VIFF announces 17 films in the Canadian Images Series including six world premieres

THE Vancouver International Film Festival has just announced 17 more films for its acclaimed Canadian Images series. These films join the 11 previously announced BC Spotlight features in one of the world’s largest annual showcases of new Canadian cinema. This series will feature prominently at VIFF’s 34th edition, which runs September 24-October 9, 2015.

The new feature films confirmed include the world premieres of Chelsea McMullan’s Michael Shannon Michael Shannon John, Alexander Carson’s O, Brazen Age, Ryan McKenna’s The Heart of Madame Sabali, Tony Massil and Pablo Alvarez-Mesa’s Frank and the Wondercat, Alex Williams’ The Pass System and Hélène Choquette’s A Dog’s Life. Also playing VIFF will be the English-Canadian premieres of François Péloquin’s The Sound of Trees and Sonia Boileau’s Le Dep.

In addition to impressive debuts such as Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant, the series will also feature the latest work from Canadian maverick Guy Maddin (The Forbidden Room, codirected by Evan Johnson), as well as award-winning directors Sean Garrity (Borealis) and Alan Zweig (Hurt). Zweig’s profile of fallen Canadian icon Steve Fonyo is certain to generate considerable interest in Vancouver.

As part of its commitment to Canadian filmmakers, VIFF also offers two cash awards to celebrate outstanding achievements in narrative feature filmmaking: $10,000 for Best Canadian Film and $2,000 for Emerging Canadian Director. Both awards are sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada.

VIFF will announce its Canadian Images Special Presentations and Canadian Images Short Films at a later date. The full VIFF programme will be released on Thursday, September 3.

The full list of Canadian Images feature films added to the VIFF lineup follows.

The Amina Profile
(Sophie Deraspe)

Sophie Deraspe’s investigative documentary is the latest reminder to be skeptical of everyone you encounter online. Deraspe tells the cautionary tale of the infamous Gay Girl in Damascus Internet hoax. A blog that purported to be a boots-on-the-ground look at life as an out lesbian in fractious Syria turned out to be something else entirely. “What begins as an account of an online affair gradually morphs into a commentary on identity in the Information Age. [A] slippery, deftly woven narrative…” — Variety

(Sean Garrity)

Sean Garrity (Lucid, Blood Pressure) returns with a distinctly Canadian comedic drama. An unemployed gambling addict drags his pot-smoking teenage daughter on a road trip to Churchill, Manitoba in hopes of showing her the Northern Lights before a disorder renders her blind. With a bookie in pursuit, they’re forced to confront each other, their pasts and their respective loves for poker and weed. Starring Jonas Chernick, Emily Hampshire, Joey King and Kevin Pollak.

Le Dep
(Sonia Boileau) English-Canadian Premiere
Sonia Boileau’s debut is a taut psychological drama about Lydia, a young Innu woman who works at a convenience store in a small First Nations community in rural Quebec. As she prepares to close up shop one night, a masked robber holds her up at gunpoint. This traumatic experience becomes even more troubling when Lydia recognizes her assailant. She’ll soon have to make a decision that will change the course of her life. “[An] engaging social-issue drama…” — Variety
A Dog’s Life

Hélène Choquette’s documentary examines the symbiotic relationships that form between homeless people and their faithful canine companions. On the sometimes mean streets of Montréal and Toronto, the dogs and their owners offer one another company, protection and unconditional love. This remarkably candid film provides genuine insight into the homeless experience from an unusual angle, inspiring newfound compassion and understanding.

Fire Song
(Adam Garnet Jones)

In Adam Garnet Jones’ first feature, a teenaged girl commits suicide in a remote Anishinaabe community and it’s up to her brother Shane to take care of their family. Shane was supposed to move to the city for university in the fall and was desperately trying to convince his boyfriend to come with him. When forced to choose between devotion to his family or his desire to dictate his own future, what will he do?

The Forbidden Room
(Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson)

A fever dream within a dream, the latest transmission from celluloid fetishist Guy Maddin (assisted by young co-director Evan Johnson) is part campy, whacked out tribute to vintage Hollywood melodrama, part anguished crypto-confessional and all brilliant: a passionate, virtuoso pastiche that is also perversely original and sui generis. The perfect date movie for mad cinephiles! “[An] inventive, audacious, and outright hilarious tour de force whatzit.” — Cinema Scope

Frank and the Wondercat
(Tony Massil, Pablo Alvarez-Mesa) World Premiere

Directors Tony Massil and Pablo Alvarez-Mesa’s creative documentary follows Frank Furko, an 80-year-old eccentric living in a Pittsburgh suburb. The film focuses on Frank’s celebrity, which derives from a deeply felt friendship with Pudgie Wudgie, his 20-pound performing house cat. Supported by Frank’s 20 years of VHS video archives—mesmerizing footage that is strange, often hilarious and oddly beautiful—this is an intimate and thoughtful portrait of an older man struggling to come to terms with his very unusual past.

