"One of the tasks of a lifetime is to become familiar with the great works of Shakespeare," wrote Roger Ebert, in his 4-star review for Kenneth Branagh’s acclaimed, full-length film of the Bard’s most enduring tragedy. He continued: "Branagh’s version moved me, entertained me and made me feel for the first time at home in that doomed royal court…. His ’’Hamlet’’ is long but not slow, deep but not difficult, and it vibrates with the relief of actors who have great things to say, and the right ways to say them."
"Not only the best filmed adaptation of Hamlet I have ever seen, but the best cinematic expression that I have come across of any of Shakespeare’s plays." James Berardinelli, Reelviews
"As star and ringmaster, Branagh gets to the heart of Hamlet and goes to admirable lengths to take his audience there, too." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"100% Shakespeare and 100% cinema." Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
Three sisters: Woody Allen explores the bonds and infidelities running through a middle class New York family in this, one of his most expansive and warmest films, a tender comedy that garnered Academy Awards for Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest and for Allen’s screenplay.
"An articulate, literate film, full of humanity and perception." Time Out
"One of Woody’s best ever." David Parkinson, Empire
Heavyweight German filmmaker von Trotta turns her attention to one of the pre-eminent thinkers of the twentieth century, Hannah Arendt, and in particular to the crucial time in 1961 when she reported on the trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann for the New Yorker. It was Eichmann’s pathetic disavowals of the Final Solution policy he helped frame that inspired Arendt to coin her famous phrase, "the banality of evil."
"Trotta has made an extremely vivid cinematic essay, thrilling in its every minute, deeply moving in its seriousness and suitably unsettling." Elke Schmitter, Der Spiegel
"A thrilling lesson in courage." Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter
"The best movie this critic has ever seen about the life and times of a writer." Brandon Harris, Filmmaker
The location of the world’s largest—possibly toxic—gold-mine pit, Guatemala is also the homeland of the Maya and their decidedly holistic cosmology. Frauke Sandig and Eric Black’s kaleidoscopically beautiful documentary follows the daily and ceremonial lives of six articulate young Maya as they struggle to maintain their way of life in the face of C21 capitalism.
"Of course one cannot simply reverse European history and the creation of the “Self”, which is also tied to liberation from the forces of nature. But one can empathize with a philosophy that does not separate the individual from nature. This different relationship to nature is better described with pictures than with words. Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth does exactly this, with clouds that glow from within, rivers with power one can sense, or mountains, which exude an inner peace. The camerawork creates settings that inspire fascination in a hitherto unknown world."
Peter Gutting, kino-zeit
"It is an exquisitely, achingly beautiful film – wonderfully conceived and sensitively filmed. I particularly appreciated the references to ancestral dreams and memories, sequences that ring truer than any film I’ve ever seen on Maya spirituality… The sequences on the war were particularly poignant. One of the communities I lived in for 6 months was completely wiped out—I still don’t know if anyone survived. It is my sincerest hope that some lived to tell their stories like the wonderful people in this film. What strikes me is the resilience of the Maya in the face of powerful and concerted efforts to destroy or alter it. I was profoundly affected by this film and will carry many of its images with me to the end of my days."
Allen J. Christenson, Author of Popul Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya
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
The writer of VIFF-favourite The Hunt fashions a lean, taut, morally ambiguous Scandinavian thriller out of the facts of the hijacking of a Danish-owned cargo boat by Somali pirates (the very incident captured in the documentary Stolen Seas).
96% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes
"No mainstream American thriller could ever be made about this subject that resisted simple-minded narrative clichés the way "A Hijacking" does, or that refused to depict its characters as either heroes or villains." Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
"A nail-biter of a thriller." Geoff Pevere, Globe & Mail
The hilarious (and possibly exaggerated) origin story of the real life alien bluegrass band, Future Folk. When a comet threatens to destroy their planet, the citizens of Hondo enlist their most decorated soldier, General Trius (Nils d’Aulaire), to search for a new home planet- and wipe out the current inhabitants with a flesh-eating virus. After landing somewhere near Brooklyn, General Trius wanders into a megastore to unleash the terror… when he’s enchanted by a strange and mystical human invention known as "music."
