Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

I feel so long past my days of taking in sixty-one films like I did during my first time at the festival as I was free and clear to watch movies twenty-four seven for the over two-week festival plus the prep time beforehand and now I sit at just ten movies total to wrap up the fest. My vow is to do my damnedest to attend the next festival in person and hopefully equal some of the better totals that I have achieved but do it rubbing elbows with the patrons, just the way the cinema gods intended. That said, here is my thoughts on the last five of VIFF 2022.

Carajita – One of my favourite things about taking in Vancouver International Film Festival’s lineup is the unpredictability of some of the titles I choose to watch. It’s always unpredictable and the more international you go, the more stories are some that you have never been privy to and sometimes they line up with amazing films you have seen before. This is the first Dominican Republic-produced film I have ever seen and it follows a girl and her nanny that have forged a bond beyond their separation in class. When a tragic accident happens one night, it leads to a secret that changes their relationship in explosive ways that will impact the rest of their lives. This film reminded me a lot of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma in the division of classes but the human sorrow that runs as a thread until an impactful scene on a beach of crashing waves made its way into my psyche where it will rest for a while.

The Hermit Of Treig – This is a fascinating little character documentary, filled with hard choices and resolute decisions and it’s hard to not reflect on yourself and the material-driven choices we make every day. My fascination definitely comes with filmmaker Lizzie MacKenzie who would periodically look in on the life of elderly man Ken Smith, a man that has lived in seclusion for forty years after deciding to give up everything, including the love of his life, something he seems to be a little wistful about. Now in declining health, in body and mind but never spirit, the choice of coming back into society is the most forefront as it has always been but does he make the choice to just fade into the nature that he has now become part of, living with the ghosts of his past and the bare bones of a beautiful shack he had created that burnt to the ground, haunting his for his remaining days? The whole process is amazing and being the first documentary I saw at the festival this year, it set a tone.

Leonor Will Never Die – Being a guy who loves international films but is very unversed in cinema from the Philipines, I was really looking forward to checking this one out as I heard many great things about it. What I didn’t expect was a tie to eighties action films that would play as such a main theme for the story. The story follows a retired filmmaker who is suddenly struck with the inspiration to finally finish a revenge action thriller script she had been working on in her past just before a television strikes her in the head. In a hospital bed, deep in a coma, she wakes to find herself actually in the movie itself with the characters she has created in a blur between fantasy and reality where all of her familial and personal problems act as a metaphor. The film is really inventive with its framing and themes and the emotional bursts in it are so unpredictable and goes right for the heart. This is the first film from writer and director Martika Ramirez Escobar and I can’t wait to see what she has next as her cinema soul is something she seems to wear on her sleeve.

Last Flight Home – The changes and restrictions that COVID put on us as a society for two years and still, to some degree, have been held in place are something that has kept us all safe but has also led to some isolation that has advanced sicknesses, diseases and disorders and that rapid deterioration is really the catalyst for this documentary to me. The film follows the story of Eli Timoner, a bedridden family man who has reached the end of the rope with his pain management and being cared for by others and has decided to end it all in the comfort of his own home. For three weeks leading to the day he leaves his mortal coil, he is visited by friends, family and caretakers as they all take their moments to say goodbye and we are given the story of Eli’s extraordinary life of service to his family and his community. The humanizing that is experienced in this film of pre-grief but also the celebration of one man’s life is truly heartwarming and heartbreaking all the same. To see Eli, still very much in pain but full of love and uplifting positivity for all those around him was truly special to watch.

Maigret – It’s not a Vancouver International Film Festival without a Gerard Depardieu film, is it? It’s kind of fitting that I went out with this as my final film is a sadly short program from me this year but it’s even sadder as I really didn’t like this one and it’s kind of a usual thing with me and this French legends films at the festival. The film has Gerard as the titular Commissioner Maigret, who is tasked with finding the murderer of a young girl in a classy evening dress found in a Parisian square, leading him through the rich aristocratic side of the city. Without going into much detail, I will just say that the film lacks a lot to be desired in a murder mystery, whereas even recent Hollywood films like Knives Out and even Branagh’s Murder On The Orient Express lead to more excitement in plot. I will also say that the rigid moroseness from Depardieu does nothing to aid in this problem and may have been the final straw for me and this movie.

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