VIFF 2009 Top 5 Canadian Films to Check Out

Comments 24 by Rebecca Bollwitt

This year I will be covering the Vancouver International Film Festival rather extensively. From films to parties, I’ll have tweets, photos, and write ups about the best of the fest.


While the city is warming up for the hundreds of films that will grace our screens starting this week, I had been flipping through my program trying to formulate a viewing game plan. I then realized that there’s someone in town that could give me the ultimate VIFF overview, and that’s Marina from Row Three.

Marina and Row Three have been an excellent online film resource for years and in 2008 I profiled her for my weekly E!Online article. Marina also introduced me to many things including the works of Carl Bessai — an amazing local filmmaker and consistent audience-favourite. Row Three‘s coverage this year will focus heavily on Canadian film and with almost 100 movies in the Canadian Images series at the festival, it’s a hefty task that I know they’re up to.

I sat down with Marina the other night to see what she’s looking forward to this year and to see if she’ll make it to all 40+ films she has on her own “must see” list. I asked her to name a few of her picks (and I’ve added in one of my own as well):

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Canada/UK – Director: Terry Gilliam
This was Heath Ledger’s last film and as Marina explained to me, Gilliam thought, “It was either scrap the movie or come up with some other way to finish it.” So some of Ledger’s friends were called upon to finish this in his honor. The film sees big names such as Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and even Tom Waits make appearances although Marina says it’s truly Plummer’s film.

Canada – Director: Bruce Sweeney
“I’m mostly excited about this because it’s Bruce Sweeney,” said Marina. “I’m more excited about the cast – especially Gabrielle Rose.”

Canada – Director: Nimisha Mukerji, Philip Lyall
I was told this film won the audience choice award at Hot Docs earlier this year and is by two Vancouver directors about their friend who has Cystic Fibrosis and uses the internet to emotionally cope with it. Marina and I both have this one on our radar.

I Killed My Mother
Canada – Director: Xavier Dolan
“For must-watch Canadian films I’ve got to say it’s I Killed My Mother,” noted Marina “It’s Xavier Dolan’s directorial debut. It got a lot of attention at Cannes and it’s also Canada’s entry into the Oscar race next year.”

Prom Night in Mississippi
Canada – Paul Saltzman
“A really interesting and bizarre story about a high school in small town Mississippi that still has segregated proms.” Marina says, “The film is much more poignant because you get the view of segregation from the kids’ point of view and they’re really blunt. They don’t hide anything and what’s on their mind is what they say. It just really makes you wonder — like we’re in 2009 and people still think like that.” Marina said that it would be great if you have teenage kids and the film is “really well shot”.

I just have to also quickly mention Facing Ali by Pete McCormmack as one I’m really looking forward to seeing as well. Marina also recommended Bessai’s Cole …but I have to keep this as close to a Top 5 as possible.

Now that you know at least five six of the films that will be playing, I’d like to give you the chance to get out and see some movies. I have two double passes to give away to any* VIFF 2009 film so if you would like to enter to win, please leave a comment and I’ll draw the winners tomorrow afternoon. Your comment can include which of the Top 5 you’re looking forward to, your own picks, or even your favourite Canadian film of all time.

You can pick up your own copy of the festival program or browse titles online to view other titles of interest. You can also check out the Row Three podcast for reviews and info about the film scene in Vancouver.

*Winners will be able to select form any of the films on the schedule (except galas) and this will not include films that are already sold out or that only have rush/door tickets.

Update: I just drew Hedwig and Rich as the winners of the tickets – thanks for entering the contest, everyone!

24 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. AliciaTuesday, September 29th, 2009 — 5:53pm PDT

    Thank you for this post! This is my first VIFF and I can’t wait 🙂
    Really looking forward to 65 Redroses & Prom Night in Mississippi…

  2. OanaTuesday, September 29th, 2009 — 6:06pm PDT

    I’m really looking forward to Parnassus – have tickets for this Friday.

  3. LyndseyTuesday, September 29th, 2009 — 7:55pm PDT

    I have been waiting to see “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” for almost 2 years, anticipating immensely!! I also just bought tickets to see “It Might Get Loud”, & “Ashes of Americsn Flags”…scanning for more!!!! There is also a film by Atom Egoien (sp?)- the name escapes me at the moment- which looks like a must see!

