From the World Cup to the remote Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, three students are on a quest. The catch is…the teacher. Soccer-obsessed, charismatic filmmaker, and citizen of the world, Khyentse Norbu may be one of the most eminent Tibetan Buddhist teachers, but it’s a job description he slyly seems to reject at every turn.
"Provocative and surprisingly fast-moving." Ken Eisner, Georgia Straight
Established in 2004, the Student Film Showcase showcases the finest in student films from universities and colleges from across Canada. With the participation of the Film School Consortium this TIFF event presents a range of student films in diverse forms - including animation, documentary, fiction and experimental work - that represent the burgeoning talent of our nation’s next generation of filmmakers.
Genius: The Kevin Aussant Story
Kevin — and his mother — always believed he’d become the greatest screenwriter of all time. Gifted and confident, but discouraged by his father, Kevin finally moves to the big city to pursue his dream in this quirky comedy about the unshakable power of creativity.
Placement of the Grain
Sculpted monochromatic figures mutate into eerie renderings that are simultaneously transfixing and disturbing; if the Quay Brothers and David Cronenberg had an animated cinematic lovechild, it might look like Placement of the Grain.
On a small farm, two young brothers spend their day picking produce, tormenting chickens, throwing eggs at trains, and hunting each other with foam-dart guns. Daily life in the countryside is given a sensitive, subtle and patient treatment by director Dylan Stirewalt.
It’s a beautiful day in the mountains as a young boy, Snorkly, joins a day-camp race and lies to get onto the team of his choice, The Fanny Pack. Team Work is an absurd, hilarious film — a cross between Robot Chicken and South Park, with a touch more heart.
The Toronto blackout of 2003 is the focus of this animated documentary, which stitches personal anecdotes together with handcrafted illustrations to recall a moment when the vibrant Big Smoke was transformed into a magical, mysterious place.
Lou pumps gas at the local truck ’n’ go, but dreams of one day escaping with her BFF Chantal to "blow up" in the big city. Funny and brutally honest, Firecrackers paints a picture of small-town life filled with truck-stop diners, deadbeat adults, and the teenagers who hope to escape from both.
Sun of a Beach
Shunned for shining a little too brightly, the poor sun feels alone in its search to connect and be wanted. Good intentions fire up the screen in this fun and cheerful animated vignette. SPF 30 recommended.
Walter Woodman, Patrick Cederberg
In a story that plays out entirely on a teenager’s computer screen, Noah follows its eponymous protagonist as his relationship takes a rapid turn for the worse in this fascinating study of behaviour (and romance) in the digital age.
Eui Yong Zong
A sensitive documentary on the preservation of memories, Elizabeth follows Donald as he prepares to put to rest his companion of 18 years. This film is a raw, touching, and at times surprising portrait of grief and the difficulty of imagining life without a loyal partner.
Repurposing an old home movie clip of a family posing on a boat near port, Byron Chan loops the footage and reconfigures history in this captivating formal study of analogue archival material reshaped in the modern age.
Eileen H. Peng
A Brothers Grimm-inspired fairy tale given a striking animation treatment, Godfather Death tells the story of a young doctor whose godfather was — fittingly — Death. Empowered by his godfather’s gift of a potion that cures all disease, the doctor soon learns that the balance of life cannot be cheated.
Toronto artisan Ross Stuart has been hand-crafting banjos and ukuleles for years, but has found it hard to turn his work into a sole source of income. Rosbilt is as much a polished portrait of an honest, outspoken and hard-working man as it is an examination of artistic output as livelihood.
Basilisk, a greedy land-based creature with eyes only for a pot of gold, is on the run trying to track down his prize. A colourful, vivid animation reminiscent of the great Hayao Miyazaki, Basilisk and its animator Mami Thompson are names to watch out for
With astonishing prescience (or luck) Bobbi Jo Hart started following aspiring pianist Marika Bournaki from the age of 12. She was already a prodigy, but over the course of a decade Hart was able capture her development as an artist (she has played Carnegie Hall several times) and as a person - as well as the toll her discipline took on her childhood and her family.
