VIFF Announces Canadian Films

Rebels on Pointe

By Pat Mullen

The Vancouver International Film Festival ups its Canadian content with this week’s announcement of the True North selections. There’s a healthy stream of docs, many of which are already POV approved, heading to Vancouver. Among the documentaries announced today are Charles Officer’s Hot Docs winner for Best Canadian Feature Unarmed Verses, Denis Côté‘s hybrid A Skin So Soft (coming soon to our fall issue!), the riotous queer ballet film Rebels on Pointe by Bobbi Jo Hart, and Like a Pebble in the Boot from A Dog’s Life director Hélène Choquette.

The festival also announced Ninth Floor director Mina Shum’s drama Meditation Park as the Opening Night Gala. VIFF added 18 Canadian films in total to join the dozen BC films previously slated to play the festival. Canadian films vie for three cash prizes: the Best Canadian Film award (a $10,000 cash prize) and the Emerging Canadian Director award (a $2,000 cash prize) are both sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada. The Best Canadian Documentary award (a $15,000 cash prize) is presented by Rogers Group of Funds.

True North:

Like a Pebble in the Boot
Dir. Hélène Choquette
Against the picturesque backdrop of Brunelleschi’s Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Senegalese migrants peddle Chinese trinkets and selfie sticks to tourists – but only if they’re lucky. People are often racist, street vending is illegal and many of the vendors are undocumented. It’s frustrating, and they’re barely scraping by, but their families in Africa depend on them. Filmmaker Hélène Choquette turns her empathetic eye on these harassed peddlers, resilient victims of global inequality.

Rebels on Pointe
DIr. Bobbi Jo Hart
For over 40 years, the all-male drag troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has been delighting audiences around the world. In size 11 toe shoes, the Trocs send up the high art and formality of classical ballet. Director Bobbi Jo Hart shares the rich archival history of this New York collective, born in the wake of the Stonewall Riots, and their progress from preposterous to phenomenal. Best of all, we get to know the international ballerinos while enjoying their satiric wit and outré virtuosity.

A Skin So Soft
Dir. Denis Côté
Iconoclastic director Denis Côté is at his playful best with this equally awe-inspiring and amusing profile of bronzed, inked and bulging-at-the-sinews bodybuilders. While there’s abundant absurd comedy courtesy of the surreal sight of these man-mountains negotiating suburban homes or labouring to meet their caloric needs, Côté‘s inquisitive camera reverentially appraises the astonishing frames that their devotion has wrought, while also revealing glimpses of vulnerability lurking in these Goliaths’ eyes.

Unarmed Verses
Dir. Charles Officer
At the cusp of adolescence and facing forced relocation, Francine has a lot on her mind. And while this Toronto ‘tween possesses a way with written words, she has yet to develop the necessary confidence to express herself in full voice. Charles Officer’s luminous, poignant documentary charts this marginalized yet magnetic young woman’s determination to make herself and her community heard.


In the Waves
Dir. Jacquelyn Mills
In Jacquelyn Mills’ impressionistic documentary, her grandmother Joan Alma Mills is struggling to come to terms with the death of her younger sister and searching for answers in the natural beauty that surrounds her coastal village home. With a delicate attention to detail, spoken musings on mortality and meaning are intricately interwoven with elegiac imagery. This is a soulful rumination on the passage of time—its ebbs, flows and eternal mysteries.

Maison du bonheur
Dir. Sofia Bohdanowicz
2016’s Emerging Canadian Director award-winner Sofia Bohdanowicz (Never Eat Alone) returns with the colourful documentary Maison du bonheur. When asked to make a film about her friend’s mother, a widowed Parisian astrologer named Juliane, the director sets off for Montmartre and produces a lovingly made portrait of an infectiously exuberant personality and the lovely pre-war apartment she’s called home for 50 years. Shooting gorgeously on 16mm, Bohdanowicz again transforms quotidian details into beauty.

VIFF previously announced several BC documentaries last week.

VIFF runs Sept. 28 – Oct. 13.