VIFF Dailies – Sep 30, 2020

Every day during this year’s festival, we’ll be offering you some supplemental reading (and the odd visual aid) in order to better inform your future viewing or appreciation of work you’ve already seen.

Given that he’s already proven his credentials as both a musician, author, photographer and painter, it was really only a matter of time until renaissance man Viggo Mortensen added “director” to his c.v.. Falling, his debut feature, took Sundance by storm, with Variety praising “his patience, his way with actors and his trust in our intelligence” and the Hollywood Reporter asserting that it’s “as intelligent and sensitive a directing debut as you’d expect, and a highlight of [Lance] Henriksen’s career.”

There are once again a number of debut features amongst the True North selections, with Andrew Stanley’s Flowers of the Field proving to be one of the major revelations of this year’s festival (where it has its world premiere). It’s included in the Globe and Mail’s recommended “dark directorial debuts” while being commended for being “deliberately tense and unnerving”.

Amongst the nonfiction selections, the world premiere of Marc Serpa Francoeur and Robiner Uppal’s No Visible Trauma proves itself to be a piece of enlightening journalism as it investigates the rampant abuses of power committed be the Calgary Police Service. As the Georgia Straight writes, “Francoeur and Uppal don’t employ any big stylistic flourishes; they don’t have to. The horrors of police abuse are clear, as is the lip service paid to police reform every time a new case comes up…”

Conversely, The Curse of Willow Song, Karen Lam’s third feature as a director (which just scored Best BC Film at this year’s VIFF), employs supernatural trappings to depict the economic disparity prevalent in Vancouver and the sinophobia endured by many of its Asian-Canadian citizens. As Lam tells the Vancouver Sun, “To me that is what I truly love about working in genre, which is that we can sometimes talk about social issues in a way that is background to the ghost story.”

Leung Ming-kai and Kate Reilly employ a variety of approaches to navigate the tensions and contradictions of contemporary Hong Kong in the four-part Memories to Choke on, Drinks to Wash Them Down. Stir cites the “Yuen Yueng” instalment as being “a hidden treasure—a bit like the yolky-custard prize waiting in the central couple’s salted egg French toast.”

Catarina Vasconcelos’ fictionalized yet highly personal documentary, The Metamorphosis of Birds, closed out the Berlinale’s daring new Encounters series this February. In detailing the film’s origins to Variety, she says, “I wanted to learn more about my own family in order to understand who I am… I was interested in the more mysterious side of my family. In the hidden spaces that no one talks about.”

Meanwhile, Erleck E. Mo’s Journey to Utopia finds the director documenting his family’s move from Norway to Denmark in search of a more sustainable life. Cineuropa writes, “With a great deal of (Nordic) humour, at times fantastic situations, domestic drama and a camera which loves the landscape, children and nature, Journey to Utopia turns out to be exactly what its title tells us it is…”

Finally, here are previews of two feature films produced during the pandemic that take decidedly different approaches to documenting these unprecedented times. Whereas I Am Not a Hero is a guerrilla documentary detailing Belgian frontline workers rising to the unthinkable challenges presented by the pandemic, Tales of the Lockdown is an outrageous DIY omnibus film that finds its various players’ falling prey to their baser instincts as they’re consumed by cabin fever.

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