The Heart of Madame Sabali
(Ryan McKenna) World Premiere

When her boyfriend stops making love with her, Jeannette (Marie Brassard) begins an affair with a young co-worker (Francis La Haye). Alas, it turns out that her heart problems are physical as well as metaphorical. When Jeannette inherits the heart of a deceased Malian woman, she’s stalked by the donor’s son (Youssef Camara) who’s convinced that she’s the reincarnation of his late mother. Ryan McKenna’s stylized and nuanced film is sure to delight.

(Alan Zweig)

In 1985, Steve Fonyo ran his “Journey For Lives” marathon, covering 7,924km of Canada and raising $14 million for cancer research. He was subsequently named an Officer of the Order of Canada, becoming the youngest person to ever receive that honour. Then things began to fall apart. He repeatedly ran afoul of the law and was charged with and convicted of various crimes. His Order of Canada was revoked. Refreshingly, Alan Zweig (15 Reasons to Live) tells the story of Fonyo’s downfall with great sensitivity without ever lapsing into sentimentality.

The Messenger
(Su Rynard)

In recent years, Su Rynard noticed that birds she used to see—grosbeaks, flycatchers, barn swallows—were nowhere to be found. Indeed, songbirds are rapidly disappearing and their absence is a message to us all. Humans share an ageless bond with birds and their songs. In ancient times, we looked to bird’s flight patterns and listened to their melodies to predict the future. Today, the birds once again have something to tell us. “The Messenger hums with the kind of restless energy that’s all too rare for an eco-doc.” —POV Magazine

Michael Shannon Michael Shannon John
(Chelsea McMullan) World Premiere

The latest involving documentary from Chelsea McMullan (My Prairie Home) exemplifies excellent storytelling and artful execution. When two Canadian siblings travel to Thailand to find out what really happened to their murdered father, they discover that he fled Canada due to his involvement with a biker gang, only to land in deeper corruption in Thailand and the Philippines. Furthermore, he has two kids in Thailand with the same names as them. McMullan creates a creepy and subtly condemning portrait of foreigners doing very bad things.

O, Brazen Age
(Alexander Carson) World Premiere

Alexander Carson’s first feature is part coming-of-age story, part art-cinema meditation on photography, souvenirs and collections. The newest offering from North Country Cinema (The Valley Below) conjures a tender and haunting portrait of friendship and faith in the 21st century, following a group of young artists on a search for new mythologies and invoking a cinematic landscape where classical literature collides with new wave aesthetics and 90s pastiche.

Our Loved Ones

In 1978, Guy is found dead in the basement of the family home in a small Quebec village. The real cause of his death remains a mystery for most of his family. Years later, his son David, now the loving father of two children, secretly still carries the weight of this tragedy. Likewise, David’s daughter must contend with her father’s suffering. Anne Émond directs this accomplished drama about life, family, forgiveness and grief.

The Pass System
(Alex Williams) World Premiere

Alex William’s film illuminates a shocking time when Canada embraced racial segregation, wilfully and illegally denying Indigenous peoples the basic freedom to leave their reserves and jailing them when they did so without a pass. Cree, Soto, Dene, Ojibwe and Blackfoot elders of the prairies tell their stories of living under—and resisting—this system. Likewise, they link their experiences to the current state of affairs. Acclaimed Cree actor and activist Tantoo Cardinal narrates this investigation into a little-known aspect of our history.

Sleeping Giant
(Andrew Cividino)

Andrew Cividino’s remarkable debut is a story of friendship, confusion, betrayal and peer pressure. Fourteen-year-old Adam is enduring a dull summer in a small Lake Superior beach community when he meets local boys Foster and Rizzo. “The cast and filmmakers illuminate not just the wit and charm of young men, but also the callow cruelty of youth, driven by a killer combination of naïve idealism, solipsism, poor self-esteem and raging hormones.” — Hollywood Reporter

The Sound of Trees
(FRANÇOIS PÉLOQUIN) English-Canadian Premiere

François Péloquin’s debut is a subtle and charming coming-of-age story. Jérémie (It’s Not Me, I Swear!’s Antoine L’Écuyer) dreams of a very different life from the one awaiting him at the family sawmill (presided over by Roy Dupuis). However, his crazy joyride comes to an end when a fateful mistake shatters his fragile world. Péloquin drafts an impressive chronicle of one teenager’s summertime crucible. “Affecting and beautifully shot.” — Hollywood Reporter


Guy Édoin brings us the engaging story of a French/Italian actress (Monica Bellucci) who arrives in Montreal to shoot a movie and reconnect with her university-aged son (Alyosha Schneider). Their fates collide with those of a nurse (Pascale Bussières) and paramedic (Patrick Hivon) during a disturbing event in Ville-Marie Hospital’s emergency room

(Please note that titles are subject to change.)

VIFF festival passes and discounted ticket packs are available now at Films screening as part of VIFF will be announced on an ongoing basis, with full programming and tickets for individual screenings available online on Thursday, September 3. Stay connected with VIFF for updates and announcements by following @VIFFest on Twitter and visiting