PICKS AND PANS FROM THE VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2018





The Heiresses
(Paraguay): The title of Marcelo Martinessi’s quiet drama is misleading, for elderly lovers Chela and Chiquita have fallen on hard times making it necessary to sell off most of their prized possessions. Things go from bad to worse when Chiquita is sent to prison on fraud charges leaving the overly timid Chela alone with no one but the maid for company. Opportunity comes knocking however in the form of a group of rich old ladies in need of a chauffeur and Chela is soon running an impromptu taxi service—which is how she meets Angy. Younger, vivacious, and dripping with sensuality, Angy is everything Chela is not and the carnal temptation she presents is almost too much. But, as the older woman soon realizes, what we desire and what we actually need are not always the same thing… Perfectly downplayed performances and camerawork bordering on verité give Martinessi’s film a sense of grounded reality while some clever musical cues and shuttered light give insight to Chela’s whirling emotions. Unfortunately this is a beautiful short film that has been needlessly padded to feature length and the resultant glacial pacing is too often an endurance test. Still, it’s refreshing to see a movie with a strong, sixty-ish woman proving that you’re never too old to come of age.

Amateurs (Sweden): When a German conglomerate eyes the dead-end burg of Lafors as a possible site for their new Swedish superstore, the local council is elated. But aside from an annual drunken rodeo weekend there isn’t much to say about the town prompting the mayor to give local high school students the task of making snazzy promotional youtube videos. The results, steeped in drug culture and whiny teenaged angst, are less than satisfactory so he hires a professional filmmaker to plug Lafors instead—a decision that doesn’t sit very well with one particular student who, as a child of immigrant parents, decides to post an “honest” video of what life in her small town is really like. From racism and sexism to class distinction and third world exploitation, director Gabriela Pichler plays all the usual PC cards in this lopsided comedy-drama (oh those nasty western European caucasians!). It’s only towards the end however that you realize she has at least tried to level the playing field: everyone is hurting economically whether it be the Indian cleaning lady or the Nordic Viking at the discount mart; a rift is opening between first and second generation immigrants (one councillor can no longer communicate with his Tamil mother after dementia robs her of her Swedish); and the film’s obnoxiously loudmouthed “activist” gets a bit of a comeuppance when she starts to realize that the problems associated with Europe’s immigration crisis are not so easily classified into white vs brown. Nice little dig at the documentary mindset to boot as a director gets grilled over the ethics of filmmaking.

Liquid Truth (Brazil): A troubled eight-year old boy accuses his swimming instructor of an inappropriate act and the fallout threatens to ruin the man’s life. Director Carolina Jabor wisely avoids casting the boy into the spotlight (his accusation is only mentioned secondhand) but instead concentrates on the reactions of his estranged parents: dad is more concerned with people questioning his son’s sexuality while mom takes to the internet as both judge and jury, her self-righteousness increasing with every “Like” she receives on WhatsApp. As gossip morphs into certainty before the police investigation even begins, the instructor (who is not quite the innocent lamb) sees friends pulling away, including his once supportive boss, and harsh looks turning into physical violence. Comparing favourably to Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, Jabor goes one step further to show how social media caters to the mob mentality and “guilty until proven guilty” has become the new online mantra in this age of instant outrage and viral justice.