10 highlights to check out at 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival

Oct 1 2021, 4:25 pm

The 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is happening from October 1 to 11, and there is so much to see and do during its 40th edition.

BC’s largest cinema celebration includes more than 110 feature films, 77 shorts, and 20 events this year. All films will be presented in-cinema, with all screenings following provincial COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Select titles will also be available for streaming across the province and country-wide on VIFF’s online streaming platform, VIFF Connect.

The films and documentaries being presented during #VIFF2021 include provocative documentaries, elevated genre films, and more from across BC, Canada, and around the world.

To get you ready for this year’s festival and to help fill out your viewing schedule, here are 10 film highlights to check out at VIFF 2021.

Bergman Island

VIFF 2021

Bergman Island (VIFF/Submitted)

The custodians of Ingmar Bergman’s legacy site on Fårö Island have transformed a rural village into a theme park overflowing with potential meaning. Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) are visiting filmmakers; it’s his residency and her questions that keep them circling around Bergman’s old set locations and the insular culture they promote.

For director Mia Hansen-Løve, the island is a suggestive text that she can frame and re-frame, first as wry comedy, then as reckless meta-tragedy.

The Beta Test

VIFF 2021

The Beta Test (VIFF/Submitted)

In the post-Weinstein era, the fragile Hollywood ecosystem of predatory talent agencies is teetering on collapse. Jordan Hines, an ambitious but struggling agent, receives an anonymous invitation to a no-strings sexual encounter. Obsessed with uncovering the people behind the letter, Jordan falls into a paranoid spiral as he becomes embroiled in a labyrinthine mess of murder, sex, and intrigue.

A darkly comic thriller by directors Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe that intertwines searing cultural commentary with its bombastic plot.


VIFF 2021

Coextinction (VIFF/Submitted)

Captivating images of the Salish Sea tell a tale of epochal survival for its apex species: the southern resident killer whale. From the northern edges of Vancouver Island to Oregon’s Lower Snake Rivers, two passionate filmmakers  – directors Gloria Pancrazi and Elena Jean – connect with activists, Indigenous leaders, and renowned scientists to understand the fate of the orcas and find solutions to our most pressing environmental threats.

A vital, eye-opening analysis of interdependence, humbly offering the next generation a conscientious path forward.


Flee is a powerful animated documentary that tells the story of Amin Nawabi as he grapples with a secret he’s kept for 20 years; one that threatens to derail the life he’s built for himself and his soon-to-be husband.

As he shares the story of his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan in the early ’90s, Jonas Poher Rasmussen (a longtime friend of Amin’s) restages his trials through evocative animation that results in a film that’s deeply personal, candid, and unexpectedly beautiful.

Night Raiders

VIFF 2021

Night Raiders (VIFF/Submitted)

In her provocative, pulse-quickening thriller, Danis Goulet devises a speculative future spawned from Canada’s colonial legacy. In a war-ravaged 2043, Indigenous people live with the knowledge that their children are practically destined to become property of their military occupiers.

When Niska’s (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) daughter is taken, she joins a group of Cree vigilantes intent on springing their children from a fortified compound. But sometimes survival hinges on more than just a killer instinct.

Petite Maman

VIFF 2021

Petite Maman (VIFF/Submitted)

Eight-year-old Nelly meets a girl her age while her parents pack up her late grandmother’s house. The two immediately become fast friends, and Nelly soon has reason to suspect their relationship goes much deeper than that, a realization she embraces with a curious serenity.

The latest from Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) is a simple, subtle fairy tale about the mysterious bond between mother and daughter—a poetic conceit realized with supreme delicacy and tact.

Records (World Premiere)


Records (VIFF/Submitted)

Twenty-one years after his groundbreaking first feature documentary Vinyl, Alan Zweig returns to the topic of compulsive record collecting with newfound introspection and a sunnier disposition.

Punctuated by his signature mirror-confessionals, Records compiles colourful interviews with vinyl enthusiasts, swirling around the proverbial maxim that music has the power to connect us all.

Red Rocket (Canadian Premiere)

VIFF 2021

Red Rocket (VIFF/Submitted)

Arriving in his Texas hometown barely dressed, badly bruised and all but penniless, washed-up porn star Mikey Saber (Simon Rex) talks his way into his estranged wife’s bed, starts peddling weed, and schemes to turn Svengali to teenaged Strawberry (Suzanna Son) so that he can liberate her from a donut shop and rocket her to stardom.

As we ride shotgun on Mikey’s breathless, amoral odyssey, Sean Baker (The Florida Project) crafts another luminous, seriocomic fable concerning America’s underclass.

The Scary of Sixty-First (Canadian Premiere)

VIFF 2021

The Scary of Sixty-First (VIFF/Submitted)

When two college friends (Madeline Quinn and Betsey Brown) secure a cheap Manhattan apartment, it’s not only too good to be true but worse than they could’ve ever imagined: the suite was previously Jeffrey Epstein’s love nest and is now home to other malevolent forces.

Transmitting on frequencies both sinister and comic, Dasha Nekrasova’s outrageous psychosexual thriller employs ’70s giallo and grindhouse aesthetics to take dead aim at contemporary gender dynamics, internet culture, and power structures.

Sinkhole (Canadian Premiere)

VIFF 2021

Sinkhole (VIFF/Submitted)

From director Kim Ji-hoon, Korean master of disaster movies (2012’s The Tower), comes a new blockbuster depicting the elusive dream of homeownership with spectacular visual effects and stunts.

Middle-manager Dong-won saved up for 11 years to buy a home in Seoul for his family of three. During his housewarming party, the building collapses and sinks into a nearly bottomless pit below. The survivors have to improvise and cooperate to get out alive. To date, it’s South Korea’s second highest-grossing domestic film of 2021.

VIFF 2021 takes place both online and in-cinema from October 1 to 11 with films, events, workshops and more showcasing the top international, Canadian and BC films as well as creators and industry professionals from around the world. Tickets and passes are on sale now.

Daily Hive is a proud media sponsor of the Vancouver International Film Festival

Daniel ChaiDaniel Chai

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