Movie Therapy: The Vancouver International Film Festival 2010

After a few days chilling in Banff in the Rockies followed by a 13-hour bus ride to Vancouver I was very excited to be in a bigger city again. The Vancouver International Film Festival started the day after I arrived and the volunteers got a pass for the whole Festival (30 Sept. – 15 Oct 2010). We had to do six shifts but for the rest of the time were free to watch whatever films weren’t sold out, excellent! I picked up my usual gear, a too large t-shirt and my lanyard with the pass, from Noa, the energetic volunteer coordinator, and off I went to see two movies even before working my first shift that night.

The volunteer team at VIFF was great fun and it was really well organised. There were people from a variety of different cultural backgrounds and reasons to volunteer, from emerging filmmakers to absolute movie buffs whose decided goal it was to see as many of the films as humanly possible. My first shift was at the gala opening screening while for the rest of my shifts I was happily stationed at the info booth outside the Empire Granville Theatre. Our job was to help festival goers with general and more specific questions to do with the film schedule, ticket sales and directions to the venues. It turned out, however, that a lot of the tips we actually ended up giving were helping punters find a film they liked, so I decided that the perfekt job description was really ‘movie therapist’.

The VIFF programme was absolutely brilliant, it consisted of a wide range of excellent films from a large number of countries and genres. My main goal, of course, was to see as many documentaries as possible with the odd fiction drama thrown in as a ‘treat’, for instance the very moving Oscar nominee ‘When We Leave‘. I’m always intrigued to see how the audiences in different cities respond to the various cinematic offerings. Vancouver, it seemed, had many enthusiastic moviegoers, who appreciated challenging programming and reacted with great immediacy to the films they saw, e.g with spontaneous applause during ‘Pink Saris‘. I was also really pleased about the many Q&As with filmmakers, screenwriters and producers and attended as many of them as possible even if I didn’t actually manage to see the whole film.

VIFF is an event that excels in showcasing the best of Canadian and world cinema with industry sessions, such as a Film and TV Forum, occupying only a peripheral place during the festival. The extensive film programme was completed with some intriguing talks by filmmakers showcasing their films at the festival. One was by Sara McIntyre whose first feature ‘Two Indians Talking’ had got a great audience response and many of the cast was present at the Q&A following the first screening.

Here is a select list of films that left an impression on me during the festival and which will hopefully also come your way in the not so distant future.

Personal Favourites/Potentially Life-Changing Stuff (tissues recommended):
Marion Woodman: Dancing In The Flames (CA)
Leave Them Laughing (CA)

Also Worth Watching:
Pink Saris (UK)
Dancing Dreams (DE)
Cities On Speed (Mumbai/Bogota)
For Once In My Life (USA)
Bhutto (USA)
A Drummer’s Dream (CA)
Winds of Heaven (CA)
Schooling The World (USA)
In My Father’s Land (AUS)
Into The Wind (CA)
Freefall & Ghost Noise (CA shorts)


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