poking through the online schedule with a envy for our neighbors to the north.
Most of the time I've seen a decent number of films that screen at VIFF before the festival starts. This year there's definitely some overlap with what I've seen - but less than in the past. I count six films I've seen. The good news is that none of them would really be a mistake to have on your to do list. I've included some short notes on each below.
I'm hoping some of the films playing at Fantastic Fest will also be in Vancouver - so if I encounter any additional overlap before VIFF starts I will definitely let everyone know. In the meantime would love readers to post some suggestions of things they're looking forward to in the comments. Once I've had more time to review the online film descriptions I'll post some of my thoughts of what I'm personally looking forward to. Though truth be told I'm not the greatest chooser - I tend to win by the law of large numbers vs the ability to pinpoint only the most enjoyable films.
The Sandman (Switzerland) - Bright, beautiful, romantic, and incredible bizarre The Sandman is a must see film. It would easily be one of my top films of SIFF 2011, except for the fact that it's playing at STIFF instead. Main character Benno is an ultra-uptight neat freak who works in a stamp shop. When he's not ripping off the gullible he obsesses about his weight each morning, provides brutally critical feedback to friends about their life's work and gives untold grief to a young woman who works in the coffee shop below his apartment. All in all a real mensch - or perhaps not. Then out of nowhere he develops and unusual affliction. He begins to leak sand. And nor just regular sand but magical instantaneous sleep inducing sand. Which similar to normal sand tastes horrible in pasta.
This explosion of essentially dirt doesn't really fit in with his other lifestyle choices. Especially when it causes his hot girlfriend to think he's bedding the coffee shop girl (it makes perfect sense in context). Even his earnest protest that it can't be true that he's hooking up with the presumably frumpier woman because "looks are important to me" fails to mollify her. Oh, almost forgot. In the meantime he's also beginning to share a recurring dream with the waitress he professes to hate. This is a strange film - in a very colorful visual way that reminds me of a Michel Gondry creation, though more fun for me than his recent work. If you're not sold by now there's nothing I'm going to be able to help you with...
Magaly Solier as Marcela is extremely engaging in the quiet but central role. She and Celso Bugallo (Amador) have a positive, believable chemistry that makes it work - even after Bugallo ceases to be onscreen. It's worth saying for the record that this is an internal voice drama more than a Spanish Weekend at Bernie's. There are definitely moments of humor, but it's not there primarily for the laughs. A nice film well worth seeing.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (USA) - I've seen the film and even interviewed the star and director. But officially there's not that much I can say until the picture opens in Seattle. Folks will definitely have different opinions about what the picture is (psychological healing after escaping a cult vs a straight up horror movie) and if they like the transition it takes the characters through. But few should argue that star Elizabeth Olsen isn't phenomenal in it. If nothing else it's worth seeing to be part of the conversation. Hopefully I haven't said too much.
Oh - almost forgot - I have seen a few shorts. Each of which is absolutely great. The ones I've noticed include Brick Novax's Diary, diK, and A Doctor's Job. See 'em all if you can.
Best of luck diving deep into the VIFF choices this year. It really looks like there's a lot of interesting stuff in the guide. To be safe might want to adopt my strategy, which is to see as many as possible. Some of them gotta be great...