Top Visually Appealing Films at VIFF 2015

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Let these films captivate you with their awe inspiring images on the big screen at VIFF.

Charlotte’s Song: 

Think Pan’s Labyrinth meets Carnivale and you’ll still be unprepared for this astonishing debut from Done Four Productions and director Nicholas Humphries. In this Dust Bowl-era reimagining of The Little Mermaid, an amphibious siren (Katelyn Mager) falls prey to a nefarious benefactor (Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon) and ends up in a magical turf war. Sumptuous production design and sinister storytelling conjure a seductive fantasy world. TICKETS.

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Fractured Land: 

What would it be like to live alongside one of the shapers of human events, in their youth, before they’ve transformed history? In Fiona Rayher and Damien Gillis’ documentary, we follow Caleb Behn, a young Dene lawyer locked in a battle with the oil and gas industry. He may become one of this generation’s great leaders–if he can discover how to reconcile the fractures within himself, his community and the world around him through the blending of the modern tools of law with ancient wisdom. TICKETS. TRAILER.

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O, Brazen Age: 

Alexander Carson’s first feature is part coming-of-age story, part art-cinema meditation on photography, souvenirs and collections. The newest offering from North Country Cinema (The Valley Below) conjures a tender and haunting portrait of friendship and faith in the 21st century, following a group of young artists on a search for new mythologies and invoking a cinematic landscape where classical literature collides with new wave aesthetics and 90’s pastiche. TICKETS. OFFICIAL WEBSITE.

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Above and Below: 

Director Steiner and cinematographer Markus Nestroy create gorgeous widescreen images, transforming subterranean urban hideaways and the California desert into characters themselves. From war vets to the downtrodden homeless, the subjects are a fascinating bunch. Furthermore, they evoke empathy as much as curiosity. We’re left to wonder what drove them to where they are and Steiner doles out the details slowly, keeping our interest piqued. His subjects frequently perform for the camera, making the film a beguiling mixture of fiction and documentary. Strange, haunting and visually ravishing, this is one of the most creative debuts of recent years in any genre. TICKETS.

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The Assassin: 

A masterpiece of world cinema, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s exquisitely beautiful swordplay fantasy is both an instant classic and a profound work of art. Trained assassin Nie Yinniang (superstar Shu Qi) is compelled by her master to assassinate her childhood sweetheart, Governor Tian Ji’an (Chang Chen), but her assignment becomes increasingly morally ambiguous. Bursts of swordplay; soul-infused landscapes; the silence of philosophy. Wuxia cinema distilled to its essence. TICKETS.

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Shot in a single astonishing take, this tour-de-force heist thriller plunges us into the predicament of Victoria (Laia Costa), whose “one crazy night” in Berlin grows increasingly perilous as she’s roped into a bank robbery. Such technical audaciousness only heightens the narrative’s tension, setting the stage for a dizzying climax that’s precisely the sort of spectacle best seen on the big screen. TICKETS.

Laia Costa as Victoria-Courtesy of Mongrel Media-Photo Monkeyboy

The Royal Road: 

Awash in nostalgia, Jenni Olson’s essay film is cinepoetry at its most eloquent and accessible. Assembling immaculately framed images of California’s beguiling landscapes and architecture, Olson lends mesmerizing narration that proves both introspective and amusing as she ruminates on colonialism, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, unattainable love and the impermanent beauty of the world we’ve constructed. Lulling and provocative in turns, this is the assured work of a filmmaker exceedingly comfortable in her celluloid skin and yet eager to uncover new veins of expression. TICKETS. TRAILER.


The Rainbow Island: 

One of the most astonishingly exotic films in this year’s festival has to be Khosrow Sinai’s drama. The title refers to the island of Hormuz, with its extraordinary multicoloured soils, ancient Portuguese forts and folk-art traditions. How much are the custom-bound villagers willing to welcome the outside world? Enter Dr. Ahmad Nadalian, a highly educated interloper from Tehran who proposes a radical plan to transform the islands assets into a thriving cultural destination. TICKETS.


From Scotland with Love: 

Unearthing a treasure trove of archival footage, Virginia Heath’s montage film offers a kaleidoscopic tour of mid-20th century Scotland. As we glimpse evocative vignettes of labour and leisure, protests and parades, strife and revelry, we enter a world seemingly conjured from the realms of fantasy rather than reels of found footage. And playing throughout are King Creosote’s lush chamber pop songs, which lend a captivating sense of lore to every scene and heighten the film’s intimacy. TICKETS.

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One Million Dubliners: 

Glasnevin Cemetery holds not just the final remains of 1.5-million Dubliners but the infinite stories that are buried along with them. Fortunately, Aoife Kelleher’s documentary has avuncular historian Shane MacThomais to guide us through the sprawling grounds and the colourful pasts of the late luminaries (and unknowns) laid to rest there. MacThomais’ personality suffuses the film, ensuring a tone that’s buoyant rather than funereal as he enlightens us on everything from burial procedures to posthumous celebrity. TICKETS.


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