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Vancouver International Film Festival 2016 | Sep 29 - Oct 14 |
Panorama: Special Presentations and Award-winning Films
Special Presentation FilmsOther Highlights & Award-winning FilmsVIFF News

VIFF announces the lineup of heavy hitters set to screen in the prestigious Special Presentations series, which is part of the festival's suitably diverse Panorama stream. Featuring the world's boldest creators and their exceptional works, this programming stream also includes the popular film series Contemporary World Cinema, Spotlight on France and Documentaries.

In this e-newsletter we highlight some of the Special Presentations and award-winning films screening at VIFF this fall. Upcoming e-newsletters will highlight our roster of thought-provoking documentaries, French cinema and other much-anticipated cinema from around the world.

This year, VIFF expands the frame to create multi-experiential programming streams that include curated screenings fused with related talks and events in a unique 'film plus' model. You can now find what you already love even more easily and discover new areas of interest. For a list of our streams and announcements click here.

Special Presentations | VIFF 2016

France/Germany | Dir: Paul Verhoeven
Dutch director Paul Verhoeven returns to the big screen with this darkest of dark comedies, which many critics consider among his best. A video game executive (Isabelle Huppert, superb) suffers a rape, only to react unlike any screen heroine you've ever seen... "Verhoeven's brazen rape revenge comedy is a dangerous delight... Huppert delivers a standout performance as a woman turning the tables on her attacker in the controversial director's electrifying and provocative comeback." – Guardian

American Honey
UK/USA | Dir: Andrea Arnold
When the teenaged Star (Sasha Lane) decides to join forces with a young, itinerant and rowdy door-to-door sales gang led by Shia LaBeouf's shifty Jake, the stage is set for a music-fuelled On the Road for millennial lovers of EDM, partying and the search for a self amongst the ruins... "[Andrea Arnold's (Fish Tank)] scrappy, sprawling astonishment of a fourth feature... is constantly, engrossingly active, spinning and sparking and exploding in cycles like a Fourth of July Catherine wheel." – Variety

Prix du Jury, Cannes

The Birth of a Nation
USA | Dir: Nate Parker
In this provocatively named and extraordinarily powerful historical drama, we're thrust into the slave rebellion in the southern US led by the preacher Nat Turner (writer-director Nate Parker) in 1831. Scarred by the vicious treatment accorded his fellow slaves, the pacifistic preacher decides to organize the bloody uprising that reverberates in the American psyche to this day. "A biographical drama steeped equally in grace and horror, it builds to a brutal finale that will stir deep emotion..." – Variety

Special Jury & Audience Award, Sundance

The Girl with All the Gifts
UK | Dir: Colm McCarthy
The zombie genre hasn't felt this alive since 28 Days Later! With much of humanity transformed into flesh-eating predators, a teacher (Gemma Arterton) and a scientist (Glenn Close) believe they may have found the key to survival in Melanie (Sennia Nanua), a bright young girl who's also a "hungry." When they're flushed out of hiding, Colm McCarthy ratchets up the tension while fleshing out the human drama in wildly unpredictable ways. "Smartly compelling, emotionally engaging and stylishly executed..." – Screen

Romania | Dir: Cristian Mungiu
Winner of the 2007 Cannes Palme d'Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu returns with this tale about a doctor with a secret who'll do anything to ensure his 18-year-old daughter passes her final exam with a high enough score to guarantee a scholarship abroad. "A five-star study of grubby bureaucratic compromise... [This] is a masterly, complex movie of psychological subtlety and moral weight, about the shabby choices people make as they claw their way up... Deeply intelligent..." – Guardian

Best Director, Cannes

The Handmaiden
South Korea | Dir: Park Chanwook
With this sexy, dangerous bodice-ripper, Park Chanwook (Oldboy) has fashioned a cinema of striptease; as the film slowly unspools, we marvel at its sensual flair. After a Korean pickpocket is hired by a con-man to masquerade as a Japanese heiress's maid and help pilfer her fortune, The Handmaiden's plot twists as fast as its characters shift sexual allegiances. "Park brings the full arsenal of cinematic expression... [He] can make a mere door opening an act of emotional transcendence." – Village Voice

France | Dir: Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Breathtaking in scope and a glorious spectacle, Yann Arthus-Bertrand's (Earth From Above) epic documentary touches on every big issue imaginable while examining the Earth as only the movies can. Aerial shots of the land mix with intimate human testimonials on love, sex, work, war and more; both the landscapes and the confessions are staggeringly powerful. This is a movie in the grand tradition of Koyaanisqatsi: radically humane in its concerns and mind-blowing in its visual splendour. Prepare to be swept off your feet.

