News Column

Film Festival an immersive experience

October 10, 2013


Oct. 10--BURLINGTON -- The Vermont International Film Festival takes over Burlington's Waterfront Friday through Oct. 20.

Festivalgoers can view 38 features and 40 shorts within three screening locations, a short distance away from festival central in the Film House's lobby at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center.

"I'm excited about the direction, in general, the festival is taking," said Orly Yadin, executive director of the festival.

"We're in our 28th year and slowly shifting away from being an issue-based festival, which we used to be in the past."

The festival has five thematic categories: Identity, Artists in Action, Sport & Film, Food & Film, and Water.

"I'm excited about our themes," Yadin said. "One is Artist in Action. We have films about five different artists in five different fields."

"Brothers Hypnotic," directed by Reuben Atlas, is a documentary about the eight brothers of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, all sons of anti-establishment jazz legend Phil Cohran. It's their coming-of-age story from Chicago's South Side to New York City, huckstering to headlining jazz festivals.

"We're bringing the entire band from Chicago," Yadin said. "We will show the film and then have a live concert for a more immersive experience."

"Chihuly Outside," a documentary directed by Peter West, chronicles five decades of Dale Chihuly's glass installations.

"The Fatwa-Salman's Story," directed by Alan Yentob, is a cinematic travelogue through the life of Salam Rushdie, author of "The Satanic Verses" and "Joseph Anton: A Memoir."

"Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters," directed by Ben Shapiro, is a glimpse of the celebrated photographer known for his elaborate and elegant staging for a single image. On Monday, Oct. 14, novelists Rick Moody and Russell Banks and photographer Lauren Simmons share their insights on their friend's work.

"Michael H: Profession Filmmaker," directed by Yves Montmayeur, turns the lens on Michael Haneke (Oscar-winning "Amore") to reveal the cinematic genius' method and the man.

Sport & Film selections include "The Crash Reel," "King Curling (Kong Curling)," "A Passion for Snow," "The Ridge (Pura Vida)," "Rising from the Ashes" and "White Rock."

"Most of the sports-related films happened to be about snowboarding, skiing and mountaineering, a very New England landscape with the winter sports," Yadin said.

"We're having a whole day Sunday, Oct. 13, devoted to snowboarding and skiing. We have some Olympic skiers come to attend some of the films and an expert (International Olympic Committee archive consultant Adrian Wood) who works on restoring old Olympic films. He will present 'White Rock,' a 1970 Winter Olympic film in Austria, a restored film."

A film not to be missed is director Joshua Oppenheimer's "Act of Killing," a groundbreaking film with interviews with leaders of Indonesian death squads responsible for slaying millions of communists, leftists and ethnic Chinese in 1965-66.

"It has a lot of coverage," Yadin said. "You have never seen a film like this. He (Oppenheimer) got in touch with these people, they are very part of the system and proud of what they've done. They created a film within a film. The perpetrators reconstructed their crime. It's hard to describe in words. It stays with you weeks after."

The Food & Film series was started three years ago.

"That is very popular in Vermont, the whole interest in food, farm-to-table and slow-food movement," Yadin said.

The festival features an array of food and wine tastings from Vermont artisans and restaurants.

The opening-night film is "The Crash Reel," a documentary set during the 2010 Winter Olympics training season. Kevin Pearce, a world-class snowboarder and Vermonter, spins into a double cork 1080 and does not come out of it. His board catches the ice, and he's propelled forward onto his head and neck without time to brace his fall.

"He comes back and is snowboarding again," Yadin said. "The cinematography is amazing. Kevin is going to attend the screening. We're donating the proceeds of the ticket sales for Special Olympics Vermont."

One of the festival's offerings is Lunchtime Shorts, which features changing, daily international shorts curated by a special guest. A sandwich is included in the ticket price.

Screenings include "Abuelas," a UK documentary directed by Afarin Eghbal; "Oh Willy...," a Belgian animation directed by Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels; and "Meathead," by New Zealand director Sam Holst.

There's a diverse selection of film from Vermont's homegrown own in the Vermont Filmmakers' Showcase.

Films include "Cow Power: The Film," directed by Allison Gillette, and "Edsel the Blind Mechanic," a documentary directed by Andrea Grayson.

"There are so many good films in the festival that excite me," Yadin said. "We have some interesting Canadian films from Quebec and Montreal."

Movies include "The End of Time," an experimental film about time directed by Peter Mettler, and "Laurence Anyways," a feature about gender identity directed by Quebecois enfant terrible Xavier Dolan ("I Killed My Mother" and "Heartbeats").

"All these different films raise questions about who we are and how we present ourselves to the world," Yadin said.

The Vermont International Film Festival offers an immersive experience different from going to a cinema to see the latest film or a Netflix home screening. Yadin likens the festival to an art exhibition.

"You immerse yourself in a film festival that was specially curated. You have a new appreciation for the art of cinema and how filmmakers connect to each other. As much as possible, we bring filmmakers and presenters," Yadin said.

The festival draws like-minded people.

"You can talk to, and you can start a dialogue," Yadin said. "It's about immersing them in a greater context and asking questions. That's why a festival is a different experience from going to see any film."

Email Robin

IF YOU GO WHAT: Vermont International Film Festival WHEN: Friday, Oct. 11, through Sunday, Oct. 20. WHERE: Burlington Waterfront. ADMISSION: $10 general, $8 seniors (62 and up), $5 children 11 and under, and $5 college students with ID. A Gold Pass costs $120, a 10 pack is $75, and a six pack $45. Tickets can be purchased at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center's front desk, 1 College St., Burlington. CONTACT: Visit or call (802) 864-1848.


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