Around the World and Back Again: A Retrospective of the VIFF

Photo: VIFF.org

By Inside Vancouver contributors Krista Edwardson and Sonu Purhar

Now that the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) has come to an end, it’s time to reflect on the global journey that has captivated audiences and party-goers over the last two weeks. This year, VIFF screened more than 380 films from 75 countries and hosted a score of industry galas and celebrations whose cultural mosaic reflected the creative direction of the festival as well as the composition of our city.

Deepa Mehta with friends. Photo Credit: Neil Russell Tan

Deepa Mehta with friends. Photo Credit: Neil Russell Tan

Deepa Mehta, one of Canada’s most respected and cherished filmmakers, opened the festival with her highly anticipated film adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.

Opening gala party-goers at the Salt building in Olympic Village. Photo Credit: Paul Schellenberg @citieguy

Opening gala party-goers at the Salt building in Olympic Village. Photo Credit: Paul Schellenberg @citieguy

Rave reviews of the festival opener inspired the VIFF team to design a gala reminiscent of a Bollywood dream sequence. The cavernous Salt building in Vancouver’s Olympic Village proved the ideal venue for guests to mix and mingle while enjoying the vibrant colours, distinct aromas and tantalizing flavours of India. Festival producers, directors and actors rubbed shoulders with local celebrities and members of the community, and all were treated to a sensory feast as Bhangra dancers and musicians performed throughout the night. But the night’s real showstopper was Aaron Alexander Geeraert’s dream-like digital portrait, which received almost as many looks as the glitterati’s red-carpet attire.

Digital portrait created by Aaron Alexander Geeraert

Digital portrait created by Aaron Alexander Geeraert

VIFF’s closing gala transported attendees to the heart of Mexico – but first was the festival’s concluding film, Leos Carax’s debate-sparking Holy Motors. The screening took place at the Centre for the Performing Arts, an elegant and well-received new addition to the VIFF venue lineup. After watching several minutes of a somewhat eerie on-screen sequence that consisted of an audience sitting in a movie theatre, viewers were transported to the streets of Paris for a two-hour surrealist roller coaster that sparked a storm of discussion. Praise and criticism of Holy Motors started in the Centre’s lobby and drifted over to the concourse of the Vancouver Public Library, which played host to the finale party. VIFF’s around-the-world adventure ended with a fabulous fiesta complete with cheviche, churros and a rousing mariachi band.

Photo: VIFF.org

After such an eclectic two weeks, there’s no telling where VIFF will take us next year. Until then, Vancouverites can get their fill of festival cinema at local favourites like The Vancouver International Film Centre and the Vancity Theatre, which screen local and international films year-round – no passport required

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