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7 things to look forward at the Vancouver International Film Festival

There will be around 140 feature-length films, along with shorts, talks, and more events for film fans.
VIFF returns to film screens in Vancouver starting Sept. 28 with an 11-day festival packed with compelling programming. Here are a few event highlights.

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is back for another year, and while the stars of the screen and scripts may be on strike, the event is going forth.

The 11-day festival of film and film production will fill theatres with around 140 full-length features, 100 shorts, and a bunch of extra events (like VIFF Live and VIFF Talks) spread out across the city.

“While this year’s festival falls at a tumultuous time for film industry workers, we’re excited to offer both audiences and industry professionals the opportunity to come together, and to experience the power and potential film can have as a healing, inspiring, and uplifting experience,” says VIFF executive director Kyle Fostner in a press release.

Here are seven things to look forward to at VIFF 2023:

1. Opening film Fallen Leaves

This Cannes Jury Prize-winning Finnish movie fits perfectly into the film festival vibe. From Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki (who's won a variety of notable awards including the Cannes festival), Fallen Leaves follows a lonely pair building a relationship while dealing with life's troubles, and not knowing each other's names.

It's been described as a "gentle tragicomedy."

2. Hayao Miyazaki's final Studio Ghibli film

The legendary Miyazaki has announced his retirement before, but it appears The Boy and the Heron will be his final feature film. The man who launched the globally popular Studio Ghibli (Spirited AwayHowl's Moving Castle) released this animated feature with minimal marketing in Japan this summer, but it has yet to hit North American screens.

It's opening the Toronto International Film Festival before moving on to other film fests, including VIFF. This movie won't make it to a wide release until December, so if you're looking to see it first, this Vancouver screening is your chance.

3. Welcome to Barbie Land live talk

If you saw Barbie there's no doubt the extremely pink set is still burned into your mind. Ever wondered who made that happen?

That would be Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spence.

The production designer and set decorator will be on hand to talk about designing the sets for the billion-dollar film during a VIFF Talks event.

4. Leading Lights films

This isn't one event so much as one new concept. The Leading Lights is a series of four films curated by one filmmaker; this is the inaugural year and first up is Anthony Shim. 

What makes this interesting is it gives Shim a chance to go back through the years to pick a few films that shaped his own work; this also means it's a chance to see films on the big screen that may have never made it to a theatre in Vancouver.

For example, while Oldboy (both the original and American remake) made the rounds in North America, Park Chan-wook's break-out film was Joint Security Area (2000), which has become one of Quentin Tarantino's favourites.

Also in this series are A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Dust in the Wind (1988), and Peppermint Candy (1999).

5. Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person

The name gives away some of the plot of this Montreal-located film, but if you're a fan of What We Do In The Shadows, this might be up your alley.

6. The Many Worlds of Everything, Everywhere, All at Once talk

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once was one of the most unique and visually stunning movies of the last few years (and it made $140 million on a $14 million budget). Part of that was the look of the film as it traversed dimensions.

Responsible for those sets were wife-husband team Kelsi Ephraim (set designer) and Jason Kisvarday (production designer); they also worked on Daniels indie film Swiss Army Man, Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You, and Palm Springs. Kisvarday also worked on the music video for Childish Gambino's This is America.

7. Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe

After successful films telling Mr. Rogers' story, it seems fitting a documentary be made about Canada's iconic Mr Dressup, even if it took a couple of decades (Ernie Coombs died in 2001).

For anyone who grew up in front of a TV in Canada from 1967 to 1996, there's a good chance you caught one of his 4,000 shows. This documentary film offers an opportunity to look behind the scenes.

VIFF 2023

When: Sept. 28 to Oct 8

Where: Various venues in Vancouver

Cost: Adult tickets to films are $18, with ticket discounts and discounted tickets available. Tickets are on sale now for VIFF members and open up to the general public at noon on Sept. 7.