I, Daniel Blake
UK/France/Belgium | Dir: Ken Loach
Rumours of his retirement having been greatly exaggerated, Ken Loach returns with this emotionally shattering critique of inequality in Britain's welfare system. After suffering a heart attack, the 59-year-old Daniel (Dave Johns) enters the labyrinthine world of social services, seeking a disability allowance... "One of Loach's finest films, a drama of tender devastation that tells its story with an unblinking neorealist simplicity that goes right back to the plainspoken purity of Vittorio De Sica." — Variety

Palme d'Or, Cannes

Spain | Dir: Pedro ALMODÓVAR
Pedro Almodóvar's decades-spanning tale, based on stories by Alice Munro, masterfully blends elements of melodrama and mystery. Middle-aged Julieta (Emma Suárez) discovers that her long-missing daughter has resurfaced, leading her to reflect on her younger self (played by Adriana Ugarte) and the events that drove her daughter away. "A sombre, ravishing study of grief, guilt and burden... [The film] offers a cumulative power that's finally extremely moving and teasingly free of easy resolution." – Time Out

Manchester by the Sea
USA | Dir: Kenneth Lonergan
An all-star cast, a riveting script and a smart narrative puzzle give Kenneth Lonergan's (Margaret; You Can Count on Me) drama devastating power. Casey Affleck is superb as taciturn Boston handyman Lee, who returns to his salty hometown after his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies. There, past and present collide with a force that few could survive. "[An] extraordinary swirl of love, anger, tenderness and brittle humour... [This is a] beautifully textured, richly enveloping drama." — Variety

Milton's Secret
Canada | Dir: Barnet Bain
A victim of bullying at school and witness to his parents' (David Sutcliffe and Mia Kirshner) tensions at home, young Milton (William Ainscough) retreats into an emotional shell. Fortunately, his enlightened grandfather (Donald Sutherland) arrives on this fraught scene to impart wisdom on how to unburden oneself of such troubles. Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now) supplied the source material for Barnet Bain's timeless story about inner peace and empowerment that will resonate with the whole family.

World Premiere

USA | Dir: Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins' Florida-set coming-of-age tale eschews tired tropes in favour of an urgent, deeply felt take on what it means to be a black man in America today. Using an impressionistic style, Jenkins masterfully traces the life of Chiron (played as an adult by Trevante Rhodes) from his boyhood days in the midst of a 1980s Miami crack epidemic to adulthood, shattering stereotypes along the way. "[The] best film I've seen in a long time and the best take on black masculinity... ever." — Ta-Nehisi Coates

Toni Erdmann
Germany | Dir: Maren Ade
Saying it is sui generis only begins to describe the unique breadth and depth of Maren Ade's (Everyone Else) comic masterpiece, a film that traces the relationship between a prank-playing father (Peter Simonischek) and his corporate go-getter daughter (Sandra Hüller) to side-splitting and moving effect. "A stunningly singular third feature by Ade that transports the intricately magnified human observation of her previous work to a rich, unexpected comic realm... A humane, hilarious triumph." – Variety

Fipresci Prize, Cannes

Highlights + Award Winners | VIFF 2016

The Red Turtle
(Tortue Rouge)
Netherlands/France/Japan | Dir: Michael Dudok de Wit
A marvellous, dialogue-free slice of animated poetry, this collaboration between Dutch Oscar-winner (for the animated short Father and Daughter) Michael Dudok de Wit and Japan's Studio Ghibli gives us a Robinson Crusoe-like man, stranded on a desert isle, whose adventures delve deep into the allegorical and fantastic... "A fable so simple, so pure, it feels as if it has existed for hundreds of years, like a brilliant shard of sea glass rendered smooth and elegant through generations of retelling." – Variety

Jury prize, Cannes Un Certain regard

Brazil | Dir: Kleber MENDONÇA Filho
Four years after taking VIFF by storm with Neighbouring Sounds, Kleber Mendonça Filho returns with this socially conscious, stylistically assured character study. When a property developer lays its sights on her beachfront apartment, a widowed music journalist (Brazilian legend Sônia Braga) digs in her heels, leaving her the dilapidated buidling's only resident. That said, every furnishing and object is laden with vibrant memories. "A potent portrait of personal and political struggle..." – Sight & Sound

