Terry Fox, Emily Carr films at VIFF

Canadian filmmakers have turned the lens on local heroes in the 2010 lineup for the Vancouver International Film Festival, opening Thursday.
Winds of Heaven explores the story of artist Emily Carr against a backdrop of the landscapes that shaped her. ((VIFF))
Canadian filmmakers have turned the lens on local heroes in the 2010 lineup for the Vancouver International Film Festival, opening Thursday.

Steve Nash, in his first film outing, spotlights Terry Fox in his documentary, Michael Ostroff focuses on artist Emily Carr and Douglas Arrowsmith examines singer Ron Sexsmith.

"It's really a year where a lot of Canadians have looked to their own icons," Alan Franey, VIFF artistic director, said in an interview with CBC News.

He said Fox's family will be at the Vancouver premiere of Into the Wind, Nash's re-examination of the 1980 Marathon of Hope with the inside story drawn from Fox's journal entries.

Basketball star Nash is making his directorial debut with co-director Ezra Holland with the 51-minute film.

The landscape that influenced B.C. artist Emily Carr is explored in Winds of Heaven, a new feature-length documentary about the early 20th century artist. It is directed by Ostroff, with camera work by documentary maker John Walker.

"They spent time in the B.C. north and really captured the landscape in a way that I think a lot of B.C. filmmakers have missed," Franey said.

"It folds out with Emily Carr's paintings, which, on the big screen, are absolutely delicious."

There's also a documentary about runner Harry Jerome — Mighty Jerome — by Charles Officer that explores the racial barriers faced by one of Canada's greatest athletes of the 1960s.

The Illusionist by France's Sylvain Chomet is an animated film meticulously hand drawn in the same style as Chomet's previous feature, Les Triplettes de Belleville. Based on a never-filmed script by French comedian Jacques Tati, it tells the story of a down-on-his-luck magician and is set mainly in Edinburgh. ((VIFF))
Barney's Version, the film based on Mordecai Richler's book that has earned such acclaim at other festival screenings, is one of the big buzz events of the festival.

The British film Made in Dagenham and The Illusionist, the new animated feature from Sylvain Chomet, the French director of the much-loved Les Triplettes de Belleville, are also expected to draw big crowds.

The Illusionist, which will close the festival, is attracting attention for its meticulously hand-drawn, richly coloured animation and unusual story about a magician seeking an audience at a time when magic is falling out of fashion.

"It’s done in the best old-world sense, all hand-done — none of this computer graphic stuff," Franey said. "And it’s a very charming story, actually based on a script by Jacques Tati, the great French comedic director."

The magician at the centre of the story travels to Scotland and meets an orphan who believes his magic.

"He kind of takes her under his wing, and it's a charming story about romance and illusion," Franey said.

Franey said festivalgoers should make sure to see some of the more than 350 films at VIFF that will not make it back to Vancouver.

He also highlighted the festival's strong slate of dance films, including Snow White, a French feature directed by Angelin Preljocaj that captures all the intensity and eroticism of innovative dance.

There is also a strong international slate, including many films that have gained acclaim at festivals such as Cannes and Berlin.

One of the most shocking is the beautiful poetic film Nostalgia for the Light by Patricio Guzmán, which confronts Chile's dark past.

"He is shooting at this high telescope in the Andes, where everything that comes to your eye happened a long time ago," Franey said.

"Then you discover that he's folding in Chile's dark past and the bones that are hidden in this desert where the European Union has the world's most powerful terrestrial telescope."

VIFF is scheduled to run Sept. 30 to Oct. 15.