1:54 (Yan England)
At sixteen, Tim (Mommy’s Antoine Olivier Pilon) is a bright student and gifted athlete. He is, however, somewhat timid, and with good reason. Navigating the nebulous world of teenage sexual identity has left the young man isolated and afraid. He copes with his anxiety by throwing himself back into competitive running, a sport he’d abandoned. In Yan England's dramatic thriller, bullying and peer pressure are the catalysts for a dramatic change in attitude and a redefinition of what makes Tim Tim.
Darwin (Benjamin Duffield)
Fans of The Hunger Games are in for a treat! Set in a dystopian future, Benjamin Duffield’s film imagines what spending all of your time in front of a computer might lead to: a world in which the computer is one’s only contact, where the ability to speak is lost and where good health, love and social activity are forgotten. Featuring Nick Krause (The Descendants) in a star-making role, Darwin chronicles a young man’s search for connection in a disconnected world.
King Dave (Daniel Grou a.k.a. Podz)
Working from an inventive screenplay by Alexandre Goyette, Daniel Grou a.k.a. Podz (Miraculum) brings us a cinematic tour-de-force reminiscent of 2015 standout Victoria. After its opening scene, the entire film is delivered in a bravura single-take sequence as revenge-seeking Dave (Goyette himself) leads us through Montreal’s East End (and 9km of sets) as he embarks on an astounding odyssey replete with sex and violence. Spend an entire summer at an amusement park and you won’t find a ride this thrilling!
Living With Giants (Sebastien Rist, Aude Leroux-Lévesque)
This nuanced documentary by directors Sebastien Rist and Aude Leroux- Lévesque is infused with deep-rooted traditions and the harsh realities of a changing Arctic. Paulusie is an optimistic, imaginative and sensitive Inuk teen who loves the solitude of hunting. But when alcohol is smuggled into his dry community for a graduation party, his life is turned upside down. Kudos to the directors for avoiding facile political statements and revealing something deeper about Native youth in the North.
Maliglutit (Zacharias Kunuk)
In the early 1900s, during the coldest time of the year, an Inuit family is peacefully passing the winter when they’re ambushed by a group of marauding wife-stealers. So begins a relentless hunt for the kidnappers, all played out against the stunning backdrop of a frigid land and endless sky. Zacharias Kunuk (responsible for the Canadian masterpieceAtanarjuat: The Fast Runner) helms this gripping homage to John Ford’s The Searchers.
Mean Dreams (Nathan Morlando)
A farm boy (Josh Wiggins) liberates his girlfriend (Sophie Nélisse) – and her abusive dad’s drug money for good measure – in this exquisitely tense and luminously lensed thriller. Given that her dad (Bill Paxton in a first-rate villainous turn) is a crooked cop, a clean getaway isn’t in the offing. As the young lovers’ flight takes them past the point of no return, they learn what they’re capable of when backed into a corner. “A poetic tale of backwoods crime with first-rate performances…”—IndieWire
Nelly (Anne Émond)
Anne Émond (Nuit #1) returns with the startling and sensuous true story of Nelly Arcan, a young escort-turned-writer whose lurid life, skilfully penned accounts of her exploits and tragic death became a cause célèbre in Quebec. Mylène MacKay embodies both the strengths and vulnerabilities of the shooting star that was Nelly. (Arcan died at the age of 36.) Emond's depiction of this troubled independent soul and the world that shaped her makes for a strong feminist statement.
Of Ink and Blood (Alexis Fortier-Gauthier, Maxim Rhéault, Francis Fortin)
This intricately structured and carefully composed character drama examines an ill-fated author, a secretive bookstore owner and a star-crossed couple embroiled in a conflict of both personal and social significance. Split into three chapters, the film focuses on the characters both independently and in relation to each other to form an intricate and unbiased perspective of the situation. Strongly edited and boasting a captivating visual design, Of Ink and Blood is an involving cinematic experience.
Old Stone (Johnny Ma)
Johnny Ma’s debut is a sharp, tightly edited thriller boasting rich aesthetics and a clever non-linear narrative. Set in China, Old Stone tackles the legal and bureaucratic systems in place as it recounts the psychological degeneration of a lowly taxi driver. Bearing the film’s tense buildup and complex structure, patient viewers will be treated to a staggering climax sure to put them on the edge of their seats. "[A] solid debut fusing social-realist drama and noir."—Hollywood Reporter
Quebec My Country Mon Pays (John Walker)
Having grown up as an Anglophone in post-Quiet Revolution Quebec, documentarian (and VIFF favourite) John Walker speaks with everyone from poets to politicians to reflect on the violent upheaval and subsequent exodus of 500,000 English-speaking Quebecers. “Walker finds a province (and a nation) struggling to transcend its deeply conservative wiring and find a better future. I hope we get there.”—NOW Toronto
The Other Half (Joey Klein)
Joey Klein’s psychological drama centres on a passionate love affair between a self-destructive drifter (Tom Cullen, Downton Abbey) and a bi-polar woman (Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black) and offers a moving and realistic depiction of how mental illness can affect family and relationships. “A troubled, anguished love story that neither exaggerates nor soft-pedals the demons on display."—Variety
We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice (Alanis Obomsawin)
In 2007, the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a landmark discrimination complaint against Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. They argued that child and family welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserves and in Yukon were underfunded and inferior to services offered to other Canadian children. Veteran director Alanis Obomsawin's film documents this epic court challenge, giving voice to the tenacious childcare workers at its epicenter.
Weirdos (Bruce McDonald)
Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo) has a knack for presenting the Canadian experience in a way that brings out universal truths. With a gently humorous script from playwright Daniel MacIvor, McDonald transports us back to the freewheeling '70s in a hitchhiking road flick featuring the music of Patsy Gallant, Gordon Lightfoot and Murray McLauchlan. The setting is Cape Breton and the cast features veteran Molly Parker and promising newcomers Dylan Authors and Julia Sarah Stone as the pair of teenage runaways.
Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris (Nancy Lang, Peter Raymont)
Lawren Harris was born to a life of privilege in one of Toronto's wealthiest families. After a period of study in Europe, he returned to Canada. Determined to break free of the restrictive academic style prevalent at the time, he boldly painting his radical vision of our country with vibrant colour. Peter Raymont and newcomer Nancy Lang explore what drove the complex character who co-founded the Group of Seven and has become the most valued artist in Canadian history, with collectors including Steve Martin.
The Intestine (Lev Lewis)
In Lev Lewis’ haunting debut, a young woman named Maya (Melanie J. Scheiner) wakes up alone after a one-night stand in a luxurious suburban home. With her lover nowhere to be found, she grows accustomed to her adopted abode, a relief from the rundown place she shares with her drug-addicted mother. As days pass, she settles in, even befriending a neighbour, but things get complicated when the missing man’s sister shows up. Desperate to escape her reality, Maya will do whatever it takes to claim the domestic paradise as her own.
Lights Above Water (Nicolas Lachapelle, Ariel St-Louis Lamoureux)
Made in collaboration with the Cree community of Waswanipi, this is an extraordinary documentary that is equal parts observational and poetic. Shot over a year, co-directors Nicolas Lachapelle and Ariel St-Louis Lamoureux follow a group of children through their daily life. A generous and human meditation on identity and place that's unfettered by an issue-driven hook or an imposed narrative, this is the rare sort of film that transcends categorization, becoming a beautiful work of art to behold.
The Lockpicker (Randall Okita)
Directed by decorated visual artist and masterful short filmmaker Randall Okita, this is an astonishingly assured debut feature about an alienated teenaged boy named Hashi who is grappling with the trauma of a classmate’s recent suicide. Dealing with perennial coming-of-age themes such as bullying, disillusionment and the loss of innocence, The Lockpicker is distinguished by its impressionistic form punctuated with dreamlike imagery, all guided by a tender eye from behind the camera.
Maudite Poutine (Karl Lemieux)
A staple of Montreal’s experimental film scene, Karl Lemieux makes his narrative feature debut with Maudite Poutine. Vincent (Jean-Simon Leduc) and his fellow bandmates get in serious trouble with a group of local drug dealers when they steal their pot. Vincent's older brother Michel (Martin Dubreuil) steps in to protect him. Their history together is ambiguous, but it seems Michel wants to atone for the past and be a good brother--but with Vincent’s life on the line, how far is he willing to go?
Never Eat Alone (Sofia Bohdanowicz)
A widow in her mid-80s starts to wonder what ever happened to a would-be lover who appeared with her in a live television drama back in the 50s. Her granddaughter offers to try and to track him down for her in this beautifully understated debut feature directed by Sofia Bohdanowicz. A thoughtful meditation on memory and aging, Never Eat Alone takes a frank and tender look at late-life loneliness and solitude.
Split (Lawrence Côté-Collins)
In Lawrence Coté-Collins’ mockumentary, Anick has moved into the home of Scott and Jessie with the intention of making a documentary about Scott’s social reintegration after a life spent in and out of jail. Now in his 50s, Scott’s on the straight and narrow, having fallen head over heels for the much younger Jessie. As the shoot continues, Anick starts to wear out her welcome, with her presence creating considerable tension between the two subjects--especially once she starts to overstep her boundaries...
Tales of Two Who Dreamt (Andrea Bussmann, Nicolás Pereda)
Set in a housing block on the outskirts of Toronto, this playful docu-fiction co-directed by Andrea Bussmann and Nicolás Pereda focuses an asylum-seeking Roma family who speak of legends from their building as they await news of their residency status. Their stories are constantly sidelined by their reality as the film humbly surrenders to its subjects, whose lives appear in limbo in this abstracted vision of Toronto life that investigates notions of representation and storytelling.
Werewolf (Ashley McKenzie)
Set in Cape Breton, Ashley McKenzie's deeply empathetic and authentic debut follows a methadone-dependent couple whose relationship, while possibly being their only source of support, perpetuates a cycle of addiction and poverty. Tugging a lawnmower about, they go door-to-door trying to scrape up enough money to survive. As they face housing waiting lists, a string of hard luck and the threat of relapse, their resolve is constantly tested, ensuring that even minor breakthroughs make for compelling drama.
Cadence (Alex Lasheras)
Alex Lasheras' debut feature is a unique psychological thriller dealing with notions of self-identity. When the eponymous Cadence (Maxine Chadburn, excellent in a demanding role) begins to experience hallucinations during a romantic getaway with her pop-star boyfriend (Charlie Kerr), fear and confusion test her ability to distinguish reality from the nightmare unfolding before her. Cadence is a thoroughly entertaining rumination on memory, trauma, and the psyche’s efforts to protect itself.
Hello Destroyer (Kevan Funk)
Embarrassed by the scoreboard and emasculated by his coach, a junior hockey player (Jared Abrahamson) attempts to uphold the game’s unwritten code by sending a message to the opposition. Instead, his recklessness sees him banished from his band of brothers. Boasting all the white-knuckle tension of a prison drama, Kevan Funk’s debut feature is an involving character study that illustrates the cruel disposability of on-ice warriors and the psychological ramifications of cultures of violence.
Keepers of the Magic (Vic Sarin)
Vic Sarin’s ground-breaking documentary explores our fascination with moving images and provides insight into how cinema’s most iconic moments came to be. Most of all, it honours the great masters of cinematography, unsung heroes whose vision and talent was always right before our eyes. The all-star interviewees include Vittorio Storaro, Bruno Delbonnel, Roger Deakins, John Seale and the late Gordon Willis.
