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills (Best Actress and Best Screenplay, Cannes), Christian Petzold’s Barbara (Best Director, Berlin), Ben Lewin’s Sundance winner The Sessions, Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, Pablo Larrain’s No, Olivier Assayas’s Venice premiere Something in the Air, Raul Ruiz’s final film, Night Across the Street, the international premiere of Any Day Now (an audience-award winner at Seattle and Tribeca), and the North American premiere of I, Anna, starring Charlotte Rampling and directed by her son, Barnaby Southcombe, just to name a few of the over 230 features playing over two-plus weeks. I resist the temptation to use the old term “unspool” because only a fraction of the films are presented on 35mm—a sign of the times. Most films are digital now, but unlike a certain major American event, not a single DCP screening in my five-day visit was cancelled for equipment failure.
My focus is and has for years been the Dragons and Tigers sidebar: the biggest focus on contemporary Asian cinema in North America. The Dragons and Tigers lineup is valuable as both an introduction to new films from young filmmakers and a snapshot of commercial cinemas of Asia, from South Korea and Japan to China and the Philippines. It comprises 45 features, a handful of mid-length (under an hour) films, and dozens of shorts—too many to do anything more than sample. Armed with a catalogue, a few recommendations and my own instinct and tastes, that’s what I did.