France | Dir: Roschdy Zem
Omar Sy (The Intouchables) is brilliant as the former slave who found fame as a comedic circus performer known only as "Chocolat" in Belle Époque Paris. Together with partner George Footit (here played with an astounding physicality by James Thiérrée, Chaplin's grandson, who also choreographed the routines), Chocolat had it all–until personal demons and racism brought about his fall. "Roschdy Zem's bittersweet historical drama is a marvellous showcase for... [Sy's] talents and effortless charisma." – Screen

The Confessions
(Le confessioni)
Italy/France | Dir: Roberto ANDÒ
The set-up is delicious: at a G8 meeting in Germany, the immaculately clad monk Roberto Salus (Toni Servillo, great), invited by IMF chief Daniel Roché (Daniel Auteuil) to hear his confession, goes up against a scheme to further enslave the struggling economies of Europe. Just what did Roché confess before committing suicide...? "[In] Roberto Andò's offbeat thriller... there is much to chuckle over as the plodding, plotting politicos are outmaneuvered by the monk's sheer goodness." – Hollywood Reporter

Ecumenical Jury Award, Karlovy Vary

Endless Poetry
(Poesía sin fin)
Chile/France | Dir: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Cult legend Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo), now in his 80s, looks back on his youth and fashions this wildly inventive, criminally charming chronicle of the young poetry- and sex-mad Alejandro (the director's son, Adan) let loose among the bohemians of Santiago, Chile in the 1940s and 50s. "[Jodorowsky] has managed to reinvent himself in the most spectacular and unlikely way... [This] is the most accessible movie he has ever made, and it may also be the best. It's Felliniesque and moving." – Variety

The Last Family
(Ostatnia Rodzina)
Poland | Dir: Jan P. MATUSZYŃSKI
For decades, Polish surrealist Zdzislaw Beksinski obsessively recorded–in photographs, on video and on audiotape–every aspect of his life in the modest apartment he shared with his wife, mother and mother-in-law. Inspired by this archive, Jan P. Matuszyński has constructed a portrait of the artist as a mild, unassuming husband and son, and a loving father to a troubled, volatile son of his own. The banal sits cheek by jowl with madness, death and desire in this trenchant, superbly executed debut.

Best Actor, Locarno

Chile/Argentina/Spain/France | Dir: Pablo Larraín
Another robust and inventive drama from Pablo Larraín (No, VIFF 12; The Club, VIFF 15), Neruda, set in 1948 Chile, features Gael García Bernal (terrific) as a somewhat inept yet self-aggrandizing police detective who makes it his mission to hunt down Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) after the poet is forced into hiding for his beliefs... "[This represents] the director at his stunning best with a work of such cleverness and beauty, alongside such power, that it's hard to know how to parcel out praise..." – Variety

Original Bliss
(Gleissendes glück)
Germany | Dir: Sven Taddicken
The Lives of Others (2006) co-stars Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur re-team for Sven Taddicken's (My Brother the Vampire) wholly original drama about a seemingly complacent housewife (Gedeck, mesmerizing) whose underlying masochism leads her to embark on a relationship with her shrink (Tukur)... "An elegantly disquieting investigation into the interrelation of faith, violence and sexual degradation, held together by a rivetingly sure-footed performance by German star Martina Gedeck..." – Variety

Fipresci & Europa Cinema Label for Best Cinema, Karlovy Vary

USA | Dir: Jim Jarmusch
Adam Driver is Paterson, a bus driver and aspiring poet in Paterson, New Jersey, and Iranian star Golshifteh Farahani is his wife, Laura, in Jim Jarmusch's delightful ode to love, life, inspiration, and William Carlos Williams. "A lovely... fable about the fragile, fruitful and just occasionally fraught relationship between creativity and everyday life... There's so very much to enjoy here: Jarmusch's wry script and beautifully becalmed direction, Fred Elmes' quietly glowing photography, and utterly winning performances." – Time Out

