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September 22, 2016

VIFF 2016: More Must-See Films That Will Debut This Year

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

There is always something new to see at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and always an acclaimed director debuting a new film that is worth catching up with. It's a lesson that should be kept in mind as the ever-competitive fall movie season — of which this now 35-year-old festival has, surprisingly for many, long been an important pillar — gets underway.

The VIFF programme this year as in the past contains multitudes — that it counts short masterworks, below-the-radar genre items and avant-garde mind-blowers among its essential offerings each year — is a fact that easily gets lost amidst the deafening reams of Oscar hype that issues forth throughout the fall movie season. A massive annual confluence of art and industry, as well as a cinematic buffet of tremendous cultural and aesthetic diversity, can invariably be reduced to just a handful of heat-seeking titles.

In today's VIFF highlights column, VanRamblings will introduce you to four more films that may or may not garner Oscar attention, but should most certainly garner attention from you in order to sate your cinematic palate.

Aquarius: One of VanRamblings' favourite 2012 highlights was Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho's Neighbouring Sounds, which we called a masterwork. In 2016, Mendonça is back with Aquarius, the controversial Cannes debuting film that Brazil did not choose as its Best Foreign Film Oscar entry (at Cannes, Mendonça protested the suspension / inevitable impeachment of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, holding a sign that read "Brazil is experiencing a coup d'etat" and "54,501,118 votes set on fire!"), which means that if you don't see Aquarius at VIFF you may not get to see it at all — now, there's incentive enough to see the work of this master.

Variously described as a richly detailed and colourful character study, with a riveting and magnetic performance by Sonia Braga at the film's centre, Braga plays Clara, a 65-year-old widow and retired music critic, who refuses to sell the beloved Recife beach apartment she's lived in for most of her life, finding herself under attack from a powerful property company, former neighbours, and members of her own family who question her judgement.

Says Giovanni Camia in Filmstage, "Aquarius establishes Mendonça's authorial voice & his place as one of the most eloquent filmic commentators on the contemporary state of Brazilian society," going on to write ...

"Aquarius' central narrative has a clear social-allegorical dimension, the film's opening introducing two important motifs: a bygone sense of unity that has disintegrated in the present, and the idea of memory — and therefore history — as embedded in materials being swept away by contemporary economic processes. Mendonça's despondency at these developments is succinctly expressed through the dissolve that closes the scene: a shot of the apartment filled to the brim as the entire family dances together gives way to one of the same apartment, 34 years later, now empty.

Clara is the film's heroine and Braga deserves high praise for her phenomenal performance. Stately, headstrong, and all-too-recognizably human, she's a delight to watch from start to finish, keeping the viewer mesmerized by her charisma and intensely rooting for her victory. And, anyway, how could one not love a 65-year-old who smokes a joint before the final showdown with her nemeses?"

Clearly, you'll want to place Mendonça's Aquarius on your must-see list.

American Honey. The North American debut for acclaimed British filmmaker Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), American Honey took Cannes by storm back in May, Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells writing ...

"American Honey is a truly exceptional film, a kind of millennial Oliver Twist road flick with Fagin played by both Shia Labeouf and Riley Keogh (Elvis' granddaughter) and Oliver played by newcomer Sasha Lane ... but with some good earthy sex thrown in. There's no question that Honey stakes out its own turf and whips up a tribal lather that feels exuberant and feral and non-deodorized. It doesn't have anything resembling a plot but it doesn't let that deficiency get in the way. Honey throbs, sweats, shouts, jumps around and pushes the nervy. (Somebody wrote that it's Arnold channelling Larry Clark) It's a wild-ass celebration of a gamey, hand-to-mouth mobile way of life. And every frame of Robbie Ryan's lensing is urgent and vital."

Praise for American Honey is near universal, the acclaimed Jury Prize winner at Cannes this year, Variety's Guy Lodge writing ...

"American Honey is a ravishing feminine picaresque, a scrappy, sprawling astonishment, as a girl's gaze meets a boy's across the packed aisles of a Midwestern Walmart, the euphoric EDM throb of Calvin Harris and Rihanna's 2011 smash We Found Love hijacks the soundscape, setting a love story emphatically in motion by the time he hops up to dance on the checkout counter. "We found love in a hopeless place," the song's chorus ecstatically declares, over and over, as well it might — does it get more hopeless than Walmart, after all? It's a gesture so brazenly big and romantically literal that it can't help but have your heart, and it's such an early, ebullient cinematic climax that Arnold dares repeat it two hours later, cranking up the song again in a more fraught, nervous context. Like much of what the director risks, she shouldn't get away with it, but most defiantly does."