"Close encounters of the charming kind." Robert Koehler, Variety
"Delightful." LA Weekly
"Hilarious." San Francisco Chronicle
Their family names alone evoke horror: Himmler, Frank, Goering, Hoess. Hitler’s Children is a film about the descendants of the most powerful figures in the Nazi regime: men and women who were left a legacy that permanently associates them with one of the greatest crimes in history. What is it like for them to have grown up with a name that immediately raises images of murder and genocide?
"Quiet, simple and soaked in sorrow." Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times
"Hitler’s Children was a film that had almost everything. It informed, it surprised, it made me think. Is killing just one or two people more acceptable than killing seven or eight? Where are the boundaries of love and forgiveness? Are there any, even?" John Crace, The Guardian
For over forty years, America’s "War on Drugs" has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet for all that, drugs in America are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever before. Perhaps it’s time to call a ceasefire?
"Searing… One of the most important pieces of non-fiction to hit the screen in years." LA Times
"Fearless… A model of the ambitious, vitalizing activist work that exists to stir the sleeping to wake." New York Times
Curated by photographer Greg Girard, who will introduce the films: House of Bamboo & Long Arm of the Law The Walled City of Kowloon was an amazing and forbidding part of Hong Kong, and who better to introduce these films in which it features so centrally than photographer Greg Girard, whose book City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City is itself now legendary.
HOUSE OF BAMBOO The first Hollywood movie to be shot in Japan after WWII, and also the first film to be shot in CinemaScope in that country, House of Bamboo is vividly alert to places and spaces. One of the iconic film noir hard men, Robert Ryan is an ex GI operating an American crime gang on strict military lines. Robert Stack infiltrates the group, but getting in is easier than getting out in one piece.
"A masterpiece that pinpoints the sublime in Fuller’s sensationalism and earns every inch of its widescreen real estate! Turning the on-location Tokyo streets into the perfect backdrop for a cartoonishly colorful version of hardboiled drama—call it Pulp Art— House of Bamboo keeps its story line about an undercover Army cop (Stack) battling a gangster (Ryan) on the lean and mean side. But the impeccable compositions Fuller uses to detail the lyrical and the lurid give even the most lowbrow elements a high-art feel; it’s like a bridge from the gutter to the museum." - David Fear, Time Out New York
"Some of the most stunning examples of widescreen photography in the history of cinema. Travelling to Japan on 20th Century Fox’s dime, Fuller captured a country divided, trapped between past traditions and progressive attitudes while lingering in the devastating aftereffects of an all-too-recent World War. His visual schema represents the societal fractures through a series of deep-focus, Noh-theatrical tableaus, a succession of silhouettes, screens, and stylized color photography that melds the heady insanity of a Douglas Sirk melodrama with the philosophical inquiry of the best noirs." Keith Uhlich, Slant Magazine
In this Oscar-nominated documentary feature, David France tells an astounding story of activism and innovation about AIDS survival, not death which has been overlooked until this timely documentary. Culled from a massive trove of archival footage, the film is both epic and intimate, tracking a small group of people, most of them HIV-positive, in their nine-year-long battle to save their own lives. They end up saving 6,000,000.
"One of the ten best movies of 2012… If its essence could be bottled, David France’s fierce, heartbreaking documentary about the very early days of AIDS activism could serve as a tonic for demoralized political organizers, a bracing reminder that change is possible when a group of committed people come together to fight injustice, indifference, and prejudice…don’t miss this cathartic, inspiring film." - Dana Stevens, Slate
"The currents of rage, fear, fiery determination and finally triumph that crackle through David France’s inspiring documentary, “How to Survive a Plague,” lend this history of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power a scorching electrical charge." - Stephen Holden, New York Times
New Year’s Eve, 1958. What brings mailroom boy Norville Barnes to the very edge of suicide? An enormous stroke of luck seems to be the correct answer. When CEO and founder Warring Hudsucker (Charles Durning takes a dive from his office window), corporate honcho Sidney J Mussburger (Paul Newman) seizes the moment and sizes up Norville for an astronomical promotion.
"Criminally overlooked and sinfully wonderful Coen brothers comedy." Scott Weinberg, efilmcritic