VIFF Announces M/A/D Titles

24 Frames

By Pat Mullen

Art aficionados and doc fans, unite! The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) announced today its line-up for the M/A/D programme, which highlights subjects about music, art, and design. The choice docs for culture vultures include the Canadian premiere of the late Abbas Kiarostami’s 24 Frames, a must-see for cinephiles by any measure. Other highlights include the Hot Docs audience hit Chavela, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of My Life about the American music mogul, and Shadowman, which looks at Vancouver’s Richard Hambleton and his tumultuous career in the Manhattan art scene.

On the Canadian front, M/A/D offers Raymond St-Jean’s Louise Lecavalier in Motion about the 80s’ dance icon and Pat Collins’ Irish-Canadian co-pro Song of Granite about singer Joe Heaney. Not to be missed is the special presentation of The Green FogA San Francisco Fantasia a fantastical docu-experience from crazy Canuck Guy Maddin and his Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton cohorts Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson. The film reimagines Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo through a collage of archival material depicting San Francisco drawn from sources outside the classic film. In true Vertigo fashion, the VIFF presentation includes a live performance of the acclaimed Kronos Quartet as musical accompaniment.

The films screening in VIFF’s M/A/D programme are:

24 Frames
Dir. Abbas Kiarostami | Iran/France
The late Abbas Kiarostami’s last film contains 24 four-and-a-half-minute segments, each inhabiting a fixed frame and depicting landscapes, animals, even a digitized reproduction of Bruegel’s The Hunters in the Snow. They also contain a haunting summation of the master’s life’s work that will have you seeing the world through new eyes. “A mesmeric glimpse into Kiarostami’s mysterious mind… Gorgeous… Watching it is akin to opening a series of nesting dolls, or leafing through a book of dreams.”—Guardian

Beuys: Art as a Weapon
Dir. Andres Veiel | Germany
Germany’s Joseph Beuys, one of the most important European artists to come to prominence in the wake of WWII, produced confrontational performances and installations that shocked the establishment and expanded the boundaries of what art could be. Andres Veiel’s wide-ranging portrait—the first detailed look at Beuys’ life—is chock full of archival footage showing how the man and his art rose to near-mythological status. What might be surprising is how humorous and generous this revolutionary really was…

Big Time
Dir. Kaspar Astrup Schroder | Denmark
Seven arduous, successful years in the life of “starchitect” Bjarke Ingels are chronicled in Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s revealingly intimate portrait. Named one of Time’s 100 most influential people, Ingels comes across as a paradox: he’s a down-to-earth visionary. In Copenhagen we see BIG’s power station boasting a ski slope on its roof, in NY the focus is on VIA 57 West apartments, 2 World Trade Center — and health issues. (Meanwhile, Ingels designed the new ‘Vancouver House’ tower at Pacific and Granville!)

Bunch of Kunst
Dir. Antonio D’Ambrosio | USA
Iggy Pop—who makes an appearance here—calls the Sleaford Mods “the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band,” and Christine Frantz’s straight-shooting documentary captures the politically charged duo at their profane best. When we first see vocalist/ranter Jason Williamson and musician Andrew Fearns, they are 40-ish and still schlepping to gigs in a van. Two years later, their ferocious live performances and scathing, hilarious lyrics have propelled them to stardom. This is one ride you don’t want to miss!

Bosch: The Garden of Dreams
Dir. Jose Luis Lopez-Linares | Spain/France
Director José Luis López-Linares was given unprecedented access to Madrid’s Prado museum and Hieronymus Bosch’s most famous work, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Placing behind-the-scenes footage (restoration work, the X-raying of the painting, etc.) alongside interviews with writers Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk, soprano Renée Fleming, philosopher Michel Onfray and others, López-Linares has crafted a fascinating, gorgeously shot film about one of the most mysterious art works of all time.

Chaplin in Bali: Journey to the East
Dir. Raphael Millet | France
With the coming of sound to motion pictures, Charlie Chaplin found himself at a creative crossroads, fearful that talking pictures may spell the end for him. So, he and his brother Sydney took a trip to Bali to find some peace and ponder their futures. Captivated by the local customs, especially the dances, Charlie began filming extensively… Raphael Millet has marshalled the footage Chaplin shot and created a time capsule that transports us to another world, a world from which Chaplin drew inspiration.

Dir. Catherine Gund, Daresha Kyi | USA DIR.
A towering figure in Mexican pop and favourite of Almodóvar, Chavela Vargas was both a myth and a cypher. A singer who turned Rancheras into dark journeys of the soul, Vargas endured a hard life but each trial (including her late-in-life coming out) made her deep, coarse voice richer. Directors Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi use the devastatingly beautiful lyrics of Chavela’s songs to illustrate the stages of a career punctuated by heartbreak. It’s a fascinating story with a killer soundtrack to boot.

Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of My Life
Dir. Chris Perkel | USA
What do Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Whitney Houston, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and Alicia Keys have in common? They all owe much of their success to legendary recording exec Clive Davis. Brimming with fantastic archival performance footage, Chris Perkel’s info-packed portrait traces Davis’ life from childhood to his epiphany at the Monterey Pop music festival (where Joplin blew his mind) to his tenure at the top of the music industry. What a ride it’s been!