We're in. Can't wait. See ya at a VIFF screening of American Honey.

Elle. As Variety critic Guy Lodge writes at the outset of his review of Elle,

"You've never seen a rape-revenge fantasy quite like Elle, not least because the rape, revenge and fantasy components of that subgenre have never been quite so fascinatingly disarranged. Knowingly incendiary but remarkably cool-headed, and built around yet another of Isabelle Huppert's staggering psychological dissections, Paul Verhoeven's long-awaited return to notional genre filmmaking pulls off a breathtaking bait-and-switch: Audiences arriving for a lurid slab of arthouse exploitation will be taken off-guard by the complex, compassionate, often corrosively funny examination of unconventional desires that awaits them."

Sometimes you want to go into a VIFF knowing almost nothing about the film. VanRamblings could quote at length a surfeit of critics like The Hollywood Reporter's Jordan Mintzer, who writes about Elle that it is "a beautiful dark twisted French fantasy" or Lisa Nesselson in Screen Daily who writes, "Elle features a tour de force turn from Isabelle Huppert, the film suspenseful and unsettling from first frame to last, a delectably twisted tale of a woman who reacts in unconventional ways to being raped by an intruder, the film a shocking amoral romp with dark humour in curt dialogue exchanges." ... but, in this one particular instance, apart from the snippets above, we'll leave it up to you as to whether you wish to attend a VIFF screening of Elle, with the peerless, Oscar nominatable Isabelle Huppert at film's centre, and Dutch director Paul Verhoeven back at top of form.

Fire at Sea. Winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin (read: the top prize), and one of the most buzzed about documentaries of the year, Gianfranco Rosi's superb and haunting illumination of the Syrian refugee crisis, in addressing Africa's migration woes Fire At Sea turns it humanist focus on the 150,000 migrant refugees who cross from Libya in overcrowded boats each year to make their first contact with Sicily and European soil.

Capturing the migrant drama through the periscope of his camera, Rosi focuses on the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa, where wave upon waves of desperate boat people bring their dramas, tragedies and emergencies to Europe's shore, and the place where the the Italian navy and coast guard rescue as many survivors as they can. Writes Demetrios Matheou from Berlin in his IndieWire review ...

"The selection of characters is small, precise. The dominant personality of the film is Samuele, a nine-year-old boy and a terrific bundle of good humour and contradictions, not least the fact that while confidently clambering around the island's rocky hills with his trusty, homemade slingshot, he's uncomfortable on water, and prone to seasickness, which is a little inconvenient for an islander.

We follow Samuele at school, with his uncle on his boat, and his grandmother at home, and roaming the island with his friend. When he has to wear an eye patch to deal with his lazy eye (a convenient metaphor for Rosi, perhaps, aimed at the less conscientious of those in the international community?) it plays havoc with his slingshot aim; when speaking to the doctor about his breathing problems, he wonders himself if it may be because he's anxious, a little Italian Woody Allen in the making."

Fire At Sea is one of the most talked about documentaries of the year, and chances are Rosi's film won't make it back to our shores, with VIFF likely providing your sole opportunity to screen Gianfranco Rosi's compassionate, humane, powerful, at times shocking but intensely human, documentary.

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Today's, and previous VanRamblings' VIFF 2016 columns that present information, trailers, and reviews by thoughtful and erudite critics of films screening at VIFF 2016 — and soon, much more — may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:15 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 21, 2016

VIFF 2016: More Must-See Festival Highlight Films to Consider

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

The cinema of despair arrives back on our shores for the 35th consecutive year, as the prestigious and always provocative 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival is set to commence on Thursday, September 29th, bringing joy and a degree of pathos to the lives of all those who love film as creative and challenging art, and art that provides a humane and, in most instances, insightful window into this ever-changing world of ours.

Today's VanRamblings column presents four more VIFF films we believe may be worthy of both your time and your consideration at VIFF 2016.

Note should be made that reviews for the four films are not universally over-the-moon, although there's enough good that has been written about each film that further salutary investigation by you may be well warranted.

Each year for the past 20 years, VanRamblings has chosen 20 - 30 films from the VIFF programme, in advance of the Festival, that we've identified as "sure fire winners" based on what we've heard from friends, and have found in reviews on the 'Net. Our track record has been this: out of 20 films we've identified each year, five have emerged as life-changing cinema, nine have proved worthy of our time & we're glad we caught the films, three have provided travelogue-like entertainment, and three we've just hated.

