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Vancouver Focus on New American Indies and Eastern Europe

The VIFF Turns its Focus to New American Indies and Eastern Europe

The Vancouver International Film Festival today announced two areas of regional focus within the Festival’s program for its 24th annual edition, which will take place September 29 to October 14th at ten venues, including the VIFF’s own brand new Vancity Theatre in downtown Vancouver. American Independence focuses on the best of the new indie scene, while The New World presents a selection of compelling narratives and incisive documentaries from countries previously part of the former Austro-Hungarian empire.

American Independence

As burgeoning social unrest develops in the United States, a good number of feature films reflect troubled times in surprising ways. Without being explicitly political in nature, they do express the spirit of disenfranchisement from both their own government, and popular culture as a whole. American independent cinema, jettisoning the brash cinema of Tarantino, has turned to a cautious, “cool” and modest perspective on life south of the border. “The VIFF normally doesn’t present so many American films, but we were encouraged and fascinated by the resurgence of this more sensitive, thoughtful and, sometimes, muted approach to storytelling, and the way it seems to express the attitudes of disaffected young people today,” said Festival Director Alan Franey. “The quality of these films shows that there are independent voices in America who are not afraid to tell their own stories, in styles that are apart from the Hollywood machine.”

The VIFF is pleased to welcome many of these filmmakers to Vancouver, with directors Lodge Kerrigan (KEANE), Ira Sachs (FORTY SHADES OF BLUE), Andrew Bujalski (MUTUAL APPRECIATION), Robinson Devor (POLICE BEAT), Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Lana (CAVITE) and Jenni Olson (THE JOY OF LIFE) confirmed guests to date, with others to follow.

Many of the American Independent films, like Ira Sachs’ Sundance Award-winning FORTY SHADES OF BLUE appear to be influenced by Cassavetes’ romantic, sensitive and humanistic dramas. The same is true for Andrew Bujalski’s terrific follow-up to his cult hit Funny Ha Ha, MUTUAL APPRECIATION, which is another droll, stonefaced, perceptive Rohmerian comedy of manners concerning the lives and loves of articulate post-collegians. Lodge Kerrigan’s KEANE follows William Keane (a brilliant Damian Lewis), a homeless schizophrenic New Yorker, as he attempts to find his kidnapped daughter; Kerrigan forges an ultra-realistic and unforgettable look at life on the margins. On the other end of the spectrum, in the inventive CAVITE, a Canadian Premiere, Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana transpose American action-thriller cinema to the Filipino slums, creating a spin on Cellular that is entertaining and gripping.

A number of films in the American Independence section skirt the border between documentary and fiction in highly inventive ways, and also manage to make strong political statements while telling personal stories. An International Premiere, Jenni Olson’s THE JOY OF LIFE uses bold, lyrical voiceover to tell two stories: the observations of a butch dyke looking for love and self-discovery, and the history of the Golden Gate Bridge as a suicide landmark. In I AM A SEX ADDICT, a Canadian Premiere, Caveh Zahedi’s latest unabashedly autobiographical comedy uses re-enactments and documentary footage to explore his life-long sex addiction—in particular, his obsession with prostitutes. Based on a column from the local weekly The Stranger, Robinson Devor’s POLICE BEAT is an entirely new type of police drama that blends the mean streets of Seattle with notions of globalization, and even a little romance, told from the perspective of an African immigrant Seattle policeman Travis Wilkerson’s bracing, radical debut feature WHO KILLED COCK ROBIN?, a Canadian Premiere, intersects the lives of three men living in the struggling mining community of Butte, Montana, and provides a political example to young American filmmakers to follow.

The New World

VIFF is also highlighting a series of titles from Central and Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic, the Balkans, and Hungary, which indicate that this is one of the most vital filmmaking regions in the world today. Combining serious documentaries with cutting-edge dramas and crowd-pleasing comedies, The New World shows the countries of the former Austro-Hungarian empire to be a hotbed of up-and-coming cinematic talent, with films that cross borders and represent the new Europe, with all of its troubles, anxieties and newfound pleasures.

