The Birth of a Nation trailer
The Birth of a Nation

The 35th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is rolling out the red carpet for a wide variety of VIP guests from September 29 to October 14.

The opening gala on September 29 kicks off with Canadian-Irish film Maudie with director Aisling Walsh and local actress Gabrielle Rose in attendance. Maudie is the story of beloved Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis, who persevered over her rheumatoid arthritis to become one of Canada’s most famous self-taught painters.

On September 30, the teachings of world-renowned spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle will unfold on screen in Milton’s Secret. Cast in attendance include Canadian actress Mia Kirshner, Vancouverites William Ainscough and Hays Wellford and director Barnet Bain. They will also address the subject of bullying in a special Creator Talk on October 1. In the film, 12-year-old Ainscough plays the titular character who is struggling to deal with his parents’ constant fighting and the aggression of the neighborhood bully. Bain, Kirshner and Ainscough will also address the subject of bullying in a Creator Talk on October 1.

The Birth of a Nation caused a bidding frenzy at the Sundance Film Festival after winning the festival’s Grand Jury and Audience Award. Nate Parker, the film’s director, writer and star, will be at the festival on October 1 to support the film. The ambitious drama tells the story of the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in 1831.

Continuing its tradition of presenting one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary Canadian cinema, VIFF fosters the careers of budding national talent and will host numerous notable Canadian creators at this year’s festival.

October 1 will see Emmy-winning Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany present the romantic drama The Other Half, which features her outstanding performance as a bipolar woman. Maslany, who plays over ten different characters in the hit show Orphan Black, will also conduct a Creator Talk that afternoon.

Celebrated director Zacharias Kunuk will present his film, Maliglutit (Searchers), on October 4. Kunuk is a revered Inuk filmmaker, recipient of the Order of Canada in 2002 and winner of the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. His latest feature is a kidnapping and revenge epic, shot entirely in the Arctic in the Inuktitut language.

Alanis Obomsawin, a member of the Abenaki Nation and hailed by POV Magazine as “the most notable Indigenous director in the world,” will present her latest documentary, We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice, on October 6. Obomsawin’s powerful film chronicles the landmark Supreme Court of Canada case which argued that First Nations children were being systemically discriminated against. Obomsawin has been honoured for her work and activism, receiving multiple Governor General’s Awards and the Order of Canada.

John Mann, singer-songwriter of the iconic Vancouver band Spirit of the West, will be in attendance for the screening of Pete McCormack’s documentary Spirit Unforgettable on October 8. The film profiles Mann’s courageous battle with early onset Alzheimer’s.

Kevan Funk’s Hello Destroyer tells the story of broken hockey dreams through an ill-fated fourth liner played by Vancouver resident Jared Abrahamson, who will be at the festival. Named one of TIFF’s Rising Stars, Abrahamson has appeared in Fear of the Walking Dead and is set to star in the new TV series Travelers.

The Hong Kong film Yellowing will have its international premiere at VIFF, and its director Chan Tze-woon will be on hand to support the film. The documentary examines Hong Kong’s tenuous relationship with Mainland China that was brought to the world’s attention during the Umbrella Revolution. The 29-year-old director is being feted for his moving portrayal of the idealistic students who led people to defy their government.

The Architect
The Architect

Canadian actor Eric McCormack will make an appearance on October 11 to support his latest film, The Architect. The Emmy-award winning actor, best known for his titular turn in Will & Grace, stars as a husband in this comedy about an architect who overruns his plans to build a new house.

Endless Poetry marks a late career masterpiece for cult legend Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo). Adan Jodorowsky, who plays a younger version of his father in the autobiographical film, will be in Vancouver for the film’s Canadian Premiere.

Anointed an “indie horror master” for his modern classic The House of the Devil, Ti West visits VIFF to present In a Valley of Violence, his wildly entertaining Western that features pitch perfect performances by Ethan Hawke and John Travolta.

When the omnibus film Ten Years was released in Hong Kong, its speculative dark fantasies about what might result from Mainland China’s influence caused a furor and resulted in an unexpected box office hit. Producer Andrew Choi will be on hand for the film’s International premiere to discuss the controversy it sparked.

Meanwhile, Ben Chace’s Sin Alas marks the first American feature film to shoot entirely in Cuba since 1959. Chace will attend VIFF for the film’s Canadian premiere as well as a panel discussion at Totally Indie Day on Saturday, October 8.

This year, VIFF is expanding the frame, setting a new standard for what a film festival can be by providing immersive experiences that go beyond the screen. Parties, live music events, talks and forums provide festival goers with the opportunity to enhance their festival experience by engaging in more interactive environments. During the festival, the Vancouver International Film Centre at 1181 Seymour Street will be rechristened HUB @ VIFF and offer an array of experiential programming.

Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files who inspired a generation to ask, “Do you believe?”, will be honored on October 7 for his sustainable production methods for the revival season of The X-Files. Carter will receive the Industry Builder Award at a luncheon presented by Creative BC. Carter will also deliver the keynote address at VIFF’s Sustainable Production Forum that day and introduce an X-Files marathon that evening.

Industry veteran Marti Noxon will give a Creator Talk on October 4. Noxon created UnREAL, the Peabody-winning Lifetime series which takes viewers behind the scenes on a fictional Bachelor-like show. Noxon has also served as a writer, producer and showrunner on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Private Practice and Mad Men.

From office production assistant to writing staff, Gordon Smith worked his way up to be an Emmy-nominated writer for Better Call Saul, the spin-off from Breaking Bad. Smith will give a Creator Talk on October 7, providing his insight on an industry that he knows from all levels.

Recently deemed a “Can-Con bad boy” by The Globe and Mail, troublemaker Matt Johnson will be joined by coconspirator Jay McCarrol to discuss their new project, Nirvanna the Band the Show, which is set to become Viceland’s first scripted show. Johnson will also present a screening of his latest film Operation Avalanche, which took Sundance by storm earlier this year.

Having created the hit sci-fi series Continuum, Simon Davis Barry looks to have another blockbuster on his hands with the just-launched Van Helsing. Barry will share an episode and insights into the making of his latest small-screen sensation.

Award-winning documentarians Denis Delestrac (Freightened: The Real Price of Shipping) and Roger Williams (RiverBlue) will augment the Q&As at their respective screenings with a joint discussion on the impact of manufacturing on the environment.

For the first week of VIFF, the decibel level will rise as the hour grows late and HUB opens its doors to exciting musical acts such atmospheric rockers We Are the City, electronic duo Humans and internationally acclaimed DJ Rhiannon. Each of them will pair their music with unique visuals as a tribute to cinema’s capacity to wed sound and image to tremendous effect.

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