Rather than spend another evening watching Happy Endings reruns and eating homemade rice crispie squares (who does that?…), spend the next week or so catching off-beat, independent cinema at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Herewith, a selection of movies we'll be checking out at VIFF:
Indian actress Seema Biswas is one of the most natural, subtle actresses to grace the silver screen. With just the slightest tilt of her head, a glance, and a shift in posture, Seema brings to life this slow-paced film by US-based director, Prashant Bhargava. Set in Ahmedabad during the kite festival, Patang follows a small family and the arrival of their wealthy Delhi-based uncle and cousin. Class divisions and past tensions simmer throughout this mellow film, beautifully shot amongst old buildings, temples and colourful kites.
Wednesday October 12 | 4:00 p.m. | Vancity Theatre
More masterpiece painting than film, Nainsukh is the slow moving story of an eighteenth-century Indian miniature artist who chronicled the lives and palace festivities of Rajput princes. This visually stunning film is shot amongst the ruins of actual palaces in India, and incorporates drawings, colours and textures that will appeal to the more creative types out there who enjoy beautiful, experimental cinema.
Also playing in Toronto, October 26, 2011, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre. More details here.
Flying Fish (Sri Lanka)
Set during the Sri Lankan civil war, three story lines play out to similar, violent ends: a young woman faced with a failed abortion and her lover's departure; a widowed mother's affair with a younger man; and a young Tamil girl threatened to be conscripted into prostitution. Not the first choice for a fun night out with the girls, but it's definitely thought-provoking, moving cinema, plus the film received a Best Director award at the St. Petersburg Film Festival this year.
Thursday October 6 | 8:00 p.m. | Empire Granville 6
MIss Representation (USA)
A woman's value is measured by her youth and beauty. Actress-turned-director Jennifer Siebel Newsom wants to challenge the representation of women in contemporary American culture, and this trailblazer does just that in her epic documentary that features everyone from Gloria Steinem and Condoleezza Rice, to Margaret Cho and Rosario Dawson. This is a much watch film – much more than just Grrrl Power, it considers the role women themselves play in their misrepresentation, as well as the media's double standard when dealing with female politicians.
No One Killed Jessica (India)
Actress Vidya Balan is like a chameleon; she shifts from regal Bengali and Rajasthani period films, to contemporary romance, to village-based dramas, and we haven't even mentioned her upcoming turn in a biopic of an item girl/slightly soft porn dancer. In No One Killed Jessica, based on the real-life murder of model Jessica Lal in New Delhi, a very understated Vidya tackles the trauma of losing her sister and fighting a never-ending battle of corruption, bureaucracy, politics, and class issues. Rani Mukherjee costars as a fiesty, badass reporter out to uncover the truth. Nice to see a serious, female-led film out of Bollywood that receives critical and mass success. A must watch if you didn't see it during the initial theatrical release in January 2011.
Take This Waltz (Canada)
Remember Road to Avonlea? Little Sarah Polley is all grown-up with her sophomore directorial outing, where she leads Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman in a beautiful melancholy film about long-term relationships, love, attraction, and how we see ourselves.
Thursday October 6 | 4:00 p.m. | VISA Screening Room Vogue Theatre
Sisters&Brothers and The Coconut (Canada)
This could be your family. Starring Cory Monteith of Glee fame, Sisters&Brothers is a funny, realistic portrait of contemporary life, as told through the experiences of 4 pairs of siblings and their boughts of schizophrenia, stardom, ambition, poverty, and racial divides. The film is preceded by The Coconut, a 10-minute short by Nimisha Mukerji that provides a "window into the misadventures of a young musical talent torn between her dreams and responsibilities." Hmm, haven't heard that story before – Bend it Like Bekham/Breakaway/every diaspora movie ever made.
Martha Macy May Marlene (USA)
Mary Kate and Ashley's little sister Elizabeth Olsen stars in this critically-acclaimed psychological drama about a young woman who escapes a cult. We're more excited to see whether Liz has the acting chops to make it big, and whether or not her style sense exceeds her sisters (iconic brand Elizabeth & James, is after all, her namesake).
Starbuck (Canada): David Wosniak's biggest feat in life is selling his sperm to donation banks, where through a glitch, he fathers 533 children, now all grownup and on a mission to find out his true identity.
Mitsuko Delivers (Japan): A comic drama about a 9-month pregnant girl who returns to her childhood village to work in a diner while her parents think she's in California with the baby's GI father.
BumRush (Canada): A real Canadian gangsta film set in Montreal, combining French, English and Italian crime. Word.
Imams Go To School (France) – An intriguing documentary about imams-in-training at the Catholic Institute of Paris, where they learn the principles of the French Republic between classes on Islamic Studies.
7 Khoon Maaf (India): The only other Bollywood film to screen at VIFF, it stars Priyanka Chopra, John Abraham, Naseeruddin Shah and more. Priyanka's range is limited, but the movie is definitely interesting and off the usual celluloid path of mainstream Indian movies.
The Loneliest Planet (USA/Germany): Watch the film if only to see Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries, Babel, Y Tu Mama Tambien) at his usual finest.
For complete listings and show times, visit Vancouver International Film Festival.
Story By: Manjot Bains