Dietrich Brüggemann’s conceptually daring story of a devout teenager’s trials is eloquently told in 14 chapters, each a masterful single take. As Maria becomes a “warrior of Christ,” the film proves itself both a condemnation of fundamentalist religion and a testament to faith. “While stark, it’s far from chilly—Brüggemann has a sense of humor about his subject matter.”—Village Voice. Winner, Best Screenplay, Berlin 2014.
Alain Resnais’ swan song is a wry, deliberately heightened adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn’s play. The unseen Riley is dying, but he still possesses the power to disrupt the marriages of his friends (Sabine Azéma, Sandrine Kiberlain, André Dussollier, Hippolyte Girardot). "This joyous yet melancholic effort… charts the woes of middle-class couples coping with problematic love lives, solitude and death…"—Hollywood Reporter. Winner, Alfred Bauer Prize, Berlin 2014.
France, Turkey, Germany
Passionate and utterly compelling, Hüseyin Karabey’s beautifully crafted film is founded in political absurdity. When the Turkish military surrounds a Kurdish village, takes alleged rebels into custody and demands the return of nonexistent guns, a little girl and her grandmother set off in search of a weapon—any weapon—that might earn her father’s freedom. Breathtaking vistas and nerve-wracking suspense await. Winner, Audience Award, Istanbul 2014.
"Nuri Bilge Ceylan [Once Upon a Time in Anatolia] is at the peak of his powers with [this] richly engrossing and ravishingly beautiful magnum opus… [The film] tunnels into the everyday existence of a middle-aged former actor turned comfortably situated hotel owner—and emerges with a multifaceted study of human frailty whose moral implications resonate far beyond its remote Turkish setting."—Variety. Winner, Palme d’Or, Cannes 2014.
A small miracle of a movie, Tsai Ming-liang’s insanely slow, magnificently gorgeous film is his most beautiful in years. For 56 minutes we watch Tsai’s actor fetiche Lee Kang-sheng, accompanied by French art-house icon Denis Lavant, walk ever-so-slowly through a series of urban spaces in Marseilles. Hilarious visual puzzles; plays of light and space; pure cinema magic. Shelly Kraicer
Five neighbourhoods, five different rooftops, five tragic stories. With these tales, veteran director Merzak Allouache takes the pulse of Algiers, a city rife with crime, teeming with intrigue and reeling from the clash of cultures. Allouache’s view is at once panoramic and intimate: he reaches across the city and pulls us close to its people. “Confident, composed and full of contemporary relevance.”—Filmmaker
France, Germany, Switzerland
Juliette Binoche is riveting as an actor asked to revisit the play that made her a star 20 years before—but this time she is to essay the role of the older woman, not the ingenue… "Though deceptively casual on its surface… [Olivier Assayas’ film is] a multi-layered, femme-driven meta-fiction that pushes all involved—including next-gen starlets Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz—to new heights."—Variety
VIFF favourite Doris Dörrie (Cherry Blossoms) immerses us in the mayhem of Mexico City’s bustling Plaza Garibaldi and introduces us to the female Mariachis—still a rare breed—who perform there. While their passionate voices suggest indomitable spirits, moving confessional interviews reveal the discrimination and personal doubts they must contend with on a daily basis. "The female performers are dynamite… Inspiring."—NOW Toronto
Director Christian Petzold and muse Nina Hoss follow Barbara with this brilliantly acted drama about a facially disfigured camp survivor, Nelly (Hoss), in 1945 Berlin, who receives reconstructive surgery before searching for her husband. When she finds him (Ronald Zehrfeld), he doesn’t recognize her—but, believing Nelly dead, enlists her in a plan to inherit his wife’s money… Echoes of Vertigo redound in this haunting work.
Fear, prejudice and misunderstandings collide on a crowded airplane in the last minutes before takeoff.
An impromptu tryst between two horses serves as the catalyst for further dark comedy in this celebration of equine grandeur and human eccentricities. Benedikt Erlingsson’s debut is every bit as rugged, otherworldly and striking as its Icelandic backdrop. “A hugely enjoyable film from the wild side of the wild side… [It] deserves its cult status.”—Guardian. Winner, Best New Director, San Sebastián 2013.
Germany, South Africa
Completed just prior to Mandela’s passing, Khalo Matabane’s deeply personal documentary finds the celebrated filmmaker wrestling with his conflicted feelings concerning the icon’s life and legacy. Posing provocative questions to world leaders, South Africans and himself, he foregoes nostalgia and assembles “a wonderful exploration of a complicated man and even more complicated issues that feels like vital viewing.”—POV Magazine. Winner, Special Jury Prize, IDFA 2013.
Hong Kong pop meets art in Heiward Mak’s latest feature, a rich, moving, dazzling, and deeply, sympathetically savvy look at the amorous and professional lives of six twenty-something Hong Kongers. Their complex, ambivalent lives play out over six years in fascinating, interlocking stories. Mak’s fiercely contemporary sensibility creates an essential snapshot of Hong Kong’s hopes, anxieties and pleasures today. Shelly Kraicer
A mysterious incident empties Hong Kong (an eerie sight reminiscent of 28 Days Later), leaving a busload of disparate strangers to determine what happened. “Hong Kong doesn’t do sci-fi,” claims one survivor. Fruit Chan dispels that notion as he “bends genre like it’s putty in his hands, distilling the macabre from the everyday and making the apocalyptic seem absurdly matter-of-fact.”—Variety
This droll and appealing dramedy, set in a picturesque (if run-down) fishing village in northwest Iceland, focuses on dry alcoholic Hugi who’s trying to cope both with the feelings he still has for his ex-wife and a visit from his hard-drinking father… "One of the best up-and-coming young European directors, [Sigurðsson] has crafted a revealing, amusing and intelligent film to be cherished."—Screen
Imtiaz Ali’s drama is anchored by A.R. Rahman’s forceful score and Alia Bhatt’s amazing turn as a kidnapped heiress. "Abduction paradoxically results in liberation for both the sheltered daughter of a rich industrialist and her hardened-criminal kidnapper in… this Bollywood road movie, which intertwines dark social issues and blithe romance [and succeeds] thanks in part to relative newcomer Alia Bhatt’s endearingly cockeyed performance."—Variety
Nagesh Kukunoor’s raw, powerful and deeply disturbing drama about sex trafficking and child prostitution in Andhra Pradesh packs a wallop, in no small part due to the performance of Monali Thakur as the 14-year-old heroine Lakshmi. "The film belongs to singer-turned-actress Thakur. [Her] portrait of ravaged innocence will haunt you forever."—NDTV. Winner, Audience Award: Best Narrative Feature, Palm Springs 2014.
Pan Nalin, whose Samsara and Ayurveda: Art of Being struck such chords with Vancouverites, turns his spiritually questing eye towards the Kumbh Mela, the sacred Hindu pilgrimage/festival that unfolds along the Ganges and attracts 100 million devotees. By alternating specific characters—a 10-year-old runaway, an aging holy man—with the sheer spectacle on display, Nalin’s gorgeous film is a celebration of diversity.