The chosen; scoping out the Vancouver Int'l Film Fest

In a very funny scene from a film you will never see, a grown man from an Eastern European country argues with his parents about what type of pants were the first he ever wore. Corduroy! No, plaid! No, blue jeans!

The film is called "Pants I Have Owned" - and is not a real movie. It's a spoof on foreign films, the kind that don't make it, and is just one of the hilarious ads this year for the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). The theme of the ad is "Thousands are submitted, few are chosen."

Actually, this year upwards of 370 are chosen. If you love movies and love Vancouver, head over the border anytime between Sept. 23 and Oct. 8. Unlike many other film festivals, VIFF is easy, friendly and organized. It's a unique chance to see some great movies that may rarely, if ever, be screened in this area again.

Vancouver's festival is more affordable and more centralized than Seattle's. There's also little film crossover between the two cities. However, although VIFF, like SIFF, is not a "scene" where studio executives swarm to catch the latest buzz, it offers passionate filmgoers an incredible range of films in all categories.

VIFF takes chances on films before word gets out, never knowing which may later become popular. "Last year if you'd ask us to predict, we couldn't have predicted 'The Corporation,'" said festival director Alan Franey, referring to the highly successful Canadian documentary.

Some VIFF films have won awards at Cannes, San Sebastian or other world festivals. But there are others, with no hoopla and no reputation, just waiting to be discovered.

VIFF has plenty of theme programs. Especially well known are its strong Dragons and Tigers (East Asian), Canadian Images and Non-Fiction series. Other categories include Spotlight on France, Cinema of Our Time (international features), galas and special presentations. New this year are German Indies and Changing the World (political/global activism).

What's on

Vancouver has corralled a goodly share of prizewinners from the Cannes festival in May, including "Clean" (best actress Maggie Cheung), "Look at Me" (best screenplay), and "Nobody Knows" (best actor Yagira Yuya), among others.

We also recommend: "The Forest for the Trees," depicting the slow implosion of a teacher who arrives in the big city with high hopes; "Baobar in Love," a love story with universal appeal; "Czech Dream," a meditation on consumerism by way of a phony ad campaign at a nonexistent supermarket; "South," a gripping film about a breast-cancer survivor's mental disintegration.

"Thirst," from Israel/Palestine, won the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes; it 's receiving its North American premi-ère at VIFF. "Moolaade," a politically forceful film that speaks out against female circumcision in a Senegalese village, was the Cannes choice for best screenplay. Manhattan sommelier/filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter ("Sunday") has made "Mondovino," an engrossing documentary on globalization and the wine industry. And "Green Hat" has been hailed by critic Tony Rayns as one of the films of the year.

The Prix du Jury winner at Cannes, "Tropical Malady" is an enigmatic, two-part story mostly set in the jungles of Thailand. "10th District Court" serves up humane drama about everyday felons attempting to explain away their crimes in a French courtroom, while in "L'Esquive" French high-school kids deal with relationship problems; its cast are all nonprofessionals.

"Tony Takitani" features a commercial designer who, grieving over his wife's death, seeks a woman with the same proportions to wear her clothes. "Nobody Knows" follows, over the course of a year, four kids in a small Tokyo apartment who have been abandoned by their mother. In another hemisphere, "Le Goût des jeunes filles" blends music, color and '70s clothes in telling the story of a boy growing up under the rule of Duvalier in Haiti.

"Boats Out of Watermelon Rinds," beautifully shot in the Turkish countryside, not surprisingly took best Turkish film at the Istanbul Film Festival. "Or" ("My Treasure"), an Israeli film by Karen Yedaya, won the Camera d'Or for best first film at Cannes; it concerns a prostitute and her daughter.

The nitty-gritty

The easiest way to get the scoop on VIFF is through their Web site. A good place to start is right here.

The versatile Search the Programme tool lets you search any way you want. For example, search "huppert" and you'll find three films featuring Isabelle Huppert.

From html, you can search film titles in three different views: in a short list, by synopses with a photo and by schedule.

VIFF will screen more films this year than ever before. Most days the first show starts at 10 a.m., and the last at 10 p.m.

Walking to the movies is very easy. Three of the four festival theaters are a few blocks apart.

The Granville 7, a multiplex, devotes six screens to VIFF. If one movie ends at 9:15 and the next starts at 9:30, chances are you can make it. One block away is the Vogue; three or four blocks away, the Pacific Cinémathèque. The one inconvenient venue is the Ridge. Not only is it far, but the seats are uncomfortable. Unless the show's something you can't bear to miss, better to stay centralized.

Food can be found in cafés on Granville Street. A nearby grocery is Nester's Market at 990 Seymour St. Several hotels are close at hand, but you might consider staying in outlying Richmond, B.C.: plenty of free parking, and you can take a bus to festival central for $3.

Buying your way in

All prices listed here are in Canadian dollars. Individual evening shows are $9. Matinee and senior tickets go for $7.

Passes come in many price ranges. A pass for all weekday matinee (non-press) screenings that start before 6 p.m. is $100; a daytime pass that also includes weekends is $175. The senior (65 and up) and full-time student pass, for everything except galas, is $220 and requires I.D. A pass for all festival and media screenings (except galas) purchased using VISA Gold or Platinum cards is $260.

You can order via the Web, by phone and at advance-ticket outlets. The VISA charge-by-phone number is 604-685-8297. Because VIFF is a nonprofit, there's an annual membership fee of $2 Canadian.

Find complete information on how to buy tickets or passes in advance at

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