More at VIFF

From Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s documentary Human. Photo courtesy of viff.org Showing October 10 (VIFF at the Centre) and October 12 (Vancouver Playhouse).

mesmerizing and unconventional

by Robert Alstead

• Koneline: Our Land Beautiful, by local filmmaker Nettie Wild, takes a fresh, even-handed approach to a heated subject: resource development in BC’s Northwest wilderness. The hereditary land of the Tahltan First Nation has been dubbed the “Serengeti of the North.” Now, the land is being opened up to mining companies for its rich gold and copper resources. Wild’s approach allows many individuals to share their different knowledge and experience of the area – whether it be the geologist’s expertise on rock formations or the aboriginal student sharing his disappearing dialect – and builds a mosaic of impressions.

Docs at the Vancouver International Film Festival

by Robert Alstead

• If the events of Cold War documentary Command and Control hadn’t actually happened, you might think it was made up. On September 18, 1980, a PTS (Propellant Transfer System) team working on a nuclear missile in Damascus, Arkansas, accidentally dropped a metal socket in the silo. It punctured the fuel tank and set off a potentially catastrophic chain of events: the 9Mt thermonuclear warhead on the Titan II missile was capable of annihilating 10 million people.

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Common Ground writers join the conversation

Common Ground magazine and I have been friends for 34 years! I was present at its 1982 birth and launch party in a Vancouver back yard. I like long-term friendships and this has been a good one. The articles throughout the magazine are lively and thought provoking. Common Ground has long been a leader regarding environmental concerns and health and human rights issues. I have appreciated the opportunity to write on a vast range of topics related to plant-based nutrition and have welcomed the tremendous interest in this topic on the part of readers.

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State of surveillance

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

• The gulf between what the US government says it is doing and what it is probably doing has never seemed more apparent than in Citizenfour. A first-hand account of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in June 2013, it demands us to ask why the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities have been allowed to crawl unchecked into so many spheres of our private lives.

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Antarctica’s golden years

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

• Director Mike Leigh is a British institution, producing subtle, sensitive films that run deep, such as the 1996 Palme d’Or winner Secrets & Lies and his earlier Life Is Sweet. His latest work to hit these shores – opening on Christmas Day – is a biopic about the last 25 years of the great English impressionist J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Leigh is best known for films with well-rounded characters, but Mr. Turner has been earning praise as much for the visual strengths of his warts and all portrait of the brilliant, but flawed, artist. The ever-reliable Timothy Spall won Best Actor at Cannes 2014 for his performance as the titular character.

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The fest goes on

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

• These may be uncertain times for cinema, but the Vancouver International Film Festival ended last month on a high note, announcing it set a new box office record: a 10% increase from 2013, the festival’s previous benchmark year. For all the worries about media saturation, people still come in droves for the social experience of watching a film together in a dark room. The 1,800-capacity Centre For Performing Arts in downtown Vancouver was packed to the rafters for the closing film Whiplash.

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VIFF reviews

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

• Among the documentary fare at VIFF this month is Just Eat It – A Food Waste Story. It chronicles Vancouver foodie filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin’s six-month challenge to live solely from food waste. As they pursue this interesting experiment, the couple dig into the broader issues of industrial food waste, from bananas that are chucked for not having the right curve, to expiry labels and portion sizes. Initially, it’s hard-going, but soon they are showering their dumpster-sourced bounty on friends. They don’t appear to get sick and a staggering amount of their spoil is organic.

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Welcome back VIFF

The first Vancouver International Film Festival under its new boss Jacqueline Dupuis opens September 25 and runs until October 10. A former executive director at the Calgary Film Festival, Dupuis will be helming VIFF (www.viff.org) through the uncertain waters of the digital age. Alan Franey, who stepped down from VIFF’s leadership role last year, remains at the festival as director of programming, bringing continuity.

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Blisters and bonhomie

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

• Next month it will be 20 years since I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the medieval pilgrim trail that traverses the North of Spain. So it was something of a nostalgia trip watching Lydia B. Smith’s Walking the Camino: Six Ways To Santiago (Vancity 1-7, 16th and 23rd), a documentary that captures the spirit and sense of fellowship one feels when walking the historic route. Smith followed six “fatefully encountered” pilgrims and their walking companions for some six weeks as they trudged the 500 miles from the traditional starting point of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France in April 2009 to the medieval town of Santiago de Compostela.

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Rites of passage

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

• Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave his approval for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. After years of government hard-sell and a blitz of pro-pipeline advertising in BC, the PM’s last-minute, tepid approval of the 1,200km pipeline from the tar sands came as some surprise. As crowds roared defiantly in downtown Vancouver against the pipeline, such has been the strength of opposition that the government didn’t even field spokespeople to defend its decision.

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