British Columbia

VIFF reveals feature films for opening and closing galas

The Vancouver International Film Festival will feature the Canadian film Maudie at its opening gala and wrap the festival up with Terrence Malick's The Voyage of Time: The Imax Experience.

The festival will launch with Maudie and wrap up with The Voyage of Time: The Imax Experience

Canadian film, Maudie, staring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, will be featured at a festival opening gala screening. (Mongrel Media)

The Vancouver International Film Festival revealed Wednesday it will feature the Canadian film Maudie at its opening gala and will wrap up the festival with Terrence Malick's The Voyage of Time: The Imax Experience.

VIFF executive director Jacqueline Dupuis made the announcement ahead of the Sept. 29 festival kick-off.

"[It's] one of the most important films of the year for us, just because it was our 35th anniversary," Dupuis said of Malick's documentary. "He's an incredible auteur-filmmaker that we've celebrated year over year over year, and that the film was shot over 35 years and we're going to have the opportunity to experience it in 35 mm ... It's good all around."

Dupuis said the festival has frequently selected a Canadian film for its opening feature, and she's thrilled about Maudie, which tells the story of Maud Lewis, a Nova Scotia folk artist who struggled with arthritis.

Actor Sally Hawkins stars as Lewis, and Ethan Hawke co-stars as her husband.

"Maudie is just a stunning film about a really special Canadian, and so it seemed like a no-brainer to program that film," said Dupuis.

Film controversy

Another VIFF film has been the subject of controversy, as well as critical acclaim.

The Birth of a Nation is about the 1831 U.S. slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. It was directed, co-written, co-produced — and stars — Nate Parker, who is expected to speak at VIFF.

The Birth of a Nation has drawn both critical acclaim and controversy. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

In 1999 Parker and his roommate Jean Celestin  — who has a story credit on The Birth of a Nation — were charged with raping an 18-year-old student when they were studying at Pennsylvania State University. Parker was acquitted in 2001.

"The way I treated women, objectified women — my manhood was defined by how many women I could be with. I was a dog. I was wrong," Parker told an audience in Los Angeles late last month.

But VIFF executive director Jacqueline Dupuis said she's ready for people's reactions to both the film and Parker.

"Certainly, we expect it to be controversial both in terms of the content of the film and also with the allegations against Nate Parker, but again, we don't have the facts on the case and we feel very strongly that it's not for us to judge," she said. 

VIFF executive director Jacqueline Dupuis announces the opening and closing gala feature screenings in Vancouver on Wednesday. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"We're here to bring the best films to our audiences and we think that this is one that will be important for them to see."

"You know, Vancouver audiences are always very passionate. We have had many, many instances over the years at the festival, and even since I've been here — now five years —  where certain things have happened at films around topics that people feel are controversial, so we're braced for that, we're always braced for that," Dupuis said.

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