"A fascinating exercise… classical music abounds - Schumann, Rachmininoff, Bach - and it’s an aural delight." 3 stars Rick Groen, Globe & Mail
Herman Wallace has spent 40 years imprisoned in solitary confinement in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for a crime many believe he never committed. The injustice of solitary confinement and the transformative power of art are explored in Herman’s House, a feature documentary from first-time director Angad Singh Bhalla, that follows the unlikely friendship between Jackie Sumell a New York artist, and Herman Wallace, one of America’s most famous inmates, as they collaborate on an acclaimed art project.
"Conceptually inventive, poetic and original, Herman’s House achieves a great feat in constructing a compelling narrative about a man we never meet and goals that aren’t quite reached… In the end, none can contain this unique and moving story, and we are left with our own imaginations, completely activated by this magnificent film." Ezra Winton, Art Threat
"As powerful as it is heartrending." Serena Whitney, Exclaim
A meditative, free-associative but entirely engrossing contemplation of the nature of time by the innovative non-fiction filmmaker Peter Mettler. Detroit, Big Island, India and CERN are just some of his philosophical pit-stops. Go with the (lava) floe.
"Recalling the work of Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog and the late Chris Marker… The End of Time becomes immersive and hypnotic… a ravishingly beautiful experience." Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter.
"Peter Mettler’s poetic lens has inquired into everything from personal fulfillment (Gambling, Gods and LSD) to the Northern Lights (Picture of Light). Now he’s after his most elusive prey yet: the very human concept of time… [The End of Time] is of a piece with Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light, a film that similarly finds miraculous unity in seemingly random things." Peter Howell, Toronto Star.
A Canadian-made “porno chic” movie? It never happened! So historians say. But tonight’s screening proves otherwise as the never-released and unknown sexually-explicit [or: ‘X-rated’] horror-spoof Sexcula—-made entirely in British Columbia back in ’73—-screens in a World-Premiere of its original, unplayed 16mm answer-print. Produced with the help of Canadian film tax credits (that’s right—-taxpayers backed a porn movie—only in Canada!), Sexcula is one of the oddest entries in the colourful catalog of “Canuxploitation.”. Special guests to be announced.
Are animals sentient beings, or are they property? Photographer Jo-Anne McArthur has made it her life’s work to challenge the widespread willful ignorance that allows animal abuse to carry on unchecked. For more than a decade she has documented animals held in captivity to supply our food, clothing, scientific research, or simply our entertainment. Her photos are sometimes heartbreaking, but also often unexpectedly beautiful, always soulful, and inspiring. The same could be said of Liz Marshall’s film, which gives a sense of the horrors humans inflict on animals, but also the immense spiritual bond which many of us naturally feel for other living beings.
"A superb example of committed fimmaking." 4 stars. Susan Cole, Now magazine
Opening Night supported by First Weekend Club. Come early to enjoy a reception, Siobhan Devine's Vancouver-made short film OMG (starring Gabrille Rose and Matreya Fedor, and a post screening Q&A with director Sean Garrity.
At 41, Nicole is at a point in her life when she is asking is this all there is - or whether she still has more to offer? One day she gets a letter from an anonymous observer who seems to know her daily habits intimately. More than that - he seems to intuit a potential Nicole herself has buried deep inside. He has a plan for her, if she is interested… And so begins a dance that is by turns adventurous, romantic, erotic, reckless and potentially disastrous.
“The plot will creep under your skin and raise your pulse.”
Chris Knight, The National Post
"Tightly crafted… very gripping with a fabulous performance by Michelle Giroux." Brian D Johnson, City TV
“Garrity fashions something tense, steely, and affecting out of a premise that might’ve yielded an erotic fantasy if the events here weren’t so rooted.” Jason Anderson, The Grid
This affecting portrait of three generations of Cree women smacks of authenticity and truth. It’s a low-key movie about mother-daughter relationships and the way past mistakes have a way of cycling back round again no matter how hard you try to run away from them. 5 Canada Screen Awards Nominations: Best Film, Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress and Editing.
