There's the ad-libbed story of sibling rivalry, a substitute teacher guiding his students through a horrifying tragedy, an examination of the breast-cancer fundraising industry and a Hollywood blockbuster comedy.
It's a motley mix of seriously top-notch films, one that has the common thread of made-in-Canada running through it, for the 12th annual Port Moody Canadian Film Festival running March 15 to 18. And they were lovingly, carefully handpicked by the festival's artistic director Brad Williams.
"As usual this year's films represent a broad spectrum of the best of Canadian movies this year," Williams said.
Opening the festival tomorrow night (Thursday) is Sisters & Brothers, by Vancouver director Carl Bessai. It's the third installment in Bessai's family series, following Mothers & Daughters and Fathers & Sons, and features an impressive cast that includes Glee's Cory Monteith.
What makes Bessai's films unique is that the dialogue is unscripted; actors know the scene set-up, then do multiple takes to get everything just right. Sisters & Brothers premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival; the PoMo festival is only the film's third or fourth screening, Williams said.
Friday night starts with Monsieur Lazhar, which was nominated for an Oscar this year in the foreign language category. Last week it picked up six Genies, including best film, best actor, best supporting actress, best director, best editing and adapted screenplay.
The touching story is followed by a humorously dark thriller, Good Neighbours, about a Montreal neighbourhood grappling with a spate of brutal murders.
On Saturday evening, catch the film festival's documentary component, Pink Ribbons, Inc. Directed by Léa Pool, this film explores the world of corporate events and marketing strategies tied to breast cancer fundraising, questioning whether the motives are altogether altruistic.
The veil is lifted on another "done good" story in The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave. Based on true events, Weisz plays a Nebraska police officer who enlists as a UN peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia, only to discover a horrifying web of sex trafficking operated and aided by international staff and officials.
The festival closes with the uplifting comedy Barney's Version. Based on Mordecai Richler's novel and starring Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike, the film won a Golden Globe for Giamatti's performance and was also nominated for an Oscar.
Williams said each year he strives to strike a balance between comedy and drama, and to include at least one documentary and one francophone film.
"The common thread is excellence in filmmaking," he said, noting many are chosen by suggestions from fellow film society board members and counterparts on the TIFF circuit. Award-winning or nominated films are a good bet, but Williams said he aims to bring something different to the festival as well.
"It's nice to have a quirky little film that's maybe off the radar," he said. "There has to be something that challenges the viewers."
"The main thing is how good the film is," added fellow film society board member Flo Bullock.
Tickets for the Port Moody Film Festival at the Inlet Theatre are $7, available from 6 p.m. each night. Visit www.pmfilm.ca for show times.