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Water to make a big splash at film festival

Category: Beowulf & Grendel News
Article Date: September 7, 2005 | Publication: The Vancouver Sun (British Columbia) | Author: Tom Charity, Vancouver Sun

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Deepa Mehta's Water will kick off the 24th Vancouver International Film Festival, which unveils its 300-film program today.

The 16-day festival begins Sept. 29 with the opening night gala Water, by the Indian-born, Toronto-based director Mehta. Completing her "elemental trilogy," (after Fire and Earth), Water is set in Varanasi, India, during the 1930s, and stars Seema Biswas and Lisa Ray. The selection is a personal vindication for writer-director Mehta, who was forced to abandon her first attempt to shoot the film five years ago after pressure from Hindu protesters. (The production resumed with a new cast in Sri Lanka last year.) Water also opens the Toronto International Film Festival tomorrow.

The other big Canadian titles share an international flavour. Thom Fitzgerald's Three Needles tackles the AIDS pandemic by way of China and South Africa. Chloe Sevigny, Lucy Liu and Sarah Polley head up the ensemble cast. And Sturla Gunnarsson's Beowulf & Grendel is adapted from the Anglo-Saxon poem, filmed in Iceland with Gerard Butler, Stellan Skarsgaard, and the ubiquitous Polley.

There are high hopes for a new crop of films from B.C., including David Tamagi's Paper Moon Affair, Julia Kwan's Eve & the Fire Horse, and Scott Weber's Desolation Sound, with Jennifer Beals.

Beyond the Canadian Images section there is relatively little overlap between VIFF and TIFF. While Toronto will be rolling out the red carpet for Hollywood stars on a nightly basis, VIFF again puts the emphasis on diversity and independence. Festival director Alan Franey estimates that only about 20 per cent of the lineup (mostly the Canadian titles) have distributors attached. The great majority are films which might not otherwise reach our screens.

There will be some familiar names, though. Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. star in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a slick tongue-in-cheek action movie by Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black, and North Country is a vehicle for Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider).

Films by Thomas Vinterberg (Dear Wendy), Claude Chabrol (The Bridesmaid), Claire Denis (The Intruder), Michael Haneke (Cache) and Lars von Trier (Manderlay) headline the European selection.

The closing night film is the Cannes Palme d'Or winner, the Dardenne brothers' L'enfant, and the anniversary gala will be U-Carmen in eKhayelitsha, which transplants Bizet's opera to a South African township, and which took the top prize at Berlin earlier this year.

As previously announced, there will be special spotlights on American Independent cinema and films from Eastern Europe - dubbed The New World by the programmers.

Special events will include a tribute to the great neo-realist filmmaker Roberto Rossellini, an installation by James Benning, and a lecture on CinemaScope by the renowned scholar David Bordwell with a screening of Otto Preminger's 1958 film Bonjour Tristesse. These one-offs promise a taste of what we can expect to see in the Vancity Theatre when it opens as a year-round repertory house in the new year.

VIFF's signature programs remain the Dragons & Tigers and Documentary strands. In the former category, Asian film fans will be excited to find new work by Kitano Takeshi, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Suzuki Seijun, Hong Sang-soo and Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, as well as the hotly anticipated South Korean romance April Snow.

Documentaries include Sundance prize-winner Why We Fight, Unknown White Male and Werner Herzog's The White Diamond.

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs Sept. 29 to Oct. 14. The ticket hotline opens Thursday (604 683-3456) as well as online from noon Saturday, at

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