Still and all, appreciation of film is subjective — one person's cup o' tea may not be another's cup o' tea. Read on, assess, then decide for yourself.

I, Daniel Blake. Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year (which is to say, the Grand Prize winner), 80-year-old U.K. writer-director-social activist-kitchen sink dramatist Ken Loach's latest powerful foray into humane cinematic agitprop emerges as one of the two films to which VanRamblings is most looking forward to screening at our VIFF 2016.

From David Rooney's review at Cannes, in The Hollywood Reporter ...

"For more than 50 years, Ken Loach has been making social-realist dramas tied together by a prevailing thread — the compassionate observation of the struggles of the working class to hold onto such fundamental dignities as a home, a job and food on the table within a hostile system that often views them unfairly as the cause of their own misfortunes.

Vividly drawn, full of beautifully subdued performances, authentic, entirely of the moment and anchored by incisive characterizations rich in integrity and heart, and by an urgent simplicity in its storytelling that's surprisingly powerful, I, Daniel Blake portrays ordinary people pushed to breaking point by circumstances beyond their control, and by a government welfare system of circuitous Kafkaesque bureaucracy seemingly designed to beat them down."

Deeply moving and at times darkly funny, Ken Loach establishes himself yet again as the Clifford Odets of contemporary British cinema as his new film intervenes in the messy, ugly world of poverty with the secular intention of making us see that it really is happening, and in a prosperous nation, too. I, Daniel Blake is a film with a fierce, simple dignity of its own. Screens for a first time on Monday, October 3rd, at 3:45pm at The Playhouse; on Thursday, October 6th, 3:15pm at The Centre; and on the last day of VIFF, Friday, October 14th, 6:30pm at The Centre.

Graduation. Romanian Palme d'Or winner (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) Cristian Mungiu's latest follows a doctor's attempts to help his daughter pass a life-changing school exam with superbly subtle observation. As Peter Bradshaw writes in his five-star review in The Guardian ...

"Graduation, is a masterly, complex movie of psychological subtlety and moral weight, about the shabby choices people make as they claw their way up: people constrained by loyalty to others who have helped them with wrongdoing, who use those others' corruption as an alibi for their own failings, and those who hope that the resulting system of shifty back-scratching somehow constitutes an alternative ethical system. But how about the children, those innocent souls for whose sake all this grubbiness has been endured? Should they be preserved from graduating into an infected world of compromise and secret shame?"

An intricate, deeply intelligent film, and a bleak picture of a state of national depression in Romania, where the 90s generation hoped they would have a chance to start again, there are superb performances from Adrian Titieni as surgeon Dr Romeo Aldea, and 18-year-old Maria Dragus — who played the priest's daughter Klara in Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon. It's a jewel in an exceptional Cannes 2016 lineup."

With unfailingly convincing performances, a script that keeps the proceedings on a slow burn throughout, Mungiu's direction is the kind that refrains from drawing attention to itself, inviting the audience to fully immerse itself in the story and forget about the people behind the camera. Screens on Friday, September 30th, 1:15pm at Cinema 10, International Village; Wednesday, October 5th, 8:30pm, at The Centre; and for a final time on Tuesday, October 11th, 3:15pm at The Playhouse.

Yourself and Yours. Hong Sang-soo continues in the same intellectually playful vein that he explored in last year's VIFF favourite Right Now, Wrong Then. This is a film which, through use of characters who may or may not be doppelgangers, memories which may or may not be faulty, leaves us with questions that it resolutely refuses to answer, and as such may prove difficult for some members of the audience to process. Going in to TIFF, advance word on Yourself and Yours was not great, either, because the film had been rejected from Berlin, Cannes et al.

As Stephen Dalton writes in his TIFF review, in The Hollywood Reporter ...

"The discreet charm of Yourself and Yours will depend entirely on your tolerance levels for stylistic ticks and the ramblings of tedious, self-pitying drunks and slackers and their minor relationship dramas. Still, South Korean director Hong Sang-soo possesses a distinctive voice and an interesting track record, but his latest exercise in flimsy whimsy may be for indulgent hardcore fans only."

Wendy Ide is much more generous in her Screen Daily review ...