David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts
Dir. Phil Grabsky | UK
VIFF favourite Phil Grabsky (The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan, VIFF 04; In Search of Beethoven, VIFF 09; In Search of Chopin, VIFF 14) returns with this probing and celebratory documentary on the work of Britain’s greatest living artist, David Hockney. Focusing on two exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, in 2012 and 2016, the film features extensive, in-depth interviews with Hockney himself. And, with Grabsky at the helm, you know the images will be both beautiful and revealing.

Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy
Dir. Thomas Riedelsheimer | Germany
Sixteen years ago, Thomas Riedelsheimer’s documentary on artist Andy Goldsworthy, Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time, was a VIFF smash. Now the director-artist duo has re-teamed for another exquisite chronicle of Goldsworthy’s ongoing fascination with re-shaping the natural world, as we follow him on his extensive travels from one site-specific work to another, revelling in his imagination and his art. Anchored by Riedelsheimer’s gorgeous images, this is pure cinema for the soul.

Louise Lecavalier in Motion
Dir. Raymond St-Jean | Canada
Since commencing her career as a platinum-blonde dreadlocked dynamo in the early ‘80s, Louise Lecavalier has established herself as a Canadian contemporary dance icon. Having toured with Zappa and Bowie, the Montreal dancer/choreographer (now 58) embodies electric energy, extreme dedication and unrelenting inventiveness. In Raymond St-Jean’s mesmerizing homage, Lecavalier’s unwavering creative vision is fully explored, illuminating a woman in perpetual motion, spiritually, mentally and physically.

Planeta Petrila
Dir. Andrei Dascalescu | Romania
The Romanian mining town of Petrila is about to see its mine shut down, its last group of miners laid off and the mine’s buildings demolished. Enter former-miner-turned-anarchic-artist Ion Barbu, an energetic surrealist determined to save the buildings and re-construct a sense of community through his art, which includes paintings, murals and performances. Mixing anger, comedy and empathy in equal measures, Andrei Dăscălescu’s superb documentary revels in the power of art to unite people in common cause.

Schumann’s Bar Talks
Dir. Marieke Schroeder | Germany
Munich’s Charles Schumann, now 76, is to bartenders what Barcelona’s Ferran Adrià is to chefs—a bigger-than-life legend who rewrote the rules of his artistic calling. Marieke Schroeder’s very entertaining odyssey follows the snappily dressed Schumann, who resembles a cross between Max von Sydow, Humphrey Bogart and Bruno Ganz, as he travels the world (Munich, Berlin, Vienna, New York, Havana, Tokyo, Paris) seeking out the best cocktail bars and expounding on the art of bartending. A Sazerac, anyone?

Dir. Oren Jacoby | USA
A staple of Manhattan’s art scene in the 1980s, erstwhile Vancouverite Richard Hambleton painted menacing, shadowy figures all over a metropolis that was equally dangerous and exciting. Covering the street-art pioneer’s heyday (when he was frequently mentioned in the same breath as Basquiat) and his subsequent long fall from grace, Oren Jacoby crafts a portrait of the often toxic New York art scene that left Hambleton more comfortable lurking in back alleys. “[An] intense, surprising story.”—Screen

Song of Granite
Dir. Pat Collins | Ireland/Canada
The rare tribute to an artist that aspires to be as boldly creative as its subject, Pat Collins’ biography of celebrated Irish sean-nós singer Joe Heaney seamlessly combines elements of narrative, documentary and lyrical filmmaking to create an evocative portrait of an artist and the land that forged him. “Heaney’s story shows that this is music that doesn’t originate with a spark but is carefully honed over the course of centuries, manifesting itself in magnetic talents.”—IndieWire

Streetscapes [ Dialogue ]
Dir. Heinz Emigholz | Germany
Ambitious, experimental and never less than stimulating, Heinz Emigholz’s film is written by himself and psychologist Zohar Rubinstein in the form of a dialogue. And what a dialogue it is: nuanced, digressive and unabashedly cerebral, it’s the work of men for whom thinking is an art, an avocation, and a pleasure. Performers John Erdman and Jonathan Perel enact the exchanges against a backdrop of architecture that informs the speech, complicates it, and at times overwhelms it.

Where You’re Meant to Be
Dir. Paul Fegan | Scotland
For pop tunester Aidan Moffat, formerly of indie band Arab Strap, it seemed like a good idea at the time: reconfigure folk legend Sheila Stewart’s classic Scottish folk songs for a modern audience. Then he comes up against the dynamic 79-year-old hurricane herself, and she is forcefully opposed to his plans… Paul Fegan’s frequently very funny and deeply musical film is “affectionate, playful and irreverent in spirit. But it becomes something else altogether, something affecting and profound…”—Guardian

VIFF runs Sept. 28 – Oct. 13.
Please visit VIFF for more info.