VIFF 2019: As the Curtain Draws

By Paula Lindner

It has been an amazing first thirteen days of the 38th edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival, and now is your last chance to see some amazing World Cinema on the big screen. Some films that VIFF brings to the West Coast may never be accessible in Lower Mainland theatres again, so its time to expand your frame and check these out before the curtain is drawn!

Here’s five films that are not to be missed before this year’s festival wraps up on Friday:

From Germany: Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint

Before Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Klee made a name for abstraction in visual art, another artist had already beat them to their discovery. But until very recently, her name was absent from the history books. Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) painted her first abstract canvas in 1906, four years before Wassily Kandinsky, originally thought to be the movement’s pioneer. It would be more than a century before she would receive the same acknowledgment and acclaim as her male peers. Beyond The Visible is the story of a visionary artist whose talent, intellect, and dedication to her craft produced a prolific body of work unlike any other.


Purchase your tickets for Wednesday, October 9, 2019 at 6:15 PM at International Village 8.

From Poland/UK/Ukraine: Mr. Jones

Having previously earned acclaim with WWII dramas Europa Europa and In Darkness, Agnieszka Holland returns with another sweeping epic that’s grand in scale yet anchored dramatically by its compelling protagonist. In the spring of 1933, Welsh journalist Gareth Jones boards a train to Ukraine where he not only witnesses the ravages of a famine wrought by Stalin’s agricultural reform but also the Soviet secret service’s dogged efforts to ensure that news of this humanitarian crisis never sees the light of day. As he struggles to break the story to the world, Jones finds an ally in New York Times reporter Ada Brooks and an adversary in pro-Stalin journalist Walter Duranty.

It’s widely understood that it was Jones’ accounts of the dystopia he witnessed that later inspired George Orwell’s Animal Farm. As envisioned by Holland, the reporter’s crucible is a testament to what humanity is capable of at either end of the spectrum.

Purchase your tickets for Wednesday, October 9, 2019 at 8:45 PM at The Centre; or Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 1:45 PM at International Village 10.

From USA: Cunningham


The centenary of Merce Cunningham’s birth is celebrated in exhilarating fashion by employing jaw-dropping 3D to place viewers at the dizzying heart of the iconic American choreographer’s boundary-obliterating work. Interweaving archival footage and interviews, director Alla Kovgan also calls on a remarkable roster of former Cunningham dancers/collaborators – including likeminded rule-breakers Rashaun Mitchell and Sila Riener – to stage classics like Summerspace and Rainforest while offering new insights on the choreography that redefined modern dance. Prepare to be astonished by this singular artist, whose legacy resonates beyond the dance world.

“3D technology inspired me to think of dance as a truly cinematic experience. Merce, with his dedication to exploring every technological invention of his time, and 3D felt like an ideal fit. I was particularly moved by his story of becoming Merce in the 1950s and 1960s, his love for dance and his triumphant spirit persevering against all odds.” – Alla Kovgan

Purchase your tickets for Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 4:45 PM at International Village 10.


From Guatemala/France: Temblores


Jayro Bustamante’s film is an unflinching exploration of homophobia, religion, and their intersection in contemporary Guatemala. Middle-aged, successful, and married with children, Pablo is also gay; as the film opens, his family is reacting to the news with outrage. Things only get worse for our protagonist: he gets fired from his job and faces the prospect of losing his children unless he submits to conversion therapy.

Purchase your tickets for Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 8:45 PM at International Village 9. 

From China: White Snake


Eye-popping animation meets Chinese folklore in this rollicking crowd-pleaser. Directors Amp Wong and Zhao Ji give us a prequel to Legend of the White Snake, a tale that dates back thousands of years and has been turned into operas, novellas, movies, and more. The heroes of the film are Blanca, a snake demon who can take human form, and Xuan, the mere mortal she falls in love with. Together they face off against military rulers, violent creatures, and other malign forces, all of whom are brought to life with dazzling style.

As a romance, White Snake is both steamy and touching; as an adventure, it’s thrilling; and as a work of visual art, it’s a delight. Fox-human hybrids, a fearsome three-headed bird and giant snakes galore are just some of the highlights, and the action takes place against gorgeous backdrops – the treatment of nature is as beautiful as the psychedelic creature design. Erotic, action-packed and wildly creative, this is a triumph of animated storytelling.

Purchase your tickets for Friday, October 11, 2019 at 9:30 PM at the Vancouver Playhouse.

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