"Hong Sang-soo uses his trademark long takes, with occasional zooms, to capture the meandering conversations that play out between the characters. It's a technique which places emphasis on the performances. Fortunately, the actors are more than up to the task, particularly Lee You-young who is as beguiling as she is elusive. Ultimately, the film makes a case that perhaps it's better not to know everything about the person you love. And sometimes you just need to shed the baggage and start the relationship again from the beginning."

Blithe-bordering-on-farcical, wry and perplexing, with a darker than usual tone, fans of Hong Sang-soo will find plenty to like in Yourself and Yours, namely its wry humor, but for the uninitiated, it may prove a difficult entry point into the prolific filmmaker's work. Screens twice, on Sunday, October 9th, 8:30pm at Cinema 8, International Village; and for a final time on Thursday, October 13th, 2pm at Cinema 10, International Village.

Two Trains Runnin' (Grade: A-). An absolute knockout, one of the critics' and passholder favourites screened in preview at VIFF, and set to unspool at the 54th annual New York Film Festival as part of its Spotlight on Documentary program, Sam Pollard's Two Trains Runnin' is pure cinematic poetry set amidst the racial tensions and general social upheaval that were the order of the day in the '60s, when churches were bombed, shotguns were blasted into cars and homes, and civil rights activists were murdered.

In June of 1964 hundreds of university students eager to join the civil rights movement traveled to Mississippi, starting what would be known as Freedom Summer. That same month, two groups of young men — made up of musicians, college students and record collectors — also traveled to Mississippi. Though neither group was aware of the other, each had come on the same errand: to find an old, long-forgotten blues singer and coax him out of retirement. Thirty years before, Son House and Skip James had recorded some of the most memorable music of their era, but now they seemed lost to time, their music preserved only on scratchy 78s.

A tribute to a generation of blues musicians and the story of how the search for these pioneering musicians intertwined with the American civil rights movement, Two Trains Runnin' is an entirely remarkable document about how on June 21, 1964, these two campaigns collided in memorable and tragic fashion, and how America's cultural and political institutions were dramatically transformed, a story as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. Screens on VIFF's opening day, Thursday, September 29th, 6:30pm at The Cinematheque; Saturday, October 8th, 3:15pm at The Rio; and on Wednesday, October 12th, 6:30pm, at Cinema 9, International Village.

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Today's, and previous VIFF 2016 columns may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:12 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 20, 2016

VIFF 2016: The First of Eight Festival Highlights Columns

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

The 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival begins with Maudie, a biopic of the reclusive Canadian painter Maud Lewis, and ends 16 days later with Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience, Malick's 45-minute cinematic odyssey across time and history.

Among the well-known international filmmakers whose work will be presented at VIFF are France's André Téchiné, Olivier Assayas, François Ozon and Mia Hansen-Løve, Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda, Romania's Cristian Mungiu, Cristi Puiu and Radu Jude, Belgium's Joachim Lafosse, Chile's Pablo Larrain, Spain's Pedro Almodóvar, China's Jia Zhangke, Iran's Asghar Farhadi, South Korea's Park Chanwook, Brazil's Kleber Mendonça Filho, the U.K.'s Terence Davies and Ken Loach, and the latest celebrated work from acclaimed American filmmakers Kenneth Lonergan and Jim Jarmusch.

As we'll do each day for the next 8 days, VanRamblings will attempt to provide insight into the critically acclaimed films which will arrive on our shores after having garnered recognition at film festivals spanning the globe. But first off today, a film that swept the Sundance Film Festival in January, a lock for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, a Best Actor Oscar nod for Casey Affleck, and a probable Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod for the always sublime Michelle Williams ...

A wrenching drama about a grief-stricken New England family, Manchester by the Sea is, as Sasha Stone wrote in her Telluride review, "sad and beautiful, not a dark film, nor really a depressing one. It's just about living with the truth laid bare." Justin Chang writes in his Variety review ...

"Kenneth Lonergan's beautifully textured, richly enveloping drama about how a death in the family forces a small-town New Englander to confront a past tragedy anew, gives flesh and blood to the idea that life goes on even when it no longer seems worth living, which diagrammatic description provides little justice to Lonergan's ever-incisive ear for the rhythms of human conversation, as he orchestrates an unruly suite of alternately sympathetic and hectoring voices — all of which stand in furious contrast to Casey Affleck's bone-deep performance as a man whom loss has all but petrified into silence.