KONELĪNE: our land beautiful (Nettie Wild)
In Nettie Wild's stunning magnum opus, a mining company helicopter hovers above the pristine land of the Tahltan First Nation in northern BC, carrying a huge electric transmission tower, casting patterned shadows. This conflict between man-made geometries and nature’s vortices is at the film’s heart. Marking a tonal departure from her earlier documentaries, Wild creates a balanced profile that’s free of polemics and a feast for the eyes. “Subtle, beautiful and remarkably even-handed...”--Globe & Mail
Marrying the Family (Peter Benson)
If you were wondering whether the creator of the zany dance satire Leap 4 Your Life (VIFF 13) could get any wackier, we present the answer. This time around, screenwriter/star Taylor Hill has focussed her funny on the foibles of weddings: the planners who attempt to instill order on matrimonial chaos and the comic comeuppance that awaits. Director Peter Benson herds this cast of crazy cats and turns in a scene-stealing supporting turn in this off-the-wall ode to putting a ring on it. Or not.
Mixed Match (Jeff Chiba Stearns)
This film could save your life. Jeff Chiba Stearns unveils the desperation of people waiting for a suitable match for a bone marrow donor. Unlike blood donations, which are generally suitable for anyone of the same blood type, bone marrow donation requires an extremely close genetic match, leaving multiracial blood cancer patients to draw from a small pool of donors. Incorporating animation to great effect, Chiba Stearns lets us know what we can do to address this critical situation in cancer treatment.
A New Moon Over Tohoku (Linda Ohama)
Linda Ohama (Obaachan's Garden) returns to VIFF after spending two and a half years on location in Iwate, Miyage and Fukushima, and brings with her this compassionate documentary concerning the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident which devastated the coastal Japanese region of Tohoku. In this thoughtful film, Ohama wisely opts to focus on the natural cycle of life, suggesting hope for Tohoku in the symbol of a new moon, an unseen but guiding presence of rejuvenation and new beginnings.
Spirit Unforgettable (Pete McCormack)
Director Pete McCormack (Facing Ali, VIFF 09) brings us the story of John Mann, lead singer of the iconic Vancouver band Spirit of the West, and his struggle with early onset Alzheimer's. McCormack has built a compelling and emotionally powerful narrative around archival clips and intimate interviews that reveal Mann, his wife Jill and his bandmates to be endlessly engaging and surprisingly candid. This affecting documentary builds to the sort of riveting performance that’s made the band local legends.
The Unseen (Geoff Redknap)
Drawing inspiration from both H.G. Wells and macabre headlines, Geoff Redknap’s audacious debut is a narratively rich and psychologically complex thriller. When a reclusive man with an uncanny affliction (Rectify’s Aden Young) emerges from self-imposed exile to make amends with his teenage daughter (Julia Sarah Stone), he’s drawn into a dark underworld involving drug dealing, animal poaching and organ trading. “Exceptional... The best of its kind to come along since Unbreakable."--Screen Anarchy
Window Horses (Ann Marie Fleming)
Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses, a beautifully narrated and colourfully animated story of a young girl’s journey, employs poetry, music and illustration to celebrate the value of self-discovery. After being invited to a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran, by a mysterious figure, Rosie Ming faces challenges that ultimately lead to her self-realization. The film’s superb voice cast includes festival veterans Sandra Oh, Don McKellar and Ellen Page.
Style in Film
The Architect (Jonathan Parker)
Jonathan Parker's cutting comedy stars indie darling Parker Posey and the ever-charming Eric McCormack as a couple looking to build the perfect home. First they need the perfect architect, but what they get instead is the wildly ambitious, blather-spewing Miles Moss (James Frain) who insists on getting deeply in touch with them in order to realize their dream. As the project spirals out of control and tensions mount, Parker crafts some sharp insights into consumerism and contemporary romance.
Franca: Chaos and Creation (Francesco Carrozzini)
When fashion insiders want to visit the territory where fashion, art and provocation meet, they pick up Vogue Italia, considered the world's most important fashion magazine. Since 1988, it has been under the editorship of the formidable Franca Sozzani, whose life, times and flashing intelligence are on display in Francesco Carrozzini's documentary. Featuring interviews with (among others) Baz Luhrmann, Courtney Love, Jeff Koons, Karl Lagerfeld, Naomi Campbell, Peter Lindbergh and the grand dame herself.
Harry Benson: Shoot First (Matthew Miele)
A Zelig-like character who's witnessed every major cultural and political event of the last 50 years, Scottish photographer Harry Benson, now 86 and still working, tells his story in Matthew Miele and Justin Bare's fascinating doc. Photographer of the last 11 US presidents, chronicler of the Beatles' 1964 American tour and the man standing next to Bobby Kennedy on the night he was shot, Benson—who took intimate portraits of everyone from Winston Churchill to Sharon Stone—is truly one for the ages.
The Model (Mads Matthiesen)
In this stylish tale of immaculate beauty and moral corruption, a 16-year-old aspiring Danish model (Maria Palm) finds herself hopelessly out her depth as she tries to break into the Paris fashion world. That is, until she seduces an older womanizer (Ed Skrein) who's also a top fashion photographer and veritable shark well-versed in navigating the industry's treacherous numbers. Mads Matthiesen delivers "sexy, easy-on-the-eyes glamour and a pinch of psychological thrills a la Black Swan." — Variety
Yarn (Una Lorenzen)
Your preconceptions about knit and crochet are about to get yarn bombed! Gone are the days when the only controversies associated with these pursuits were unsightly Christmas sweaters. This daring documentary introduces us to the artists and provocateurs who are pushing the boundaries of modern art with stunning work that encompasses everything from wool graffiti to conceptual needlework to textile playgrounds. Una Lorenzen crafts a film loaded with visual curiosities and pointed opinions.
Yohji Yamamoto: Dressmaker (The Chau Ngo)
An intimate portrait of the life and work of one of the most influential and enigmatic fashion designers of the last 40 years, Ngo The Chau's insightful film uncovers the many layers of this visionary 73-year-old artist. Yamamoto confesses his most private and intimate thoughts while shedding light on his artistic approach and contrasting it with today's fashion industry. Interviews with key figures in his life—family, friends and confidants—round out this fascinating study of a fashion legend.
BANG! The Bert Berns Story (Bob Sarles, Brett Berns)
Called the "most important 1960s songwriter that you've never heard of," Bert Berns was responsible for such hits as "Twist & Shout," "Piece of My Heart" and "Hang on, Sloopy," among others. A noted producer as well, he was also intimately familiar with the Mafia... Bob Sarles and Brett Berns (Bert's son) take us on a fascinating and hugely entertaining tour of the man's life and work that features interviews with music legends Solomon Burke, Cissy Houston, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison and many others.
Burden (Tim Marrianan, Richard Dewey)
The "burn out vs. fade-away" debate will likely be restoked by this account of the rise and reinvention of late performance artist/sculptor Chris Burden. An incendiary art scene figure notorious for self-punishment (including being shot and crucified) in the '70s, Burden seemed an unlikely candidate to spend his later years crafting colourful models and bonafide tourist attractions. Such surprising twists in his trajectory make Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey's profile all the more transfixing.
The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg (Michael Schindhelm)
A power broker who forged ties between the West and Communist China... An art collector with a staggering 2,200 pieces in his collection... A mentor to revolutionary artists like Ai Weiwei, Zeng Fanzhi and Cao Fei... Influential, imposing and mysterious, Uli Sigg is an exceptional subject for a documentary and Michael Schindhelm's telling of his story is suitably compelling. This isn't just a portrait of an extraordinary figure: it's an eye-opening peek into the intrigue and splendour of the art world.
Don't Blink: Robert Frank (Laura Israel)
Photographer, filmmaker and Beat Generation icon Robert Frank is the subject of Laura Israel's long-overdue examination of one of the 20th century's most protean artists. Roving from New York to Frank's summer home in Mabou, Nova Scotia, Israel captures the 91-year-old Frank at his most intimate and candid. "This compact, fast-moving portrait of the artist proceeds through a flurry of images... You leave with a vivid sense of the man's living presence... This is an impressive achievement." — The New York Times
Gimme Danger (Jim Jarmusch)
The Stooges are the greatest rock and roll band ever. Try and argue that assertion with Jim Jarmusch and he'll counter with this documentary that makes its persuasive case by cranking the volume for archival footage and imparting anecdotes with as many hooks as "Search and Destroy." Engaging Iggy Pop as an iconoclastic equal, Jarmusch illustrates these glamorous degenerates' influence on music and the maverick director's own filmmaking. "One of the great rock documentaries of recent times." — Sight & Sound
Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (Daniel Raim)
Francis Ford Coppola, Mel Brooks, Danny DeVito and others testify to the remarkable lives of storyboard artist Harold Michelson, who worked with, among others, Hitchcock, and his film-researcher wife Lillian Michelson, who once wanted to travel to South America to study drug kingpins in order to enhance Al Pacino's role in Scarface. "The [Hollywood-insider] stuff walks hand in hand with a great romance, and this movie winds up being a rather wonderful paradox: an educational tearjerker." — Vanity Fair
I Called Him Morgan (Kasper Collin)
Jazz fans know Lee Morgan for his 1964 hit "The Sidewinder" and his work with Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, et al. But you don't have to dig bebop to appreciate the tragic ironies that make this such a sucker punch of a crime story, delivered here with palpable love and respect... and bittersweet regret. Tracing how a good woman saved Morgan's life only to put him in the grave, Kasper Collin's poignant and evocative documentary shines new light on Morgan's rise, fall, resurrection and ultimate demise.
Playing Lecuona (Juan Manuel Villar Betancort, Pavel Giroud)
Juan Manuel Villar Betancort and Pavel Giroud's doc will thrill casual fans of Cuban music, while aficionados will be in seventh heaven. That's because this is one of those comparatively rare films that isn't content to be just a performance piece, but which holds the music up to the light and explores each silvery note. Three contemporary Cuban piano stars—Chucho Valdés, Michel Camilo and Gonzalo Rubalcaba—take turns paying homage to Ernesto Lecuona, the acknowledged inventor of the Cuban sound.
Reset (Thierry DEMAIZIÈRE, Alban Teurlai)
Just as Benjamin Millepied's dynamic choreography for Black Swan immersed us in the emotional tumult of a ballerina facing her breaking point, this documentary imbeds us in the creative chaos surrounding Millepied's greatest trial: his debut as the Paris Opera Ballet's director. "Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai's vibrant account of the run up to Millepied's first gala presentation reflects the [dancer's] energetic, assured, occasionally anarchic approach... It is electrifying viewing..." — Screen
Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach (Louise Armond)
Emerging from retirement to claim the Palme d'Or at Cannes for I, Daniel Blake, 79-year-old Ken Loach served notice that he remains amongst the elite directors and that his brand of socially engaged, deeply humanist filmmaking strikes a resounding chord in these tumultuous socioeconomic times. Delving into Loach's uncompromising oeuvre, Louise Osmond (Dark Horse) fashions "a fitting tribute to a director who has made a career out of telling the stories that most urgently need to be told." — Observer
Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt (Ada Ushpiz)
One of recent history's most profound and provocative thinkers gets the rigorous, fair-minded documentary she deserves. Everyone knows Hannah Arendt's memorable phrase "the banality of evil," but her ideas about the Holocaust were just one aspect of a complex and evolving political philosophy and an intellectual life that drew from, but transcended, her experiences as a German Jew, refugee, academic and woman. Ada Ushpiz illuminates these ideas through archival footage, interviews and Arendt's own words.