"Beautifully shot, newcomers Gee and Eyre are revelations, and the central theme of cultural pride is stirring and urgent." Glenn Sumi, Now Toronto
"Finely crafted… A trio of gorgeous performances from the three female leads…" Katherine Monk, Canada.com
This wildly funny and original Vancouver satire focusses on a corrupt local politician with a strange neural complaint: he believes he’s the subject of a reality TV show (even though no one else can see the cameraman who dogs his every move).
“"Movies about movies" are tricky ground, but there are very few missteps here. The humor is pitch black, and had me laughing constantly.” —Zack Mosely, Quiet Earth
What if everything you thought you knew about drugs was wrong? What if society has misread - or been misled - about what science says about psychedelic substances? What if prohibition only exists to safeguard social inhibition (and big pharma profits)? Through interviews with the world’s foremost researchers, writers, psychologists and pioneers in psychedelic psychotherapy, Vancouver filmmaker Oliver Hockenhull explores the history of five powerful psychedelic substances (LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, Ayahuasca and Cannabis) and their now established medicinal potential.
"Fuses science, art and spirituality into a seamless whole." Geoff Olson, Vancouver Courier
There are men, and then there are men with beards. how your true face to the world. It’s not as easy as it looks! In fact for many men growing a beard is a challenge and even a rite of passage, a time when they reclaim their masculinity despite suspicion and derision from colleagues, bosses, friends and loved ones. If the results can be hairy - especially when confronted with a bowl of soup - they can also prove revelatory, opening up new channels of self expression and even sensuality.
Nunavut means "Our Land". But does that include us? After decades of what might generously be described as benign neglect, Canada seems more invested in the north than ever (no prizes for guessing why). Documentarian John Walker (A Drummer’s Dream) traces the long, often fractious relationship between the Inuit and the rest of the country, marvels at the beauty and hardship of this place, and reflects on his own experiences, revisiting the arctic for the first time since the 60s.
* VIFC Guest + Volunteer Passes are not valid for Best Of Hot Docs Series
In 1968, homosexuality was illegal in NYC. Gay bars were dark, dirty, dangerous and mostly controlled by the syndicate. But then along came Steve Ostrow, opera singer and entrepreneur, with a grand vision. From the minute Ostrow opened the elegant Continental Bath and Health Club in the legendary Ansonia Hotel, it was a beacon for the hip, the beautiful and the infamous. With a cabaret stage featuring red hot performers like Bette Midler and Labelle, straight high society, celebs and hunky men in towels jammed into the same room, bringing gays into the open and ultimately playing a critical role in overturning anti-gay laws.
"Documentary gold. 4 stars." Glenn Sumi, Now magazine
"Intimate and fascinating… a slice of social and pop history that demands to be consumed." David Voigt, Examiner
"It’s a great story made even greater by Malcolm Ingram’s first-rate feature." Greg Klymkiw.
Part Hitchcockian mystery thriller, part quirky new-wave comedy, this free-wheeling Quebecois audience-pleaser riffs on our brave new digitally interconnected world with nimble wit and an underlying seriousness. A coat-check girl follows a misplaced key into a turpid conspiracy and finds romance - and political engagmnent - en route.
"A genre mashup that keeps audiences amused from beginning to end." Boyd van Hoeij, Variety
If you think Amour was too sentimental, then this extraordinary documentary from Brian Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky (Frances) is just what you crave: the filmmakers spent years visiting a nursing home, charting the progress of senility, dementia, and of course death among the residents. All this narrated with bleak, wrily philosophical humor by one of their number. The film is not journalistic, but poetic, a "dirge", in the words of the filmmakers - and one you will not forget in a hurry.
"The Patron Saints was the single best film I saw during the festival run of Putty Hill." - Matt Porterfield
"Mainly, this observational realism serves the filmmakers exceedingly well, creating a humane, almost elegiac atmosphere, with occasional flashes of black humour, all of it heightened by a soundtrack of choral music that culminates in Arvo Part’s ethereal version of My Heart’s in the Highlands." Kate Taylor, Globe & Mail
"Bleak, moving, expressionistic." NOW magazine