While Manchester by the Sea is very much about uncles, nephews, fathers and sons, Lonergan, always a superb director of actresses, gives the women in his ensemble their due. It's been a while since Michelle Williams had a role this good, but she's lost none of her unerring knack for emotional truth, and she has one astonishing scene that rises from the movie like a small aria of heartbreak."

From Manchester by the Sea's sound design and cinematography to Affleck's and Williams' haunting performances, Kenneth Lonergan's third feature film emerges as one of the best films of 2016, and a must-see for anyone who says they love film, as the transformative art of our age. Manchester by the Sea screens three times at the Centre for the Performing Arts, on Thursday, October 6th at 6pm, Saturday, October 8th at 2:15pm, and on Wednesday, October 12th at 8:30pm.

João Pedro Rodrigues' The Ornithologist

The Ornithologist. Screening at the 54th annual New York Film Festival at the same time it screens at VIFF, here's what the New York Times' lead film critic Manohla Dargis had to say about João Pedro Rodrigues' The Ornithologist in her Toronto Film Festival weekend wrap-up column ...

"The single most delightful and narratively adventurous movie I saw at Toronto, The Ornithologist very loosely recasts the story of Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese saint who died in the 13th century. Set in the present, this genre-buster pivots on Fernando (the lovely, pillow-lipped French actor Paul Hamy), whose one-man expedition into the wild goes weirdly, at times hilariously, wrong and then right. During Fernando's travels, he's waylaid (and hogtied) by pilgrims; takes a tumble with a goatherd; and exchanges gazes with the locals, notably the birds who look down upon him in long shots that, in movies, are known as bird's-eye or God's-eye views.

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues of Portugal, The Ornithologist meanders as headily as its protagonist, zigging and zagging through one pastoral location and down one narrative byway after another. I'm still trying to figure out who the three bare-breasted huntresses are; they turn up on horseback with a heraldic blast of a horn, dogs barking and hooves pounding. That isn't a complaint, but an acknowledgment of the story's glories and mysteries, which makes The Ornithologist a good metaphor for both moviegoing and the festival experience at its best. Mr. Rodrigues opens up a world like a scroll as he shifts from realism to the fantastical and then the allegorical; pauses to meditate on the beauty of the world; and insists on the fusion of the spirit and the flesh. I can't wait to see it again."

VanRamblings' friend, Mathew Englander — who has just returned from TIFF — also raves about The Ornithologist, as do any number of thoughtful film critics. The Ornithologist screens only twice at VIFF, on Thursday, October 6th at 3:15pm in Cinema 8 at International Village, and Monday, October 10th at 6:15pm at the Vancity. Get your tickets soon, cuz when word gets out on The Ornithologist tickets are gonna be hard to come by.

And finally for today, Alison Maclean's acclaimed New Zealand production ...

Another one of Mathew Englander's favourite TIFF films, here's what New Zealand film critic Graeme Tuckett has to say about The Rehearsal ...

"New Zealand director Alison Maclean's The Rehearsal is a small, but undeniably ambitious film. Maclean (Jesus' Son) — shooting a script she co-wrote with Emily Perkins, adapted from the novel by Eleanor Catton — drives the play-within-the-film conceit into some smartly constructed scenes. Most successful — and often, ironically, superbly well acted — are the scenes set in the drama school classroom. In the best of these vignettes, Kerry Fox is a near-hypnotic presence, passive-aggressively manipulating and undermining her charges, while she preens and struts in front of them. Fox doesn't quite plumb the depths of repressed sexuality of Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal — a film The Rehearsal surely owes a debt to — Fox is far more overtly likeable and forgiveable here than Dench was allowed to be in that under-rated gem. But the character, if we watch closely, is no less chilling."

An impressive technical work with a collection of remarkable performances, and well-composed imagery, with The Rehearsal Canadian born but New Zealand raised writer-director Alison Maclean has created an emotionally textured adaptation of Man Booker award-winning author Eleanor Catton's first novel, a drama that's as piercing as it is potent. The Rehearsal screens three times at VIFF 2016, on Friday, September 30th at 10:45am in Cinema 10 at the International Village; Saturday, October 8th at The Playhouse; and for a final time on Sunday, October 9th at The Centre.

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Today's, and previous VIFF 2016 columns may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:25 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 19, 2016

VIFF Movie Mania Nears: Tickets On Sale at the Vancity Theatre

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

Vancouver International Film Festival tickets are on sale daily at the Vancity Theatre on Seymour Street, just north of Davie. This year's festival will run from Thursday, September 29th through Friday, October 14th where 365+ films, including 219 full-length features, from 75+ countries will screen.