Many selections tackle contemporary social issues. Providing the title to the series is Austrian director Paul Rosdy’s NEW WORLD, a film essay which travels throughout the former Austro-Hungarian Empire in the present day, shuffling time lines like a deck of cards. “Modern” history started in central Europe and the calamities of the past century have taken a tremendous toll on this area. Also from Austria comes Michael Glawogger’s triumphant follow-up to his 1999 NFB Award-winning Megacities. WORKINGMAN’S DEATH provides a startling glimpse of the profound impact a rapidly changing global economy has on ordinary people, from the abandoned coal mines of the Ukraine to the slaughterhouses of Nigeria. Both Rosdy and Glawogger will be in attendance. Also screening will be two Austrian fiction features, SLEEPER and CRASH TEST DUMMIES, which highlight the ethnic tensions currently on view in Austria.

The four Hungarian films that will be presented at the VIFF form a wide-ranging representation of the country’s film industry. Adapted by Nobel laureate Imré Kertesz from his autobiographical novel and screening as a Special Presentation, FATELESS dares to aestheticize the concentration camp experience in a more provocative, and successful, manner than Schindler’s List. Áron Gauder’s THE DISTRICT is an outrageous and continually inventive animated comedy-adventure about the multicultural denizens who live, and occasionally clash, in District 8, the direst ghetto in Budapest. In Péter Gárdos THE PORCELAIN DOLL, three short stories of the surreal, the bizarre and the fantastical make up a Bermuda triangle of strangeness. And Roland Vranik’s BLACK BRUSH, winner at the Hungarian Film Week, is a stoner slacker comedy shot in black-and-white CinemaScope.

This focus also includes films from the former Yugoslavian countries of Bosnia (DAYS AND HOURS), Serbia (MIDWINTER NIGHT’S DREAM) and Croatia (SORRY FOR KUNG FU), and a trio of exciting and sure-to-be popular productions from the Czech Republic (THE CITY OF THE SUN, WRONG SIDE UP, SKRITEK).

A list of the other films announced today follows. The full line-up will be announced at the Media Conference on September 7 at the Vancouver International Film Centre. The Vancouver International Film Festival has a reputation for presenting the best in world cinema. More than 150,000 patrons are expected to attend 500 screenings of over 300 films from over 50 countries, making it one of the largest and most successful film festivals in North America. Beginning September 7, comprehensive information and schedules will be available at www.viff.org and the Starbucks Hotline at (604) 683-FILM (3456). Tickets go on sale September 10 through the VISA Charge-by-Phone line at 604-685-8297 and on the web at www.viff.org .

A list of films confirmed to date follows.

American Independence


BITTERSWEET PLACE (Alexandra Brodsky, US) International Premiere

CAVITE (Ian Gamazon and Neill Dela Llana, US) Canadian Premiere

FORTY SHADES OF BLUE (Ira Sachs, US) Canadian Premiere

KEANE (Lodge Kerrigan, US)

I AM A SEX ADDICT (Caveh Zahedi, US) Canadian Premiere

THE JOY OF LIFE (Jenni Olson, US) International Premiere

MUTUAL APPRECIATION (Andrew Bujalski, US) International Premiere

POLICE BEAT (Robinson Devor, US) International Premiere

SOUND BARRIER (Amir Naderi, US) International Premiere

THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (Noam Baumbach, US)

SWIMMERS (Doug Sadler, US) Canadian Premiere

WHO KILLED COCK ROBIN? (Travis Wilkerson, US) Canadian Premiere



The New World


BLACK BRUSH (Roland Vranik, Hungary) International Premiere

THE CITY OF THE SUN (Martin Sulík, Czech Republic) English-Canadian Premiere.

CRASH TEST DUMMIES (Jörg Kalt, Austria) Canadian Premiere

DAYS AND HOURS (Pjer Zalica, Bosnia)

THE DISTRICT! (Áron Gauder, Hungary)

FATELESS (Lajos Koltai, Hungary)

MY NIKIFOR (Krzysztof Krauze, Poland) English-Canadian Premiere.

MIDWINTER NIGHT’S TALE (Goran Paskaljevic, Serbia/Montenegro)

NEW WORLD (Paul Rosdy, Austria) North American Premiere

THE PORCELAIN DOLL (Péter Gárdos, Hungary)

SKRITEK (Thomas Vorel, Czech Republic) International Premiere

SLEEPER (Benjamin Heisenberg, Austria/Germany) North American Premiere

SORRY FOR KUNG FU (Ognjen Svilcic, Croatia) North American Premiere

WORKINGMAN’S DEATH (Michael Glawogger, Austria)

WRONG SIDE UP (Petr Zelenak, Czech Republic) North American Premiere.

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