Even as a programmer at VIFF, there are still plenty of films that my colleagues have selected for our lineup that I am dying to see during the festival. When I’m not presenting the films from Future//Present, you can probably spot me in the audience. Here are my 10 most anticipated films for VIFF 2017:
Sean Baker has made a career out of humanist dramas that focus on people in American society that are marginalized or stigmatized—or both. After his film Tangerine broke out into the mainstream, The Florida Project is his first project with a Hollywood star lead (Willem Dafoe) but looks like it retains all of the indie sensibility of his work. The story revolves around a 6-year-old girl named Moonee who lives with her young mom Halley in a motel in Orlando. The film follows Moonee over the course of summer break as the fancy-free nature of childhood transcends the realities of adult life around her.
One of the greatest filmmakers, Agnès Varda is back with her first feature since The Beaches of Agnès in 2008. This time she teams up with renowned artist JR who accompanies her on a trip through rural France, as they encounter locals, get to know them and JR creates murals inspired by them. At the age of 89, Varda’s characteristic warmth and playfulness shows no signs of waning.
Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale earlier this year with a dramedy about a restaurant owner who ends up helping a Syrian refugee find his lost sister. The refugee crisis is very present in many of the films I’ve seen from Europe this year whether it’s foregrounded or not, and I have no doubt that Kaurismäki navigates the subject with his usual unique blend of humour and insight.
Denis Côté has made some of the most memorable Canadian films in recent years in both fiction and non-fiction. His latest documentary looks to be another unusual subject in which he follows six bodybuilders through their daily routines. The emphasis here isn’t on the competition they’re preparing for so much as working against whatever stereotypes may precede them, approaching masculinity and testosterone with sensitivity.
One of the most remarkable screenings in my history of attending VIFF was Xu Xin’s devastating documentary Karamay in 2010, a film that unearthed the truth behind a horrific accidental fire that took the lives of many children. Xu Xin returns this year with a documentary that takes you on a journey along the Yangtze river and associated incidents of violence in recent history.
Composed of 24 short films made up of single static shots of nature, landscape, and animals without a guiding narrative, the final film from Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, who passed away last year, is a work of pure poetry. What better way to bid adieu to one of the greatest and most innovative of all filmmakers than a collection of images that inspired him.
One of the most distinct voices in the New York indie scene, Nathan Silver’s semi-improvised realist dramas crackle with raw emotion — but Thirst Street is a new undertaking for him. Set in Paris, a recently widowed flight attendant falls for a bartender who is less enthused than she and yet she changes the course of her life to be with him, blinded by her grief. Styled after erotic European films from the 70s and shot by the rising cinematographer Sean Price Williams (whose terrific work in the film Good Time can be caught in theatres now), this looks like one of the most exciting films out of the U.S. this year.
For those who just watched David Lynch’s epic, confounding Twin Peaks: The Return saga, here’s a nice change of pace where you can enjoy the great Harry Dean Stanton in a rare leading role—with Lynch part of the supporting cast! Stanton plays Lucky, an elderly atheist who has outlived his friends and is searching for meaning.
No filmmaker today is working more quickly nor consistently than Hong Sangsoo, who is able to make a great film year in and year out — this year, in fact, he has three, but VIFF fans will have to settle for just one of the trio. Claire’s Camera finds Hong re-teaming with Isabelle Huppert (she starred in his 2012 film In Another Country) and actually making a film during the Cannes Film Festival about two women who meet during the fest and strike up a friendship.
Tickets for all of these amazing films available here.