Get ready for a cinematic onslaught: Tickets and passes for the 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival have been on sale since the first part of the month. This year's edition of VIFF, which takes place September 29-October 14, will screen upwards of 365 domestic and foreign films, including 219 full-length features and 130 short or mid-length films from 75+ countries which will play on nine screens at seven venues.

2016 Vancouver International Film Festival Programme Guide

This year's glossy programme (once again, available at no charge) may be found at the Vancity Theatre, as well as at libraries, coffee shops, community centres and VIFF sponsors all across the Metro Vancouver area.

And as per usual, films will screen (mostly) throughout the downtown core, from the Vancity Theatre (185 seats) on Seymour Street in new Yaletown, to the Cinematheque (194 seats) on Howe Street, in the burgeoning South Granville area. Many VIFF screenings will occur in the thriving, relatively new Crosstown neighbourhood, nestled in between the hustle and bustle of downtown, the new-money flash of Yaletown, the historical character of Gastown, and the colourful grit of Chinatown, with screens available to patrons at the 350-seat SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (in the Woodwards building, at Abbott and Hastings), the nearby Cineplex International Village Cinema, in Cinemas 8, 9 and 10 (799 seats in total), and the Vancouver Playhouse, on Hamilton Street (668 seats).

Perhaps the most glorious (as well as largest, and most comfortable) venue is The Centre for the Performing Arts, on Homer Street, between Georgia and Robson (1800 seats, 900 on the main floor), due west of the Vancouver Public Library. The Rio Theatre, at Commercial and Broadway (420 seats), will also play host to a wide range of VIFF 2016 films.

Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait

Beginning Tuesday, VanRamblings will publish insight into 25+ films which arrive at our 35th annual VIFF having won awards and critical acclaim at film festivals spanning the globe, from Venice and Berlin, to Cannes & Locarno, from Tribeca and Toronto, to Seattle, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, London, Park City Utah's Sundance Film Festival, and more, as we attempt to provide you with insight into what may emerge as worthy entries, among them films which are likely to gain Oscar recognition early in 2017.

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Full, daily VIFF coverage — which began on Monday, September 19th — will be available here through and beyond Festival end on October 14th, or by simply returning to VanRamblings each day. Commencing on Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 VanRamblings will provide 8 straight days of coverage of the 25 - 30 award-winning and under the radar films that will screen at the 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival that may be worthy of your interest and your consideration.

VanRamblings will also provide coverage of the International Shorts programme (thank you Sandy Gow!), and will publish an interview with the tremendously gifted Vancity programmer Tom Charity that we hope readers will find both informative and heartening. Looking forward to seeing you back here at VanRamblings regularly and often, as we seek to provide VIFF 2016 coverage we hope will be of ongoing and consuming interest to you.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:55 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2016

September 18, 2016

Hallelujah: VanRamblings Returns After A Prolonged Absence

Blurring The Lines Between Art and Politics

With a British Columbia provincial election looming fewer than nine months away — on Tuesday, May 9th, 2017 — the time has come for VanRamblings to arise phoenix like from the ashes of the 2016 Canadian federal election.

In the coming months, there will be much that will be written on this blog as to why any thinking, socially aware, informed and compassionate British Columbian must choose to vote for the New Democratic Party of British Columbia over Canada's most right-wing, least responsive (except in the lead up to an election) Liberal-in-name-only provincial political party. That most important work will begin in November, in the weeks following the ...

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival

35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, to which VanRamblings will dedicate almost all of its energies over the course of the next month, with the first of 30 VIFF columns to be published Monday, September 19th.

Following the conclusion of Vancouver's annual film festival by the sea, chances are that VanRamblings will focus, mainly, on the upcoming U.S. election, offering opinion and reflection on what is to be wrought on Tuesday, November 8th south of the border, and the implications of the most important election in the United States in more than 50 years.

Although VanRamblings' primary focus following the U.S. election will be British Columbia's perhaps not quite so consequential provincial election, VanRamblings will also turn its attention to Vancouver municipal politics, focusing mainly on Park Board & School Board, as strong opinion abounds.

And, finally, in a departure from past VanRamblings practice, this blog will increasingly turn its attention to a personal journal, mordantly titled fixin' to die rag, more as a service to VanRamblings' two lovely children, Jude and Megan, so that they (and you) will come to better understand who it is that has composed posts on VanRamblings dating back to February 2004.