We Are X (Stephen Kijak)
Watch this documentary and be rocketed into the outer realms of rock 'n' roll extravagance as you meet X, the Japanese band that's captivated audiences worldwide with their operatic musical stylings, outlandish costumes and over-the-top theatrics. The backstage story explores some darker territory, but Stephen Kijack's film remains a riveting, often inspiring movie. "Bound to become a favorite among fans and to persuade others to join the ranks of those under the loud spell of X." — IndieWire
Dragons & Tigers
After the Storm (Kore-eda Hirokazu)
Japanese master Kore-eda Hirokazu (Like Father, Like Son) returns with this bittersweet take on life's rewards and disappointments. A failed writer and full-fledged gambling addict (Hiroshi Abe) may lose partial custody of his beloved son due to unpaid child support. As this fractured family tries to find peace, the film proves smart, funny, beautiful and profoundly moving—nothing less than what we'd expect from Kore-eda. "[An] achingly beautiful ode to the quiet complexities of family life." — Telegraph
Alone (Park Hongmin)
After witnessing and photographing the murder of a woman by masked men, Soomin wakes naked and amnesiac in a night alley near his studio. What has happened to him, to the dead woman and to the killers? Park's follow-up to A Fish is a gripping mystery thriller in the vein of Christopher Nolan's Memento: a man apparently trapped in a nightmare struggles to find the exit from the maze.
Bacchus Lady (E J-yong)
The lady of this film's title (played by veteran Youn Yuhjung) is an elderly prostitute who plies her trade in a city park. Don't be too shocked: this is a real phenomenon in South Korea and this film treats its subject with compassion, empathy and a dose of bawdy humour. "A tour de force from the grand dame of Korean cinema... The Bacchus Lady is certainly audacious, and a powerful reminder of how lives could or would be lived once the youthful vigor is gone." — Hollywood Reporter
Beautiful 2016 (Jia Zhangke/Stanley Kwan/Nakata Hideo/Alec Su)
The Hong Kong IFF's annual project to commission shorts from leading Asian directors yields its richest harvest yet. Nakata Hideo has an old lady reliving a lost love, Stanley Kwan (with the late Anita Mui in mind) looks at a diva in trouble, and Jia Zhangke delivers the show-stopper with a funny/sad tale of out-of-work miners looking for jobs in the gangster and showbiz industries.
By the Time It Gets Dark (Anocha Suwichakornpong)
Bangkok's 1976 Thammasat University massacre is the starting point for Anocha Suwichakornpong’s ethereal collage, which amalgamates multiple shifts in genre, tone and visual style while jumping between the lives of a filmmaker, an underemployed woman constantly switching jobs and a pop star. "Moving from country roads to expressways, and through photographs, films, and dreams, its many narratives converge into an Odyssean reflection on the effects of a single moment on the lives of many..." — Film Comment
A Copy of My Mind (Joko Anwar)
Before it turns into a noir-ish thriller with a strong political edge, Joko Anwar's devastating new movie looks like a low-life love story: a subtitler of pirated DVDs meets a young beautician and they find plenty of ways to amuse themselves in his room. But then the girl impulsively steals an unlabelled data-disc and all hell starts to break loose. Sharper (and sexier!) than a tabloid headline.
Crosscurrent (Yang Chao)
Poetic, enigmatic, sublime and achingly beautiful: Yang Chao's long-awaited masterpiece sets a new standard for Chinese cinema. Signed up for a mysterious boat journey up the Yangtze River, a sailor finds a book of poetry, inspiring visions of a beautiful woman (or is it several women?) in each of the riverside ports he traverses. As their intimacy intensifies, their passion permeates through the film's poetic texts and classical landscapes. Sensuality made visible: a triumph of cinema art.
Godspeed (Chung Mong-hong)
The sensational, long-awaited return to the silver screen of iconic Hong Kong comedy legend Michael Hui marks this film as a major cinematic event. This is a road movie, a buddy movie, a gangster adventure and a black comedy rolled into one: Hui plays a charismatically garrulous and profane cab driver who picks up a stranger with a mysterious package. Over the course of 24 hours, they become embroiled in a series of frequently hilarious, sometimes bizarre, sometimes terrifying adventures...
Harmonium (Kôji Fukada)
You've never seen a domestic drama like this. Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) and his family are living a dull, happy existence when a man from the past arrives at their doorstep. Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano) is an ex-con, but that doesn't stop the family from welcoming him into their lives. Big mistake. "[Kôji Fukada's] slow-burning, quietly told thriller commands attention from start to finish... The film's insights... don't merely hit their targets; they smash them with a sledgehammer." — Screen
Knife in the Clear Water (Wang Xuebo)
In Ningxia province in China's remote northwest, Hui minority Muslim farmer Ma and his family eke out an existence on an arid moonscape. After his wife dies, Ma decides to sacrifice their aging cow to mark the end of the mourning period. But the cow stops eating and drinking, as if in anticipation of its slaughter. This fiction film, made with astonishingly expressive non-professional actors, mixes super-reality with magical intensity; it has a stark spiritual purity whose beauty infuses every shot.
Life After Life (Zhang Hanyi)
In a barren and depopulated Chinese village, a young boy, Leilei, announces to his farmer father that his body has been taken over by the spirit of his deceased mother. She has one request: that the tree in the family's front yard be moved. With natural, easy gravity and perfectly poised nonchalance, this modern-day ghost story presents strange transformations as everyday occurrences and ordinary, dusty, impoverished Chinese rural life as something enchanted and full of wonder.
Lifeline (Shiota Akihiko)
The sparkiest trip to Heartbreak Hotel since Chungking Express, Shiota's wonderful film throws together a boy who reluctantly runs a gas station in the sticks and a seemingly flaky girl who just can't leave him alone. Very special! With Shiota's virtually unseen short The Promise (Japan), about a divorced father and his young daughter.
The Long Excuse (Nishikawa Miwa)
On the day that his wife dies in a road accident, novelist Tsumura is with his secret lover – so his public display of grief is not exactly heartfelt. And when he's drawn into 'solidarity' with the husband of another victim of the crash, he grows acutely conscious of his own hypocrisy. Nishikawa cements her reputation as one of Japan's leading directors with this searing film about self-discovery.
Mother (Emma) (Riri Riza)
The Muslim boss of a thriving trading company in Makassar in the late 1950s decides to take a second wife in Jakarta, leaving his first wife Athirah and their kids feeling betrayed and confused. Riri Riza's elegant film, infused with his signature lyrical realism, focuses on Athirah's stoic efforts to keep herself and her family together. Tender but emotionally tough.
Mrs. (Adolfo Alix Jr.)
There are distant echoes of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane in Adolfo Alix's powerful drama, but it's not exactly a horror film. The widowed Mrs Ventura lives in a too-large mansion, fending off needy relatives and dreaming of a reunion with her son, a communist guerrilla. Her immediate problem is her home-help Delia, who's unmarried and pregnant. There will be blood.
Our Love Story (Lee Hyunju)
A healthy corrective to other Korean films about lesbianism, Lee Hyunju's debut is fresh, keenly observed and emotionally truthful. Art student Yoonju, who has never liked boys, finds herself attracted to the self-confident Jisoo and the two start dating. But both young women are under pressure to find husbands, and their relationship begins to suffer. True love hurts, indeed.
Out of the Frying Pan... + Dazzling Anime Shorts (Komatsu Takashi)
A middle-aged poet lives with his alcoholic father and newly arrived stepmother in a fantastically cluttered house, but they don't eat together – or even speak much. Gradually, though, things change. Komatsu's debut could be the funniest deadpan tragicomedy since Jim Jarmusch started out. With a selection of six dazzling alternative anime shorts from Japan.
Phantom Detective (Jo Sunghee)
Hong Gildong is actually not a phantom, but he's been haunted all his life by the murder of his mother. Now, as an adult gumshoe, he's closing in on the killer at last – only to find himself facing a much larger and more sinister threat, an unstoppable, murderous cult. Fans of Jo's previous films won't be disappointed: this is as strange, disturbing and darkly exciting as anything he's done.
The Road to Mandalay (Midi Z)
Burmese indie director Midi Z is a festival favourite. His newest film, about a young, undocumented Burmese migrant looking for work in Thailand, shows why. Lianqing has no papers, but she has unlimited determination, moving from the Bangkok underground economy to an illegal factory job in the sticks, just a few steps ahead of the corrupt police. As she becomes more and more intimately involved with solicitous young Burmese co-worker, her life takes an unexpected and frightening turn...
A Simple Goodbye (Degena Yun)
In this piercing drama, writer-director Degena Yun also stars as Shanshan, who's back in Beijing after an attempt at studying in the UK. With her estranged parents back under the same roof, a fractious household must constantly reconcile piques of anger with the abiding love that can keep families together, in spirit if not in fact. Yun's subtle sketching of family dynamics and overall precision recall masters like Chekhov and Ozu, but this film is as unique as its creator: intimate, urgent and personal.
Suffering of Ninko (Norihiro Niwatsukino)
We're in ancient Japan and Ninko is a virtuous Buddhist monk who's embarrassed to discover that he's irresistible to many women (and some men). He goes on a journey to 'purify' himself, but nothing turns out as he expects. Niwatsukino's wildly enjoyable debut is crammed with humour and visual surprises. With Hirabayashi Isamu's magical short Heaven (Japan): the beauties and terrors of decay.
Ta'ang (Wang Bing)
The great Chinese documentarian Wang Bing trains his spectacularly sensitive camera on war refugees from Myanmar who cross the Chinese border in search of survival. Ta'ang minority families, fleeing local violence, confront bewilderingly difficult conditions in camps in Yunnan, southwestern China. As children play and elders tell their horror stories around campfires, Wang's humane, compassionate camera creates documentary fact and poetry: this is a film of incantatory power and majestic beauty.
Ten Years (Kwok Zune, Wong Fei-pang, Jevons Au, Chow Kwun-wai, Ng Ka-leung)
This omnibus offers five dark visions of Hong Kong's future. Set in 2025, it expresses deep foreboding about the chances for freedom under Mainland rule. The Chinese government is not pleased: its state paper called this a "thought virus." So how subversive is it? Well, it contains political assassination, self-immolation and children as Red Guard recruits—it's a collective courageous gesture against government oppression, honouring the best dystopian traditions. It's also terrifically entertaining!
While the Women are Sleeping (Wayne Wang)
Working in Japan and adapting a story by Javier Marías, Wayne Wang delivers his most accomplished and resonant movie in some time. On vacation in a luxury beachfront hotel, writer Kenji grows obsessed by an 'odd couple' – an old man and a much younger woman – and tries to discover their story. But is he really questioning himself? Secrets, lies and enigmas under the tropical sun.
Yellowing (Chan Tze-woon)
Hong Kong's fraught, tense relationship with mainland China came to a head in 2014's Umbrella Movement. Vivid, moving portraits of selected students who camped out on the streets and organized a temporary, alternative, communitarian Hong Kong animate this fly-on-the-wall documentary. Richly detailed, engrossing and dramatic, it captures the sights, sounds and feelings of a time when tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens—energized idealistic youth—defied their government and demanded democracy.
Yourself and Yours + Soju and Ice Cream (Hong Sangsoo)
In a (deceptively?) sweet film, exploring the idea of starting over in a relationship, Hong Sangsoo focuses on issues of identity and wish-fulfilment. Minjung leaves the painter Youngsoo after a row about drinking and starts seeing other men – literally as a new woman. With Lee Kwangkuk's brilliant short Soju and Ice Cream (South Korea): humour, absurdism and melancholy.
