Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Vancouver – This fall, the Vancouver International Film Festival celebrates it’s 24th year of showcasing the best in nonfiction film from Canada and around the world. The Nonfiction Features is a cornerstone of the VIFF program, allowing the VIFF to build a strong local and international reputation for programming excellence. The Festival today announced the nominees for the 13th annual National Film Board of Canada Documentary Award, including Paul Rosdy’s NEW WORLD, one of a number of documentaries already announced as part of the Eastern European focus at this year’s VIFF.

“At last year’s VIFF, documentary films drew close to 50,000 attendees, which is a truly remarkable and unprecedented number,” said Festival Director Alan Franey. “We expect that the success of ‘the year of the doc’—2004—will mean that there is huge interest in this year’s program. The films form a large group of more than 70 titles exploring an equally wide range of topics, locales, concerns and styles. We’re delighted that Vancouver audiences have so well discovered the riches of the nonfiction form.”

The films in this year’s competition cover a wide spectrum of documentary filmmaking, from personal essays to spiritual journeys to musical toe-tappers. One of the highlights of the past Cannes film festival, Avi Mograbi’s AVENGE BUT ONE OF MY TWO EYES (Israel), a Canadian Premiere, reflects upon the resolve that is needed in order to take one’s own life rather than fall into enemy hands, drawing the lines between the founding myths of the Israeli state and the current plight of the Palestinians. A vivid, beautiful and refreshing documentary on spirituality, Luc Schaedler’s ANGRY MONK: REFLECTIONS ON TIBET, a North American Premiere, examines the life of Gendun Choephel, who left an indelible mark on Tibetan culture and became an icon for young Tibetans today. Pepe Danquart’s HELL ON WHEELS (Germany) shows the Tour de France as you have never seen it before, going behind the scenes for a kinetic insider’s look at one of the world’s biggest sporting events. An English-Canadian Premiere, Marie-Clémence Paes and Raymond Rajaonarivelo’s MAHALEO (Madagascar/France) is a portrait of seven Malagasy musicians who give voice to the desires and wants of their country.

Three documentaries from the U.S. in the competition take a look at the nexus of the personal, the social, and the political. Nicole Conn’s LITTLE MAN, a Canadian Premiere, is a remarkable story documenting the struggle of the director’s son to survive after having been born weighing less than one pound. In THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN, an International Premiere, director Taggart Seigel charts the very rocky ground traversed by eccentric farmer/performance artist John Peterson over the last 20 years as he attempts to save his farm, and himself, from the changing social and economic climate of middle America. Director Micha Peled returns to the VIFF with his prequel to the Wal-Mart-busting Store Wars, CHINA BLUE, a fascinating investigation of the denim industry in China that puts a very human face on globalization. Peled introduces us to both the staff and the boss at the Lifeng Clothes Co. Ltd. where workers take the wage cuts so name brands can buy cheap.

Mental health is put under the microscope in three other nominees, all Canadian Premieres. Marcos Prado’s poetic, philosophical and eloquent ESTAMIRA (Brazil) follows 63-year-old Estamira, a woman with schizophrenia who, for the past 20 years, has been living at and scavenging the garbage dump known as Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro. Stefano Rulli’s A PARTICULAR SILENCE (Italy) is a searing portrait of one family coping, or not, with their grown autistic son. Part existential detective story and part meditation on identity, Rupert Murray’s UNKNOWN WHITE MALE (UK) focuses on the strange case of amnesiac Douglas Bruce, who had to start life all over again when he couldn’t remember anything about his past 35 years on the planet.

Rounding off the competition are two Canadian entries. On the heels of his critically acclaimed Dying at Grace (VIFF 04), Allan King’s latest “actuality drama” MEMORY FOR MAX, CLAIRE, IDA AND COMPANY is an inspiring, emotional investigation of memory and aging which follows eight residents of a geriatric care centre and asserts that “when you’re 80, you have the privilege to forget what you want.” In DIAMETER OF THE BOMB, Steven Silver and Andrew Quigley investigate a June, 2002, Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Interviews with survivors, of both the victims and the bomber, provide the basis for an expanding portrait of the bomb’s impact on families, friends and more broadly, society at large.


The VIFF is also proud to announce the World Premiere of BANKING ON HEAVEN (US), an unflinching look at a cult of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The film alleges the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah (and, by extension, Bountiful, B.C.) are home to a culture that routinely practices child rape, welfare fraud and systematic mind-control. Director Dot Reidelbach and writer/producer Laurie Allen (an escapee from the FLDS) have constructed a documentary out of secret camera footage (outsiders are looked upon as agents of Satan and systematically shunned), interviews with polygamist escapees, “lost boys” (young men and children cast out of the community for such infractions as not rolling their sleeves down), and government officials. An unholy trinity of sex, power and wealth are at the dark heart of this deeply troubling story.

The full line-up will be announced at the Media Conference on September 7 at the Vancouver International Film Centre.


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