Tuesday, 27 September 2011

TIFF 11: My Top Ten Faves!

Still dealing with a cold, but thankfully it's winding down. I finally feel well enough to post my Top Ten TIFF Faves as well as the list of what I saw this year at the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival. How was your TIFF?

MY TOP TEN (alpha order)
THE TURIN HORSE-Hungary (Béla Tarr) (My #1 Absolute Favourite!)
See Review

Coriolanus-UK (Ralph Fiennes) i am a good person/i am a bad person-Canada (Ingrid Veninger)

TIE: This may seem a strange coupling since Ralph Fiennes is an internationally known actor/director, and Ingrid Veninger is Canadian filmmaker who may be known only by those who love Canadian film and make a point of watching them. Despite the range of budget and styles the sense of the personal permeates every frame of these films. Despite the fact that Coriolanus looms large with weighty performances from Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler, and Brian Cox, i am a good person equally invades the soul with performances by Veninger and her real life daughter Hallie Switzer. I enjoyed watching these two filmmakers bring their very personal visions to the screen.

Cut-Japan (Amir Naderi) Death of a Superhero-UK (Ian FitzGibbon)
Sometimes, because of my schedule of interviews and meetings, I go into films blindly, not knowing what they are about. While Cut and Death of a Superhero are not tied, they made my Top Ten list because both were wonderful revelations. Cut and its treatment of the death of cinema (the protagonist laments the fact that cinema which used to be both art and entertainment has been reduced to entertainment only) brought me into an elegiac world of film and Death of a Superhero, although dealing with a terminally ill teen delighted me with the solid acting delivered by its small cast and with its life-affirming (never indulgent) message.

Fable of the Fish-Phillipines (Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr.)/ Where Do We Go Now?* (Nadine Labaki) *Winner: Cadillac People's Choice Award
TIE: Another tie here for these two fables about very serious topics told with boughts of humour that you have to buy into or the film will not work for you. In the case of Fable of the Fish, a tale about a woman who gives birth to a fish, it's all in the face of actress, Cherry Pie Picache. She has a face that will break your heart. One tear from her and you want to yell at the screen for someone to comfort and support her. In Where Do We Go Now? Muslim and Christian women try various subversive tactics in order to maintain peace among the men by shutting out news of political and religious conflict that surround their isolated village. The tricks the women devise are simply a device for us to consider the debilitating impact of war and what we can do to maintain peace. Both films made my list because they are simple stories about maternal love and community that twenty years from now will still engage audiences.

The Good Son-Finland (Zaida Bergroth) See Review The Last Dogs of Winter-Canada (Costa Botes) See Review
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia-Turkey (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) A Simple Life-Hong Kong (Ann Hui)
For my thoughts on Once Upon a Time in Anatolia click here. As for A Simple Life, Andy Lau was my draw to this film, and I was certainly not disappointed by his performance in this film. Lau stars as Roger, a film director whose aging amah (nanny) has taken ill. In between travelling to film sites, and doing film deals, Roger shows his connection and love for his amah by arranging her care in a nursing home and keeping her involved in his life. I appreciated the way in which director Hui, shows both the class differences and years of family connection between Roger and Ah Tao (Denise Ip) through dialogue and phone calls and visits from Roger's family and friends. The love shines through in this film and it is no wonder that actress Denis Ip won the Best Actress Award at this years' Venice Film Festival for her role as Ah Tao. A gentle and satisfying film with wonderful chemistry between Lau and Ip.

Superclásico-Denmark (Ole Christian Madsen) Click here for review.

WHAT I SAW (*indicates that I have reviewed the film)
Avalon* Winner: The Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for the Discovery programme
Caprichosos de San Telmo
The Cat Vanishes
Death of a Superhero*
Doppelganger Paul*
The Education of Auma Obama*
Fable of the Fish
The Flying Machine*
A Funny Man
Generation P
The Good Son*
Le Harve*
I am a good person/I am a bad person*
The Island President*
Juan of the Dead*
The Last Dogs of Winter*
Life Without Principle
The Loneliest Planet*
Miss Bala*
My Worst Nightmare
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia*
Page Eight
Paul Williams Still Alive
The Silver Cliff
A Simple Life
Sons of Norway
Summer Game
Think of Me*
The Turin Horse*
Where Do We Go Now?

