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Vancouver International Film Festival 2016 | Sep 29 - Oct 14 |
Panorama: Documentaries
DocumentariesVIFF News

Recognized as one of the largest documentary programs in North America, VIFF's acclaimed series explores the endless possibilities of non-fiction filmmaking and invites us to view the world in different lights. This year, there are 21 films in the Documentaries series that include award winners from Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca Film Festival. A great number of documentary features are also included in the previously announced streams – True North, Gateway, M/A/D, and Impact

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.

Documentaries | VIFF 2016

Strangers on the Earth
USA/Spain | Dir: Tristan Cook
Sun. Oct 2, 6:45 pm, Playhouse
Wed. Oct 5, 1:45 pm, Intl Village 9
Sun. Oct 9, 10:00 am, Vancity
In the footsteps of Walking the Camino, Tristan Cook's lively portrait of modern pilgrims and fellow travellers winding their way on the legendary Camino de Santiago muses on the psychological and spiritual dividends of a 30-day hike. The landscape is beautiful but brutal, the dorms are packed and the bunks are hard. Some find solace in solitude; others discover kinship and community en route. In the case of Dane Johansen, he embarks on the nearly 600-mile journey carrying his cello on his back...

World Premiere
* There will be a short cello performance by Dane Johansen at the Oct 2nd screening at the Playhouse.

All This Panic
USA | Dir: Jenny Gage
Thu. Oct 6, 1:00 pm, Playhouse
Sat. Oct 8, 6:30 pm, SFU-GCA
This spectacular documentary immerses viewers in the exhilaration and tumult that punctuate the epochal days that see young women fumbling their way into adulthood. Director Jenny Gage spent three years watching seven Brooklyn teenage girls grow up before her camera. In the process, she not only captured some of the landmark occasions in their young lives, but also those fleeting moments and small gestures that will leave an indelible mark during the most formative of years. “Astonishing…” — Guardian

Between Fences
(Bein gderot)
Israel/France | Dir: Avi Mograbi
Fri. Sep 30, 1:00 pm, Intl Village 8
Sun. Oct 2, 6:30 pm, Intl Village 10
Veteran Israeli documentarian Avi Mograbi (Z32) frequently tweaks the nose of the establishment with his irreverent and iconoclastic style. His latest looks quite tenderly at the plight of African refugees, confined to an Israeli desert detention centre, who–despite being without foreseeable hope for change–find solace and even joy in theatre workshops describing their situation. These dramatic exercises provide a brilliant way to get to the heart of complex humanities facing inhumanities.

Plays with Fantassút/Rain on the Borders

Depth Two
(Dubina dva)
Serbia/France | Dir: Ognjen GLAVONIĆ
Tue. Oct 11, 6:30 pm, Cinematheque
Thu. Oct 13, 1:00 pm, Vancity
The mass killings of Kosovar Albanians by Serbian forces during the Kosovo War are evoked with chilling immediacy in Ognjen Glavonić's powerful and important documentary. Detailed testimony from those who were intimately involved–some of which was taken from war crimes' trials in The Hague–plays beneath stunningly composed shots of the scarred landscape to immersive and profoundly disturbing effect. "Doesn't just discuss the ghosts of the past–it looks them starkly, squarely in the eye..." – CineVue

(Bein gderot)
Germany | Dir: Simon Stadler
Sat. Oct 1, 11:15 am, SFU-GCA
Sun. Oct 9, 6:45 pm, Intl Village 10
Wed. Oct 12, 3:30 pm, Intl Village 8
With their traditional hunting methods wrested from them by the Namibian government, the Ju/'Hoansi people strike up an uneasy alliance with contemporary culture, performing for tourists' amusement and prowling a supermarket's aisles. As several Ju/'Hoansi make a foray into Europe and contend with intimidating architecture and alienating social mores, Simon Stadler's comical and reflective documentary captures the sparks that fly courtesy of a culture clash that recalls The Gods Must Be Crazy.

