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A VIFF 2009 Preview

Follow the Money


In the wake of the worldwide financial crisis, a particularly fascinating group of films has emerged that might help explain the mess we're in. In the Vancouver International Film Festival's Follow the Money series, various sectors of the economy (and aspects of human nature) are examined in illuminating, scarifying and perversely entertaining detail.


It's worth remembering that last year's VIFF took place in the midst of the very worst stretch of the stock-market collapse. On the anniversary of September 29, how complacent can we afford to feel about our prospects for this coming year? The rich mix of dramas and documentaries in the series offer a truly remarkable set of insights and interconnections into this vastly complex and unpredictable arena. Included in the series are films such as the following:




Leslie Cockburn's level-headed but scathing indictment of the American financial industry, undone by greed, false optimism and dizzying levels of collusion, pays especial attention to the impact on minorities. A must-see documentary providing profound insight and unforgettable images.




In Jacques Sarasin's hard-hitting documentary about the perils and promises of globalization, Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz takes a tour of the world which starts in his hometown of Gary, Indiana, and encompasses developing countries like Ecuador and Botswana, as well as industrialized powers like India and China.




Richard Brouillette's challenging documentary collects some of the world's most renowned intellectuals to explain how the seeds of the current socio-economic crisis were sown. "A cogent attempt to bring related ideas to cinematic life, and an antidote to sound-bite documentaries..."-The New York Times



Erwin Wagenhofer (of We Feed the World fame) takes a far-ranging and deeply troubling look at the movement of global capital around the world. If we want to understand the risks of global capitalism today we need to look beyond the American mortgage meltdown and any one government's official policies to tax shelters, money-laundering and economic hitmen. "There's a famous saying that ‘the best time to buy is when there's blood on the streets'."


WE ALL FALL DOWN  (USA) Canadian Premiere


As the house of cards that was the US mortgage system collapses from bad debt and predatory lending practices, the American dream of a house, a yard and white picket fence has been foreclosed upon. This timely and informative documentary looks at how we got here. Produced and written by Kevin Stocklin, who previously held posts such as Managing Director at BNP Paribas, Director at Dresdner Kleinwort and Vice President at Citigroup.




Damien Hirst's record-breaking sale at Sotheby's in September 2008 heralded the beginning of the end for the biggest art bubble in history. As the bubble popped, filmmaker (and art critic) Ben Lewis was there to capture all the hubris, greed and passion.


THE MARKET-A TALE OF TRADE  (Turkey/UK/Germany) Canadian Premiere


Tayanç Ayaydin's beguiling performance highlights Ben Hopkins' sharp-witted drama set amidst the Turkish black market. Ayaydin plays Mihram, a smalltime schemer who yearns for legitimacy. But when an honest business opportunity arises, Mihram must take unconscionable actions to realize his dreams.




Now living in the US, Iranian master Amir Naderi's memorable allegory centres on a family living on the Vegas fringe whose world is turned upside down after a stranger makes a surprise offer to buy their rundown house. Naderi uses a distilled visual style to accent his incisive analysis of America now.



The Way of Nature



Inextricably linked to the Follow the Money series is this year's environmental section, The Way of Nature. In fact, several of these films could just as easily have appeared in either series because our economy and our environment stand face-to-face like no other time in human history. The films offer both shocking news on the accelerated mess we're making in some of the most beautiful parts of this globalized planet, and possible redemption in the rediscovery of the ways of nature in others. No better case could be made that our economic interests will be served when we adapt to nature and adopt sustainable industries. The Age of Stupid meet paradise...




"I hate this film. I felt as if I was watching all my own excuses for not doing anything about climate change being stripped away from me. And it's tender and funny and wise as well. Can I just pretend I never saw it?"- screenwriter William Nicholson. "The most powerful piece of cultural discourse on climate change ever produced." - Mark Lynas




Few films offer as dramatic and spectacular a view of the Antarctic Ocean as does Dan Stone's captivating documentary. Eco-activist Paul Watson and the Farley Mowat, along with her sister ship the Robert Hunter, may be in over their heads when they take on the Japanese whaling fleet...


A BLOOMING BUSINESS  (Netherlands) North American Premiere


On the shores of Kenya's Lake Naivasha, massive international flower plantations supply the markets of Europe. Director Ton van Zantvoort's unsparing portrait of the dirty reality of the flower business may make it impossible for you to look at a rose in quite the same way again.