As has long proven to be the case, what you will find published on VanRamblings will please almost no one (opinion, fidelity and truth are hardly in vogue these days), least of all my children (and their mother) in respect of the fixin' to die rag, most political figures of every stripe (as always, one can expect much consternation from the good-hearted folks involved in COPE), and those who reside on the political spectrum far from the territory where VanRamblings has long found its philosophical home.

Welcome back to VanRamblings — a raucous ride is all but guaranteed!


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 9:21 PM | Permalink | VanRamblings

December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas. May There Be Much Love in Your Life.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 5:45 PM | Permalink | VanRamblings

November 10, 2015

Hope for a New Canada, as Rookie MPs Settle into Ottawa

Justin Trudeau meeting with his caucus for the first time following the 2015 electionJustin Trudeau meeting with his new caucus for the first time, following the 2015 federal election. Photo credit: Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press.

On election night 2011, newly-elected Québec MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau was ridiculed for being out of the country on election night, celebrating her 27th birthday in Las Vegas. Moreover, Ms. Brosseau was attacked in the media and by opposition MPs for never having stepped foot in her Berthier-Maskinongé riding during the entirety of the 35-day election campaign, for being a unilingual English-speaking 'paper candidate' — a 'poteau' in French slang — in a riding that was, and is, almost universally French speaking.

A 2011 op-ed in the National Post criticized Ms. Brosseau's inexperience, writing that she was "an extreme example of what happens when people sign up to run for a party with little or no expectation of actually winning." Yet, despite all, on election night 2011, Ms. Brosseau handily defeated incumbent Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament Guy André, former provincial Liberal MNA Francine Gaudet and three other candidates, winning a plurality, with 22,484 votes, representing 39.3% of all the votes cast.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau, re-elected as Member of Parliament for a second term in officeRuth Ellen Brosseau was recognized by her fellow MPs in 2014 as Parliament's hardest working MP. Ms. Brosseau, representing the riding of Berthier-Maskinongé, was elected to a second term in office on October 19th, 2015. Photo credit: Globe and Mail.

Yet, even given all of the above, and what many in the political class considered to be Ms. Brosseau's "sordid past", at the conclusion of 2015's ruinous for the NDP 78-day election campaign, Ruth Ellen Brosseau — the failed university student and vegetarian single mother turned MP — upped her vote over 2011, raking in 42.24% of the vote, handily defeating all comers, as she secured a second term as MP for Berthier-Maskinongé.

No mean feat that, when the New Democrat Party caucus in Québec was all but decimated, crushed on election night October 19th 2015, as the NDP Québec caucus was reduced from 58 seats out of the province's 75 seats, to only 16 Québec seats out of 81 seats, of which Ms. Brosseau's was one.

"I was tagged the 'Vegas girl', and hoped from day one that I would lose that identity," says the now fluently bilingual Brosseau.

"With my win in the 2015 election, the fact that I not only won my riding for a second term, but that I was able to secure more votes and up my percentage win, demonstrates that over the course of the past four years I have gained the trust of the people I've been elected to serve — through hard work and being present in my riding for all of my constituents, as their champion and liaison to government, that through my continuing dedication to the people I serve — who like myself, live and work and raise their families in the riding — while working with a first-rate constituency team, together we have been able to accomplish much, to build on our successes, which makes me so, so very happy."

On the day of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first meeting with his mostly newly-elected 184-member caucus — 156 MPs were elected for the first time — just one day after the Prime Minister and his cabinet were sworn in at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, the Liberal party leader told his party's MPs ...

"I need each and every one of you to remember one thing. Regardless of the committees you're on, the roles you have, regardless of party demands, and the partisanship that will continue to exist in this House ... your one job, that you cannot ever forget, is to be a strong voice in service of the people who sent you here from your constituencies."

And so it is. As the newly elected rookie MPs, from all parties, set about to get a handle on just what it means to be a member of Parliament, Ruth Ellen Brosseau's story should become the instructive story of merit, that through it all, through all of the partisanship in the House of Commons and on the Hill, the prime directive always is to "serve your constituents well", for that is what is going to get you re-elected to a second term in office.

Members of Canada's Parliament honour the security detail that saved themLast December, MPs paid tribute to the House security team for their efforts during the October shooting on Parliament Hill. Photo credit: Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press

For rookie MPs, the transition to life as a federal politician will no doubt prove 'educational', if more than a little daunting, overwhelming and, as they burn the midnight oil, stressful. For rookie MPs must hire staff — both in Ottawa, and in their riding — sign a lease for a constituency office, find a place to live in the nation's capital, sign up for remuneration and benefits, be briefed on parliamentary protocols, and try not to get lost in the Centre Block in search of the bathroom, among other immediate tasks.

