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Plenty of West In Vancouver Fest


By Robert Alstead - Posted on 08 September 2005

Local filmmaker Aubrey Nealon's debut feature A Simple Curve kicks off the Canadian Images section of the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2005. The film looks at how a young man living in the pictaresque Slocan Valley resolves to go his separate way from his hippie parents.

"In a year marked by an impressive range of strong Western Canadian features, Nealon's warm and witty debut stands out as a well-crafted and fully realized gem," says Diane Burgess, VIFF's Canadian Images programmer.

There are 36 films (8 of them features) from the province of British Columbia at VIFF. Some 99 of the 329 films showing at the fest are Canadian: 30 feature films, 8 mid-length features, and 61 Canadian shorts.

Here are some of them:

Lucy Liu and Chloe Sevigny star in Thom Fitzgerald's 3 Needles, a "visually stunning and emotionally powerful look at the global reach of the AIDS pandemic."

Epic poetry becomes action adventure in Sturla Gunnarsson's Beowolf and Grendel, a "loose adaptation" (could it be anything else?) of the Anglo-Saxon poem. Sarah Polley and Gerard Butler co-star.

Fans of Francophone cinema can catch period family drama C.R.A.Z.Y. which has gone mad at the Quebec box office, Horloge Biologique, a "heartwarming comedy about fatherhood", or the "visually inventive" Familia.

The impact of modern conflicts is documented in War Hospital set at the largest field hospital in northern Kenya and Crash Landing, which focuses on Canadian veterans' physical and psychological ailments on returning from a conflict situation.

Post-traumatic stress disorder raises its head again in Sean Garrity's Lucid, a thriller about an insomniac treating a group of patients for the condition.

And now for something different: Clement Virgo's Lie With Me is all about sex - the film is adapated from his partner Tamara Faith Berger's erotic novella "about a young woman's quest for sex as love". A Perfect Fake looks at the culture of rubber sex dolls in Japan.

A sexual taboo is given a comedic twist in Whole New Thing, about a gay English teacher who becomes the object of attraction for a precocious 13-year-old. Larry Kent's The Hamster Cage sounds darker - described as "a satiric take on family secrets" which explores "explosive repressed memories, incest and bloody disaster."

In Souvenir of Canada, Gen X author and Vancouver boy Douglas Coupland and filmmaker Robin Neinstein go on a tour of late 20th Century Canadiana. Another which stands out is Metal: A Headbangers Journey, where metalheads come under the anthropologist's magnifying glass. Kardia, which has its World Premiere at VIFF, is described as "mesmerizing debut feature" exploring love and loss. Desolation Sound, a "visually stunning thriller" by local filmmaker Scott Weber, is another that Burgess highlights. Finally, Vancouver-based, writer-director Julia Kwan's Eve and the Fire Horse is a humourous look at the spiritual quest of a troublesome, nine-year-old.

Dragons and Tigers

Vancouver has always been renowned for its expansive Dragons and Tigers section, films from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, and other East Asian countries.

"There's a slightly curtailed Dragons & Tigers this year, forced on us by an overlap of dates with the massively successful Pusan Film Festival in Korea: too many film-prints needed in both places," says the London-based programmer for Dragons & Tigers Tony Rayns.

It's still a major strand of VIFF with 40 features, and 15 shorts.

Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai brings his socio-romantic drama Shanghai Dreams, about factory workers who dutifully relocate to a remote new territory in the 1960s. It received the Jury's Prize at Cannes this year.

Lee Myung-Se (Nowhere to Hide) returns with his first costumed swordplay thriller, Duelist and in Blood Rain, a period detective thriller set in Joseon Dynasty Korea, officials arrive on an island to investigate an arson attack, only to be confronted by a series of grisly murders which apparently fulfill a shaman's prophecy.

Japan's favourite "Beat Takeshi" returns with a self-examining film Takeshis' where he and other characters live multiple fictions or realities. "His most intriguing and innovative in some while," is how Rayns describes it.

The new film from Japanese director Nagasaki Shunichi, Heart, Beating in the Dark, will screen as a Special Dragons & Tigers Gala on Sunday, 2 October. The programme notes explain, "Nagasaki's new film has a complex relationship with his original classic from 1982: it's part remake, part sequel and part rethink. Muroi Shigeru and Naito Takashi return as Inako and Ringo, older and maybe wiser, while a new young couple go on the run. Nagsaki Shunichi and his lead actress, Muroi Shigeru, one of Japan's leading stars, will both be in attendance."

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