Cinephilia: diversity captured at VIFF

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Photo courtesy of Well Go USA.

You won’t need to get in a plane or a time machine to view the notably diverse films playing at the 34th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, just a dark cinema. Within a day, you can spend time in an Iranian taxi, follow the lives of Sri Lankan immigrants in France, and go to a world where singles are shipped to an island to be transformed into animals. Here are six films that capture the festival’s varied selections.

6. I Saw The Light (October 9, 6:30 p.m. — Centre For Performing Arts)

Tom Hiddleston’s performance in this biopic on the country music sensation, Hank Williams, which is the closing gala film for the festival, is already garnering comparisons to Joaquin Phoenix’s tour de force portrayal of Johnny Cash in Walk The Line. Like Phoenix, Hiddleston does the heavy lifting of singing many of the artist’s staggering 35 Top 10 singles, as he also tries to capture the heartbreak of a life short-lived.

5. Louder Than Bombs (September 28, 3:15 p.m. — Centre For Performing Arts)

Joachim Trier’s follow-up to Oslo, August 31st chronicles the story of a father and his two sons who confront their feelings about their recently deceased mother. Trier has a deft and light hand. His characters and stories slowly unveil without obtrusion or manipulation. The emotions may be as explosive as bombs but Trier makes quiet, sympathetic films.

4. Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (October 1, 4:15 p.m. — Playhouse)

Banned from making cinema in Iran because of his critiques of the country’s government, Jafar Panahi has been rebelling against that censorship in films like 2011’s This Is Not A Film where he tackled the nature of life and art, and 2013’s Closed Curtain, which was a narrative feature set entirely in an apartment. Sneakily, yet not-so-discreetly, Jafar Panahi’s latest masterpiece, which is already being considered one of the best films of the year, takes place entirely in a taxi as he captures the oppression of the state’s firm ban on self-expression in this documentary-fiction hybrid.

3. Dheepan (September 29, 6:15 p.m. — Centre For Performing Arts)

When Joel and Ethan Coen awarded Dheepan the Palme d’Or it raised eyebrows. However, when comparing the director Jacque Audiard’s (Rust and Bone, A Prophet) track record with the recent Palme d’Or winners, it might be easy to decipher why so many were skeptical of the Cannes Jury’s choice. In the past couple of years, the prize has been awarded to plodding over-three-hour opuses that teemed with hollow artiness devoid of depth or emotion. Audiard never makes boring films, so the controversy behind its victory at the Cannes Film Festival excites me.

2. The Lobster (September 30 9:15 p.m. — Centre For Performing Arts)

The Lobster takes place in a future where singles are taken from the city and transferred to a hotel where they have to find a mate in 45 days; otherwise, they are turned into an animal of their choosing and released into the woods. If it weren’t for the critical acclaim and boisterous enthusiasm for this film, I might be skeptical. But The Lobster looks like it has one of those crazy ideas that somehow may still confound all expectations.

1. The Assassin (September 30, 6:30 p.m. — Centre For Performing Arts)

The Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s recent masterwork seems like an odd departure for the director of languidly dramatic art-films like The Puppetmaster. The Assassin marks his first turn into fantasy swordplay with this visually stunning and dramatically subdued winner of Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The melding of Hau-hsien’s distinct pace and quiet melancholy with the loud fervor of martial arts action is sure to make for a compelling and awe-inspiring experience.

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs September 26 – October 9. For more information, visit viff.org.