VIFF First Glance: 5 Films Generating Buzz

Period pieces, political scandals and Vancouver Grizzlies highlight our early look at the Vancouver International Film Festival. 

It’s become commonplace that though Vancouver rightfully owns the “Hollywood North” moniker, the city’s eponymous film festival is always overshadowed by its louder, more celebrity-stuffed cousin in the east. That’s still the case this year, as the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) won’t boast appearances from stars like Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga—but there will be a certain amount of star power generating from Vancouver’s screens (if not its streets).Here are some films that we’re excited to take in once VIFF begins its run on September 27.Hummingbird

The Hummingbird Project

Director: Kim NguyenStarring: Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgard, Salma HayekThe opener this year after premiering at TIFF (of course), the Hummingbird Project features Eisenberg and Skarsgard as cousins intent on creating a 1,000-mile-long fibre-optic cable that’ll allow them to shave a millisecond (or “one flap of a hummingbird’s wing”) off of New York Stock Exchange transactions. That pits them against a former boss in Hayek who comes at the pair with an undying ferocity.It’s the seventh feature from Montreal writer/director Kim Nguyen, who made a name for himself with 2012’s Rebelle, which was a nominee for Best Canadian Feature at that year’s VIFF.Why we’re stoked: When Eisenberg’s fast-talking, brash impulses are handled effectively (see The Social Network, The End of the Tour), he’s a sight to behold. And give us Salma Hayek as a villain any day of the week.Favourite

The Favourite

Director: Yorgos LanthimosStarring: Emma Stone, Rachel WeiszThere are few working directors whose name automatically vaults a project into must-see territory. For us, one of those is undoubtedly Lanthimos, who has cultivated a unique, captivating style with films like The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. This one doesn’t seem to have anything to do with animals, but it does appear to boast a plot riddled with power struggles and tough decisions, as with his previous two films.The Favourite is set in early 18th century England, where a frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne while close friend Lady Sarah (Weisz) governs the country in her stead. When a servant named Abigail (Stone) arrives, a battle to be crowned the Queen’s new favourite emerges.Why we’re stoked: Did you not read the above? Yorgos. Lanthimos. This movie will surely be among the weirdest (and best) that VIFF has to offer.Big Country

Finding Big Country

Director: Kathleen JaymeThere’s already a grassroots campaign to get Jayme’s documentary on the Vancouver Grizzlies another screening after the first two sold out quickly.Only 44 minutes long, the film centres on the director’s quest to find Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves, the dismantled NBA team’s first-ever draft pick and a notorious recluse.Why we’re stoked: Did she find him?? We have to know. The 44 minute-running time (plus a trailer with a bunch of decidedly non-Big Country footage) has us wondering whether Jayme pulled it off.Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers

Director: Jacques AudiardStarring: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake GyllenhaalBased on Vancouver Island native Patrick deWitt’s darkly humorous novel about a pair of assassins, Eli and Charlie Sisters, set in 1851. Interestingly, the brothers are played by John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix in French director Jacques Audiard’s (Rust & Bone) first English language film.Why we’re stoked: It’s a stacked cast as Gyllenhaal plays a detective and Riz Ahmed is the Sisters’ target, but really we’re intrigued by the source material and what the obviously talented Audiard can get in the form of chemistry from his two very different leads.Front Runner

The Front Runner

Director: Jason ReitmanStarring: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, Alfred MolinaWith the closing film of VIFF, Canadian director Jason Reitman turns his camera to politics for the first time since his debut feature, Thank You For Smoking.The Front Runner follows 1988 U.S. Democratic nominee Gary Hart (Jackman) and the true story of his short-lived candidacy. Hart’s campaign fell apart after reporters who stalked the senator called the status of his marriage into question.Why we’re stoked: Call us optimistic, but the story proves that even the most infallible political figures can be brought down. Maybe it’ll inspire our neighbours to the south. Also, J.K. Simmons shows up (it’s a Jason Reitman film, after all) as one of Hart’s handlers and we can already see it.