Audience Award, SXSW
Growing Up Coy
USA | Dir: Eric Juhola
Sun. Oct 9, 7:00 pm, Intl Village 9
Tue. Oct 11, 4:00 pm, Intl Village 9
In small-town Colorado, an elementary school bathroom is the flashpoint for a heated legal battle. After their transgender daughter is banned from using the bathroom that matches her gender, her parents take their case to the court of public opinion only to incur a fierce backlash and be branded child abusers. Eric Juhola's inspiring documentary profiles this undaunted family as they campaign tirelessly for their child's rights. "Its emotional heft makes it more than an advocacy film..." – Guardian

The Infinite Flight of Days
(Infinito Vuelo de los Dias)
Colombia | Dir: Catalina Mesa
Tue. Oct 4, 8:15 pm, Vancity
Thu. Oct 6, 10:30 am, Vancity
A renowned hub for religious tourism, Jericó, Colombia, brims with colourful characters. Inhabiting striking homes that share a birthday cake's palette, the village's residents are inordinately happy with their humble lives. Catalina Mesa's elegant documentary paints this community through the distinct stories of its eldest women. "Eloquently capturing the vibrant history of the village, [the] film offers a poetic and intimate examination of love, loss, heartbreak, poverty and faith." – Cinema Axis

Kate Plays Christine
USA | Dir: Robert Greene
Tue. Oct 4, 9:15 pm, Intl Village 8
Thu. Oct 6, 1:00 pm, Vancity
Drifting from fact to fiction like an anxious sleeper sliding into a lucid dream, Robert Greene’s study of the craft of acting and the toll it exacts on identity is one of the year’s most enthralling films. Recruited to play Christine Chubbuck, a troubled Florida newscaster who killed herself on-air in 1974, actress Kate Lyn Sheil throws herself into her research and preparation with no regard for her own psychological well-being. “A tour de force in the blending and bending of genres…”—New Yorker

Turkey/USA/Germany | Dir: Ceyda Torun
Sat. Oct 1, 9:15 pm, Cinematheque
Mon. Oct 3, 11:00 am, Intl Village 9
Why waste hours on YouTube cat videos when you can immerse yourself in this absorbing cat's-eye view of the colours, textures and pace of modern Istanbul instead? Ceyda Torun's delightful film uses specially crafted camera rigs to let us ride along with these nimble, adventurous felines. Given the hallowed status they enjoy in Turkish culture, they're practically granted an all-access pass to every vista and alcove in this ancient Eurasian capital, making this a viewing experience unlike any other.

Keep Quiet
UK/Hungary | Dir: Sam Blair, Joseph Martin
Sun. Oct 2, 10:45 am, Intl Village 10
Tue. Oct 11, 6:45 pm, Vancity
With nationalism on the rise, this is a film for the times: "Charismatic" anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic Csanád Szegedi rose to the position of vice president of Jobbik, Hungary's far-right political party. And then he discovered that he was Jewish, prompting a bold conversion to Orthodox Judaism. Letting Szegedi speak for himself, directors Sam Blair and Joseph Martin have crafted a captivating and confrontational film exploring deep questions about his supposed epiphany, and "strong-man" political expediency.

The Killing$ of Tony Blair
UK | Dir: Sanne van den Bergh, Greg Ward, Daniel Turi
Sat. Oct 1, 6:30 pm, Intl Village 9
Tue. Oct 4, 4:00 pm, Intl Village 9
Thu. Oct 13, 6:00 pm, Intl Village 8
How did the former British PM come to be persona non grata in his own land? Here's the case for the prosecution: a scabrous, funny, infuriating Michael Moore-style takedown presented by controversial left-wing politician George Galloway. Sanne van den Bergh and Greg Ward deliver this eye-opening portrait of ego, idealism, charm, charisma, craven opportunism, class inferiority, hypocrisy, cynicism and insatiable avarice. Stephen Fry and Blair's sister-in-law Lauren Booth help Galloway state his case.

