Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF)

If you haven’t discovered VIFF – it’s a must for next year. The 33rd annual film festival wrapped up on October 10th after 16 days of fabulous films (approximately 350 of them!) from more than 70 countries. It’s a great opportunity to see films that you generally won’t see at the box office. There are numerous categories and genres of films that are shown in seven different venues in the downtown core of the city. Something for everyone at most anytime of the day, starting at 10:00 am and going on through til midnight.

I managed to see five films this year — only a dent in what I would have like to have seen. I think next year I will actually take some vacation time so I can take in more. Here is a synopsis of what I saw in the event that you may want to seek them out for yourselves.

RUN – Ivory Coast

I wouldn’t call this a favorite, but it was interesting to experience a taste of a realistic microcosm of this region of Africa. Personally I enjoy travelling, as I love to immerse myself in other cultures for the purpose of expanding my awareness and knowledge base of others. Film is definitely a close second to actually being able to travel somewhere. This film definitely gives the viewer an opportunity to experience some of their culture and dangers that they are faced with still to this day.

LAKSHMI – India
(NOT for the faint of heart. Graphic scenes and disturbing content)

This is a Hindi social problem film which focuses on the harsh realities of human trafficking. The 14 year old Lakshmi is abducted from her rural Indian village and sold into prostitution. I liked how the film gave you glimpses into the lives behind some of the villains as well, as I believe it is also important to humanize all of the participants in these huge social injustices. Understanding of the societal context and the individual circumstances that drives people to do really wrong things is key to ending these problems. If ending them is possible. I hope it is.

NELSON MANDELA, THE MYTH AND ME – South Africa

Khalo Matabane, a celebrated filmmaker, shares this deeply personal documentary of Mandela’s life. It is personal in the sense that it shares Khalo’s own conflicted feelings concerning the icon’s life and legacy. I really liked how he interviewed world leaders and South Africans on their experience of Mandela — which weren’t always kind. Refreshing, I would say, to not just have the pedestal view of a man of Nelson’s calibre. He was cold. He had a temper. He preached forgiveness in circumstances where people did not want to forgive. And he tried to change a nation for the better. He did his best. All are true.

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN – USA

Fabulous film!! And this one you can see at the big box. It is playing now in local theatres. A must see for parents of teens, but for that matter, just about anyone. As a therapist, I see firsthand the problems associated with the advent of the computer and social media: teens and adults with online gaming addictions; pornography problems; a real change in how everyone communicates (and miscommunicates!); a new avenue for affairs, etc. Because all of these problems are fairly new to society (they didn’t exist when I was a kid!), I enjoyed how the film portrayed these issues and the all-too-common fallout that happens. The more awareness we have, the closer we will come to solutions.

VIFF writeup: This film follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. The film attempts to stare down social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting, and the proliferation of illicit material on the internet. As each character and each relationship is tested, we are shown the variety of roads people choose – some tragic, some hopeful – as it becomes clear that no one is immune to this enormous social change that has come through our phones, our tablets, and our computers.