Now in its 21st year, the Vancouver International Film Festival (September 26 to October 11) continues to build on its reputation as one of the premiere festivals on the Canadian circuit. The festival is always well attended, and this year was no exception, with a record 154,000 people coming out to see the more than 300 films that screened at five venues across the city.
This year, documentaries once again played a key role. Seventy-one feature and mid-length docs screened at the festival from a wide range of countries, including the Czech Republic, Israel, South Africa and Brazil. Festival favorites included Biggie and Tupac (directed by the U.K.’s Nick Broomfield), Fix: The Story of an Addicted City (directed by Canada’s Nettie Wild) and The Trials of Henry Kissinger (directed by U.S. filmmaker Eugene Jarecki).
Katrine Borre, director of the Danish documentary Faith, Love and Charity, said the Vancouver festival is unique in its treatment of non-fiction films. ‘In Denmark, docs are underdogs to fiction films. Here you get the same amount of respect whether you make a documentary or a fiction film,’ she explained. According to Canadian director Arlene Ami (Say I Do), the Canadian west coast event attracts the cream of the crop. ‘It seems that Vancouver gets the best from the other festivals,’ she observed. ‘I went to Montreal and Toronto and found that the best films at those festivals are here in Vancouver.’
The event’s 17th annual Film and Television Trade Forum (September 25 to 28) was also considered a success, with attendance up 18% from last year. Topics at the trade forum included the art of pitching documentaries, understanding the international marketplace and the key elements of coproductions.
Thanks to a stellar non-fiction selection, doc-makers were among the big award winners at the festival this year. The Air Canada People’s Choice Award for Most Popular Film went to U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine; Nettie Wild’s Fix: The Story of an Addicted City was runner-up for the Federal Express Award for Most Popular Canadian Film; and Canadian director Peter Mettler won the National Film Board of Canada’s Best Documentary Feature Award for Gambling, Gods and LSD, which the jury praised for its ‘vision, ambition and commitment to documentary cinema.’