VIFF Announces Canadian Docs

Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris
White Pine Pictures


By Pat Mullen

The festival announcements keep rolling in! The Vancouver International Film Festival unveiled the Canadian titles that are set to play this year. On the heels of news that VIFF plans to make sweeping changes to its programming for the 2016 festival, including VR, interactive, and television alongside feature films, comes a healthy dose of docs to join what should be an exciting year.

The Canadian films in the True North streams and the British Columbia productions in the Ignite Films programme offer a mix of world premieres and festival favourites. Among the titles playing VIFF are Nettie Wild’s Hot Docs champ KONELĪNE: our land beautiful, Hot Docs favourite Quebec My Country Mon Pays, and the winner of the emerging Canadian filmmaker award at Hot Docs, Living with Giants. VIFF also brings doc veterans Alanis Obomsawin and Peter Raymont, plus the feature debuts of acclaimed short filmmakers Randall Okita and Jeff Chiba Stearns, and a pair of docu-fiction works with Never Eat Alone and Tales of Those Who Dreamt.

The Canadian Docs coming to VIFF are:

True North Films – Canadian Images:

Living with Giants
Canada | Dir. Sébastien Rist, Aude Leroux-Lévesque
This nuanced documentary by directors Sebastien Rist and Aude Leroux- Lévesque is infused with deep-rooted traditions and the harsh realities of a changing Arctic. Paulusie is an optimistic, imaginative and sensitive Inuk teen who loves the solitude of hunting. But when alcohol is smuggled into his dry community for a graduation party, his life is turned upside down. Kudos to the directors for avoiding facile political statements and revealing something deeper about Native youth in the North.
—> Read more about this Living with Giants in this POV interview!

Quebec My Country Mon Pays
Canada | Dir. John Walker
Having grown up as an Anglophone in post-Quiet Revolution Quebec, documentarian (and VIFF favourite) John Walker speaks with everyone from poets to politicians to reflect on the violent upheaval and subsequent exodus of 500,000 English-speaking Quebecers.
—> Read more about the film in this POV feature!

We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice
Canada | Dir. Alanis Obomsawin
In 2007, the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a landmark discrimination complaint against Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. They argued that child and family welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserves and in Yukon were underfunded and inferior to services offered to other Canadian children. Veteran director Alanis Obomsawin’s film documents this epic court challenge, giving voice to the tenacious childcare workers at its epicenter.
—>Check back soon for an interview with Alanis Obomsawin in POV #103!

Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris
Canada | Dir. Nancy Lang, Peter Raymont | World Premiere
Lawren Harris was born to a life of privilege in one of Toronto’s wealthiest families. After a period of study in Europe, he returned to Canada determined to break free of the restrictive academic style prevalent at the time, boldly painting his radical vision of our country with vibrant colour. Peter Raymont and newcomer Nancy Lang explore what drove the complex character who co-founded the Group of Seven and has become the most valued artist in Canadian history, with collectors including Steve Martin.
—> Read more about director Peter Raymont in this POV interview!

True North Films – Future // Present:

Lights Above Water
Canada | Dir. Nicolas Lachapelle, Ariel St-Louis Lamoureux
Made in collaboration with the Cree community of Waswanipi, this is an extraordinary documentary. Over the course of a year, co-directors Nicolas Lachapelle and Ariel St-Louis Lamoureux follow a group of children through their daily lives. Equally poetic and observational, this is a generous and human meditation on identity and place that’s unfettered by an issue-driven hook or an imposed narrative. It’s the rare sort of film that transcends categorization, becoming a beautiful work of art to behold.

Never Eat Alone
Canada | Dir. Sofia Bohdanowicz | World Premiere
A widow in her mid-80s starts to wonder what ever happened to a would-be lover who appeared with her in a live CBC television drama back in the 50s. Her granddaughter offers to try and to track him down for her in this beautifully understated debut feature directed by Sofia Bohdanowicz. A thoughtful meditation on memory and aging, Never Eat Alone takes a frank and tender look at late-life loneliness and solitude.

Tales of Two Who Dreamt | Canadian Premiere
Canada | Dir. Andrea Bussmann, Nicolas Pereda
Set in a housing block on the outskirts of Toronto, this playful docu-fiction co-directed by Andrea Bussmann and Nicolás Pereda focuses on an asylum-seeking Roma family who speak of legends from their building as they await news of their residency status. Their stories are constantly sidelined by their reality as the film humbly surrenders to its subjects, whose lives appear in limbo in this abstracted vision of Toronto life that investigates notions of representation and storytelling.

Ignite Films:

Keepers of the Magic
Canada | Dir. Vic Sarin
Vic Sarin’s ground-breaking documentary explores our fascination with moving images and provides insight into how cinema’s most iconic moments came to be. Most of all, it honours the great masters of cinematography, unsung heroes whose vision and talent was always right before our eyes. The all-star interviewees include Vittorio Storaro, Bruno Delbonnel, Roger Deakins, John Seale and the late Gordon Willis. This film is a delight for the eyes and a must for cinephiles.

KONELĪNE: our land beautiful
Canada | Dir. Nettie Wild
In Nettie Wild’s stunning magnum opus, a mining company helicopter hovers above the pristine land of the Tahltan First Nation in northern BC, carrying a huge electric transmission tower, casting patterned shadows. This conflict between man-made geometries and nature’s vortices is at the film’s heart. Marking a tonal departure from her earlier documentaries, Wild creates a balanced profile that’s free of polemics and a feast for the eyes.
—> Read more about the film in this POV profile!

Mixed Match
Canada/USA | Dir. Jeff Chiba Stearns
This film could save your life. Jeff Chiba Stearns unveils the desperation of people waiting for a suitable match for a bone marrow donor. Unlike blood donations, which are generally suitable for anyone of the same blood type, bone marrow donation requires an extremely close genetic match, leaving multiracial blood cancer patients to draw from a small pool of donors. Incorporating animation to great effect, Chiba Stearns lets us know what we can do to address this critical situation in cancer treatment.
—> Read more about Jeff Chiba Stearns’ previous film in this look at short docs!

A New Moon Over Tohoku (Tohoku no Shingetsu)
Canada/Japan | Dir. Linda Ohama
Linda Ohama (Obaachan’s Garden) returns to VIFF after spending two and a half years on location in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, and brings with her this compassionate documentary concerning the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident which devastated the coastal Japanese region of Tohoku. In this thoughtful film, Ohama wisely opts to focus on the natural cycle of life, suggesting hope for Tohoku in the symbol of a new moon, an unseen but guiding presence of rejuvenation and new beginnings.

Spirit Unforgettable
Canada | Dir. Pete McCormack
Director Pete McCormack (Facing Ali, VIFF 09) brings us the story of John Mann, lead singer of the iconic Vancouver band Spirit of the West, and his struggle with early onset Alzheimer’s. McCormack has built a compelling and emotionally powerful narrative around archival clips and intimate interviews that reveal Mann, his wife Jill and his bandmates to be endlessly engaging and surprisingly candid. This affecting documentary builds to the sort of riveting performance that’s made the band local legends.
—> Read more in the (rave) POV review!

VIFF runs Sept. 29 – Oct. 14.
Please visit viff.org for more information.