Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve has picked up another laurel at VIFF. After Incendies was chosen as Canada's foreign film nomination for the Oscars, and winning best film at TIFF, he won the ET Canada Award for Best Canadian Feature Film, a juried award that comes with $20,000 prize-money.
Incendies illustrates Villeneuve's ability to weave a good yarn. It's a mystery where two grown-up twins must piece together a puzzling family history following their deceased mother's final instructions. The film is set largely in their mother's youth and the present, with much of the incident unfolding in a Middle Eastern country (it's not clear where) torn by religious war. As the two delve deeper, there's shocking, but necessary revelations.
I have to confess I didn't like the sound of Waste Land when I read about it in the festival programme. A Brazilian artist who makes sculptures out of rubbish? Don't want to watch that for 90 minutes, I thought. However, it seems the feel-good, art-triumphing-over-adversity theme really resonated with people. Lucy Walker's documentary about Vik Muniz's giant art collaborations with garbage-pickers was voted the Vancouver International Film Festival's audience award. It also previously won Sundance's "World Documentary Audience Award" and Berlin's "Panorama Audience Award". I wont be passing over it again.
Documentaries traditionally form a large part of VIFF's programme, with several nonfiction awards as well. Claus Wischmann and Martin Baer's uplifting Kinshasa Symphony, proved to be another crowd-pleaser taking The Most Popular Nonfiction Award. The documentary shows how people living in one of the most chaotic cities in the world - Kinshasa in the Congo - find joy by playing classical music.
In the Canadian films category, winner of the Most Popular Canadian Film Award was Two Indians Talking, Sara McIntyre's original take on the relationship of two first nations cousins.
The NFB Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award and a $2,500 prize in NFB technical services went to John Zaritsky's Leave Them Laughing profiling funnywoman Carla Zilbersmith's struggle with the incurable disease ALS.
Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie won the Environmental Film Audience Award. Which is no surprise - the 75-year-old broadcaster and scientist has been the face of Canadian environmentalism for years and has a fascinating background going back to his family being thrown in internment camps during WWII. Sturla Gunnarsson made the doc with the NFB. Apparently one of his producers said make it anyway you want but don't make it a lecture like An Inconvenient Truth. He still included a lecture as the centrepoint.
The $2,000 cash award for the Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short went to Halima Ouardiri of Quebec for her short film Mokhtar.
For completion sake I should mention that the $10,000 Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema went to Hirohara Satoru of Japan for Good Morning to the World!. It was announced on 7 October.
And Women in Film & Television Vancouver presented its Artistic Merit Award to April Telek, lead actress in Amazon Falls.
The final awards were announced last night before the closing gala screening of The Illusionist (L'Illusioniste). Incidentally, the feature animation is being called a French film in Vancouver although having seen it open the film festival in Edinburgh I think of it as more of a Scottish film.
There was an after-party at the 560 Club downtown, a multi-floor venue which is perhaps most distinguished by its open plan washroom space in the basement.
Free booze and trays of food flowed back and forth. Good times were had.