By Shelly Kraicer
Fan Bingbing in "Buddha Mountain," one of several films directed by Chinese women directors at Vancouver International Film Festival
I’ve chosen 22 films for this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (September 28 – October 14 2011), 17 feature films, 2 medium length fiction films and 3 short films. My usual beat is films from Chinese speaking territories (this year: mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia).
The films are listed below, with commentary that I’ve written for the VIFF programme catalogue. I’d like to point out a few things about the selection. I’m particularly pleased to have chosen films by seven Chinese-speaking women filmmakers this year: seven out of twenty is not a bad ratio, I think, and speaks to the increased opportunities for young independent filmmakers in Hong Kong and Taiwan (see Heiward Mak, Mo Lai, Chen Chiu-ling, and Jessey Tsang below), to make fine work. They follow in the footsteps of veterans like Ann Hui (A Simple Life) and younger established filmmakers like Li Yu (Buddha Mountain).
The continued vitality of the mainland Chinese independent documentary sector is also evidenced by my selection for VIFF, with four powerful indie docs in this year’s programme: Shattered, Apuda, Are We Really So Far From A Madhouse, and Bachelor Mountain. If strictly independent feature film making (i.e. Films that bypass the censorship system) isn’t looking at its strongest this year (with notable exceptions like Pema Tseden’s Old Dog and Zou Peng’s Sauna On Moon), then the fascinating cross-over space populated by films of independent spirit who do manage to get the Film Bureau’s approval seems more vital this year than ever (see Buddha Mountain, Mr. Tree, Here There, The Sword Identity).
In other territories, Taiwan’s blockbuster Seediq Bale is complex and troubling epic, and despite (or because of?) this, is on track to become the biggest blockbuster hit in Taiwanese film history. And Hong Kong’s sole remaining resident master “local” filmmaker Johnnie To has come up with a personal / political work (Life Without Principle) that revises the terms of his art (no guns, no fights) while intensifying the power of his social critique.
Full list of films after the break.