American Honey (Andrea Arnold)
When the teenaged Star (Sasha Lane) decides to join forces with a young, itinerant and rowdy door-to-door sales gang led by Shia LaBeouf's shifty Jake, the stage is set for a music-fuelled On the Road for millennial lovers of EDM, partying and the search for a self amongst the ruins... "[Andrea Arnold's (Fish Tank)] scrappy, sprawling astonishment of a fourth feature... is constantly, engrossingly active, spinning and sparking and exploding in cycles like a Fourth of July Catherine wheel." – Variety
The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker)
In this provocatively named and extraordinarily powerful historical drama, we're thrust into the slave rebellion in the southern US led by the preacher Nat Turner (writer-director Nate Parker) in 1831. Scarred by the vicious treatment accorded his fellow slaves, the pacifistic preacher decides to organize the bloody uprising that reverberates in the American psyche to this day. "A biographical drama steeped equally in grace and horror, it builds to a brutal finale that will stir deep emotion..." – Variety
Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
Dutch director Paul Verhoeven returns to the big screen with this darkest of dark comedies, which many critics consider among his best. A video game executive (Isabelle Huppert, superb) suffers a rape, only to react unlike any screen heroine you've ever seen... "Verhoeven's brazen rape revenge comedy is a dangerous delight... Huppert delivers a standout performance as a woman turning the tables on her attacker in the controversial director's electrifying and provocative comeback." – Guardian
The Girl with All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy)
The zombie genre hasn't felt this alive since 28 Days Later! With much of humanity transformed into flesh-eating predators, a teacher (Gemma Arterton) and a scientist (Glenn Close) believe they may've found the key to survival in Melanie (Sennia Nanua), a bright young girl who's also a "hungry." When they're flushed out of hiding, Colm McCarthy ratchets up the tension while fleshing out the human drama in wildly unpredictable ways. "Smartly compelling, emotionally engaging and stylishly executed..." – Screen
The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)
With this sexy, dangerous bodice-ripper, Park Chanwook (Oldboy) has fashioned a cinema of striptease; as the film slowly unspools, we marvel at its sensual flair. After a Korean pickpocket is hired by a con-man to masquerade as a Japanese heiress's maid and help pilfer her fortune, The Handmaiden's plot twists as fast as its characters shift sexual allegiances. "Park brings the full arsenal of cinematic expression... [He] can make a mere door opening an act of emotional transcendence." – Village Voice
Human (Yann Arthus-Bertrand)
Breathtaking in scope and a glorious spectacle, Yann Arthus-Bertrand's (Earth From Above) epic documentary touches on every big issue imaginable while examining the Earth as only the movies can. Aerial shots of the land mix with intimate human testimonials on love, sex, work, war and more; both the landscapes and confessions are staggeringly powerful. This is a movie in the grand tradition of Koyaanisqatsi: radically humane in its concerns and mind-blowing in its visual splendour. Prepare to be swept off your feet.
Julieta (Pedro Almodovar)
Pedro Almodóvar's decades-spanning tale, based on stories by Alice Munro, masterfully blends elements of melodrama and mystery. Middle-aged Julieta (Emma Suárez) discovers that her long-missing daughter has resurfaced, leading her to reflect on her younger self (played by Adriana Ugarte) and the events that drove her daughter away. "A sombre, ravishing study of grief, guilt and burden... [The film] offers a cumulative power that's finally extremely moving and teasingly free of easy resolution." – Time Out
Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
An all-star cast, a riveting script and a smart narrative puzzle give Kenneth Lonergan's (Margaret; You Can Count on Me) drama devastating power. Casey Affleck is superb as a taciturn Boston handyman Lee, who returns to his salty hometown after his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies. There, past and present collide with a force that few could survive. "[An] extraordinary swirl of love, anger, tenderness and brittle humour... [This is a] beautifully textured, richly enveloping drama." — Variety
Milton's Secret (Barret Bain)
A victim of bullying at school and witness to his parents' (David Sutcliffe and Mia Kirshner) tensions at home, young Milton (William Ainscough) retreats into an emotional shell. Fortunately, his enlightened grandfather (Donald Sutherland) arrives on this fraught scene to impart wisdom on how to unburden oneself of such troubles. Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now) supplied the source material for Barnet Bain's timeless story about inner peace and empowerment that will resonate with the whole family.
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
Barry Jenkins' Florida-set coming-of-age tale eschews tired tropes in favour of an urgent, deeply felt take on what it means to be a black man in America today. Using an impressionistic style, Jenkins masterfully traces the life of Chiron (played as an adult by Trevante Rhodes) from his boyhood days in the midst of a 1980s Miami crack epidemic to adulthood, shattering stereotypes along the way. "[The] best film I've seen in a long time and the best take on black masculinity... ever." – Ta-Nehisi Coates
Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
Saying it is sui generis only begins to describe the unique breadth and depth of Maren Ade's (Everyone Else) comic masterpiece, a film that traces the relationship between a prank-playing father (Peter Simonischek) and his corporate go-getter daughter (Sandra Hüller) to side-splitting and moving effect. "A stunningly singular third feature by Ade that transports the intricately magnified human observation of her previous work to a rich, unexpected comic realm... A humane, hilarious triumph." – Variety
Contemporary World Cinema
Albüm (Mehmet Can Mertoğlu)
To avoid opprobrium in a country that can still view infertility as some sort of moral defect, office worker Bahar (Şebnem Bozoklu) and her teacher husband Cüneyt (Murat Kiliç) go to outlandish lengths to hide the fact that they are adopting a child... With rare panache, Mehmet Can Mertoğlu's mordant debut skewers some of his society's more irrational attitudes. "[An] elegantly opaque social satire, which touches on bureaucratic ineptitude, class conflict and very questionable parenting..." – Variety
All of a Sudden (Aslı Özge)
Karsten (Sebastian Hülk) is in trouble. At the end of a party, there was one person left in his apartment. They talked, they kissed and then she stopped breathing. With her death, mysteries were born that might never be solved. Director Asli Özge has fashioned a riveting thriller; there's danger in every glance, every seemingly innocent comment. She shows a mastery of the form, with each shot perfectly composed and each sequence exquisitely edited for maximum suspense. The tension never lets up.
Aquarius (Kleber MENDONÇA Filho)
Four years after taking VIFF by storm with Neighbouring Sounds, Kleber Mendonça Filho returns with this socially conscious, stylistically assured character study. When a property developer lays its sights on her beachfront apartment, a widowed music journalist (Brazilian legend Sônia Braga) digs in her heels, leaving her the dilapidated buidling's only resident. That said, every furnishing and object is laden with vibrant memories. "A potent portrait of personal and political struggle..." – Sight & Sound
As I Open My Eyes (Leyla Bouzid)
Tunis teen Farah (Baya Medhaffer) is caught between her middle-class mother's conservative beliefs and her own desire to front a rock band in Leyla Bouzid's intelligent and moving exploration of generational divisions and simmering conflict. "Bouzid's impressive debut... [showcases] a stand-out lead performance by first-timer Baya Medhaffer... [The film] skillfully conjures the pressure-cooker atmosphere lying just below Tunisia's surface during the waning days of the dictatorship in 2010." – Variety
Barakah Meets Barakah (Mahmoud Sabbagh)
It seems that a meet-cute can happen anywhere, even on a Saudi Arabian pier between a civil servant (Hisham Fageeh) and a glamorous online star (Fatima Al Banawi). But what next for this unlikely could-be couple when the authorities won't even permit an unchaperoned date? A crowd-pleaser akin to VIFF 13's Wajda, Mahmoud Sabbagh's candid romantic comedy looks at love in a time when traditions collide headlong with modernity. "[This] easygoing charmer conceals some sharp political barbs..." – Hollywood Reporter
Beyond the Mountains and Hills (Eran Kolirin)
The Greenbaums–retired army vet David (Alon Pdut), his teacher wife Rina (Shiree Nadav-Naor), son Omri (Noam Imber) and politically active daughter Yifat (Mili Eshet)–seem a moderately happy bunch in Erin Kolirin's (The Band's Visit) smart, precisely composed drama. But when dad's feelings of powerlessness lead him to blindly fire his gun into the night, the family's unravelling begins... "An intriguing... drama that starts off lightly and moves into significantly darker territory..." – Hollywood Reporter
The Complexity of Happiness (Gianni Zanasi)
In this rueful comedy, life isn't so sweet for Enrico (Valerio Mastandrea), whose knack for persuading irresponsible CEOs to sell their companies meets its match in two earnest, orphaned heirs. Meanwhile at home, he has a suicidal tenant to contend with. As this good man strays out of his depth and into a classic case of 21st-century anomie, director Gianni Zanasi brings Sorrentino-esque flash and flamboyance to the proceedings, including a string of artfully choreographed, larger-than-life showstoppers.
The Confessions (Roberto ANDÒ)
The set-up is delicious: at a G8 meeting in Germany, the immaculately clad monk Robert Salus (Toni Servillo, great), invited by IMF chief Daniel Roché (Daniel Auteuil) to hear his confession, goes up against a scheme to further enslave the struggling economies of Europe. Just what did Roché confess before committing suicide...? "[In] Roberto Andò's offbeat thriller... there is much to chuckle over as the plodding, plotting politicos are outmaneuvered by the monk's sheer goodness." – Hollywood Reporter
The Death of Louis XIV (Albert Serra)
Catalan iconoclast Albert Serra (Story of My Death) pairs up with acting legend Jean-Pierre Léaud in this hypnotic study of the final weeks in the life of the Sun King. With observational precision and flights of dark humour, Serra crafts a singular vision of power fading away... "[The] film has a documentary-like authenticity, matching the unblinking instincts of a modern reality television series with the visual allure of the old masters... Serra has found his perfect Louis in Jean-Pierre Léaud." – Screen
Dolores (Michael RÖSEL)
In 1950s Germany, the chance meeting between precision-model builder Georg (Udo Schenk), possessor of mysterious powers, and movie star Dolores Moor (Franziska Petri) leads to a tale of obsession and murder... Alternately funny and chilling, and based on a graphic novel, Michael Rösel's gorgeously designed tongue-in-cheek cross between mad-scientist movies and melodramas of the 50s is smashing fun. Think Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In crossed with Vertigo, and add one dollop of Sirk, plus two of comedy...
Donald Cried (Kris Avedisian)
Fancying himself a Wall Street player, Peter (Jesse Wakeman) must confront his inglorious past when tragedy calls him back to his dirtbag hometown and a cruel twist of fate lands him at the door of his childhood buddy Donald (writer-director Kris Avedisian). Initially encouraging us to look down our noses at this mullet-bearing burnout, Avedisian's tragicomedy masterfully uses its 24-hour time frame to incrementally alter our perception of its should-be protagonist. "Nothing short of brilliant..." – MUBI
Dreamed Path (Angela Schanelec, Germany)
Angela Schanelec's work is deliberately constructed, image upon image, and allows the viewer to read a seemingly realistic, yet artificially created world as it is being experienced. Here she tells the intertwined stories of two couples who experience alternate bleak realities: young backpacking lovers Kenneth and Theres, who meet in Greece, and, 30 years later, husband and wife Ariane and David, living in Berlin. This being a Schanelec film, attention is required, but it is more than amply rewarded.
Endless Poetry (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
Cult legend Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo), now in his 80s, looks back on his youth and fashions this wildly inventive, criminally charming chronicle of the young poetry- and sex-mad Alejandro (the director's son, Adan) let loose among the bohemians of Santiago, Chile in the 1940s and 50s. "[Jodorowsky] has managed to reinvent himself in the most spectacular and unlikely way... [This] is the most accessible movie he has ever made, and it may also be the best. It's Felliniesque and moving." – Variety
The Giant (Johannes Nyholm)
Hilarious and moving by turns, Johannes Nyholm's unforgettable debut introduces us to Rikard (Johan Kylén), a 30-year-old autistic with a severe facial deformation. Separated from his mother at birth, he regularly escapes from reality into an imaginary world where he is a 50-metre-tall giant. Is it there that he conceives of winning, for real, the Scandinavian Pétanque Championship as a way of regaining his mother's love...? A simply extraordinary work–plus, you really do learn the rules of pétanque!
