Event is 'world fair of cinema'

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday, is celebrating 30 years in which it has held 10,879 screenings of 7,656 films for an audience of 3,139,412.

In this edition, 375 pics from 75 countries, with a defining focus on international cinema and films outside the mainstream, will unspool during the 16-day event.

“We’re like the world fair of cinema,” said fest director Alan Franey. “It’s a great chance to meet your neighbors and cultures of the city, and a chance to travel the world through other countries, perspectives, and languages.”

Strolling down memory lane, fest will hold a retrospective of its last 30 years and look into the future of cinema with the North American premiere of Polish-British co-production “Sufferrosa,” from helmer Dawid Marcinkowski. Part film, part performance, part audience interactive experience, it’s a futuristic approach to cinema.

The fest makes an effort to represent as many countries as possible.

“This is a big world and we really enjoy this opportunity to bring together a multi-ethnic city that not only wants to see their own films, but also to be properly represented by a broad international festival like we are,” Franey said.

The festival kicks off with a gala screening of Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In.”

Sarah Polley’s sophomore effort, “Take This Waltz,” which draws its title from the Leonard Cohen song and stars Vancouver native Seth Rogen, will open the Canadian Images program on Friday.

Helmer Ken Scott’s Toronto-player “Starbuck,” a comedy about a sperm donor who discovers he has fathered 533 children, will be featured as part of the anniversary gala.

Among the Canadian selections, at least 24 are B.C. shot, including Carl Bessai’s “Sisters & Brothers,” starring Cory Monteith, Dustin Milligan and Gabrielle Miller; “Donovan’s Echo,” starring Danny Glover, Bruce Greenwood and Sonja Bennett; and helmer Bruce Ramsay’s 1940s film noir retelling of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” in which Ramsay also stars.

Other highlights include documentary filmmaker Vikram Jayanti’s “Rolf Harris Paints His Dream” about the Australian artist-performer and former Vancouver resident, and Gary Marcuse’s environmental doc “Waking the Green Tiger,” which zooms in on China.

Another doc of note is “Surviving Progress,” based on Ronald Wright’s bestseller “A Short History of Progress,” providing a subversive diagnosis of man’s unique abilities and the danger man has brought to the world

Staying true to its international roots, fest will close with a Belgian film, “The Kid With a Bike,” directed by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more