VIFF 2016 Must See Films in Vancouver

I don’t think I’ll have time to see all my VIFF 2016 must see films, but I’m excited for the festival nonetheless. The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is by far my favorite festival in Vancouver. Every year, I buy a six-pack pass for all my VIFF 2016 must see films, but it’s not nearly enough to catch all the flicks that peak my interest.

Here is my list of the top 11 VIFF 2016 must see films in Vancouver.

Top 11 VIFF 2016 Must See Films in Vancouver

VIFF 2016 Must See Films

Screenshot taken from VIFF.org.

All descriptions are taken from the VIFF website.
I have no affiliation with VIFF, just absolutely love it!

VIFF 2016 Must See Films 01 :: Julieta

After the raucous sex comedy of I’m So Excited and the psychological body horror of The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodóvar brings us a vivid, female-driven picture that takes him back to a near-extinct genre: the heart-on-the-sleeve melodrama. Based on stories by Alice Munro, Julieta uses a familiar framework to house the director’s idiosyncratic style.

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 02 :: The Teacher

The prolific Czech director-writer duo Jan Hřebejk and Petr Jarchovský (Divided We Fall) return to top form with the compelling Slovak-language dramedy The Teacher. Set in Bratislava during the final decade of communism, it examines the abuse of power at a middle school. Zuzana Mauréry (named best actress at Karlovy Vary) tears into the part of a lifetime as a terrifying instructor who heads the local Communist Party and uses her pupils to manipulate their parents for her own personal benefit…

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 03 :: Franca: Chaos and Creation

hen fashion insiders want to visit the territory where fashion, art and provocation meet, they pick up Vogue Italia, considered the world’s most important fashion magazine. With Franca: Chaos and Creation, director Francesco Carrozzini has made an intimate portrait of his mother, Franca Sozzani, the legendary editor-in-chief of the magazine since 1988. Encompassing both the ridiculous and the sublime, her astonishing but often controversial magazine covers have not only broken the rules but also set the high bar for fashion, art and commerce over the past 25 years. From 2005’s infamous Plastic Surgery Issue in which photographer Steven Meisel documented supermodel Linda Evangelista’s “makeover” to the legendary Black Issue in 2008, which featured only black models and—despite industry prognostications to the contrary—sold out in America and the UK in 72 hours, Sozzani was unafraid to take the industry by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake. As the film shows, she remains deeply committed to exploring subject matter off limits to most and occasionally redefining the concept of beauty in the process.

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 04 :: The Unknown Girl

Adèle Haenel (Love at First Fight, VIFF 14) confirms her place in the firmament of French movie stars with a riveting turn in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s (Two Days, One Night, VIFF 14) latest drama. She plays Jenny, a committed young Belgian doctor who, when not training interns and making house calls, cares for the poor and needy at the clinic where she works. One day she receives a call from the police: a woman’s body has been found on a nearby riverbank. Might Jenny have any information that could help with the investigation? With a shock, she realizes that the woman was someone she had turned away from the clinic due to the lateness of the hour. With her conscience preying on her, she makes some inquiries of her colleagues and realizes that few seem even remotely interested in the fate, or even the identity, of the woman, who was black and without papers. So, driven by guilt, Jenny decides to investigate for herself…

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 05 :: Sonita

The dismaying practice of selling teenagers into marriage is thrust into the damning spotlight in Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s essential documentary. An Afghan refugee in Iran, 14-year-old Sonita aspires to be a hip-hop superstar like Rihanna. But such fantasies can’t fully distract her from the grim reality that she and her teenage friends all have prices on their heads. During breaks at school, she and her fellow refugees don’t talk about boys or pop culture trends, but how much their parents will get for them. When Sonita’s brother requires a dowry to pay for his own bride, her family decides that selling her is the best way to secure the necessary funds.

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 06 :: Lights Before Water

Made in collaboration with the Cree community of Waswanipi, Lights Above Water is an extraordinary documentary that is equal parts observational and poetic. Shot over the course of a year, co-directors Nicolas Lachapelle and Ariel St-Louis Lamoureux’s film follows a group of young children through their daily lives as they talk about their home, play, hunt, and dance (a moment that triggers a particularly memorable Rihanna music cue). The camera manages to keep a distance, allowing the children to guide the film and express themselves, privileging the viewer by immersing us in their world. Expressive stylistic flourishes and striking imagery imbue the work with a lyrical quality unusual for documentary. A generous and humane meditation on identity and place unfettered by an issue-driven hook or a conventional narrative, Lights Above Water (a colloquial translation of “Waswanipi”) is the rare sort of film that refuses to impose its own agenda while transcending categorization and refraining from delivering a simple message. In so doing, it becomes a beautiful work of art to behold.