Glory (Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov)
When an honest railway worker finds a stash of money along the tracks, he turns in the cache to the authorities. PR spin doctor Julia (the amazing Margita Gosheva), in need of good publicity for her client, the corrupt Ministry of Transport, sets in motion a chain of events that will take a terrible toll... "[A] stiletto-sharp report on the state of modern Bulgaria... Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov have a rare ability to make gripping, politically charged drama that is entirely accessible." – Screen
Goldstone (Ivan Sen)
A slow-burn mix of film noir and the Western, Ivan Sen's sensational thriller takes Indigenous detective Jay Swann (a deliciously slovenly Aaron Pedersen), in search of a missing woman, to the frontier town of Goldstone, where corruption is rife... While Sen offers a smart critique of racism and misogyny, it's the cracking crime story that will keep you riveted. "A masterpiece of Outback noir that packs a political punch... It's a gorgeous film to watch, but a better and bigger one to think about..." – Guardian
A Good Wife (Mirjana KARANOVIĆ)
Mirjana Karanović brings us a drama about a woman's courage, a husband's secret, and a nation's past. She plays Milena, a middle-aged Serbian wife whose life is relatively happy until she discovers a VHS tape from her husband's war days. What she sees on that tape will change her life... "Karanović's fearless performance is one of an actress right on the top of her game... [it] holds you hard in its gaze." – Eye for Film
Graduation (Cristian Mungiu)
Winner of the 2007 Cannes Palme d'Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu returns with this tale about a doctor with a secret who'll do anything to ensure his 18-year-old daughter passes her final exam with a high enough score to guarantee a scholarship abroad. "A five-star study of grubby bureaucratic compromise... [This] is a masterly, complex movie of psychological subtlety and moral weight, about the shabby choices people make as they claw their way up... Deeply intelligent..." – Guardian
Green / is / Gold (Ryon Baxter)
A basement grow-op serves as the unlikely backdrop for a coming-of-age tale in this emotionally authentic rough gem. With his dad serving hard time, 13-year-old Mason (Jimmy Baxter) is sentenced to living with his estranged brother Cameron (writer-director-actual-older-sibling Ryon Baxter) on his pot plantation. As the siblings bond over the cultivation of killer bud, they also experience their first brushes with pride, adopting the credo, "If you're going to do wrong, make sure you do it right."
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Juho Kuosmanen)
As light on its feet as a featherweight champ, Juho Kuosmanen's debut is a stunner, a wry and funny yet deeply humane black-and-white biopic that looks at the heroic status–attained at a price–accorded boxer (and baker) Olli Mäki in 1962 when he was set to fight American champ Davey Moore on home soil. "Olli Mäki's warm, crinkled humanity, cockeyed humour and gorgeous, utterly immersive evocation of a less-distant-than-it-looks past exert a surprisingly universal arthouse pull... Remarkable..." – Variety
Hedi (Mohamed Ben Attia)
Produced by the Dardenne brothers and exhibiting their characteristic humane realism, Mohamed Ben Attia's debut captures the Tunisian zeitgeist with compelling sensitivity. Hedi (Majd Mastoura, excellent) is a salesman sleepwalking through a life dominated by his mother when he meets the free-spirited Rim (Rym Ben Messaoud) and begins a torrid affair... "Quiet but pungent and featuring vibrant performances, [Hedi] offers further evidence that the rebirth of Tunisian cinema is underway..." – Hollywood Reporter
Hermia & Helena (Matías PIÑEIRO)
Beautifully acted and wholly mesmerizing, Matías Piñeiro's (The Princess of France) latest riff on Shakespeare follows Camila (Agustina Muñoz) from Buenos Aires to NYC where she begins a residency program aimed at completing a translation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Comedy vies with feeling as Camila's life intertwines with the Bard's text... Pure cinematic pleasure! "The film's shift from cerebral game-playing into pure, beautifully understated emotion is both unexpected and hugely impressive..." – Slant
History's Future (Fiona Tan)
Taking the subject of amnesia and turning it upside down, Fiona Tan's drama is a meditation on memory, illusion and 21st-century Europe–not to mention a spellbinding mystery. A man known only as "Missing Person" wanders Europe, searching for his identity while the continent around him roils... Tan tears up the playbook and scatters the pieces; the result is dazzling, mind-bending cinema. "An explosion of ideas and imagery... [It] essentially attempts to rewrite the rules of cinema." – Screen
The Human Surge (Eduardo Williams)
From Argentina to the Philippines via Mozambique, Eduardo Williams' remarkably accomplished debut follows groups of disaffected teens in each of these three countries, showing how, in our most technologically wired of worlds, the kids' similarities far outweigh their cultural differences. A fresh, visually daring drama that speaks volumes about globalization and its discontents. "The most ambitious debut film of the year... careens through three different countries with ceaseless innovation..." – IndieWire
Inversion (Behnam Behzadi)
A tribute to women's courage, Behnam Behzadi's film is set in a Tehran choking on smog. When her sick mother is ordered to leave for a cleaner environment, single businesswoman Niloofar (Sahar Dowlatshahi) is told by her family to drop everything. Her resistance makes for the stuff of riveting feminist drama. "Quietly dramatic... Dowlatshahi is a beautiful and dynamic actress with an open, laughing face and darkly expressive doe eyes that have a way of dominating every shot they're in." – Variety
Junction 48 (Udi Aloni)
Activist Israeli director Udi Aloni sets his latest piece of agitprop to the compelling strains of hip-hop. With his back against the wall due to Israeli oppression and spiralling violence, up-and-coming Tel Aviv rapper Kareem (Tamer Nafar) finds empowerment through his music. The script by Nafar and Oscar-nominee Oren Moverman (The Messenger), proves every bit as complex as Kareem's rhymes, drawing from the political and personal to paint an evocative picture of contemporary Palestinian existence.
Kékszakállú (GASTÓN Solnicki)
Gastón Solnicki's (süden, VIFF 08; Papirosen, VIFF 11) entrancing first fiction feature, indirectly inspired by Béla Bartók's opera Bluebeard's Castle, uses his documentarian's eye to chronicle the lives of several young women existing in a world bordered by privilege on one side and economic and spiritual recession on the other. Roving from Buenos Aires to Punta del Este, Solnicki has fashioned a charming and melancholic–and truly captivating–tale of youthful inertia tinged with a sense of hope.
Lantouri (Reza Dormishian)
Not for the fainthearted, Reza Dormishian's tour-de-force takes the "eye for an eye" justice permitted by Islamic law to its logical extreme. A Lantouri gang member (Navid Mohammadzadeh), obsessed with a crusading journalist (Maryam Palizban), deals with her rejection by throwing acid in her face... Covering many issues plaguing Tehran today, the film unspools "with near-cyclonic force... [This is an] ambitious examination of the churning frustrations of Iran's disenfranchised younger generation..." – Variety
The Last Family (Jan P. MATUSZYŃSKI)
For decades, Polish surrealist Zdzislaw Beksinski obsessively recorded–in photographs, on video and on audiotape–every aspect of his life in the modest apartment he shared with his wife, mother and mother-in-law. Inspired by this archive, Jan P. Matuszyński has constructed a portrait of the artist as a mild, unassuming husband and son, and a loving father to a troubled, volatile son of his own. The banal sits cheek by jowl with madness, death and desire in this trenchant, superbly executed debut.
Like Crazy (Paolo Virzì)
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Micaela Ramazzotti are both superb as (bi-)polar opposites who bond when they escape from a Tuscan mental institution in Paolo Virzì's (Human Capital) smart and funny character study. Virzi's characteristic concern with socio-political issues adds another level to a vastly entertaining film. "A terrific comedy-drama about two women in a mental institution that avoids the pitfalls such a scenario could encounter and boasts delicious dialogue with a rare sense of balance." – Variety
The Complexity of Happiness (Gianni Zanasi)
In this rueful comedy, life isn't so sweet for Enrico (Valerio Mastandrea), whose knack for persuading irresponsible CEOs to sell their companies meets its match in two earnest, orphaned heirs. Meanwhile at home, he has a suicidal tenant to contend with. As this good man strays out of his depth and into a classic case of 21st-century anomie, director Gianni Zanasi brings Sorrentino-esque flash and flamboyance to the proceedings, including a string of artfully choreographed, larger-than-life showstoppers.
Lily Lane (Benedek Fliegauf)
A mother (Angéla Stefanovics) haunted by past trauma and the seven-year-old son (Bálint Sótony) she both captivates and frightens with tales that may or may not be true are the twin poles around which Benedek Fliegauf (Womb) weaves this eerie and indelible work. Be prepared to have your dreams disturbed... "An evocative mood piece [that falls] somewhere between Terence Malick and Andrei Tarkovsky... [An] aesthetically intoxicating study of childhood, memory and creepy bedtime tales..." – Hollywood Reporter
Lost in Munich (Petr Zelenka)
A 90-year-old French parrot in Prague causes an international incident by reciting racist words spoken by Édouard Daladier, the French prime minister who signed the 1938 Munich Agreement granting Hitler much of Czechoslovakia... But wait! The parrot episode is part of a film within a documentary charting the dysfunctional feature's collapse (think Truffaut's Day for Night)... "Petr Zelenka's mischievous mix of farce and tragedy [is wrapped] in levity, irony and warmhearted charm..." – Hollywood Reporter
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm)
Patrolling his neighbourhood for signs of disorder, sticking his nose into everyone's business, observing no social niceties when dealing with "idiots"–Ove (Rolf Lassgard) is one cantankerous old git! The arrival of a young family next door, however, sets in motion a charming tale that uses flashbacks and wonderful acting to tell Ove's story... "A touching comic crowd-pleaser... Hannes Holm's irresistible adaptation of Fredrik Backman's eponymous bestselling novel... [is] a heartwarming tale..." – Variety
Mother (Kadri KÕUSAAR)
If you're looking for dark thrills or biting comedy, Kadri Kõusaar's small-town Estonian crime thriller will prove quite the discovery! Schoolteacher Lauri (Siim Maaten) withdraws a large sum of money right before a gun accident leaves him comatose. Who did the deed and where's the cash? That's what everyone wants to know. Funny, suspenseful and chock full of eccentric characters, this is a droll delight. "A pleasure to watch... [the film] will keep you guessing until the very end." – Variety
Nakom (Kelly Daniela Norris)
They say home is where the heart is. Well, that maxim is put to the test in this sensitive, intelligent movie. The country is Ghana; our hero is a medical student who returns to his hometown following his father's death. There he faces a family farm in disarray, his dad's two feuding widows and many more problems, including the question of his future... "An unassuming but winning ambition-versus-roots tale... [The film] readily captures the specificity of its setting and of local mores." – Hollywood Reporter
Neruda (Pablo Larraín)
Another robust and inventive drama from Pablo Larraín (No, VIFF 12; The Club, VIFF 15), Neruda, set in 1948 Chile, features Gael García Bernal (terrific) as a somewhat inept yet self-aggrandizing police detective who makes it his mission to hunt down Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) after the poet is forced into hiding for his beliefs... "[This represents] the director at his stunning best with a work of such cleverness and beauty, alongside such power, that it's hard to know how to parcel out praise..." – Variety
Original Bliss (Sven Taddicken)
The Lives of Others (2006) co-stars Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur re-team for Sven Taddicken's (My Brother the Vampire) wholly original drama about a seemingly complacent housewife (Gedeck, mesmerizing) whose underlying masochism leads her to embark on a relationship with her shrink (Tukur)... "An elegantly disquieting investigation into the interrelation of faith, violence and sexual degradation, held together by a rivetingly sure-footed performance by German star Martina Gedeck..." – Variety
The Ornithologist (JOÃO Pedro Rodrigues)
João Pedro Rodrigues returns with a beautiful, provocative and highly personal modern reading of the life of St. Anthony of Padua. When we first see Fernando (Paul Hamy), he is idyllically pursuing his love of birdwatching. Soon, however, a canoeing mishap and a decidedly strange encounter with two (female) Chinese pilgrims mark the turn into queered up allegorical territory. Prepare to be dazzled and intrigued. "Puts the ‘vision' in visionary... Remarkable [and] gorgeously realized..." – Hollywood Reporter
Panamerican Machinery (Joaquín del Paso)
The aging, affable employees of Mexico City's Panamerican Machinery are preparing for the weekend when bad news abruptly arrives in threes: their beloved boss has dropped dead, the company's finances have imploded and their pensions have disappeared. Suddenly masters of their own destinies, they circle the wagons (and lock the gates for good measure) and look to stave off the factory's closure. Joaquín del Paso reveals the absurdity that ensues when the influences of Buñuel and Chaplin intersect!
Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)
Adam Driver is Paterson, a bus driver and aspiring poet in Paterson, New Jersey, and Iranian star Golshifteh Farahani is his wife, Laura, in Jim Jarmusch's delightful ode to love, life, inspiration, and William Carlos Williams. "A lovely... fable about the fragile, fruitful and just occasionally fraught relationship between creativity and everyday life... There's so very much to enjoy here: Jarmusch's wry script and beautifully becalmed direction, Fred Elmes' quietly glowing photography, and utterly winning performances." – Time Out
Pihu (Vinod Kapri)
It takes confidence to make a film with only one character, but to make that character a two-year-old girl goes beyond the audacious into the realm of... well, let's call it "cinema." Director Vinod Kapri's suspenseful charmer begins with toddler Pihu (Pihu Myra Vishwakarma, a delight) failing to wake up her unconscious mother. What follows is a model of unpretentious inventiveness (see the shot from inside a revolving microwave!) as Pihu runs through a checklist of all the possible dangers in a home...
A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies)
The life of the great American poet Emily Dickinson (played here by a superb Cynthia Nixon) is brought luminously to life by, appropriately enough, a master poet of the cinema, Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea). Davies imbues Dickinson's cloistered life with a beauty that shows her for the quiet rebel she was. "Nixon does a brilliant job... Above all, though, it is Davies' ability to invest even the most apparently humdrum moments with some form of intense radiance that sustains his film." – Guardian
Quit Staring at My Plate (Hana JUŠIĆ)
Written and directed by first-timer Hana Jušić, this honest and intelligent realist drama is a rare thing: a film from Croatia made by a young woman that focuses on a young woman and her problems. Marijana (newcomer Mia Petričević) lives in cramped quarters with her family in a provincial seaside town. When her autocratic father suffers a stroke, it falls to her–she's a lab tech–to provide for all. The burden proves too much for the 24-year-old, and soon she is engaging in some seriously risky behaviour...
Radio Dreams (Babak Jalali)
Iranian-born Babak Jalali's witty and whip-smart take on immigration, assimilation and the frayed edges of the American Dream focuses on a day at a struggling Persian radio station in San Francisco. Starring folk musician Mohsen Namjoo (considered Iran's Bob Dylan) as the station's besieged manager, the film is "a culture-clash charmer [that contrasts] wavelengths of humour and seriousness... Warm-hearted but tough-edged... Radio Dreams is also wonderfully cast from top to bottom." – Hollywood Reporter
The Red Turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit)
A marvellous, dialogue-free slice of animated poetry, this collaboration between Dutch Oscar-winner (for the animated short Father and Daughter) Michael Dudok de Wit and Japan's Studio Ghibli gives us a Robinson Crusoe-like man, stranded on a desert isle, whose adventures delve deep into the allegorical and fantastic... "A fable so simple, so pure, it feels as if it has existed for hundreds of years, like a brilliant shard of sea glass rendered smooth and elegant through generations of retelling." – Variety
The Rehearsal (Alison Mclean)
Canadian-born, New Zealand-raised Alison Maclean (remember Crush from VIFF 93?) makes a fine comeback with this deeply felt and superbly directed drama about a group of acting students coming to grips with their personal and professional lives under the tutelage of a great teacher (Kerry Fox, perfect). Unfolding over one school year, the film is honest, profound and beautifully acted. "Narratively teasing, structurally taut and emotionally textured... A drama that's as piercing as it is potent." – Screen
The River of Fables (Bhaskar Hazarika)
A teenage girl's arranged marriage to a python is only the beginning of the spellbinding eeriness on offer in Bhaska Hazarika's haunting directorial debut. Inspired by Assamese folklore, the four uncanny parables about witchcraft and wickedness are rendered all the more otherworldly by the fact that they're set in a modern milieu and staged in a style that borders on social realism. "Suspenseful, mysterious storytelling always one happy step into the realm of magic..." – Hollywood Reporter
The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi)
After scoring an Oscar for A Separation and making The Past in Paris, Asghar Farhadi returns to Tehran for this quietly gripping tale about Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), a couple whose relationship comes unglued after Rana is assaulted. Emad is determined to find the culprit, but when he does, what will he do? And at what cost? "Another finely cut gem of neorealist suspense... Every shot is in place, every line leading to an outcome that feels quietly up for grabs..." – Variety
Scarred Hearts (Radu Jude)
Set in 1937, Radu Jude's (Aferim!) gorgeously shot and deeply felt adaptation of Romanian author Max Blecher's autobiographical novel focuses on the young Emanuel (newcomer Lucian Tedor Rus, superb), a man suffering from spinal tuberculosis who absolutely refuses to let his debilitating illness destroy his lust for life... "Another compelling step forward from [Jude]... Alternately funny, raunchy and sad... [The film is] littered with colourful exchanges, passionate romances and emotional asides." – IndieWire
Shepherds and Butchers (Oliver Schmitz)
In 1987, 164 people, most of them black, were legally put to death in South Africa. Oliver Schmitz's (the groundbreaking Mapantsula) tense courtroom drama, set in '87, stars Steve Coogan as a crusading lawyer whose anti-capital punishment position leads him to take on the seemingly open-and-shut case of a young man, traumatized by his job as a government-sanctioned executioner, facing the death penalty for gunning down seven unarmed men. "A rare, disorienting perspective on capital punishment..." – Variety
Short Stay (Ted Fendt)
Ted Fendt's impeccably crafted comic gem marks 2016's great deadpan discovery from the American indie scene. "Affectless" barely begins to describe Mike (Mike Maccherone), who stays the stone-faced course as he drifts between meaningless jobs. Fendt has created something quite remarkable here: an anti-hero's non-journey in which inertia couldn't feel more alive. "This is slacker cinema for people who can't even be bothered to light a joint–in its own strange way, a marvelous thing." – Village Voice
Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu)
No stone–whether familial, political, social or historical–goes unturned in Cristi Puiu's (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) mordantly funny, masterly choreographed chronicle of one extended family's meal in honour of a recently deceased relative. Puiu's control and his cast's performances are breathtaking. "A claustrophobic, quietly absurd, blackly comic family portrait, Sieranevada [is] a deeply involving, curiously mysterious experience... The sense of having shared real lives... is incontestable." – Time Out
Sin Alas (Ben Chace)
The first American film shot in Cuba since the revolution, Ben Chace's love story seems simple at first but accrues considerable depth and emotion. Elderly Luis (Carlos Padrón) reads the obituary of a famous dancer–his lover from long ago. His memories and dreams are tinged with a half-recalled melody, a tune that he tries to track down with the help of an amigo. As the song leads Luis on a melancholy journey through a painful but passionate past, Chace immerses us in the rhythms and textures of Havana.
Sins of the Flesh (Khaled El Hagar)
From Khaled El Hagar, one of Egypt's most controversial filmmakers, comes a drama of betrayal, passion and political upheaval. As millions of Egyptians gather to demand the overthrow of President Mubarak, an intimate struggle for freedom plays out on a farm where Fatma (Nahed El Sebai), confined to a marriage of convenience, begins a transgressive affair. This is a scathing critique of the establishment, with an unflinching climax that questions where the revolution is headed and what it's accomplished.
The Student (Kirill Serebrennikov)
A battle of wills between a fanatically Orthodox teen, Venya (Pyotr Skvortsov), and his atheistic biology teacher, Elena (Victoria Isakova), threatens to careen over into violence in Kirill Serebrennikov's savage satire on the state of Russia today. As Venya's extremism lurches into anti-Semitism and homophobia, Serebrennikov takes dead aim at Russia's regression. "Splendid... A stormy, swoon-inducingly shot bout of Russian moral wrestling that hits as hard and as heavily as a nastoyka hangover..." – Variety
Suntan (Argyris Papadimitropoulos)
It's summer in Greece and the beaches are awash with tanned young hedonists. This proves the undoing of Kostis (Makis Papdimitriou), a doughy, middle-aged doctor who becomes infatuated with Ana (Elli Tringou) after dressing her flesh wounds. Adopted as her hard-partying gang's sad-sack mascot, he's summarily banished for failing to curb his rampant desire. Of course, ostracization only fuels his obsession, allowing Argyris Papadimitropoulos to deliver "an absorbing, discomfiting drama..." – Sight & Sound
Sweet Dreams (Marco Bellocchio)
Continuing his career-long exploration of mother issues, Italian master Marco Bellochio profiles a journalist (Valerio Mastandrea) who's never come to grips with the passing of his mother (played in flashbacks by Barbara Ronchi). The temporally unmoored narrative sets us adrift through a life prematurely deprived of its most influential figure. "Embracing the melodrama of his source, Bellocchio's sprawling, virtuosic drama [boasts] a subjectivity simultaneously sentimental and subtly satiric." – MUBI
Tanna (Martin Butler, Bentley Dean)
Set on the South Pacific island that lends the film its name, this is a rousing story rooted in a world of tribes, chiefs and shamans. The story was inspired by true events and developed by directors Martin Butler and Bentley Dean in collaboration with the local villagers whose way of life the movie so lovingly depicts. If you're looking for adventure and beauty, this is a movie that will transport you. "[A] soulful folktale... told with captivating simplicity and yet richly cinematic." – Hollywood Reporter
The Teacher (Jan Hřebejk)
Director Jan Hřebejk and writer Petr Jarchovský (Divided We Fall) are in top form with this compelling dramedy set in 1983 Bratislava. Mrs. Drazdechova (Zuzana Mauréry, best actress at Karlovy Vary), teacher and the head of the local Communist Party, uses her position and her pupils to squeeze their parents for material benefit–and if you don't play the game, Junior's marks plummet. But a revolt is brewing... Based on an incident from Jarchovský's youth, this is deadly serious and darkly humorous by turns.
To Keep the Light (Erica Fae)
After assuming her ailing husband's responsibilities as a lighthouse keeper, Abbie (writer-director Erica Fae) is horrified to discover a Swedish seaman (Antti Reini) washed up outside her keep. Did she cause a shipwreck? The local authorities are certainly eager to assert this. Set in the 19th century, Fae's film displays a gift for both masterful composition and mesmerizing drama as she imparts this involving story of an embattled woman relegated to the fringes of society but determined to be respected.
The Trap (Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair)
Adapted from Chekhov's Vanka, this is a realist heartbreaker: the story of an orphan boy (the adorable Ashanth K. Sha) living in rural poverty with his grandfather (Kumarakom Vasudevan). When the old man gets too sick to be a caregiver, he decides to send his young charge off to the city to be educated... Taking us to the centre of a cruel world, director Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair shows a sure hand in both conveying the small-scale beauties of nature and creating compelling drama of the highest order.
