Film Festival Series
Every year at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Canada’s best feature films, documentaries and shorts are presented in one of the world’s largest annual public exhibitions of new Canadian film. From an average of more than 900 submissions, our programmers select over 75 features and shorts. Vancouver moviegoers respond with tremendous enthusiasm, making this one of our best-attended series and a point of pride for VIFF.
This year, VIFF furthers its commitment to Canadian narrative filmmakers by introducing a cash award to celebrate their outstanding achievements.
Awards for Canadian filmmakers at VIFF 2015 will include:
BEST CANADIAN FILM
$10,000 cash prize
Sponsored by THE DIRECTORS GUILD OF CANADA
EMERGING CANADIAN DIRECTOR
$2,000 cash prize
Sponsored by THE DIRECTORS GUILD OF CANADA
BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM
$2,000 Cash Prize
MOST PROMISING DIRECTOR OF A CANADIAN SHORT FILM
$2,000 Cash Prize
BEST BC FILM
A $10,000 development bursary
Sponsored by THE HAROLD GREENBERG FUND
(All films in the BC Spotlight are eligible for Best BC Film)
+$15,000 of post-production services
Supplied by Encore Vancouver
B.C. EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD
A $7,500 cash prize
Sponsored by UBCP / ACTRA and AFBS
+$10,000 Equipment credit
Supplied by WILLIAM F. WHITE
(This award is open to narrative films that are signatory to a UBCP/ACTRA agreement.)
All Canadian feature films are also eligible for the prestigious Rogers People’s Choice Award, chosen by VIFF attendees through post-screening voting.
Vote For Your #mustseeBC Favourite.
From noon on September 12th - to noon on September 24th go to mustseebc.viff.org and vote for your favourite BC Film at VIFF. Winner will get a special red-carpet screening at the Vancity Theatre. Go BC!
Films in this Series
Hélène Choquette’s documentary examines the symbiotic relationships that form between homeless people and their faithful canine companions. On the sometimes mean streets of Montréal and Toronto, the dogs and their owners offer one another company, protection and unconditional love. This remarkably candid film provides genuine insight into the homeless experience from an unusual angle, inspiring newfound compassion and understanding.
Sean Garrity (Lucid, Blood Pressure) returns with a distinctly Canadian comedic drama. An unemployed gambling addict drags his pot-smoking teenage daughter on a road trip to Churchill, Manitoba, in hopes of showing her the Northern Lights before a disorder renders her blind. With a bookie in pursuit, they’re forced to confront each other, their pasts and their respective loves for poker and weed. Starring Jonas Chernick, Emily Hampshire, Joey King and Kevin Pollak.
Think Pan’s Labyrinth meets Carnivale and you’ll still be unprepared for this astonishing debut from Done Four Productions and director Nicholas Humphries. In this Dust Bowl-era reimagining of The Little Mermaid, an amphibious siren (Katelyn Mager) falls prey to a nefarious benefactor (Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon) and ends up in a magical turf war. Sumptuous production design and sinister storytelling conjure a seductive fantasy world.
Two siblings endure the impact a residential school has on their relationship with themselves, one another and nature itself.
With a mesmerizing Michael Eklund starring as photographer Eadweard Muybridge, Kyle Rideout crafts a complex and compelling portrait of the man who’d be immortalized as both the godfather of cinema and the last American to receive a justifiable homicide verdict (for killing his wife’s lover). As fascinations distort into obsessions, Rideout skilfully employs techniques indebted to the infamous pioneer to convey Muybridge’s psychological unravelling.
In Adam Garnet Jones’ first feature, a teenage girl commits suicide in a remote Anishinaabe community and it’s up to her brother Shane (Andrew Martin) to take care of their family. Shane was supposed to move to the city for university in the fall and was desperately trying to convince his secret boyfriend (Harley Legarde-Beacham) to come with him. When forced to choose between devotion to his family or his desire to dictate his own future, what will he do?
Directors Tony Massil and Pablo Alvarez-Mesa’s creative documentary follows Frank Furko, an 80-year-old eccentric living in a Pittsburgh suburb. The film focuses on Frank’s celebrity, which derives from a deeply felt friendship with Pudgie Wudgie, his 20-pound performing house cat. Supported by Frank’s 20 years of VHS video archives—mesmerizing footage that is strange, often hilarious and oddly beautiful—this is an intimate and thoughtful portrait of an older man struggling to come to terms with his very unusual past.
