A scene from the Connor and Vaughan Gaston-directed film Encore, produced by Victoria’s Arnold Lim. The movie is entered in the Vancouver International Film Festival, which starts this week. Photo contributed

FILM SPOTLIGHT: Island talent hits the screen at VIFF

Film by Victoria’s Connor Gaston, Arnold Lim in 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival

Kyle Wells

Monday Magazine contributor

From the internationally acclaimed to the homegrown upstarts, the offerings at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year vary far and wide.

With 216 feature films and 120 short films from 55 countries being screened, VIFF is a window to the world, but also to our own backyard. BC filmmakers find themselves alongside international giants of cinema and have the chance to screen their latest creations for a hometown crowd.

And Victoria is getting into the mix.

Victoria-based director Connor Gaston is returning to VIFF this year with a new short directed with his brother, Vaughn. Encore is a beautifully shot and enigmatic short about a young boy learning to play the piano at the insistence of his controlling, grieving mother.

Gaston is no stranger to the festival, where his short films Godhead and The Cameraman and feature length debut The Devout have previously screened. Co-produced by Black Press’ own Arnold Lim, alongside Darlene Tait, and starring Nolan Hupp and Belfry Theatre veteran Celine Stubel, Encore screens in The Curtain Calls program on Oct. 1 and 8.

Another Victoria connection comes by way of the feature-length documentary Picking Up the Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket, an emotional and timely look at Victoria-based artist Carey Newman’s acclaimed art installation. Completed in 2015, the Witness Blanket is a staggering work that uses artifacts gathered from former residential school sites and other structures to weave together a representation of the trauma, the history, and the legacy of the residential school system.

The documentary, co-directed by Newman and Victoria-based Cody Graham, functions as both a peek behind the scenes at the artist’s process and as a personal journey of the wounds left behind by this dark chapter in Canadian history. As inspiring as it is heartbreaking, Picking up the Pieces is a must-see.

Beyond the local, the festival is screening many internationally acclaimed films over the course of its two-week run.

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (After the Storm) returns to VIFF with his 2018 Palme d’Or-winning feature Shoplifters. The Old Man and the Gun, from America’s David Lowery (A Ghost Story), features what Robert Redford says will be his final screen performance, in a film about a dapper bank robber in his twilight years.

Screenings of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s (A Separation) movies have become something of a staple at VIFF, drawing large, enthusiast Persian crowds, and this year will be no exception with his latest production Everybody Knows. Also receiving a lot of notice on the festival circuit is Greek provocateur Yorgos Lanthismos’ latest The Favourite, starring Emma Stone, Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz.

And this only scratches the surface.

The Vancouver International Film Festival starts its 37th year today (Sept. 27) and runs through Oct. 12. Visit viff.org for more information and tickets. And stay tuned to mondaymag.com and on Twitter at @mondaymag and @cinefileblog for ongoing coverage of the festival.

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Still photo from Picking up the Pieces, The Making of the Witness Blanket, a documentary directed by Victoria’s Carey Newman and Cody Graham that is entered in this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. It tells the story behind Newman’s awe-inspiring project that went across Canada. Photo contributed

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