Now in its 37th year, the 2018 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival (September 27th – October 12th, 2018) just may be the brightest, most eclectic and engaging cinematic celebration yet. Among the five largest film festivals in North America with screenings from 70 countries, VIFF promises to have something intriguing and exciting for everyone from genre fans to arthouse enthusiasts, animation maniacs, short film aficionada, documentary lovers, and more.
Yes, the lengthy queue for screenings can be intimidating, at least from the periphery, and with such diverse offerings to choose from, knowing what to prioritize can be a chore all its own. So please, once again allow Taste of Cinema to suggest our 25 top selections for can’t miss cinema at VIFF 2018. Let’s do this!
25. A Private War (directed by Matthew Heineman, USA/UK)
Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl ) is Marie Colvin, a fearless war correspondent for The Sunday Times with a reputation for bravely plunging herself into the frontlines of deadly war zones the world over in Cartel Land (2015) director Matthew Heineman’s narrative debut.
Aided by celebrated cinematographer Robert Richardson (Hugo , Inglourious Basterds , Casino ), this gritty, chaotic, and impassioned film couldn’t be more timely when considering the Trump regime’s war on journalism.
24. Through Black Spruce (directed by Don McKellar, Canada)
Joseph Boyden’s beloved 2008 novel “Through Black Spruce” is the source material for director Don McKellar’s (The Grand Seduction , Last Night ) latest dramatic offering. With a script from Barbara Samuels (North of 60), Boyden’s complex dual narrative details the dilemma of Annie (Tanaya Beatty), expatriot of the northern Indigenous community of Moosonee and that of her uncle, Will Bird (Brandon Oakes) in a coma under rather mysterious circumstances.
To reveal much more would do this mysterious and socially relevant tale a disservice, suffice it to say that an underlying theme is modern society’s shameful mistreatment of Indigenous populations, specifically the plight native women in this story that, while set in Canada, contains universal truths about culpability, and the bonds of family.
23. Vox Lux (directed by Brady Corbet, USA)
“A deliciously rich treatise on toxic fame and weapons of mass seduction,” raves the Hollywood Reporter of Brady Corbet’s poison pen letter to the cult of celebrity, Vox Lux. In what’s already being described as one of 2018’s must dazzling performances, Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan ) is potty-mouthed pop messiah Celeste, who rises like a phoenix from the ashes of a violent tragedy to pop star icon.
In a tale spanning two decades and with an impressive score by avant-garde musical legend Scott Walker –– as well as original songs by Australian pop star Sia –– this musical pageant of pain, fame, and perseverance also stars Raffey Cassidy, Willem Dafoe, and Jude Law.
22. The Image Book (directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland/France)
One word: Godard.
21. Destroyer (directed by Karyn Kusama, USA)
Director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight , The Invitation ) teams up with Oscar nominee Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge ,The Beguiled ) in this morally questioning, existential odyssey, Destroyer.
Kidman is Erin Bell, an LAPD detective who, when she was a rookie, went deep undercover into a violent gang nestled in the California desert and forever marked by the tragic results and regrettable fallout that conspired there. Now, as the gang’s leader, Silas (Toby Kebbell) re-emerges, Bell must regress and go through who remains with the gang to dance with the demons that destroyed her previous life.
In Kusama’s capable hands, and with Kidman in such a meaty role, the results are sure to be harrowing. Pass the popcorn.
20. One Cut of the Dead (directed by Ueda Shinichiro, Japan)
This Japanese horror-comedy from Ueda Shinichiro, described as a “gonzomedy” –– that’s gonzo +zombie + comedy –– will certainly appeal to the midnight movie crowd.
Opening with an already much discussed single take 37-minute shot, One Cut of the Dead is a genre mashup of sympathetic character study and showbiz satire with ample amounts of plasma and viscera. Fans of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films and Edgar Wright’s genre-savvy Shaun of the Dead are sure to enjoy this inventive zombie apocalypse miasma, and everyone else can just get out the way.