In his compelling drama/documentary hybrid, Sasha Snow explores the complexities of Grant Hadwin, a logging engineer who chainsawed down a 300-year-old sacred tree on Haida Gwaii as a protest against rampant logging in the area. Inspired by John Vaillant’s Governor General’s Award-winning book, The Golden Spruce, Snow focusses on the more mysterious elements of Hadwin’s story and fate, crafting “[a] gorgeously photographed, compulsively watchable, sympathetic doc…”—Globe & Mail
VIFF favourite Charles Wilkinson (Oil Sands Karaoke) returns with a visually stunning paean to breathtaking Haida Gwaii and the spirited people who populate it. The natural beauty of this culturally rich archipelago has served as a backdrop for tragedies such as outbreaks of smallpox and the exploitation of natural resources. And yet, the Haida Nation remains undaunted, preparing for a showdown over the Northern Gateway pipeline and planning for a more sustainable future.
In 1985, Steve Fonyo ran his “Journey For Lives” marathon, covering almost 8,000km of Canada and raising $14 million for cancer research. He was subsequently named an Officer of the Order of Canada, becoming the youngest person to ever receive that honour. Then things began to fall apart. He repeatedly ran afoul of the law and was convicted of various crimes. His Order of Canada was revoked. Refreshingly, Alan Zweig (15 Reasons to Live) tells the story of Fonyo’s downfall with great sensitivity—and without ever lapsing into sentimentality.
In Paul Gross’ film, ripped from the headlines, a sniper, who has never allowed himself to think of his targets as human, becomes implicated in the life of one of them. An intelligence officer, who has never contemplated killing, becomes the engine of a plot to kill. A legendary Mujahideen warrior, who had put war behind him, is now deeply involved. Three different men, three different worlds, three different conflicts, yet all stand at the intersection of modern warfare.
The BC coastal forest is in all its glory as a father and his two daughters drive off to their remote and idyllic getaway home. They have little sense at first of the growing apocalypse that they are leaving in their wake. It will come to them. Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, and Callum Keith Rennie star in this Patricia Rozema-directed adaptation of Jean Hegland’s novel.
A beautiful experimental tribute to the filmmaker’s grandmother and to her people, who’ve survived the trials of history and remained strong.
Sonia Boileau’s debut is a taut psychological drama about Lydia, a young Innu woman who works at a convenience store in a small First Nations community in rural Quebec. As she prepares to close up shop one night, a masked robber holds her up at gunpoint. This traumatic experience becomes even more troubling when Lydia recognizes her assailant. She’ll soon have to make a decision that will change the course of her life. “[An] engaging social-issue drama…”—Variety
The latest involving documentary from Chelsea McMullan (My Prairie Home) exemplifies excellent storytelling and artful execution. When two Canadian siblings travel to Thailand to find out what really happened to their murdered father, they discover that he fled Canada due to his involvement with a biker gang, only to land in deeper corruption in Thailand and the Philippines. Furthermore, he has two kids in Thailand with the same names as them. McMullan creates a creepy and subtly condemning portrait of foreigners doing very bad things.
Arriving in Story, Arkansas (pop. 89), Joni and Wes realize they’re not in L.A. anymore. There to settle their estranged father’s estate, they’ve arrived on Decoration Weekend, when locals celebrate their dearly departed. As a clearer picture of their father emerges, decisions become less obvious. This affecting dramedy from Nicolas Citton (That Burning Feeling’s screenwriter) is a bittersweet celebration of community and family.
Philippe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar) returns with an energetic, laugh-out-loud political comedy that couldn’t be more timely. Steve Guibord (Patrick Huard, brilliant) is an independent Quebec MP travelling to his northern riding with a new Haitian intern. Soon after finding themselves caught in the crossfire of activists, miners, truckers, politicians and aboriginal groups, it turns out that Guibord somehow holds the decisive vote in a national debate that will decide whether Canada will go to war in the Middle East! The fabulous Suzanne Clément co-stars.
Over four decades after the infamous Sir George Williams Affair was sparked by allegations of faculty discrimination against black students, Ninth Floor reopens the file on a watershed moment in Canadian race relations and one of the most contested episodes in the nation’s history. Making an audacious foray into nonfiction, writer and director Mina Shum (Double Happiness) engages the original protagonists in a compassionate cinematic exercise of reckoning and redemption.
In a world where women procreate asexually, male babies have become passé and an entire gender faces extinction… What’s a guy to do? Well, the youngest man alive (Patrick Gilmore), who toils as a housekeeper for a West Vancouver all-female family, is unaware that he’s about to become a key player in a battle for survival. Camera Shy’s Mark Sawers is at the height of his satirical powers with this wry speculative mockumentary.
Alexander Carson’s first feature is part coming-of-age story, part art-cinema meditation on photography, souvenirs and collections. The newest offering from North Country Cinema (The Valley Below) conjures a tender and haunting portrait of friendship and faith in the 21st century, following a group of young artists on a search for new mythologies and invoking a cinematic landscape where classical literature collides with new wave aesthetics and 90s pastiche.
In 1978, Guy is found dead in the basement of the family home in a small village in Quebec. The real cause of his death remains a mystery for most of his family. Years later, his son David, now a loving father of two children, secretly still carries the weight of this tragedy. Likewise, David’s daughter must contend with her father’s suffering. VIFF favourite Anne Émond directs this accomplished drama about life, family, forgiveness and grief.
