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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

VIFF Day 2: Three out of four sure isn’t bad

Our second day at the Vancouver International Film Festival, the 32nd version, saw us attending four screenings – a busy day but hardly our busiest ever. Not to brag or anything, but on several occasions at both Sundance and Seattle we’ve seen five films in a day.

I don’t think, though, that we’ve liked three of the four films we’ve seen as much as we liked three of the films we saw today.

Today’s screening schedule included:

“The Missing Picture”: A French-Cambodian production, this curious documentary is another example of my seeing something for the first time. Director Rithy Panh, a survivor of Pol Pot’s 1970s Cambodian genocide, has attempted to tell his and his country’s story through the use of miniature clay figures. With most of the documentation of the era missing, and much of what survived pure propaganda footage, Panh was forced to act out the events using such a unique method of storytelling. And it is effective – once you get past the precious absurdity of it all.

“3 Days in Havana”: Co-written and directed by Gil Bellows and Tony Pantages, this little noir filled the house (one of the screens at the Cineplex Odeon International Village) because Bellows and Pantages are local figures. It was our least favorite film of the day, its cleverness not quite overcoming its low budget and predictable – at least to my wife – ending.

“On the Edge of the World”: This French documentary may well feature the best cinematography of any documentary I have ever seen. It documents the plight of the many homeless people who live on the streets of Paris, many of them existing in the shadow of the city’s most famous sites – the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Trimphe and the bridges that cross the River Seine. Director Claus Drexel spent a year getting to know Paris’ homeless community, and it shows in the access he got – and the sad, poignant stories he captures with such skill.

“Fifi Howls From Happiness”: Another documentary, this one by Iranian filmmaker Mitra Farahani, is a curiously made film about Farahani’s tracking down and interviewing a once-famous Iranian artist, Bahman Mohassess. Talented and famous in his home country, Mohassess responded to Iranian repression by destroying most of his work and fleeing to Rome. Many Iranians thought he was dead, but Farahani tracked him down and captured him with her camera. More impressionistic than a full, chronological study, and certainly postmodern in an always self-aware style, “Fifi Howls From Happiness” – which is taken from one of Mohassess’ paintings – offers a unique portrait of an unforgettable man.

And that’s it. One more day of moviegoing and we’re homeward bound.

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