19. Science Fair (directed by Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster, USA)
Having already netted numerous awards on the festival circuit so far this year, including the Audience Award for Festival Favorite at Sundance, Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster’s joyous and decidedly upbeat documentary, Science Fair.
Following several science-obsessed teens in the engaging lead-up to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair –– where the winner stands to take home $75,000 and maybe even, you know, change the world. Variety calls Science Fair “an affectionate and supremely entertaining celebration”, and that’s good enough for us. See you there.
18. Virus Tropical (directed by Santiago Caicedo, Colombia)
Recipient of South By Southwest’s prestigious Audience Award earlier this year, and adapting Powerpaola’s gripping 2011 memoir graphic novel of the same name, Santiago Caicedo’s black-and-white animated marvel Virus Tropical is warranting all sorts of anticipatory buzz.
Told in picaresque fashion as it recounts Paola’s formative years in a matriarchal home environment near Ecuador and Colombia, this wryly comic, keenly observational, and excitedly original animated tale is full to bursting with familial dysfunction, coming-of-age tenderness, bold intimations, and universal truths amidst the stirring and strife motherhood, artistic awakening, and so much more.
17. Dogman (directed by Matteo Garrone, Italy/France)
Still best remembered on the international stage for his bravura 2008 breakthrough Gomorrah, Italy’s Matteo Garrone (Tale of Tales ) makes a triumphant return to the criminal milieu with Dogman. Starring Marcello Fonte, who won Best Actor at Cannes for this role, as a compassionate and condoling dog groomer whose paradoxical sideline as a coke dealer inevitably leads to tragedy.
Edgy, excited, and hard-boiled, Dogman is described by Guardian as a “compelling opera of beta-male criminal martyrdom… [This is] a movie with incomparable bite and strength.” It’s also a film that should be on your must see list for Fonte’s performance alone.
16. Climax (directed by Gaspar Noé, France/Belgium)
Love him or hate him, Gaspar Noé (2002’s Irreversible) is a purveyor of uncompromising artistic vision, and a full on provocateur. His latest film, the saucily titled Climax, finds Noé once more offering up a hallucinatory nightmare vision, this time recruiting a troupe of Parisian dancers ripe for exploitation.
Set in 1996 to the primal and propulsive rhythms of Daft Punk, Dopplereffekt and Gary Numan, Climax stylishly weds stunning choreography, eerie physicality, questionable social mores, and stunning cinematography in this acid-laced tour of horror movie tropes on an after-party tour fit maybe for the Marquis de Sade.
Immersive as ever, and black as pitch, Noé’s latest is sure to outrage as many as it inspires in what’s sure to be an excessive, over the top, and utterly acquired taste experience.
15. Capernaüm (directed by Nadine Labaki, Lebanon)
Director Nadine Labaki (Caramel ) takes us to the slums of Beirut where 12-year-old Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) lives a neglected life of poverty, planning to sue his parents for “bringing him into the world”, and so begins the Cannes Jury Prize-winning social-realist pageant, Capernaüm.
Buttressed by some of the most amazing child actors you’re likely to ever see on the big screen, Labaki’s spectacular melodrama is both compassionate and tragicomic, and has invited comparisons to neorealist legends like De Sica and Rossellini. Sure to be a milestone, bring tissues and be ready to be moved.
14. Ash is Purest White (directed by Jia Zhangke, China/France)
A towering figure in filmmaking, Jia Zhangke last rocked VIFF audiences with 2013’s towering A Touch of Sin, and his latest masterpiece, the poetically titled Ash is Purest White, looks to do so again with his muse Zhao Tao (together they are arguably one of the greatest husband-and-wife collaborative teams), the film begins in 2001 as our heroine gets into it with her gangster boyfriend Bin (Liao Fan), whom she ultimately goes to prison for, thus embarking on a troubling path that takes us up to the present day.
Working with expert cinematographer Eric Gautier (The Motorcycle Diaries ), the bold uses of color and rich visual textures of Ash is Purest White are certain to add up to one of the years most gorgeous filmic experiences.