Twilight Over Burma (Sabine Derflinger)
See the movie that censors in Myanmar pulled from a human rights festival for being too subversive! It's the story of Inge (Maria Ehrich), a beautiful Austrian student who unwittingly marries into Burmese royalty. No sooner has she acclimatized to her exotic new life than a military coup lands her husband in prison. As she strives to orchestrate his release, glamour and romance meet politics and intrigue in a compelling crowd-pleaser graced the wonderful performances of Ehrich and Daweerit Chullasapy.
The Unknown Girl (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)
Adèle Haenel (Love at First Fight, VIFF 14) confirms her place in the firmament of French movie stars with a riveting turn in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's latest drama. She plays a young doctor forced to confront her own fallibility when a woman she turns away from her clinic is found dead on a nearby riverbank the next morning... "What is new here is a flirtation with genre that lends an extra dose of resonance to a finely scripted story. For The Unknown Girl is a detective tale..." – Screen
The Yard (MÅNS MÅNSSON)
After ruining his career by publicly slamming his own new book, a morose middle-aged poet (Anders Mossling) takes a job in a shipping yard in the port of Malmö. Working alongside immigrants, our unnamed sad-sack manages okay–until he is fired. What must he do to regain his job? Lose what's left of his dignity... "This tragicomic drama casts a Kafkaesque eye on the horrors of the modern industrial workplace... [There's] plenty of visual poetry and dry humour in this fatalistic fable..."–Hollywood Reporter
Spotlight on France
After Love (Joachim Lafosse)
Joaquim Lafosse (Our Children) turns his gimlet eye on the final stages of a marital breakdown in this terrifically scripted and acted drama. Bérénice Bejo and noted director Cédric Kahn play the wounded couple, she wanting to move on with her life and he refusing to leave the house that he renovated (with her money...). "It's like Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage condensed into a shorter timeframe... although its depiction of a crumbling relationship can be just as complex..." – Hollywood Reporter
Being 17 (ANDRÉ TÉCHINÉ)
Set in the French Pyrenees, André Téchiné's (Wild Reeds) latest charts the coming of age and sexual awakening of two lads, one the son of farmers, the other a brainy kid from town. Initially enemies, Tom (Corentin Fila) and Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) grow to share a profound connection that is both moving and unsentimental. "This quiet stunner represents a return to peak form for Téchiné... It's an intimate epic that builds in wholly unexpected ways to a final act of searing poignancy." – Hollywood Reporter
Chocolat (Roschdy Zem)
Omar Sy (The Intouchables) is brilliant as the former slave who found fame as a comedic circus performer known only as "Chocolat" in Belle Époque Paris. Together with partner George Footit (here played with an astounding physicality by James Thiérrée, Chaplin's grandson, who also choreographed the routines), Chocolat had it all–until personal demons and racism brought about his fall. "Roschdy Zem's bittersweet historical drama is a marvellous showcase for... [Sy's] talents and effortless charisma." – Screen
Frantz (FRANÇOIS Ozon)
Hot young star Pierre Niney, known to North American audiences for his lead role in Yves Saint-Laurent, teams up with writer-director François Ozon (Young & Beautiful, Under the Sand) for this gorgeous post-World War I period piece. Niney plays Adrien, a mysterious Frenchman whose visit to the graveside of his friend Frantz, a German soldier killed in the war, causes passions to run high in the small German town where Frantz is buried. Among those most affected is Frantz's fiancée, Anna (Paula Beer)...
French Tour (Rachid Djaïdan)
The time-honoured "mismatched buddies hit the road" movie receives an inspired remix in Rachid Djaïdani's dramedy, which lands an on-the-lam French-Arab rapper (the mono-monikered Sadek) in the passenger seat of a curmudgeonly racist (Gérard Depardieu) who's intent on retracing the steps of an 18th-century painter. As they contend with generational, religious and racial differences, their road trip makes heartfelt, comical and insightful stops en route to a fateful night of reckoning in Marseille.
Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)
After Clouds of Sils Maria (VIFF 14), director Olivier Assayas and star Kristen Stewart re-team for this gripping suspense tale about a young woman (Stewart) who makes ends meet by assisting a super model/fashion designer–until, that is, her psychic forays seem to put her in touch with her long-dead twin... "[This is a] captivating, bizarre, tense, fervently preposterous and almost unclassifiable scary movie... Assayas' best film for a long time, and Stewart's best performance to date...Five stars!" – Guardian
Saint Amour (Benoît DELÉPINE)
In Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern's (Mammuth) latest, Jean (Gérard Depardieu) and Bruno (Benoît Poelvoorde) are estranged father-and-son farmers attending Paris' Agricultural Fair. Attempting reconciliation, Jean hires a taxi to take them on a wine-region tour, with unpredictable, wine-fuelled results... "Its joyously tacky humour and... eccentric lovability are a tonic and a trip. It shares narrative DNA with about half of the back catalogue of Alexander Payne... but [it's] twice as funny." – IndieWire
The Son of Joseph (EUGÈNE Green)
A bare-bones synopsis–disgruntled teenager goes in search of his unknown father–cannot begin to reveal the quirky visual and thematic charms scattered throughout iconoclast Eugène Green's bejewelled, biblically-inflected modern-day allegory. Starring Victor Ezenfis, Mathieu Amalric, Natacha Régnier and Fabrizzio Rongione. "Offbeat French formalist Green delivers his most accessible work to date with this delightful comedy of misplaced paternity... [A] honey-drizzled, farcically funny fable..." – Variety
Staying Vertical (Alain Guiraudie)
Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake) again rejects a heteronormative worldview in this provocative and offbeat almost-fairy tale about a sexually fluid would-be screenwriter, Léo (Damien Bonnard), who, after fathering a child with a shepherdess, finds himself raising the baby alone in a region of the French countryside populated by foul-mouthed farmers and dangerous wolves... "Effective and thought-provoking. Adventurous viewers will... be charmed by this delightfully queer oddity." – Hollywood Reporter
Thanks, Boss! (FRANÇOIS Ruffin)
A surprise hit this year in France, journalist-turned-filmmaker François Ruffin's funny and acute documentary takes a page from the Michael Moore playbook as it tries to hunt down France's richest man–LVMH head Bernard Arnault–and hold him to account for the closure of a French factory. Posing as the son of broke former LVMH workers Serge and Jocelyn Klur, Ruffin skewers the labour practices of Arnault, seeks compensation for the Klurs and shows just how far Arnault will go to protect his image...
Things to Come (Mia Hansen-LØVE)
The great Isabelle Huppert gives a profoundly moving performance as a philosophy teacher who finds her life unmoored by a wholly unexpected divorce in Mia Hansen-Løve's terrific exploration of one woman's complex emotional and intellectual response to late-middle-aged trauma. "Hansen-Løve and Isabelle Huppert prove a dream partnership in the director's gorgeous, heart-cradling post-divorce drama... This is major, many-shaded work even by [Huppert's] lofty standards." – Variety
Between Fences (Avi Mograbi)
Veteran Israeli documentarian Avi Mograbi (Z32) frequently tweaks the nose of the establishment with his irreverent and iconoclastic style. His latest looks quite tenderly at the plight of African refugees, confined to an Israeli desert detention centre, who–despite being without foreseeable hope for change–find solace and even joy in theatre workshops describing their situation. These dramatic exercises provide a brilliant way to get to the heart of complex humanities facing inhumanities.
Depth Two (Ognjen GLAVONIĆ)
The mass killings of Kosovar Albanians by Serbian forces during the Kosovo War are evoked with chilling immediacy in Ognjen Glavonić's powerful and important documentary. Detailed testimony from those who were intimately involved–some of which was taken from war crimes' trials in The Hague–plays beneath stunningly composed shots of the scarred landscape to immersive and profoundly disturbing effect. "Doesn't just discuss the ghosts of the past–it looks them starkly, squarely in the eye..." – CineVue
Ghostland (Simon Stadler)
With their traditional hunting methods wrested from them by the Namibian government, the Ju/'Hoansi people strike up an uneasy alliance with contemporary culture, performing for tourists' amusement and prowling a supermarket's aisles. As several Ju/'Hoansi make a foray into Europe and contend with intimidating architecture and alienating social mores, Simon Stadler's comical and reflective documentary captures the sparks that fly courtesy of a culture clash that recalls The Gods Must Be Crazy.
Growing Up Coy (Eric Juhola)
In small-town Colorado, an elementary school bathroom is the flashpoint for a heated legal battle. After their transgender daughter is banned from using the bathroom that matches her gender, her parents take their case to the court of public opinion only to incur a fierce backlash and be branded child abusers. Eric Juhola's inspiring documentary profiles this undaunted family as they campaign tirelessly for their child's rights. "Its emotional heft makes it more than an advocacy film..." – Guardian
The Infinite Flight of Days (Catalina Mesa)
A renowned hub for religious tourism, Jericó, Colombia, brims with colourful characters. Inhabiting striking homes that share a birthday cake's palette, the village's residents are inordinately happy with their humble lives. Catalina Mesa's elegant documentary paints this community through the distinct stories of its eldest women. "Eloquently capturing the vibrant history of the village, [the] film offers a poetic and intimate examination of love, loss, heartbreak, poverty and faith." – Cinema Axis
Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene)
Drifting from fact to fiction like an anxious sleeper might slip into a lucid dream, Robert Greene's study of the craft of acting and the toll it exacts on identity is one of the year's most enthralling films. Recruited to play Christine Chubbuck, a troubled Florida newscaster who killed herself on-air in 1974, actress Kate Lyn Sheil throws herself into her research and preparation with no regard for her own psychological well-being. "A tour de force in the blending and bending of genres..." – New Yorker
Kedi (Ceyda Torun)
Why waste hours on YouTube cat videos when you can immerse yourself in this absorbing cat's-eye view of the colours, textures and pace of modern Istanbul instead? Ceyda Torun's delightful film uses specially crafted camera rigs to let us ride along with these nimble, adventurous felines. Given the hallowed status they enjoy in Turkish culture, they're practically granted an all-access pass to every vista and alcove in this ancient Eurasian capital, making this a viewing experience unlike any other.
Keep Quiet (Sam Blair, Joseph Martin)
With nationalism on the rise, this is a film for the times: "Charismatic" anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic Csanád Szegedi rose to the position of vice president of Jobbik, Hungary's far-right political party. And then he discovered that he was Jewish, prompting a bold conversion to Orthodox Judaism. Letting Szegedi speak for himself, directors Sam Blair and Joseph Martin have crafted a captivating and confrontational film exploring raising deep questions his supposed epiphany, and "strong-man" political expediency.
The Killing$ of Tony Blair (Sanne van den Bergh, Greg Ward, Daniel Turi)
How did the former British PM come to be persona non grata in his own land? Here's the case for the prosecution: a scabrous, funny, infuriating Michael Moore-style takedown presented by controversial left-wing politician George Galloway. Sanne van den Bergh and Greg Ward deliver this eye-opening portrait of ego, idealism, charm, charisma, craven opportunism, class inferiority, hypocrisy, cynicism and insatiable avarice. Stephen Fry and Blair's sister-in-law Lauren Booth help Galloway state his case.
Magnus (Benjamin Ree)
The title refers to chess phenom Magnus Carlsen, who became world chess champion in 2013 at the tender age of 22 (unsurprisingly, he has been called the Mozart of chess). Benjamin Ree's chronicle of this young man's family life and his rise to the top of a notoriously difficult discipline is engrossing and entertaining, no doubt due to both Ree's deft editing skills and the sheer tenacity of his subject. "Ree's rousing documentary... taut and paced with drama... is a sure-fire festival sensation." — Screen
Portrait of a Garden (Rosie Stapel)
Horticulture fans, be warned: This doc may leave you crepe-myrtle-red with envy. Fortunately, it also inspires and informs. Over the course of a year, we watch the grounds of a centuries-old Dutch estate shift from dormant to kaleidoscopic and back again. All of this occurs under the guiding hand of a master pruner who assures us, "To do this successfully requires a degree of obsessiveness." However, enjoyment of Rosie Stapel's film relies only on an appreciation of nature's wondrous transformations.