  4. PaigeTuesday, September 29th, 2009 — 9:04pm PDT

    Hmmm…Am tempted to see Antichrist, even though I’m not normally a fan of spooky movies, just because Charlotte Gainsbourg is in it…or there’s Bluebeard, which has gotten good reviews. As well as Chloe, which is the Atom Egoyen movie that Lyndsey was referring to…So many movies, so little money.

  5. RachaelWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 8:41am PDT

    I’m kind of embarrassed to say, other than one screening about four years ago, I’ve never really been to the film fest. I always seem to miss it every year.

  6. KarlWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 9:23am PDT

    Will be checking out At the Edge of the World, so some free tix would be sweet!

  7. KirstenWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 11:42am PDT

    Great film choices! Love that you covered Canada’s entry into the Oscar race “I Killed My Mother.” Never thought about watching this film before you wrote about it,


  8. cjWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 2:49pm PDT

    would love to see the prom night doc, looks really interesting – as does the Imaginarium (I also just love that word)

    can’t wait for VIFF to start!

  9. TeresaWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 2:53pm PDT

    I would love to see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

  10. MarcWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 2:53pm PDT

    every year I promise myself I will be organized enough to make it to the films I want. This year it’s happening. My BFF has planned it all and is getting the tickets! looking forward to it.

  11. SuzanneWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 2:57pm PDT

    Totally can’t wait to see Imaginarium…. as well as Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (most cumbersome title ever!) and Atom Egoyem’s Chloe looks really interesting.

  12. RichWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 2:59pm PDT

    Nice post – and agree that Row Three has some great VIFF coverage. My strongest recommend for VIFF 09 based on what I’ve seen earlier is ‘A Prophet’ (going to easily be in my top 5 for the year) followed closely by ‘The White Ribbon’. For late night goofy fun you can’t go wrong with ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction. A fuller list of what I’ve seen is here:

    Personally I’m looking forward to ‘Taqwacore–The Birth of Punk Islam’ for something very new and interesting and ‘Air Doll’ out of Japan.

  13. LizWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 3:05pm PDT

    It will be interesting to see if Imaginarium lives up to the hype. Definitely on my list!

  14. RanelleWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 3:08pm PDT

    I’m looking forward to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus!

  15. HedwigWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 3:15pm PDT

    Hi Rebecca…Sweet! Okay, so many films to choose from…here are a few that intrigue me:
    Sacred Flight (screening Tue Oct 06…couldn’t find it on the list, but a friend produced it, so I know it’s there! for anyone interested)
    I am good (UK)
    Pachamama (Bolivia)


  16. Michael KwanWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 3:21pm PDT

    Count me in. I think everyone is looking forward to Heath’s film, but let’s not allow that to overshadow the other great movies!

  17. RachelWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 3:31pm PDT

    My lame highschool had semi-formals, not proms, so going to see “Prom Night in Mississippi” would be a whole new experience for me. Because I never went to prom. And my lame highschool was in Ontario. And I’m not black.

  18. MeganWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 4:59pm PDT

    I totally want to see Imaginarium!!

  19. Rob AndrewsWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 5:01pm PDT

    I’m looking forward to seeing Breathless myself. All of the reviews that I’ve managed to read say that the acting is pretty fantastic from top to bottom.

  20. JenniferWednesday, September 30th, 2009 — 5:36pm PDT

    Looking forward to Parnassus and In Search Of Beethoven. I love searching out all the music related movies!

  21. Eva MarkvoortThursday, October 1st, 2009 — 2:30am PDT

    Thanks so much for putting 65_RedRoses in your top 5!! The experience at HotDocs was brilliant and I am so excited to bring it home here to Vancouver. Look forward to seeing you there!!

    Eva aka 65_RedRoses

  22. LiamThursday, October 1st, 2009 — 10:26am PDT

    Please count me in, I’m a Perth boy like Heath and would love to check out Gilliam’s latest epic.

  23. IrinaSunday, October 4th, 2009 — 9:32pm PDT

    I enjoed Excited!!! Cam Cronin and Gabrielle Rose are GREAT in the film!!! and in the real life!!! (I`ve got some pictures with stars ;P) Thanks for good Canadian movie! Look forward to We Live in Public.

  24. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Movie Pass Giveaway » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittFriday, December 18th, 2009 — 1:32pm PST

    […] the Vancouver International Film Festival and here’s what Marina from Row Three had to say in my VIFF preview post: This was Heath Ledger’s last film and as Marina explained to me, Gilliam thought, “It was […]

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