Photos Coutesy of: www.tiff.net

Monday, 26 September 2011


So TIFF 11 has come to an end, and, of course, I have to invite my film friends to join me on The More the Merrier for a discussion of this year's festival. My in studio guests for the hour were Kirk Cooper (Film Market Access), blogger Heidy M (hyemusings, alternavox) and cinefile, Moen Mohamed. Before our discussion got started, Ngardy Conteh joined me via telephone to talk about winning TIFF's Pitch This! competition. Conteh and her co-director, Allan Tong's film, Leone Stars is the first documentary to win the prize in TIFF's Pitch This! eleven year history. Visit http://leonestars.blogspot.com/to find out more about this inspiring work in progress.

Heidy M's Top 5 TIFF FAVES
2.Las Acacias
3.Sleepless Night
5.The Raid

To read why these are Heidy's faves click here.

I always look forward to seeing Moen Mohamed's list of films. This is vacation time for Moen, who chooses his selections based on his attendance at other film festivals, and what he has read about certain films/directors etc. Other film selections come from the Visions, Masters, and Contemporary World Cinema (Moen loves listening to other languages) programmes . TIFF's motto "for the love of film" describes perfectly, Moen's kid in a candy store enjoyment of TIFF.

I was very pleased to see that Moen's favourite film was also my selection. If you heard the broadcast then you will remember our expression mutual passion for director, Béla Tarr (left).













During the broadcast Kirk Cooper talked about the industry side of TIFF, and about the success his Internship and Networking candidates in his Toronto Program (he also has a Cannes Program). (You might remember that Victoria Clowater joined Kirk on TmTm to talk about her expectations about the Toronto Program.) As a busy industry insider Kirk didn't have much time to see films at TIFF 11 (too busy talking film and Cannes 2012), but he did share his picks pre-TIFF a while back. What do you know, several of Kirk's picks made all three of our lists! Click here for Kirk's list.

Photo Credits: http://tiff.net/
Béla Tarr (The Turin Horse)
Dreileben – Don’t Follow Me Around
Good Bye
House of Tollerance

Friday, 16 September 2011

TIFF 11: The Good Son and The Education of Auma Obama

For the last week-end of TIFF many films have gone RUSH, but if you have the patience to stand in line for a ticket check out these films:

In this nuanced Finnish film, Leila, a lead actress and divorced mother of two (Elina Knihtilä), takes off for the country to lie low after bad mouthing her latest film release. There she is joined by a few of her friends and begins a romance with one of their acquaintances. Her eldest son, Ilmari, played with maturity and depth by actor Samuli Niittymäki, is used to being the man of the house, taking care of his self-focused mother and his younger brother. When it appears that Ilmari's position will be usurped by the newcomer in his mother's life, Ilmari takes protecting his mother to the extreme. Leila's behaviour and abusive relationships in the past has marked both her sons: the elder son is a keg of resentment and protectiveness and the younger is constantly left on his own, where he finds solace and comfort in nature (rarely is he seen in the house). The mother-son interplay between actors Elina Knihtilä and Samuli Niittymäki is never over directed by Zaida Bergroth . As for the younger son (Eetu Julin)I particularly appreciated the way in which Bergroth captures his isolation through naturally lit scenes accompanied by the perfect auditory sounds.

Saturday September 17, Scotiabank Theatre 11, 4:15pm

If you go see this film because Auma Obama is President Barack Obama's half-sister, then I am sure Auma would not have a problem with your reasoning, especially since she played such an important part in his life. Once in your seat, though, you will realize that there is much more to this woman than being the Barack's sister. Auma is woman who seems compelled to help others, whether she is in Kenya helping to educate and inspire young people to create opportunities for themselves where they live, or in Germany, where, as a student and later a journalist, she opened the eyes and minds of many to rethinking the needs of Africa, and the value of "aid".

