The 38th annual Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) may have wrapped its final screenings over a month ago, but the city is still basking in the post-festival glow thanks to the success of this year’s festival. VIFF has been expanding beyond film screenings for years and in 2019, organizers truly expanded the frame and in addition to over 320 films, the festival presented a number of live performances, master classes and industry-based conferences.
Among this year’s festival titles were a collection of special presentations ranging from festival favourites such as Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, and Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, to awards and box office hopefuls such as James Mangold’s high-octane Ford v. Ferrari which impressed me not only with the technicality of production but with a stellar, heartfelt performance from Matt Damon.
As fun as it is to see some of the awards fare early, the best part of VIFF is the festival’s commitment to Canadian and BC cinema and this year marked another outstanding year for home-grown talent. Some notable titles included Harry Cepka’s Raf, which captures the realities of a young, underemployed woman making a go at life in Vancouver, The World is Bright, a heartbreaking documentary, over ten years in the making, which follows a husband and wife as they travel to Vancouver to investigate the mysterious death of their son, Joey Klein’s Castle in the Ground which tackles the opioid crisis through a Canadian lens, Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas’ White Lie, which features a brilliant performance from Kacey Rohl as a young woman caught in a ever-growing lie, and The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn’s real-time drama of a woman who comes to the aid of a pregnant teenager she finds on the street. Winner of the Best BC Film prize and the BC Emerging Filmmaker Award for Tailfeathers, The Body Remembers has been picked up by ARRAY Releasing, Ava DuVernay’s company which specializes in film and TV by women and people of color.
This year also saw the addition of VIFF Amp which brought together the streams of music and film. Amp opened with a fantastic keynote presentation from Cliff Martinez, the former drummer of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers who has turned into the composer of choice for Steven Soderbergh and Nicolas Winding Refn, who talked about his process, taking direction, and his successes and failures.
Also notable this year was VIFF Immersed which spotlights XR works. Considering BC is one of the largest hubs creating immersive experiences, it was fantastic to see the festival placing this emerging storytelling in the spotlight. In addition to a two day conference and workshops, the event also featured an exhibition, and regular film goers willing to experiment were able to do so by partaking in one of the VR films which were being presented throughout VIFF at other festival venues.
It was another successful year for the festival and undoubtedly, staff will begin work on the 39th edition shortly. I anxiously await to see what they have in store for 2020.