France, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic
Eloquent and engrossing, George Ovashvili’s fable-like drama unfolds on a tiny island that emerges each summer from a river between warring Georgia and Abkhazia. For the skillful elderly peasant who plants its amazing corn crop and his nubile granddaughter, it’s soon the site of a desperate struggle for survival. "A master class in emotionally charged minimalism…"—Hollywood Reporter. Winner, Crystal Globe, Karlovy Vary 2014.
USA, France, Russia, Austria, Germany
Generally considered the most important living Russian artists, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov cooperated fully on this documentary by Amei Wallach (Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine). More than 20 years after fleeing Russia, the Kabakovs return to install six walk-through installations in venues throughout Moscow. "Dynamically shot… conveying the emotional urgency of the Kabakovs’ work."—The New York Times
An impromptu tryst between two horses serves as the catalyst for further dark comedy in this celebration of equine grandeur and human eccentricities. Benedikt Erlingsson’s debut is every bit as rugged, otherworldly and striking as its Icelandic backdrop. “A hugely enjoyable film from the wild side of the wild side… [It] deserves its cult status.”—Guardian. Winner, Best New Director, San Sebastián 2013.
Qatar, France, Germany, Uruguay, Argentina
There are echoes of VIFF 12 standout Neighbouring Sounds in this anxiety-fuelled thriller. As increasingly odd events unfold in an affluent Buenos Aires suburb, anxiety escalates, setting the stage for an intoxicatingly tense climax. Benjamín Naishtat “invokes a sinister vibe [and] dramatizes the point at which desire for safety sublimates into paranoid acquiescence.”—Film Comment. Winner, Grand Prize, Jeonju 2014; New Directors Prize, San Francisco 2014.
Dietrich Brüggemann’s conceptually daring story of a devout teenager’s trials is eloquently told in 14 chapters, each a masterful single take. As Maria becomes a “warrior of Christ,” the film proves itself both a condemnation of fundamentalist religion and a testament to faith. “While stark, it’s far from chilly—Brüggemann has a sense of humor about his subject matter.”—Village Voice. Winner, Best Screenplay, Berlin 2014.
Guided by Dominik Graf’s skilled directorial hand and anchored by remarkable performances, the tale of writer Friedrich Schiller’s notorious love triangle with the Lengefeld sisters is woven into a sophisticated, sprawling costume drama full of fervour and resonance. “A work of unimposing power, Beloved Sisters renders its minimal story on the grand scale of a three-hour epic with quaint elegance.”—Film Comment
Norway, Austria, Denmark, Germany
Six stunning buildings, six auteurs and glorious 3D come together in this hymn to the art of architecture. The Berliner Philharmonie concert hall (Wim Wenders), California’s Salk Institute (Robert Redford), the National Library in St. Petersburg (Michael Glawogger), Denmark’s Halden prison (Michael Madsen), the Oslo Opera House (Margreth Olin) and the Pompidou in Paris (Karim Ainouz) are brought to life like never before. (Important Note: Only the Sep. 30 screening at International Village #9 will be in projected in 3D. The Oct. 4 screening at The Centre for the Performing Arts will be projected in standard 2D.)
Belgium, Germany, Netherlands
Based on the life of French musician Raymond Borremans, who moved to West Africa in the 20s and tried to compile an encyclopedia of The Ivory Coast (he got to "N" before dying in 1988), this poetic semi-documentary is beautiful and revelatory. Nigerian novelist/poet Ben Okri co-wrote the script, director Peter Krüger authored the striking visual style and the great Michael Lonsdale embodies Borremans’ spirit.
Germany, South Africa
Completed just prior to Mandela’s passing, Khalo Matabane’s deeply personal documentary finds the celebrated filmmaker wrestling with his conflicted feelings concerning the icon’s life and legacy. Posing provocative questions to world leaders, South Africans and himself, he foregoes nostalgia and assembles “a wonderful exploration of a complicated man and even more complicated issues that feels like vital viewing.”—POV Magazine. Winner, Special Jury Prize, IDFA 2013.
