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Live Cinema: HAXAN, Witchcraft Through the Ages

Program Running Time 104 min.

Films in Program

Directed By: Benjamin Christensen
(Sweden, Denmark, 1922, 104 mins, DVD)

Vancouver’s Funerary Call performs a new, specially commissioned live score for this mind-blowing 1922 cult classic. Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns and a satanic Sabbath are just a few of the ingredients that make up Benjamin Christensen’s witches’ brew of superstition, sorcery, surrealism and enlightenment.

"A unique film for its boldness in dealing with its taboo subject, for its amazing visual inventiveness, and also for its complex structure." Fernando Martin Pena, Defining Moments in Movies

"A truly unique work that still holds the power to unnerve even in today’s jaded era." Jyotsna Kapur, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

"An amazing experience. The film is overflowing with dark fairytale imagery, incredible makeup effects (especially Christensen himself in the role of a leering Lucifer) and shocking portrayals of torture that still make viewers cringe over 90 years later." Gregory Burkart,

Special Presentation: Sexcula

Films in Program

Directed By: Bob Hollowich
(Canada, 1974, mins, 16mm)

A Canadian-made “porno chic” movie? It never happened! So historians say. But tonight’s screening proves otherwise as the never-released and unknown sexually-explicit [or: ‘X-rated’] horror-spoof Sexcula—-made entirely in British Columbia back in ’73—-screens in a World-Premiere of its original, unplayed 16mm answer-print. Produced with the help of Canadian film tax credits (that’s right—-taxpayers backed a porn movie—only in Canada!), Sexcula is one of the oddest entries in the colourful catalog of “Canuxploitation.”. Special guests to be announced.


Program Running Time 110 min.

Films in Program

Directed By: Tobias Lindholm
(Denmark, 2012, 110 mins, Blu-ray Disc)

The writer of VIFF-favourite The Hunt fashions a lean, taut, morally ambiguous Scandinavian thriller out of the facts of the hijacking of a Danish-owned cargo boat by Somali pirates (the very incident captured in the documentary Stolen Seas).

96% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes

"No mainstream American thriller could ever be made about this subject that resisted simple-minded narrative clichés the way "A Hijacking" does, or that refused to depict its characters as either heroes or villains." Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

"A nail-biter of a thriller." Geoff Pevere, Globe & Mail

Muscle Shoals

Program Running Time 111 min.

Films in Program

The Best Film You've Never Seen: THE SWIMMER

Program Running Time 94 min.

Films in Program

Directed By: Frank Perry
(USA, 1968, 94 mins, DCP)

Author Robert K Elder asked 35 filmmakers to champion a movie that they love, but which had either been overlooked or reviled by critics and audiences. The result, ’The Best Film You’ve Never Seen’ is fascinating both for what it reveals about the directors he talked to and for their insights into some seriously neglected films. Case in point: Frank Perry’s The Swimmer, starring Burt Lancaster as a man who decides to swim his way home across Connecticut, one backyard swimming pool at a time. Selected by Alex Proyas (Dark CIty), this is seriously strange movie, but one that stands the test of time.

"As do few movies, The Swimmer stays in the memory like an echo that never quite disappears." Vincent Canby, New York TImes

"Enigmatic, poetic, disturbing." Kim Newman, Empire

"Burt Lancaster is superb in his finest performance." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Special 40th Anniversary Presentation: Sexcula

(1974, mins, 16mm)
World Premiere
CAST Debbie Collins, Jamie Orlando, John Alexander, Tim Lowery, Marie McLeod.


Shot right here in beautiful BC, the Canadian tax payers’ first (and only?) hardcore sex film, Sexcula occupies an obscure yet unique position in the annals of Vancouver cinema.

Featuring mad scientists, a vampire and a gorilla, the film was a brainchild of the free love movement and an accountant’s advice. Made in the Lower Mainland thirty summers ago by a construction contractor with an open lifestyle, it started as a campy, nudie spoof on classic horror motifs, but merged in production into the then-blossoming “porno chic” genre—-odd choice since you couldn’t legally show hardcore sex onscreen in Canada at that time. Thus, the generous Canadian Tax Credits were used to make a Canadian movie no one in Canada could see (but since the Tax Shelter had the fatal flaw of promoting film production but not distribution, perhaps that makes Sexcula the quintessential Tax Shelter film.)

The plot - cobbled together by a writer named David F Hurry - involves a couples’ discovery of an old manuscript in an abandoned house. The book chronicles strange goings-on in the eighteenth century, In flashback, we meet Dr. Fellatingstein, a libidinous scientist who creates a man to satisfy her sexual cravings—alas, the creation (“Frank”) proves impotent, and in desperation, she calls on her cousin, Countess Sexcula, to rouse his lust. Sexcula gives it the old college try, but upon further investigation determines that he is lacking “sex cells.” Undaunted, she uses her feminine charms to abduct eligible men as unwilling donors. There is also a 20-minute, strikingly more explicit, film within the film, shoehorned in to bring the running time up to the 90 minutes required to qualify for the tax break.

As far as has been determined, Sexcula screened just once, a cast and crew show at Vancouver’s now defunct Panorama Studios. But a print was purchased by Archives Canada, and perhaps strangely, the film has enjoyed some kind of an afterlife in certain disreputable circles. Stories from the production inspired the Vancouver-made comedy Overnight (1986), which is itself something of a lost film.

This 40th Anniversary Screening offers audiences a time capsule, a glimpse of what Canadian sex fantasy looked like in the heyday of porno. (Warning, Sexcula features explicit sexual imagery that some may find offensive.) Special guests to be announced.

