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.
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
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.
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
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.
Riri Riza follows his exploration of Timor’s civil war in Atambua 39° C with a very different but equally engrossing movie. A young woman is giving "primitive" children their first schooling in a huge preservation area in southern Sumatra. She finds herself fighting tribal prejudices, bureaucratic arrogance… and illegal loggers. Tony Rayns
Rain falls in love with the enigmatic Kris when they’re both high-school seniors and is devastated when Kris abruptly goes abroad. Several years later he gets an invitation to visit his former crush, now married and living in Bali. But what does Kris really want? Andri Cung’s debut feature is sexy, seductive and emotionally intense. Tony Rayns
Canada’s Daniel Ziv has made the most successful documentary in Indonesian history. Shining a light on urban poverty, it’s also made stars of three inspirational Jakarta street musicians whose talent is only rivalled by their resourcefulness. Life is hard for these troubadours but commitment and passion always have a fighting chance. "Stunningly vivid and full of energy…”—Tempo Magazine. Winner, Best Documentary, Busan 2013.
Shot in one bravura take, Shahram Mokri’s blackly comic, coolly inventive art/horror mash-up follows two sinister cooks and a group of students camping at a lake… "The camera’s complex choreography creates fissures in time, piling on stories within stories that trap viewers in an increasingly ominous… nightmare."—Variety. Winner, Special Orizzonti Award for Innovative Content, Venice 2013; Muhr Asia Africa Special Jury Prize, Dubai 2013.
Iran’s premier female filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad returns with this brilliantly constructed tapestry of intersecting stories and characters from different levels of Iranian society. All struggle against the strictures of contemporary Iranian life; all find some solace in love… "The characters of my… films are still alive to me… Tales returns to the characters of my previous films under today’s circumstances."—Bani-Etemad
Looking for love (and hemoglobin) in the desolate streets of Iranian ghost town Bad City, a lonesome, alluring vampire (Sheila Vand) must also navigate the comically offbeat, unequivocally cool reality envisioned by director Ana Lily Amirpour. Channelling vintage Jarmusch and cranking the post-punk soundtrack to spellbinding effect, “Amirpour has crafted a beguiling, cryptic and often surprisingly funny look at personal desire.”—Indiewire
Iran, France, Switzerland
A surreal (and occasionally highly entertaining) summit unfolds when Iranian expat Mehran Tamadon convenes four Islamic religious leaders to discuss creating a more open society in his homeland. The sense of melancholic mischief here recalls Panafi’s This Is Not a Film but the concerns expressed and consequences incurred are unique to Tamadon. “An amusing game to watch…”—Hollywood Reporter. Winner, Grand Prix, Cinéma du Réel 2014.
Dubliner Christina Noble (Deirdre O’Kane) travels to Ho Chi Minh City to better the lot of street children and war orphans. Is the fighting spirit coursing through her Irish veins a match for widespread corruption and indifference? Stephen Bradley offers "a joyful and rousing affirmation of the human spirit that will resound widely."—Hollywood Reporter. Winner, Audience Award: Best World Narrative Feature, Nashville 2014.
The story of an idealistic teacher who becomes convinced that one of her five-year old charges is a prodigious poet, Nadav Lapid’s second feature (Policeman was in VIFF 11) invites myriad questions about life and art, words and meaning, and the perceptual boundaries between adults and children. Elusive, haunting and ultimately disturbing, this is a drama you’ll be replaying in your mind long afterwards.
Israel, Austria, Germany
Drawing on a huge cache of personal documents, photos and letters found in Heinrich Himmler’s home after his 1945 suicide, Vanessa Lapa crafts a compulsively watchable archival inquiry into the personal side of one of the biggest mass murderers in history. "Engrossing… Quite how [Himmler] made the journey from an ordinary middle-class man to Hitler’s henchman is a fascinating story."—Screen
"Two young women serving out their military service as office workers on a remote desert army base play out the inanity and insanity of military bureaucracy in… Talya Lavie’s aptly titled black comedy… [The film], full of unexpected twists and turns, inventively recasts conflict in decidedly non-heroic, absurdist white-collar terms…"—Variety. Winner, Best Narrative Feature, Nora Ephron Prize, Tribeca 2014.
Italy, Canada, France
Giuseppe Marinoni has been making some of the most desirable bicycle frames in Canada for decades. A former competitive cyclist, he decides, at age 75, to attempt a world record for distance cycled in an hour for his age group. His perfectionism, combined with a curmudgeonly nature, leaves him impatient with director Tony Girardin, adding a lot of humour to this inspiring film.