The true story of  the "Amazon Chernobyl" pitted the indigenous people of Ecuador against Chevron in the largest oil-related lawsuit in history. "Rarely have such conflicts been examined with the depth and power of Joe Berlinger's [Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost] documentary..."-The New York Times


DIRTY PARADISE  guest (Switzerland/France) World Premiere


The Wayana people live in a remote and wonderfully bucolic region of French Guiana, rich with flora, fauna and, unfortunately, gold. The blight of gold mining is creating what some might call an ecological catastrophe. Director Daniel Schweizer travelled to this threatened area to capture the Wayana's ferocious struggle to save their homeland.


EATRIP (Japan) English Canadian Premiere


Yuri Nomura's studiedly gorgeous examination of the role food plays in human experience includes interviews with a number of different foodies including Japanese pop singer UA, actor Tadanobu Asano, as well, Sen Souoko, a master of the Japanese tea ceremony. An intimate insight into Japanese culinary tradition, landscape and the slow food movement.


H2OIL  (Canada)


Toxic run-off from the oil sands of Alberta has created vast tailing ponds (visible from outer space), cancer alleys, and pollution that has turned huge sections of the Canadian North into a veritable moonscape... Shannon Walsh's incendiary film demands answers from corporations and governments.


HOME  (France) Special Presentation


"A magnificently macro portrait of our planet's alarming state of health... [photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand's doc, based on his best-selling book Earth From Above]... reveals the daunting and disturbing results of massive worldwide industrialization, which has transformed natural wonders into dangerously unnatural displays of global warming and scarcity."-Variety




Is this the future? A father and his three children, living next to an enormous Los Angeles interchange, cultivate their small plot of land to the tune of 6,000 pounds of food per year... Robert McFalls' remarkable documentary is a testimony to the skills, patience and ingenuity of this remarkable family.


SWEET CRUDE  guest (USA) International Premiere


Projected to supply a quarter of the US oil imports by 2015, the Niger Delta occupies an increasingly fraught position. The conflict between local militants and big oil interests has the potential to destabilize the global economy. Captivating drama ensues when director Sandy Cioffi becomes immersed in volatile local politics.


SWEETGRASS  (USA/UK/France) Canadian Premiere


The annual journey of sheep from their wintering grounds to summer pastures high in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana serves as the subject of Lucien Castaing-Taylor's and Ilisa Barbash's hypnotizing work. Panoramic and magisterial, the film possesses a quotidian grandeur rarely witnessed in the modern world.




Nina Hedenius captures the glory of life unfolding on a remote but particularly well-managed Swedish farm. As the relationship between the farmers, the animals and the land becomes part of a great continuum, the story reveals itself like a canvas, painted stroke by stroke, in absolutely exquisite detail.



In 2009, the broad spectrum of fiction and nonfiction films from around the world is divided into the following sections:

  • The Way of Nature - This year's environmental series offers both shocking news on the mess we're making in some of the most beautiful parts of the planet and possible redemption in the rediscovery of the ways of nature in others.
  • Dragons and Tigers - The Cinemas of East Asia - the largest annual exhibition of East Asian films outside Asia.
  • Nonfiction Features - Over the past 15 years the VIFF has given its large program of documentary and essay films front-and-centre status. It is internationally recognized as one of the largest and most successful showcases of nonfiction cinema in a general festival context.
  • Canadian Images - One of the biggest showcases of Canadian film in the world.
  • Cinema of Our Time - Our general international section comprises the most innovative and exciting cinematic developments from around the globe.
  • Spotlight on France - This annual sidebar celebrates the unique achievements of France's strong national cinema.

New VIFF 09 Series

  • Follow the Money - In the wake of the worldwide financial crisis, a particularly fascinating and perversely entertaining group of films have appeared that might help explain the mess we're in.
  • Festival Favourites - Who are we to argue with public taste? Festival Favourites is a new series that brings to Vancouver winners from several international festivals that award popularity prizes.

In addition to our main sections, for younger filmgoers the VIFF offers the High School Outreach Program. Embarking on its 12th year, this program provides a unique opportunity for Vancouver-area students to experience the best that international cinema has to offer. We also classify a number of other films for younger viewers to attend. Please check the Classified Films page during Festival time for further information.


Adjudicated Awards 2009

  • Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema, presented by Brad Birarda & Robert Sali ($10,000 prize)
  • Canwest Award for Best Canadian Feature Film ($20,000 prize)
  • Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film Award ($2,000 prize)
  • Women in Film and Television Vancouver Artistic Merit Award

Audience Awards 2009

  • Rogers People's Choice Award
  • VIFF Most Popular Canadian Film Award
  • documentary Audience Award
  • NFB Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award ($2500 in technical services)
  • VIFF Environmental Film Award


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