Personal Shopper
France | Dir: Olivier Assayas
After Clouds of Sils Maria (VIFF 14), director Olivier Assayas and star Kristen Stewart re-team for this gripping suspense tale about a young woman (Stewart) who makes ends meet by assisting a super model/fashion designer–until, that is, her psychic forays seem to put her in touch with her long-dead twin... "[This is a] captivating, bizarre, tense, fervently preposterous and almost unclassifiable scary movie... Assayas' best film for a long time, and Stewart's best performance to date...Five stars!" – Guardian

Best Director, Cannes

A Quiet Passion
UK/Belgium | Dir: Terence Davies
The life of the great American poet Emily Dickinson (played here by a superb Cynthia Nixon) is brought luminously to life by, appropriately enough, a master poet of the cinema, Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea). Davies imbues Dickinson's cloistered life with a beauty that shows her for the quiet rebel she was. "Nixon does a brilliant job... Above all, though, it is Davies' ability to invest even the most apparently humdrum moments with some form of intense radiance that sustains his film." – Guardian

The Rehearsal
New Zealand | Dir: Alison Maclean
Canadian-born, New Zealand-raised Alison Maclean (remember Crush from VIFF 93?) makes a fine comeback with this deeply felt and superbly directed drama about a group of acting students coming to grips with their personal and professional lives under the tutelage of a great teacher (Kerry Fox, perfect). Unfolding over one school year, the film is honest, profound and beautifully acted. "Narratively teasing, structurally taut and emotionally textured... A drama that's as piercing as it is potent." – Screen

The Salesman
Iran/France | Dir: Asghar Farhadi
After scoring an Oscar for A Separation and making The Past in Paris, Asghar Farhadi returns to Tehran for this quietly gripping tale about Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), a couple whose relationship comes unglued after Rana is assaulted. Emad is determined to find the culprit, but when he does, what will he do? And at what cost? "Another finely cut gem of neorealist suspense... Every shot is in place, every line leading to an outcome that feels quietly up for grabs..." – Variety

Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Cannes

(Les saisons)
France | Dir: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud
A poetic and magnificently shot chronicle of Europe over the past 15,000 years as seen through the eyes of the animals that have lived there, Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud's (Winged Migration) latest uses the framing device of the four seasons to explore the habitats and denizens of a vast and varied land. To call this a "documentary" is to sell it short: it plays more like a natural symphony in which the forests, plains, mountains and inhabitants come together in a stunning vision of time and space.

The Unknown Girl
(La fille inconnue)
Belgium/France | Dir: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Adèle Haenel (Love at First Fight, VIFF 14) confirms her place in the firmament of French movie stars with a riveting turn in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's latest drama. She plays a young doctor forced to confront her own fallibility when a woman she turns away from her clinic is found dead on a nearby riverbank the next morning... "What is new here is a flirtation with genre that lends an extra dose of resonance to a finely scripted story. For The Unknown Girl is a detective tale..." – Screen

Information - VIFF Sep 29 - Oct 14, 2016

The festival's programming will be featured in the following streams:

  • Panorama: Special PresentationsDocumentariesSpotlight on FranceContemporary World CinemaCinemas of India/Iran/Africa/Middle East – The world's boldest creators and their exceptional works. The year's most anticipated international films and new discoveries curated specifically for VIFF audiences.
  • Ignite – A showcase of the inspired works emerging from the creative nexus that is British Columbia.
  • True North – A celebration of the extraordinary creativity and craft being demonstrated by Canadian storytellers from coast to coast.
  • Impact – Uncompromising films and insightful discussions that spark action and change the way we see the world.
  • Next – Virtual reality, gaming, music and emerging digital platforms serve as a catalyst for ground-breaking ideas and unforgettable next-level experiences.
  • Gateway – Journey into the compelling cinematic worlds envisioned by some of East Asia's most adventurous artists.
  • M/A/D – Music, art and design receive their deserved big-screen treatment in this aesthetically alluring stream that's enhanced by exhibitions and live performances.
  • ALT – Fantastic cinema that defies traditional classification and creators who push short form storytelling to its limits.
Super Channel People's Choice Award
Important Dates
ONLINE: VIFF Single Tickets on sale at
Full program available online.

Program guides begin distribution throughout Vancouver and are available at the Vancity Theatre

IN-PERSON: Box Office opens at The Vancouver International Film Centre. 1181 Seymour Street, at Davie (Mon-Sat: Noon - 7pm, Sun: 2pm - 9pm)

VIFF+ Discover more.