Israel, Austria, Germany
Drawing on a huge cache of personal documents, photos and letters found in Heinrich Himmler’s home after his 1945 suicide, Vanessa Lapa crafts a compulsively watchable archival inquiry into the personal side of one of the biggest mass murderers in history. "Engrossing… Quite how [Himmler] made the journey from an ordinary middle-class man to Hitler’s henchman is a fascinating story."—Screen
France, Turkey, Germany
Passionate and utterly compelling, Hüseyin Karabey’s beautifully crafted film is founded in political absurdity. When the Turkish military surrounds a Kurdish village, takes alleged rebels into custody and demands the return of nonexistent guns, a little girl and her grandmother set off in search of a weapon—any weapon—that might earn her father’s freedom. Breathtaking vistas and nerve-wracking suspense await. Winner, Audience Award, Istanbul 2014.
"Nuri Bilge Ceylan [Once Upon a Time in Anatolia] is at the peak of his powers with [this] richly engrossing and ravishingly beautiful magnum opus… [The film] tunnels into the everyday existence of a middle-aged former actor turned comfortably situated hotel owner—and emerges with a multifaceted study of human frailty whose moral implications resonate far beyond its remote Turkish setting."—Variety. Winner, Palme d’Or, Cannes 2014.
VIFF favourite Doris Dörrie (Cherry Blossoms) immerses us in the mayhem of Mexico City’s bustling Plaza Garibaldi and introduces us to the female Mariachis—still a rare breed—who perform there. While their passionate voices suggest indomitable spirits, moving confessional interviews reveal the discrimination and personal doubts they must contend with on a daily basis. "The female performers are dynamite… Inspiring."—NOW Toronto
Fear, prejudice and misunderstandings collide on a crowded airplane in the last minutes before takeoff.
UK, France, Germany
Acclaimed director Mike Leigh and perennially unsung actor Timothy Spall are at the heights of their considerable powers in this enthralling account of visionary J.M.W. Turner’s final years. "As successful in its tiny details as it is in its epic amplitude [it works] as a warts-and-all portrait of the painter and his circle, and as a large-scale evocation of Victorian England."—Screen. Winner, Best Actor, Cannes 2014.
Canada, France, Germany
Perverse and playful, David Cronenberg’s merciless satire takes dead aim at the Hollywood glitterati’s vanities, psychoses and foolish belief that the past can be rewritten. A powerhouse ensemble—John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson—brings Cronenberg’s glamourous grotesques to life. “Mulholland Drive, Sunset Boulevard and The Player wrapped up into one darkly comic, Gothic-tinged package.”—Screen. Winner, Best Actress (Julianne Moore), Cannes 2014.
France, Germany, Switzerland
Juliette Binoche is riveting as an actor asked to revisit the play that made her a star 20 years before—but this time she is to essay the role of the older woman, not the ingenue… "Though deceptively casual on its surface… [Olivier Assayas’ film is] a multi-layered, femme-driven meta-fiction that pushes all involved—including next-gen starlets Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz—to new heights."—Variety
Italy, Germany, Switzerland
An entrancing coming of age story, this is a superb companion piece to Alice Rohrwacher’s remarkable debut, Corpo Celeste. Drawing on Rohrwacher’s own childhood, it’s the tale of a young girl forging her identity while her beekeeper father attempts to sidestep financial ruin. "A wistful but no-tears swan song… The tone hovers mysteriously between dream and reality…”—Hollywood Reporter. Winner, Grand Prix, Cannes 2014.
UK, Poland, Germany
The nomadic Badjao tribe are citizens of the sea, subsisting for centuries on the spoils of their compressor-diving expeditions. Eliza Kubarska‘s poetic documentary follows 10-year-old Sari as he sets out on his first fishing trip and is initiated into his people’s traditions and lore. "A mythological tale of wonder and water…"—DOX. Winner, Special Jury Prize: International Feature, Hot Docs 2014.
Brazil, France, Mexico, Denmark, Germany, Argentina
Lisandro Alonso returns with a gorgeous, 19th century-set existential exploration. Viggo Mortensen is a Danish engineer who heads into the Patagonian wilderness in search of his missing daughter. "This hallucinatory head-trip Western remains unmistakably Alonso’s film… a metaphysical road movie in which origin and destination are markedly less important than the journey itself."—Variety. Winner, FIPRESCI Prize, Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2014.