Stolen Seas: Tales of Somali Piracy

(2011, 92 mins, DCP)
Guest speaker: Matthew Raffety
Matthew Raffety is a historian who has written extensively about maritime history. His published work on piracy includes The Enemy of All Mankind: Pirates, Piracy and the Autonomy of the High Seas for the journal “Contra Mundum IV”. Raffety has a PhD from Columbia University and teaches at Redlands University in California. His book The Republic Afloat: Law, Honor, and Citizenship in Maritime America was released this spring by The University of Chicago Press. Raffety is featured in the film Stolen Seas.


November 7, 2008, the Danish (Bahamas-registered) cargo vessel CEC Future was boarded by Somali pirates. For 70 days the international crew was held captive at gunpoint while the pirates and the Danish owners negotiated.

This evening Vancity Theatre presents two films inspired by this story, one a documentary (Stolen Seas), the other a dramatic feature (A Hijacking) written and directed by Tobias Lindholm, whose last film was The Hunt.

Talking to pirates, hostages, their relatives and their employers, Stolen Seas director Thymaya Payne throws the viewer into the middle of the real-life hostage negotiations. As the haggling between the ship’s owner, Per Gullestrup, and the pirate’s negotiator, Ishmael Ali, drags on for months, these two adversaries form a strong connection and a fascinating dual character study emerges. Stolen Seas presents a thrilling blow-by-blow account of the CEC Future and a chilling but admirably balanced exploration of the Somali pirate phenomenon.

"Riveting…a dense, sometimes dangerous 90-minute immersion in a world where lawlessness applies to all sides." Peter Debruge, Variety

"A documentary of such ambitious scope you might need a remote control and a notebook to keep up with it." Omer M Mozaffar, Chicago Sun-Times

Camille Claudel, 1915

(2013, 95 mins, DCP)
In French with English subtitles
CAST Juliette Binoche, Jean-Luc Vincent, Emmanuel Kauffman


In one of her most committed and profound performances, the great French actress Juliette Binoche plays sculptor Camille Claudel some years after she has been committed to an asylum by her family. Pinning her hopes on a longed-for visit from her brother, Camille keeps herself apart from the other inmates and for the most part enjoys a degree of trust and respect from the nuns, but her composure is fragile, and she remains bitter and paranoid when the subject of her old lover Auguste Rodin comes up. Most tragically of all, she refuses to return to her work.

A radically different take from the tempestuous biopic that earned Isabelle Adjani an Oscar nomination in 1990, Bruno Dumont’s film is restrained, sometimes harrowing, but singularly authentic and deeply felt - an experience you will not soon forget. As in Dumont’s previous work (it includes L’humanite, Flanders, and Outside Satan), non-professional actors figure prominently - Camille’s fellow inmates are largely played by the mentally ill - but this uncompromising realism is put in the service of searching philosophical questions about God, grace, transcendence, and the absence of these things.

“I wait for each new film by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Abbas Kiarostami, Claire Denis and Bruno Dumont. I enjoy all sorts of films, but those are the people that really interest me. I admire the Dardenne brothers tremendously, but I feel closest, in my work, to Dumont. Dumont’s films are basically existential works, philosophical films, not political ones. I think of my own films that way.” Michael Haneke (Amour).

"A mesmerizingly intense yet controlled lead by Juliette Binoche." Jonathan Romney, Screen International

"Heartbreaking." Guy Lodge, Variety


(1980, 107 mins, 35mm)
In English
CAST Irene Miracle, Leigh McCloskey, Eleanora Giorgi, Alida Valli


Dario Argento’s follow up to 1977’s Suspiria is one of the most dazzling horror movies ever made. A poet in New York, Rose (Irene Miracle) becomes convinced that she is sharing living space with one of the mythical Three Mothers, the Mother of Darkness (the other witches’ covens are said to exist in Rome and Germany). Indeed, the further she explores the building, the darker things become. Logic itself seems to bend as the rational world gives way to supernatural fears, forebodings, and sudden, violent death.

Full of riddles, as Argento put it, the movie wouldn’t get a pass from many studio script readers, but for anyone with the eyes and ears to appreciate cinema it’s a bloody marvel. Keyboardist Keith Emerson wrote the score, while Argento’s mentor Mario Bava collaborated on some of the astonishing visual effects. Critic Kim Newman wrote, "Every sequenceis a meticulously orchestrated mini-symphony of camera movement, stylised lighting, sound effects, music and found objects… Previously the murders in Argento’s films have been set pieces; Inferno is all set pieces, and thus all of a piece."

"Inferno is a masterpiece of absolute film, perhaps the most underrated horror movie of the 1980s." Kim Newman, Nightmare Movies

Black Sunday

(La maschera del demonio)
(1960, 87 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
CAST Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Ivo Garrani, Andrea Checchi.


Barbara Steele became an icon for horror fans with her double role in this Mario Bava’s unforgettable debut feature. She plays both the innocent Katia, and the witch-vampiress Asa Vajda, who returns to life in 1830, 200 years after she was executed in grisly fashion, by having a spiked mask hammered onto her head. Thirsting for blood, Asa turns her attention on her lookalike descendent….

Shot in black and white by the former cinematographer, this gothic classic has an extraordinary creepy atmosphere and shots that imprint themselves on the back of your skull, almost with the force of that mask of death which gave the film its original Italian title.

"One of the movies that remain with me probably stronger than anything is Black Sunday… there’s a lot of old films – [Bava’s] in particular – where the vibe and the feeling is what it’s about… [t]he feeling’s a mixture of eroticism, of sex, of horror and starkness of image, and to me that is more real than what most people would consider realism in films…" Tim Burton