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10 things to look forward to at the Vancouver International Film Festival

It's not just about the feature films.
The Vancouver International Film Festival returns this month with 130 feature films, talks, events and more.

Back for its 41st year, the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is celebrating everything 'movie' from Sept. 29 to Oct. 9.

Over the 11-day festival, 130 feature films will be screened, along with dozens of shorts, while events connected to the film industry will be peppered in throughout.

“After two challenging and uncertain years, we’re thrilled to be offering a complete in-person film festival featuring hundreds of screenings and Q&A’s, complemented by an extraordinary lineup of talks and events with some of the industry’s leading talents," says VIFF executive director Kyle Foster in a media release.

Here are some of the highlights to look forward to at this year's festival, including films, events and one whole new exhibition. Tickets are on sale now.

Bones of Crow

The opening film for the festival is Vancouver-born Metis filmmaker Marie Clements' epic story of Aline Spears, a Cree woman who survives the Canadian residential school system and ends up joining the air force as a code talker during World War 2.

If that sounds like a lot for a film, it is; the story is being expanded into a TV series coming out next year.

A former reporter, Clements is a multi-talented creator, having won best director at the American Indian Movie Awards in 2019 for her last feature Red Snow (which itself won Most Popular Canadian Film at the 2019 VIFF), and awards for her play Burning Vision.


For those who've enjoyed South Korean TV and film lately, this will be a popular choice. Parasite star Song Kang-ho stars as a man who runs a hand laundry and takes babies abandoned outside a church and sells them to those wanting to adopt a child. Bae Doona also stars, as a detective on the trail of the illegal operation.

While the subject matter sounds dark and cynical the trailer gives it a nuanced, even sweet, tone. The film is getting international recognition as well, as it was selected for Cannes where Song picked up the best actor award.

The Grizzlie Truth

A local film, this is Kathleen Jayme's follow-up to her 2018 film Finding Big Country, which caught the eye of documentary film lovers, basketball fans and locals.

The subject matter is Vancouver's former NBA team again, but this time Jayme is scaling things up.

"What begins as a superfan’s investigation into her hometown team’s disappearance, becomes a love letter to the worst professional sports franchise in history," reads the film's description

The Whale

If the Brendanaissance is here, this might be its pinnacle.

Brendan Fraser has been one of the biggest comeback stories in Hollywood over the past few years, and Darren Aronofsky (director of Black Swan, The Wrestler) has given him a chance to shine.

The former action/comedy star takes on the role of Charlie, a 600-pound father who's trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter after abandoning his family (which led him to binge eat). He received a six-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival and is getting some Oscar buzz for his efforts.

The Banshees of Inisherin

Fans of In Bruges can look forward to the gang getting back together as director/writer Martin McDonagh brings Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson together again.

After a pair of films set in the states, McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) sets his newest work in a small Irish village where Colm (Gleeson), without explanation, ends his friendship with the sometimes dimwitted Pádraic (Farrell). If you enjoyed In Bruges, this looks to be an interesting spiritual sequel.

Black Ice

Given the conversations happening in the hockey world over the last few years, it seems timely that a documentary looking at hockey through the lens of Black Canadians and their contributions to the game should come out.

Director Hubert Davis has already handily taken on a sports documentary; in 2006 he became the first Afro-Canadian nominated for an Oscar with Hardwood, a short doc on longtime Vancouverite Mel Davis. More recently he wrote and directed Giants of Africa, which explored the Toronto Raptor's Masai Ujiri's project to build basketball as a sport in Africa.

In Black Ice Davis will focus on the Maritimes' historic Coloured Hockey League, which, while not remembered by many, was influential to the game in ways that are still seen today. If the historic nature of it doesn't intrigue, maybe the producers will, it includes Drake and LeBron James.

Triangles of Sadness

In this year's Palme d'Or winner at Cannes writer/director Ruben Ostlund (who already had a Palme d'Or under his belt) takes aim at the wealthy with a satire on the high seas.

While it starts off looking like a gorgeous trip on the ocean with fashion models and wealthy characters (with dubious morals) it turns into chaos and class conflict.

Costume Design Masterclass with Deborah Lynn Scott

Costume design may not be for everyone, but if it is of interest, Deborah Lynn Scott is someone to learn from. She's won an Oscar for her work on Titanic and worked on dozens of other films including Back to the Future, the Transformers series and Avatar.

Her most recent work will be hitting the screens soon, in Avatar: The Way of the Water.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On creator Dean Fleischer-Camp

The original Marcel the Shell with Shoes On has been an internet gem for more than a decade, and it's getting a feature film version this year.

The adorable, stop-motion original came from the minds of Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp, and now he'll be in town to talk about it all, from the very DIY roots to getting a complex feature out to theatres.


Technology has always been a big part of filmmaking, with constantly changing techniques, equipment and science going into the creation of modern blockbusters.

While it's often left in the background with stars and special effects taking centre stage, VIFF's Signals exhibition will offer people a chance to see what's going on at the leading edge of movies with film projects showing what's possible. This includes virtual production, volumetric capture, and holograms. One exhibit even has a domed screen.

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