VIFF readies with distinct docs and a host of female directors

VIFF

If you’re looking for films about the importance of recycling at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (Sept. 30 – Oct. 5), you won’t find them.

With around 20 films, Ecologies of Mind is a VIFF series that became larger than initially intended, says festival director and CEO Alan Franey.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence in just showing pedantic films about how you shouldn’t forget to recycle. That is totally boring,” he tells Playback Daily. “I’m really delighted if you take that angle, you see filmmakers who are challenging conventional notions and sometimes the most daring films are in that section.”

Franey uses the example of Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden (US, directed by Carol Black), which poses challenging questions about what it means to be human.

“What’s distinct about the films this year (in this series) is the interrogations of attitudes and in fact some of them are about the science of the brain and neurology (An Ecology of Mind, US/Canada, directed by Nora Bateson, and A Simple Rhythm, Canada, directed by Tess Girard).”

He also notes that the series’ “flavor has changed dramatically year to year,” recalling one year in which almost all the films revolved around animals.

“I don’t know if you want to say it’s a zeitgeist, but there’s often interesting patterns that emerge, and maybe filmmakers are all being inspired by the same events and stories,” he says.

Perhaps one such event was this year’s World Cup, as the VIFF team also received quite a few submissions centered around Africa, as well as sponsor interest, leading to the Africa Today series making its debut. A Screaming Man (France, Chad, Belgium, directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun), which screened in Cannes, and the international premiere of USA/Kenya co-pro Togetherness Supreme are the only two dramas in the series, as the other eight are non-fiction.

That comes as no surprise, since VIFF shows around 100 non-fiction films each year. Franey says they’re among the most successful and given historical audience response, he may look to expand that offering going forward.

Back on home turf, world premieres in the Canadian Images series include Douglas Arrowsmith’s Love Shines, a doc that portrays the life and career of singer-songerwriter Ron Sexsmith, and Winds of Heaven in Special Presentations, in which director Michael Ostroff delves into the work of iconic artist Emily Carr.

Franey also notes that VIFF features quite a few films from women directors. “It just happened that we had a higher proportion by some margin of films made by women,” he says. Though he doesn’t have an exact number, he estimates there were around 25 to 30%, which is higher than usual.

Taking place just before VIFF is the Film & TV Forum, in which the second public pitch session Storyville will take place, featuring a number of international commissioning editors. Franey adds that the TV day is high-profile, as it will feature guest speakers Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad and Eric Overmyer, co-creator of Treme.

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