Auma, like her brother, is linked to their common ancestral past by values of education and community involvement. The documenting of Auma's life is intercut with scenes of Auma, other relatives, and the neighbourhood getting ready on Election night 2008. Director, Branwen Okpako met Auma at film school in Germany, so there is an ease with how she communicates with Auma and she definitely has the advantage in that she is able to access information about the family--a key point since many African cultures keep family issues extremely private. The Education of Auma Obama is a wonderful revelation to me, and I hope it is for you too.

Sunday September 18, AMC 7, 10:15am

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011
Info: http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

Thursday, 15 September 2011


I always try and see at least one film in the DISCOVERY programme at TIFF. This section is reserved for "up-and-coming directors from around the world". AVALON was born out of writer/director, Alex Petersén's familiarity with the world of aging boomers and the city of Båstad, which used to be a place where Swedish tennis legends like Bjorn Borg once played. Infused with the language and tone of his Aunt, Leonore Ekstrand (who plays Jackie in the film) and the adults around him while he was growing up, Petersén's has created a world in which his characters live without regard for others around them. Petersén's understated script successfully reveals the disconnect between lead character, Janne (Johannes Brost), a promoter whose heyday seems to be on the brink of returning with the opening of his nightclub (Avalon) and his best mate, Klas (Peter Carlberg) and the much younger workers whom they have hired to launch the club. At one point, one of the workers admits confusion about Janne's role in the nightclub! This selfish, insular nature of Janne, Klas and their friend, Jackie, (who constantly has a drink in her hand) manifests itself in a variety of ways that lead to a reckless moment that causes Janne a day or two of guilt before he reverts to his old familiar habits thanks to an equally bad solution by Klas and foggy complicity by Jackie.

AVALON is a compact 76 minutes, in which Alex Petersén demonstrates that he has an ear for dialogue and an eye for recording behaviour that in perfectly in tone with real life. I look forward to seeing where his film and screenwriting career will take him, especially with a film with a larger cast and a longer run time. My grade rating for this first timer, is a solid B+.

Saturday September 17, AMC 10, 6:00pm

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011

Info: http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

TIFF 11: My I Recommend...Death of a Superhero

Why should you see a film about a teenage boy with cancer? Because it's not all gloom and doom! Without making light of the serious topic of disease, director, Ian FitzGibbon (A Film With Me In It) has managed to create a film that is neither depressing nor condescending. I haven't read Anthony McCarten's book, but his adaptation of his work for the screen will have me hunting it down after the festival. Whatever the collaboration between, FitzGibbon and McCarten, the end result is a movie that has all the usual elements of a teen flick (insecurities, school, parents, love, alcohol) with great comic book style animation, humour and most importantly, a fantastic cast.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster, the kid from Love, Actually, has grown into a skinny teen, and he still has the same screen chemistry that makes you fall in love with him and protect him from the world. His acting range is incredible, which is mandatory in a film that demands a chiaroscuro of emotions from his character, Donald. Andy Serkis, who plays Donald's shrink in the film, needs to do more roles as a human. His understated acting style turns this stock character into a believable individual. The remaining cast members are equally impressive in their respective roles, resulting in an ensemble piece that all should be proud to add to their acting credits. It's not often that a film can capture both the teen viewer as well as the adult viewer, but this one does so very successfully.

Saturday September 17, AMC 7, 1:00pm

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011

Info: http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

TIFF 11: Shoes, Dogs and Polar Bears, Oh My! (Beloved, The Last Dogs of Winter)

Is it only Tuesday? Seems like I have been in festival heaven for much longer:-) As usual I always have great plans to keep in touch with you all on this blog, but films and life interrupt. Yep, I have to give in to sleep sometimes when I am loathe to do so, but gotta fuel the body to keep going during these 10 days in September.

Since my last posting, I have seen BELOVED, the Catherine Deneuve film which also stars her daughter, Chiara Mastoianni. Deneuve's character Madeleine was lured into a life of part-time prostitution by a pair of delectable shoes. Madeleine the elder as played by Deneuve is a little selfish, a little bawdy, and very pragmatic; Madeleine the younger is devilishly played by Ludivigne Sagnier. Like her mother, Vera (Deneuve's real life daughter, Chiara) is also very laissez-faire about sex and life, and her love life is just as complicated--neither mother nor daughter have been able to have successful relationships. To paraphrase a few words of one of the songs in this musical, they can live without the man they love, but they can't live without that love. Froth meets French attitudes towards l'amour in this funny and poignant mother-daughter vehicle. This was my first time seeing Chiara in a film and I definitely appreciated her ability to do drama and comedy, just like her mother--and father Marcello Mastroanni.