Prison Dogs (Perri Peltz, Geeta Gandbhir)
A beacon of light in the dark nightmare that is the American prison system, "Puppies Behind Bars" is a remarkable program that sees hardened New York convicts raise and train service dogs for up to three years. Living with the puppies 24/7, the inmates teach the dogs 95 commands, after which the dogs go on to help war veterans with PTSD. Co-directors Perri Peltz and Geeta Gandbhir emphasize hope and the possibilities for prisoner reform the program brings, and the result is both powerful and moving.
Seasons (Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud)
A poetic and magnificently shot chronicle of Europe over the past 15,000 years as seen through the eyes of the animals that have lived there, Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud's (Winged Migration) latest uses the framing device of the four seasons to explore the habitats and denizens of a vast and varied land. To call this a "documentary" is to sell it short: it plays more like a natural symphony in which the forests, plains, mountains and inhabitants come together in a stunning vision of time and space.
Shadow World (Johan Grimonprez)
Director Johan Grimonprez takes on the bigshots in this scathing exposé of the arms trade. The core of this doc is the collusion between corporations and the war-making powers; never has this ground been covered so lucidly–or angrily–as here. This is a vital political document, and an exquisitely made film to boot. "Hard-hitting... Grimonprez doesn't want audiences to get out their handkerchiefs; he wants them to get out their protest signs, their megaphones and their voting ballots." – Variety
Snow Monkey (George Gittoes)
George Gittoes has turned his camera on hot spots from wartime Iraq to a Florida ghetto. Now he's found his ultimate hellhole: the streets of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The director films young street vendors as they struggle to survive, becoming their benevolent business partner in the process. Viewers should be prepared for instances of violence. Gittoes doesn't pull his punches, but there's a hard-bitten nobility in his approach to life on the meanest streets. "An unusual and fascinating film." – Screen
Strangers on the Earth (Tristan Cook)
In the footsteps of Walking the Camino, Tristan Cook's lively portrait of modern pilgrims and fellow travellers winding their way on the legendary Camino de Santiago muses on the psychological and spiritual dividends of a 30-day hike. The landscape is beautiful but brutal, the dorms are packed and the bunks are hard. Some find solace in solitude; others discover kinship and community en route. In the case of Dane Johansen, he embarks on the nearly 600-mile journey carrying his cello on his back...
Tempestad (Tatiana Huezo)
Demonstrating equal measures of artistry and outrage, Tatiana Huezo's haunting film is both powerful cinema and damning indictment. Weaving together the stories of two women who've suffered extreme trauma and persecution at the hands of Mexico's legal system, Tempestad paints an unflinching portrait of modern-day Mexico and its citizens, who are often the prey of a vicious ecosystem in which justice has eroded and corruption reigns supreme. "[A] smouldering, incendiary documentary..." – IndieWire
Tickling Giants (Sara Taksler)
Known as the Jon Stewart of Egypt, Bassem Youssef went from heart surgeon to TV satirist during the uprisings of the Arab Spring. He's a man who boldly speaks truth to power and Sara Taksler's documentary portrait of him is rousing stuff. Youssef and his compatriots express themselves at incredible risk; their courage is heroic and paying tribute to them is reason enough to see this movie. Come for the politics, stay for the laughs. "Exuberant and tragic... An essential document..." – Screen
Tower (Keith Maitland)
It's a day that lives on in American lore: August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman took the lives of 16 people at Texas University. In this bracing documentary, director Keith Maitland brings us right into the middle of that event, with re-enactments and witness interviews rendered through evocative rotoscoped animation. Courage, desperation and defiance all come through vividly as Maitland delivers nail-biting tension and powerful human testimony. "A gripping dramatic reconstruction..." – Variety
When Two Worlds Collide (Heidi Brandenburg Sierralta, Mathew Orzel)
The irreconcilability of indigenous land rights and free-trade agreements has seldom been more dramatically illustrated than in Heidi Brandenburg Sierralta and Mathew Orzel's riveting documentary about the collapse of Peru's Amazon rainforest due to exploitation of natural resources. The sight of a pristine patch of jungle cloaked in oil is but one of the indelible images on offer as on-the-ground footage immerses us in a community's struggle for survival against a multinational's machinations.
Another Evil (Carson Mell)
Who says that alcohol and exorcism don't mix? Certainly not Os (Mark Proksch), the booze-swilling gonzo ghostbuster who's hired to rid Dan's (Steve Zissis) home of a sinister presence but seems preoccupied with his personal demons. Just as Proksch elevates Os' account of a "pretty gnarly" memory into a Jaws-calibre monologue, Carson Mell's horror-comedy evolves into a chilling cautionary tale about dismissing a delusional man at our own peril. " "Beautifully written, funny and awkward..." — Sight & Sound
The Eyes of My Mother (Robert Kenner)
Anyone wondering how witnessing your mother's slaughter might distort an impressionable girl's psyche need look (or peek through trembling fingers) no further than Nicolas Pesce's immaculately shot, intricately calibrated descent into madness. Alluring newcomer Kika Magalhaes is the serene sadist who claims her pound of flesh over the course of decades. "Part German Expressionism, part American Gothic, this austere [film] is fuelled as much by ideas as it is by the power to shock." — Little White Lies
In a Valley of Violence (Ti West)
With his faithful dog at his side (and stealing scenes), an unassuming drifter (Ethan Hawke) wanders into a desolate outpost and immediately lands on the wrong side of a lawman (John Travolta) and his petulant son (James Ransone). Revered for The House of the Devil, a subtle modern horror classic, Ti West indulges his every whim in this over-the-top Western that comes loaded for bear, armed with cartoonish villains and inventively staged shootouts. "A classic revenge tale with a smirk..." — IndieWire
Lavender (Ed Gass-Donnelly)
In the wake of a car crash, repressed horrors from Jane's (Abbie Cornish) past start creeping into her present. Conjuring potent atmospherics that call to mind The Others, Ed Gass-Donnelly displays a masterful touch with set-pieces, be it an anxiety-inducing foray into a hay maze or the macabre staging of an accidental massacre. "[Lavender] reconfirms the efficacy of its genre's most hallowed conventions... [with] its baroque aesthetic gestures and a captivating turn from [Cornish]." — Variety
Little Sister (Zach Clark)
At the precipice of becoming a full-fledged a nun, a former goth (Addison Timlin) is lured back to her dysfunctional family home to visit her brother (Keith Poulson), who's been left disfigured by the War on Terror. Opening with a 9/11-inspired interpretive dance and climaxing with a mushroom trip, this is "an eccentric, earnest, blackly comic family screwball from Zach Clark... one of the most profoundly empathetic filmmakers to ever point his camera at the delinquent and underserved..." —Village Voice
The Love Witch (Anna Biller)
Set in a Technicolor fantasia and fuelled by delirium, this is the sordid tale of Elaine (Samantha Robinson, seemingly discovered in a 1960s-era time capsule alongside the lavish sets and costumes), a woman who's looking for love and willing to dabble in the dark arts to attain it. "[Anna Biller's] film pulsates with furious creative energy throughout, sparking excitement and giddy amazement that it even exists... The astounding humor of The Love Witch often ascends to intentional hysteria." — New Yorker
Operation Avalanche (Matt Johnson)
In 1967, movie geeks from the CIA's A/V Department are recruited to help NASA stage the moon landing. Operating in true guerrilla fashion (including actually infiltrating NASA to shoot scenes), director-star Matt Johnson and his resourceful team have created a truly audacious conspiracy thriller, with every frame infused with the delirious (and wholly infectious) joy of troublemakers who can't believe that they're getting away with it. "A sly little comedy-thriller... An act of movie love." — Vulture
She's Allergic to Cats (Michael Reich)
Funded by his work as a Daft Punk body double, former dog groomer/video artist Michael Reich's certifiably demented debut is the tale of a Hollywood dog groomer/video artist (Michael Pinkney) harbouring big-screen ambitions: namely, an all-cat remake of Carrie. Habitually drifting into a fever dream that mimics his garish, lo-fi video work, he finds new purpose when he meets Cora (Sonja Kinski). However, his odyssey grows all the more surreal... "A must-see piece of alt-comedy weirdness." — Birth.Movies.Death
Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari)
With the Iran-Iraq conflict raging on, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) discovers that her Tehran apartment is no sanctuary when a missile crashes through the roof but fails to detonate. The Damoclean dread is further stoked when a djinnmanifests and malevolently targets her daughter, proving itself the most terrifying paranormal interloper since The Babadook. Director Babak Anvari has crafted a small-scale masterpiece rich in subtext. "[A] delectable, increasingly unnerving shiver-fest..." — The New York Times
We Are the Flesh (Emiliano Rocha Minter)
In post-apocalyptic Mexico, siblings fall under the sway of a Mephistophelean figure (a malevolent Noé Hernández), who coerces them into depravity that would make the Marquis de Sade blush. Endorsed by Oscar-winning countrymen Cuarón and Iñárritu, Emiliano Rocha Minter is undeniably the next big (read: monstrous) thing in Mexican cinema. "[A] joyously demented portrait of humanity... [This] thoroughly arresting vision could squat quite comfortably alongside Hieronymus Bosch’s depiction of hell." — Variety
24.24.24 (Daniel Dietzel)
Beyond Blue Waves (Joëlle Desjardins Paquette)
Black Cop (Cory Bowles)
Blind Vaysha (Theodore Ushev)
A Brief History of the Apocalypse (Erica Genereux Smith,)
By the Pool (Karine Bélanger)
Cabbie (Jessica Parsons, Jennifer Chiu)
The Cameraman (dConnor Gaston)
Cave of Sighs (Nathan Douglas)
Clouds (Diego Maclean)
Data Mine (Tim Tracey)
Einst (Jessica Johnson)
Emma (Martin Edralin)
Fish (Heather Young)
Four Faces of the Moon (Amanda Strong)
Fantassút / Rain on the Borders (Forgetness) (Federica Foglia)
Ganjy (Benjamin Ratner)
Here Nor There (Julia Hutchings)
Homesick (Sophie Jarvis)
I am Here (Eoin Duffy)
Imitations (Markus Henkel, Milos Mitrovic, Ian Bawa, Fabian Velasco)
It's No Real Pleasure in Life (Nikolay Michaylov)
Last Night (Joel Salaysay)
Late Night Drama (Patrice Laliberté)
The Lift (Manny Mahal)
Mamie (Janice Nadeau)
The Movieland Movie (Zachary Kerrholden)
The New Canada (Alexander Carson)
Nine Behind (Sophy Romvari)
Nutag – Homeland (Alisi Telengut)
Oh What a Wonderful Feeling (François Jaros)
Old Man (Alicia Eisen)
Parent, Teacher (Roman Tchjen)
Popsong (Matthew Taylor Blais)
Ranger (Sandra Ignagni, Trevor Meier)
Seven Stars (Sofia Banzhaf, Matthew Swanson)
Sigismond Imageless (Albéric Aurtenèche)
Stone Makers (Jean-Marc E. Roy)
The Taste of Vietnam (Pier-Luc Latulippe)
Those Who Remains (Mathieu Vachon)
Two (Christopher Spencer-Lowe)
Wild Skin (Ariane Louis-Seize)
Your Mother and I (Anna Maguire)