Rainforest is a sumptuously filmed documentary of the ancient forest of Mi’wer’la (the indigenous word for Big Island, meaning what civilized folks call Vancouver Island).

According to recent history and what’s left (87 of 91 watersheds have been clearcut to date), the filmmakers predict that the last remnants of ancient (1000 years +) forest will be gone in less than 15 years.

Filmmaker Richard Boyce will be presenting this film with Chief Adam Dick, both of whom appear in the film.

My daughter was engrossed with the film.  We loved when a camera person suddenly defied gravity, but mostly we were in awe of the images.  We live in a forest, but this film showed us how different an ancient forest is from a stand of trees or even a natural forest that is just beginning again (and yes, a hundred years old is just beginning again).

If you have a love of nature, I’m guessing you’ll enjoy this film immensely.  It mixes gorgeous imagery with stories of the recent past that will horrify and excite you.  But it, and the festival, finish very soon.  Let’s hope the same is not said of the ancient Rainforest.

2 screenings remain for Rainforest:

  • Tonight, Tuesday, Oct 11th 9:15pm @ Pacific Cinematheque
  • Tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct 12th 3:20pm @ Empire Granville 7 Th 5

The buzz is out and this year’s crop of films look exciting and impressive…

The 2011 Vancouver International Film Festival starts Thursday, September 29th and runs to Friday, October 14th.

The opening weekend looks like it will be relatively dry with sun and cool breezes; the bike parking has stabilized this year but that may not be all positive.  This year, Granville Street is open to buses and all the bike racks that the City plans to install are there.  The Festival is still looking for a sponsor to pay for future bicycle valet services that BEST or VACC could provide but it doesn’t look good for this year unless a last minute sponsor contacts Alan Franey tout de suite!  So in the meantime, you may need to park a block or two north or south of your chosen theatre.

Now that the travel plans are set (remember the safe, separated bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge, Dunsmuir Viaduct and Hornby Street!), I’m excited to share my thoughts on this year’s lineup…

Heaven and Earth is this year’s theme to highlight the plight of our planet.  I’ve got my eye on many of these films and have heard a louder than usual buzz about a few.

Revolution and Empowerment are new themes for this year, highlighting the recent political revolutions.  One of the films in this theme, The Kid With a Bike, beyond the promising title, won the Grand Prix award at Cannes this year and is made by the Belgian brothers Dardenne, consummate film makers par excellence.  It closes the fest on Friday October 14.  But until then…

Mama Africa may be the film of the fest for me.  It’s a biography of Miriam Makeba, the astounding singer and anti-apartheid activist who passed away in 2008.  I can’t wait to tell you more but do be aware that it plays tomorrow (Friday) at 3:20pm at the Granville 7 as well as Friday Oct 7 and Monday Oct 10 (now that’s something to give thanks for!).

The German film, Taste the Waste looks fascinating to me.  I’ll be writing a full review very soon but keep Thursday Oct 6, Sunday Oct 9, or Tuesday, Oct 11 open for one of its screenings!

Gary Marcuse’s new film Waking the Green Tiger seems to be an empowering call to action generally that uses the environmental movement in China as the inspiration.  Watch for a full review soon and keep Saturday Oct 1, Friday Oct 7, or Tuesday Oct 11 free for this one.

Richard Boyce has used his documentary, Rainforest to contrast the forestry of indigenous people on the Vancouver Island with the current civilized practice of the same.  There’s only two times to see this cinematic gem: Tuesday Oct 11 and Wednesday Oct 12.

Yet another Canadian film I’m anxious to see is Surviving Progress which is based on Ronald Wright’s book A Short History of Progress.  His 1992 non-fiction book Stolen Continents: The “New World” Through Indian Eyes, is a radically different take on North American indigenous culture (from the “normal” civilized point-of-view) in which still informs my perspective many years later.  This film explores the question of whether human intelligence is too great for our planet’s own good.  My first reaction is to add the word civilized to that question, since equally intelligent indigenous peoples – literally thousands of different peoples – have not only lived happy, content lives, they’ve maintained their environments for thousands of years.  We’ll see what the film suggests.  It plays tomorrow (Friday) at 6:30pm at the Granville 7 and Sunday October 2nd at 4:15pm at the Vogue Theatre.

Coming full circle in this email, Sing Your Song is an American biography of Harry Belafonte.  It’s looks like a big production and I hope it can match the amazing work of the activist and singer it portrays…I’ll definitely let you know what I think!

And, of course, do let me know your take on anything you find at this year’s Festival, whether by comment on the website or by email…I look forward to a feasting of films with all of you!

As a natural builder, I was excited to know that the Film Fest included a doc about building unconventional houses. I must admit that I was disappointed to see the film start with shots of cars and motorbikes zooming around: why is it so rare for an “environmentalist” to see the contradiction in using fossil fuels to get around?

Once the film dug in and started showing Mike Reynolds and company’s work, some of it over 20 years old, it quickly became inspiring. The fact that someone was experimenting 30 years ago with housing that, once built, cost nothing, and while built, cost very little, is incredible for this part of the world. Many indigenous cultures outside of urban areas still live this way, but the construction and utility industries in the western world are so powerfully rich that folks like Mike simply get snuffed out fast.

The film gets dramatic when it examines a decade long stretch where Taos County and New Mexico State actually did try to destroy these innovators. But thankfully they have survived and their ingenuity may help us survive as a species on this planet.

Most of the desert-focussed design is not applicable to our rainforest world here, but the concepts and overall desires that they are trying to achieve (sustainable, self-contained housing meaning no energy or water utilities, no sewage, and food production) are applicable anywhere and seeing these being achieved to any degree is both inspiring and a testament to these people’s creativity and strength of desire.

Friday, Oct 5th, @ 7:00pm: Ridge Theatre
Sunday, Oct 7th, @ 11:30am: Empire Granville 7 Theatre 3