Norway | Dir: Benjamin Ree
Thu. Oct 6, 12:30 pm, SFU-GCA
Sun. Oct 9, 7:15 pm, SFU-GCA
Thu. Oct 13, 7:15 pm, Intl Village 10
The title refers to chess phenom Magnus Carlsen, who became world chess champion in 2013 at the tender age of 22 (unsurprisingly, he has been called the Mozart of chess). Benjamin Ree's chronicle of this young man's family life and his rise to the top of a notoriously difficult discipline is engrossing and entertaining, no doubt due to both Ree's deft editing skills and the sheer tenacity of his subject. "Ree's rousing documentary... taut and paced with drama... is a sure-fire festival sensation." — Screen

Portrait of a Garden
(Portret van een tuin)
Netherlands | Dir: Rosie Stapel
Fri. Sep 30, 1:00 pm, Vancity
Sun. Oct 2, 7:00 pm, Intl Village 9
Wed. Oct 12, 4:00 pm, Cinematheque
Horticulture fans, be warned: This doc may leave you crepe-myrtle-red with envy. Fortunately, it also inspires and informs. Over the course of a year, we watch the grounds of a centuries-old Dutch estate shift from dormant to kaleidoscopic and back again. All of this occurs under the guiding hand of a master pruner who assures us, "To do this successfully requires a degree of obsessiveness." However, enjoyment of Rosie Stapel's film relies only on an appreciation of nature's wondrous transformations.

Prison Dogs
USA | Dir: Perri Peltz, Geeta Gandbhir
Sat. Oct 1, 10:45 am, Intl Village 9
Mon. Oct 10, 7:00 pm, Intl Village 10
A beacon of light in the dark nightmare that is the American prison system, "Puppies Behind Bars" is a remarkable program that sees hardened New York convicts raise and train service dogs for up to three years. Living with the puppies 24/7, the inmates teach the dogs 95 commands, after which the dogs go on to help war veterans with PTSD. Co-directors Perri Peltz and Geeta Gandbhir emphasize hope and the possibilities for prisoner reform the program brings, and the result is both powerful and moving.

(Les saisons)
France | Dir: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud
Sun. Oct 2, 3:30 pm, Centre for Arts
Fri. Oct 7, 6:30 pm, Centre for Arts
Wed. Oct 12, 6:15 pm, Vancity
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.

Snow Monkey
Australia/Afghanistan/Norway | Dir: George Gittoes
Tue. Oct 11, 10:30 am, Vancity
Thu. Oct 13, 6:00 pm, Cinematheque
George Gittoes has turned his camera on hot spots from wartime Iraq to a Florida ghetto. Now he's found his ultimate hellhole: the streets of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The director films young street vendors as they struggle to survive, becoming their benevolent business partner in the process. Viewers should be prepared for instances of violence. Gittoes doesn't pull his punches, but there's a hard-bitten nobility in his approach to life on the meanest streets. "An unusual and fascinating film." – Screen

Mexico | Dir: Tatiana Huezo
Fri. Sep 30, 4:00 pm, Cinematheque
Sun. Oct 9, 8:15 pm, Vancity
Demonstrating equal measures of artistry and outrage, Tatiana Huezo's haunting film is both powerful cinema and damning indictment. Weaving together the stories of two women who've suffered extreme trauma and persecution at the hands of Mexico's legal system, Tempestad paints an unflinching portrait of modern-day Mexico and its citizens, who are often the prey of a vicious ecosystem in which justice has eroded and corruption reigns supreme. "[A] smouldering, incendiary documentary..." – IndieWire

Tickling Giants
USA/Egypt | Dir: Sara Taksler
Fri. Sep 30, 9:30 pm, Intl Village 10
Wed. Oct 5, 1:30 pm, SFU-GCA
Known as the Jon Stewart of Egypt, Bassem Youssef went from heart surgeon to TV satirist during the uprisings of the Arab Spring. He's a man who boldly speaks truth to power and Sara Taksler's documentary portrait of him is rousing stuff. Youssef and his compatriots express themselves at incredible risk; their courage is heroic and paying tribute to them is reason enough to see this movie. Come for the politics, stay for the laughs. "Exuberant and tragic... An essential document..." – Screen

When Two Worlds Collide
Peru/Qatar | Dir: Heidi Brandenburg Sierralta, Mathew Orzel
Sat. Oct 1, 1:45 pm, Intl Village 10
Tue. Oct 11, 6:45 pm, Intl Village 9
The irreconcilability of indigenous land rights and free-trade agreements has seldom been more dramatically illustrated than in Heidi Brandenburg Sierralta and Mathew Orzel's riveting documentary about the collapse of Peru's Amazon rainforest due to exploitation of natural resources. The sight of a pristine patch of jungle cloaked in oil is but one of the indelible images on offer as on-the-ground footage immerses us in a community's struggle for survival against a multinational's machinations.

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.
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.