Saturday September 17, Scotiabank Theatre 2, 9:30pm

Yes, the scenes of dogs playing with polar bears are cute and have the "awwww" factor, but there is so much more to this documentary than this picture tells.
The irony in watching the film is seeing two endangered species playing together, but only one is recognized as being in danger of disappearing. It's equally about the rebel with a cause, Brian Ladoon, an ex-sailor and frontier man (he lives in Churchill, Manitoba) and his determination and passion to save the Canadian Eskimo Dog, the Qimmiq. Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands these dogs that were part of Inuit culure for centuries, were deliberately culled by the Canadian government in order to stop the nomadic patterns of the Inuit, and coral them in northern towns. Without Landoon, and the priest that got him interested in the dogs, the number of this artic canine, whose ancestor lead explorers to Canada's north, would have be extinct. As it is now, Landoon, with the assistance of Caleb Ross, a young New Zealander, Jeremy, an even younger man of Inuit heritage young and a handful of volunteers, Ladoon's breeding program is keeping the breed's genetic pool alive.

Landoon is an outsider, even in Churchill, where he was born and raised, and where other talk about it being a place full of "characters." The townspeople judge him without really understanding the importance and significance of his work, and Landoon could give a hoot about what people think about him; he just cares about his dogs. And care, he does. From the outside, the chaining of the dogs in his breeding program looks horrific, however, once you realize that these dogs are not like any other canines in terms of their needs and habits, then you will begin to understand the significance of his work. The Last Dogs of Winter received a standing ovation at it's first screening, with director, Costa Botes, Caleb Ross (who suggested the idea of the film), and Brian Landoon, noticeably surprised at the response. They were even unprepared for questions about donations to keep the program going (Brian and his team are in dire need of funds). The Canadian Dog Foundation is the best place to find out more, but start by seeing this informative and delightful documentary. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday September 17, AMC 6, 10:30am

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011
Info: http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

Sunday, 11 September 2011

TIFF 11: Yo! Bro! (Doppelgänger Paul)

Doppelgänger Paul
Co-directors Dylan Akio Smith and Kris Elgstrand

This film is part of the VANGUARD programme at TIFF which is made up of "films that defy convention; twisting genres, styles and narrative structures to tell fresh and provocative stories that challenge our social and cultural assumptions" I couldn't think of a better place for Doppelgänger Paul. It's a buddy comedy in the sense that the two men, Karl (Tygh Runyan) and Paul (Brad Dryborough) have formed a relationship of sorts. Their bond is tentatively based on things they have in common such as writing and gazing at women they are interested in but are too socially inhibited to approach. Their alliance is the equivalent of wearing a new dress shirt and feeling an elusive pin pricking your skin continually. When they discover that the book that Karl gave to Paul to read has been published by two other buddies, Karl and Paul go on a road trip to investigate. You can watch this comedy for its surface delights and/or you can indulge in the philosophical observations about the nature of duality, the ambiguity of male friendship, and even the social commentary on the publishing industry. However you approach Doppelgänger Paul, you will be taken in by its absurdist charm, especially if you have enjoyed the film versions of works by Charlie Kauffman (Adaptation).

Monday September 12, AMC 2, 9:15pm
Wednesday September 14, AMC 9, 3:00pm
Saturday September 17, AMC 2, 7:00pm

Upcoming Reviews
Beloved (Catherine Deneuve and real-life daughter, Chiara Mastroianni)

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011
Info: http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

Saturday, 10 September 2011

TIFF 11: Rum Zombies and Wine (Juan of the Dead and Superclasio)