Phyllis Ellis’ documentary is equal parts mystery, history and adventure. Algoma’s tangled wilderness and Lake Superior’s expansive North Shore inspired The Group of Seven in their formative years - young artists searching to articulate the Canadian landscape. Now, three modern-day adventurers canoe across lakes, bushwhack through untamed forests and scale cliffs to seek out the vistas that inspired these artists. Seeing the iconic paintings side by side with the astonishing locations that inspired them is a reminder of art’s power and this land’s majestic beauty.
Atom Egoyan returns with a completely original take on the darkest chapter of horror in the last century. Christopher Plummer plays a man who’s looking for the person who might be responsible for wiping out his family, as he strains to seize the evanescent memories of long-ago brutality. The all-star cast includes Henry Czerny, Martin Landau and Bruno Ganz. Benjamin August’s screenplay will keep you guessing until the very end.
When her boyfriend stops making love with her, Jeannette (Marie Brassard) begins an affair with a young co-worker (Francis La Haye). Alas, it turns out that her heart problems are physical as well as metaphorical. When Jeannette inherits the heart of a deceased Malian woman, she’s stalked by the donor’s son (Youssef Camara) who’s convinced that she’s the reincarnation of his late mother… Ryan McKenna’s stylized and nuanced film is sure to delight.
Andrew Cividino’s remarkable debut is a story of friendship, confusion, betrayal and peer pressure. Fourteen-year-old Adam is enduring a dull summer in a small Lake Superior beach community when he meets local boys Foster and Rizzo. “The cast and filmmakers illuminate not just the wit and charm of young men, but also the callow cruelty of youth, driven by a killer combination of naïve idealism, solipsism, poor self-esteem and raging hormones.”—Hollywood Reporter
Sophie Deraspe’s investigative documentary is the latest reminder to be skeptical of everyone you encounter online. Deraspe tells the cautionary tale of the infamous Gay Girl in Damascus Internet hoax. A blog that purported to be a boots-on-the-ground look at life as an out lesbian in fractious Syria turned out to be something else entirely. "What begins as an account of an online affair gradually morphs into a commentary on identity in the Information Age. [A] slippery, deftly woven narrative…"—Variety
A fever dream within a dream, the latest transmission from celluloid fetishist Guy Maddin (assisted by young co-director Evan Johnson) is part campy, whacked out tribute to vintage Hollywood melodrama, part anguished crypto-confessional and all brilliant: a passionate, virtuoso pastiche that is also perversely original and sui generis. The perfect date movie for mad cinephiles! “[An] inventive, audacious, and outright hilarious tour de force whatzit.”—Cinema Scope
Alex Williams’ film illuminates a shocking time when Canada embraced racial segregation, wilfully and illegally denying Indigenous peoples the basic freedom to leave their reserves and jailing them when they did so without a pass. Cree, Soto, Dene, Ojibwe and Blackfoot elders tell their stories of living under—and resisting—this system. Likewise, they link their experiences to the current state of affairs. Acclaimed Cree actor and activist Tantoo Cardinal narrates this investigation into a little-known aspect of our history.
If you can’t take the nudity and coarse language, stay out of Salam Kahil’s deli. The moment Lewis Bennett’s fascinating documentary takes us inside the shop, the hilariously crass Salam lets fly with a barrage of profane insults and ribald anecdotes. As he rewrites his own history on a whim, we’re left to wonder how an irascible Lebanese male escort actually ended up in Surrey serving the largest sandwiches known to man. With humour and humanity, Bennett unearths the truth.
François Péloquin’s debut is a subtle and charming coming-of-age story. Jérémie (It’s Not Me, I Swear!’s Antoine L’Écuyer) dreams of a very different life from the one awaiting him at the family sawmill (presided over by Roy Dupuis). However, his crazy joyride comes to an end when a fateful mistake shatters his fragile world. Péloquin drafts an impressive chronicle of one teenager’s summertime crucible. “Affecting and beautifully shot.”—Hollywood Reporter
Jordan Paterson’s involving docudrama delves into a little-known chapter of Canadian history. During World War I, 140,000 indentured Chinese labourers were secretly transported from Vancouver to Halifax in locked trains and then shipped to the Western Front to dig trenches and clear the dead. Through intrepid research, interviews, rotoscoped animation and re-enactments, Paterson backs Voltaire’s assertion that “history is nothing but a pack of tricks we play upon the dead.”
Guy Édoin brings us the engaging story of an internationally famous French/Italian actress (Monica Bellucci) who arrives in in Montreal to shoot a movie and reconnect with her university-aged son (Alyosha Schneider). Their fates collide with those of a nurse (Pascale Bussières) and paramedic (Patrick Hivon) during a disturbing event in Ville-Marie Hospital’s emergency room.