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 07 :: Neruda

Another robust and inventive drama from Pablo Larraín (No, VIFF 12; The Club, VIFF 15), Neruda, set in 1948 Chile, is more about the transformative possibilities of art and the power of cinematic storytelling than it is a biopic of the great poet, politician and diplomat Pablo Neruda (played here by Luis Gnecco). In fact, while the spirit of the poet hovers over every frame of the film, Neruda, the personage, takes a back seat to Gael García Bernal’s terrific performance as Oscar Peluchonneau, a somewhat inept yet self-aggrandizing police detective who, Javert-like, makes it his mission to hunt down Neruda once the poet is forced into hiding due to his communist beliefs. That we are never sure of Peluchonneau’s reliability as a guide through the proceedings is a deliberate strategy, as is the complex depiction of Neruda—the man is not accorded saint-like status by any means. For Larraín, the mere facts are secondary to the film artist’s ability to create worlds, and to celebrate the power of art. It is, after all, the poetry that really matters.

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 08 :: Cadence

Local filmmaker Alex Lasheras arrives on the scene with this debut feature, a unique psychological thriller dealing with notions of self-identity and reality. When the eponymous heroine begins to experience hallucinations during what is supposed to be a romantic getaway with her pop-star boyfriend, fear and confusion test her ability to distinguish the visions from reality.

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 09 :: Personal Shopper

Re-teaming after 2014’s Clouds of Sils Maria, director Olivier Assayas and star Kristen Stewart journey into the uncanny with a terrific horror story that begins, innocuously enough, as the tale of Maureen (Stewart), an American in Paris who makes ends meet by assisting snobby and demanding supermodel-cum-fashion designer Kyra (Nora Von Waltstätten). Though ill-treated, Maureen gets her own back by surreptitiously making use of Kyra’s haute-couture outfits and camping out in Kyra’s luxury apartment when the designer is away. But Maureen is much more than just a mildly transgressive personal shopper: she is, in fact, a medium who makes forays into the psychic realm in an effort to contact the spirit of her twin brother Lewis, a lad who died of the same congenital heart problem Maureen herself suffers from. When one of her frequent wanderings through the creepy old Parisian house that she and Lewis grew up in seems to lead to a connection, Assayas ratchets up the tension with the finesse of a master. In her heartfelt attempts to contact the other side, just what has Maureen wrought?

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 10 :: The Phantom Detective

Weird and rather wonderful, Jo Sunghee’s take on gumshoe mysteries, hard-boiled noir and vast conspiracy thrillers is every bit as idiosyncratic as you might expect from his previous films—all of which have played in VIFF. It’s set in a retro world without mobile phones and modern tech, and stylised in ways that bring memories of the Hollywood studio heyday rushing in. But at the same time it’s as Korean as kimchi (the underlying paranoid fantasies about a power-elite have a lot to do with Korea’s authoritarian past), and it has a gentle streak running through it which offsets the cruelty and violence. In short, it’s a typical Jo Sunhee movie.

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VIFF 2016 Must See Films 11 :: Nelly

Anne Émond (Nuit #1) returns to VIFF with the startling and sensual true story of Nelly Arcan (born Isabelle Fortier), a young escort-turned-award-winning writer whose lurid life, skilfully penned accounts of her exploits and tragic death became a cause célèbre in Quebec. Arcan’s first novel Putain (Whore) caused a sensation and enjoyed immediate critical and media success. It contained enough similarities between the prostitute protagonist Cynthia and Arcan’s own experience as a professional sex worker to press the media’s buttons, making for instant celebrity in the Québec pantheon. Mylène MacKay delivers a memorable and steamy performance in the title role of Nelly, or, more precisely, the four faces of Nelly. There’s Nelly, the tell-all writer; Amy, the rapturous lover; Cynthia, the top-shelf whore; and Marilyn, the sparkling “glitterati.”

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