Adding to its commitment to Canadian creators, the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) announced 22 Canadian feature films in two series, Canadian Images and Future//Present. In partnership with Telefilm, VIFF’s True North stream celebrates the extraordinary creativity and craft being demonstrated by Canadian storytellers from coast to coast.
The longstanding Canadian Images series will once again feature some of our country’s best narrative films and documentaries from established creators like Bruce McDonald (Weirdos), Zacharias Kunuk (Maliglutit) and John Walker (Quebec My Country Mon Pays) beloved by VIFF audiences, as well as bright new talents such as Johnny Ma (Old Stone), Nathan Morlando (Mean Dreams) and Sebastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Lévesque (Living With Giants) who’ve taken the festival circuit by storm.
Programmed by film critic and curator Adam Cook, the new Future//Present series highlights the work of emerging independent filmmakers from across the country. With a diverse range of styles and subjects, the series focuses on filmmakers with originality and vision who challenge and ennoble the medium. Future//Present brings together the most talented, bold and distinct voices in Canadian film.
As part of its commitment to Canadian filmmakers, VIFF offers three cash awards to celebrate outstanding achievements in filmmaking. $10,000 is awarded for Best Canadian Film and $2,000 for Emerging Canadian Director. Both awards are sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada. In addition, the Best Canadian Documentary receives a $15,000 prize presented by Rogers.
The full lineup of films in the Canadian Images series includes:
(DIR. 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.
(DIR. 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.
(DIR. 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
(DIRS. 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.
(DIR. 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 masterpiece Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner) helms this gripping homage to John Ford’s The Searchers.
(DIR. 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
(DIR. 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
(DIR. 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 with a captivating visual design, Of Ink and Blood is an involving cinematic experience.
(DIR. 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
(DIR. 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
(DIR. 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
(DIR. 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.
(DIR. 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
(DIRS. 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, 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 full lineup of films in the Future//Present film series includes:
(DIR. 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
(DIRS. 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.
(DIR. 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.
(DIR. 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?
North American Premiere
Never Eat Alone
(DIR. 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.
(DIR. 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
(DIR. 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.
(DIR. 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.