All told, there are 214 new MPs (of which 17 are former MPs but weren't sitting in the last Parliament) in the 338-seat House of Commons.

Marc Bosc, Deputy House of Commons Clerk, in his office on Parliament Hill Deputy House of Commons Clerk Marc Bosc (seen here in his office) has a few tips for new members of Parliament. Photo credit: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen.

Last week, the newly-elected MPs participated in an administrative orientation session, the first of two being held for new MPs. A second session on parliamentary procedures will be held shortly before the House of Commons sits on December 3rd.

"It can all be quite daunting. There's a lot of information to absorb. It's not easy for them to arrive here with all the things happening to them all at once," said Marc Bosc, acting Clerk of the House of Commons, in an interview with Ottawa Citizen Parliament Hill reporter, Jason Fekete.

"The burden is very heavy. Members' time is spoken for almost from the minute they arrive here. If it's not caucus, it's committee work, or foreign travel, or constituency work. It's a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job if you let it control you to that extent. There's no limit to the amount of work you can do."

A multi-party panel of three long-serving and former MPs — re-elected Conservative MP Gordon Brown (Leed-Grenville), former Liberal MP Ted Hsu (Kingston and the Islands), and re-elected New Democrat MP Carol Hughes (Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing) — held a session last week with the rookies to share their experiences and provide advice.

One of the areas the veteran and former MPs addressed was maintaining a proper work-life balance. Parliament Hill, for many years, has been rife with broken marriages and personal struggles. In the interview with Mr. Fekete, Marc Bosc told the reporter that if he were to offer one piece of advice to new MPs, it would be: Don't neglect yourself.

"It's easy when you get here to forget about self care. It's important to have a good work-life balance, and a lot of MPs have to pay attention to that because it's easy to get sucked into the vortex of receptions and events, and lose sight of what's important in your life, whether it be exercise or your family or both," Bosc said. "Those members who are most successful obviously do a lot of constituency work but they also have some balance and carve out time for themselves and their families."

Steep learning curve, long days, a committee workload on Parliament Hill (and all that reading) will no doubt cause some of the new MPs to wonder what they've gotten themselves into. Some will burn out — which, one would have to think, played some role in the NDP's loss of 42 seats in Québec — while others will take to their new life as a swan takes to water.

Second wave Trudeaumania, as Justin Trudeau brings generational change to OttawaLiberal Leader Justin Trudeau, holding his son Hadrien, as his wife Sophie and two children Xavier, left, and Ella-Grace wave to a crowd of supporters during a rally Sunday, October 4, 2015 in Brampton, Ontario. Photo credit: Paul Chiasson, The Canadian Press

Generational change in Ottawa, gender parity in the new Liberal cabinet, 25,000 Syrian refugees — 47% of whom will be children — on their way to Canada (perhaps, even before year's end), a new climate change policy, the long overdue end of the war on soft drugs, a new system for electing MPs to Ottawa on the near horizon and certainly in time for the next federal election in 2019, a programme for the realization of new light rail transit infrastructure in our cities, and the promise of an open, transparent and responsive government in Ottawa that will serve the interests of all Canadians — make no mistake, this is an exciting time in Canada's history, in the lead-up to the 150-year anniversary of our country, in 2017 (the celebration of which has been tasked to Trudeau confidante, Mélanie Joly).

This blush of first love, honeymoon period in the political life of Canada that we're all experiencing is, for all but the most dour of critics, nothing less than intoxicating. There is governing to be done, and a Canada to be transformed, so that we may recognize, once again, Canada as she is as a nation — recapturing who we once were and who we will be again and will remain, what we stand for as a nation, and the values we hold most dear, not just as a nation but in our warm, collective relations with one another.

We are our sisters and brothers keepers — let us hope and pray that the 214 MPs newly-elected to Ottawa from all parties, as well as the 124 returning Members of Parliament, work together in service of us all, in their constituencies, and in the House of Commons and on Parliament Hill.

For this is our Canada we want to reclaim — for each & every one of us, in every age group, from every ethnic community, from old stock Canadians to immigrants old and new, for every person along the gender variant spectrum, for every woman, man and child for whom Canada is home.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:31 AM | Permalink | Politics

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