Now in its 34th year, the 2015 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival (September 24th – October 9th, 2015) looks to be the brightest yet. Screening 355 films overall, 238 which are feature length, from 70 countries, VIFF promises to have something intriguing and exciting for everyone.
And while the queue may be intimidating, at least from the periphery, and with so many diverse offerings to choose from, knowing what to prioritize can be a chore all its own, so please allow Taste of Cinema to offer up our 20 top selections for can’t miss cinema at VIFF 2015.
20. Cop Car (Jon Watts, USA)
With both feet firmly planted in genre territory, Jon Watts’ (Clown, and the forthcoming Spider-Man reboot) latest is the tension-fueled road thriller Cop Car. When two adventurous eight-year-old besties, Harrison (Hays Wellford) and Travis (James Freedson-Jackson), while playing out in the boonies, stumble upon an abandoned police car with keys dangling in the ignition it seems a boyhood fantasy made manifest.
And maybe it would be if it weren’t for the redneck environs and Kevin Bacon’s corrupt cop following their scent. For all intents and purposes, Cop Car alludes to a Sunday drive aggregate of Stand By Me and Deliverance. Is that the sound of a banjo off in the deceptively pastoral distance?
19. Beeba Boys (Deepa Mehta, Canada)
Indo-Canadian iconoclast Deepa Mehta (Midnight’s Children, Elements Trilogy) makes a startling about face into crime cinema with Beeba Boys. When a ruthless Sikh gangster (Randeep Hooda) leads his racketeers into a murderous turf war in Vancouver the results are a bloody power struggle that shook and suppressed the late 90s —Beeba Boys is based on actual events — deriving Mehta’s gangland epic with comparisons to Scorsese’s Goodfellas.
It’s rare to see the Indo-Canadian community in such a stereotype-shattering sheen, in a tale likely to limelight family, honor, the drug and arms trade, broken hearts, shattered dreams, and then some. Loosely based on the murderous and ill-fated Sikh mobster/hit man, “Bindy” Johal, this true crime variation from such a talented, distinct, and distinguished director is cause for equal parts panic and applause.
18. Deathgasm (Jason Lei Howden, New Zealand)
Having already fared well at numerous fantastic film festivals, this Kiwi horror-turned-comedy of the splatter variety (think Army of Darkness or Dead Alive) seems destined for cult status and instant midnight movie success.
Not at all for the faint of heart, writer/director Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm is a deliberate, low-brow, audacious and outre offering of heavy metal mayhem as Brodie (Milo Cawthorne), a rebellious misfit with deeply religious parental guardians, forms his own hard core band, the eponymous Deathgasm.
When Deathgasm uses ancient Satanic scripture as lyrical inspiration, all Hell literally breaks loose with requisite unholy horrors released. Bloody Disgusting has dubbed Deathgasm “the party movie of 2015,” and Dread Central says “[Deathgasm gives] genre fans a welcome return to heavy metal in horror without cutting back on any of the splatstick that New Zealand has become known for…” Gore hounds and metal heads take note, you may have just found your Unholy Grail.
17. Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)
In the esteemed Ozu tradition, Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with another domestic drama set in contemporary Kamakura with Our Little Sister. Following 2013’s staggering Like Father, Like Son, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes as well as the Rogers People’s Choice Award at VIFF 2013, Kore-eda’s latest looks to be equally as compelling, intoxicating, and heartfelt.
Telling the story of three sisters, Sachi (Ayase Haruka), Yoshino (Nagasawa Masami), and Chika (Kaho), all in their 20s, who are joined by their 13-year-old half sister, Suzu (Hirose Suzu), when their father passes away. Based off the popular manga series Umimachi Diary by Akimi Yoshida, Our Little Sister assures stirring, unfeigned, and indispensable cinema.
16. The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin, Canada)
Canadian cult hero Guy Maddin (Careful, The Saddest Music in the World) offers up his eleventh feature film with The Forbidden Room, which is co-directed by Evan Johnson, this time, his usual wintry Winnipeg milieu is substituted with that of a hemmed in submarine. While it’s safe to say that his is no Das Boot, it’s most certainly not safe to make any other assumptions, as Maddin’s movies are as unforeseeable as they come.
Playing on elements of the Hollywood melodrama and a cocktail of camp and pastiche, The Forbidden Room casts the likes of Charlotte Rampling and Udo Kier to ends sure to be brazenly hilarious, and odd to the extreme. Cinephiles, aficionados, and attendees of the Maddin school of the perverse are sure to find ecstasy from the always inventive and contentedly out-to-lunch maven of the Great White North.
15. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland & Greece etc.)
Making his English-language debut with The Lobster, Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Attenberg) is poised for far-out mass appeal with this surrealist comedic satire, which is already making a stir with international critics and audiences.
Having won the Jury Prize at Cannes earlier this year, the idiosyncratic and totally off-center director (Lanthimos also co-wrote the screenplay with Lee Magiday) presents a near future dystopian vision where single people, like David (Colin Farrell) are checked in to The Hotel where they are given forty-five days to find a romantic life partner or else they are transformed into an animal and sent off to The Woods to live a lonely, loveless existence until death.
Also included in the cast are John C. Reilly. Michael Smiley, Rachel Weisz, and Ben Whishaw in the film Variety describes as “a wickedly funny protest against societal preference for nuclear coupledom that escalates, by its own sly logic, into a love story of profound tenderness and originality.”
14. Victoria (Sebastian Schipper, Germany)
Sebastian Schipper (Sometime in August) has made a heist thriller that is absolutely unmissable for one very good and very gimmicky reason: it is shot in a single spectacular must-be-seen-to-be-believed take. That’s one shot. The whole film. All 138 minutes of it.
Earlier this year at Berlin it was the recipient of the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for Cinematography — how could it not? — and has been wowing audiences at festivals ever since with it’s senses-shattering braggadocio. Again, how could it not?
Laia Costa is Victoria, a Spanish expat new to Berlin who is about to have a night that will make Griffin Dunne’s Paul Hackett character in After Hours look like a lope through a day-care center. Victoria’s night of dancing to dubstep at the club devolves into lurid larceny at a restless clip, complete with shady characters, and gob-smacking technical flourishes that will throw audiences off balance and crawling around the aisles in search of their socks.
13. Nasty Baby (Sebastián Silva, Chile)
Chilean director Sebastián Silva (Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus) offers up his latest, the LGBT-themed drama, Nasty Baby. Silva, who also writes and co-stars, has made a film that is deliberately morally tenebrous, and satirical, with an interesting cast of familiar pop culture faces including actor/musician Tunde Adebimpe (best known as frontman for TV on the Radio), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids), and Alia Shawkat (best known as Maeby Fünke from the TV show Arrested Development).
When gay couple Freddy (Silva) and Mo (Adebimpe) decide they want to have a child, they enlist their pal Polly (Wiig) to carry their baby. Modern life is sure to be sectioned and scrutinized in nonconformist fashion as Silva’s detached yet relaxed style continues to emerge and mature.
12. Entertainment (Rick Alverson, USA)
Hangdog hero of the American indie film scene, Rick Alverson (The Comedy, New Jerusalem) brings his latest surreal diversion, Entertainment, to VIFF with post-Dadaist delight. Gregg Turkington, perhaps best known for his middling stand-up comic character Neil Hamburger, stars as a washed-up and done with comedian wandering around the Mojave Desert out to find his estranged daughter and performing an endless string of go nowhere shows along the way.
With an inspired cast that includes Michael Cera, John C. Reilly, Dean Stockwell,Tim Heidecker, and Tye Sheridan amongst others, this daring, decidedly unfamiliar offering won’t gel with mainstream audiences but it might just gel with you.
Like the anti-humor of its star, steeped in false climaxes, pranks, and paradox, or the Tony Clifton/Andy Kaufman nabe that inspired it, the right audience will cling to every onscreen utterance while others will just scratch their heads. If you dig meta-jokes, non sequiturs, the Marx Brothers, Tim and Eric, or any of Rick Alverson’s previous curious film forays, then Entertainment will suit you well, and everyone else, well, they’re screwed.
11. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke, China)
Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin was a highlight of VIFF 2013, and his latest dramatic film, Mountains May Depart, is sure to be no exception. Jia’s eighth film, is divided into three parts: in China in 1999, then in present day, then ten years later, in Australia, 2025. With a strong cast including Zhao Tao (A Touch of Sin), and Sylvia Chang (The Red Violin),
Mountains May Depart is a melancholic saga of friendship on an epic scale, and may be Jia’s most accomplished work yet. As a shrewd observer of 21st-century survival, Jia is in his element, and with a sprawling narrative spanning several decades and continents, and some creative co-opting of the Pet Shop Boys, Mountains May Depart looks like a foregone conclusion.