Juan of the Dead (Juan de los Muertos)
Alejandro Brugués's take on the zombie genre is made fresh through Caribbean eyes and a distinct Cuban flavour. Much like the British, Shaun of the Dead with its British cultural references, Juan of the Dead is a distinctly Cuban film set in Havana and reflective of Cuban customs and sensibilities. In Cuba you make the most of your chances, so when zombies start popping up (there is a reference to bad drugs from a public clinic) in his neighbourhood, Juan (Alexis Días de Villegas), his best friend Lazaro (Jorge Molina) and an assortment of family and neighbours become entrepreneurs in the zombie extermination business: "Juan of the Dead, we kill your beloved ones, how can I help you?" Only in socialist Cuba would zombies be referred to as "dissidents" with the media blaming their rise on US machinations! Economic and social conditions, rum and socialism pepper Brugués' script grounding this horror comedy in an ersatz reality without sacrificing the belly laughs. The only thing that would make a screening of this film better would be the provision of some Cuban food; the film already has the music.

Monday September 12, AMC 3, 8:45pm
Saturday September 17, Scotiabank Theatre 3, 12:45pm

My love affair with Nordic Cinema continues to grow after seeing Ole Christian Madsen's wonderfully lit, intelligent comedy. I was drawn to this film because of Paprika Steen, a Danish actor who has a phenomenal range (The Substitute, Applause). She is also has a couple of directing credits (With Your Permission, Aftermath). Steen plays Anna, a want-to-be divorced wife of Christian (Anders W. Berthelsen) and mother of Oscar (Jamie Morton) and lover of soccer superstar and much younger man, Juan (Sebastian Estevanez). The story is told mainly from the point of view of Christian, who goes after Anna, who now lives in Buenos Aires. With Oscar in tow, he barges into Anna's life, hoping for a reconciliation, and a life change (his wine shop is going bankrupt due to his depression). What is doesn't expect is the openness with which he is greeted by Juan, played with charming abandon by Estevanez, and the frank practicality of the Anna's maid Fernanda (Adriana Mascialino). Oscar's constant companions are his iPod and his philosophy books until he finds himself under the spell of a young guide. Divorce, love, futbol, wine and philosophy float through this movie with bubbly depth and spirit. A pleasure to watch. I hardily recommend it!

Tuesday September 13, Scotiabank Theatre 1, 7:00pm
Thursday September 15, Scotiabank Theatre 4, 12:30pm
Saturday September 17, Scotiabank Theatre 3, 5:45pm

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011
Info: http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

Friday, 9 September 2011

TIFF 11: The Flying Machine and Miss Bala

I usually loathe 3-D films, but I was lured into seeing this one by the mix of live action and animation. Even with glasses on top of glasses, I managed to appreciate the animated effects, however, I did find some of the details superfluous--do I really need flower petals floating toward my eyes?

Directors Martin Clapp, Geoff Lindsey and Dorota Kobiela
and their vast team have put a lot of work into this feature, and it shows. Like any film, it's the story that matters and this film within a film is a good one for children. Set in London, the live action part of the film involves a workaholic single mom (Heather Graham) and her two children, Jane (Kizzy Mee) and Fred (Jamie Munns). The trio attend a Chopin recital by pianist Lang Lang (who plays himself) where they view a stop motion animated short about a young girl, her separation from her father, and a magical flying machine made up of a grand piano, a harp and other spare parts. This part of the film is free of dialogue, but accompanied by Lang Lang playing several works by Chopin. Live action and and animation are then combined when the the family as well as Lang Lang go on a flying journey to various cities visited by Chopin.

Younger children will not notice how miscast Heather Graham is in the role of the mother, which is to their advantage. Lucky for them the rest of the cast do a good job of it, especially Kizzy Mee, who has a career ahead of her if she can get through the awkward teenage years that kill many a child actor. I adore Chopin, so it was lovely to have a pianist the stature of Lang Lang performing his music throughout the entire film. With this being a 3-D film, I'm not sure where it will play to mass audiences. Will North American theatres run a film like this? I think not. Which leaves children's festivals and perhaps art galleries. It will be interesting to see just where this film ends up.

Sunday September 11, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 12:30pm
Sunday September 18, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 12:45pm

I chose this shot of actress Stephanie Sigman because she spends an awful lot of screen time in bra and panties. She has a great figure but there seemed a bit of the prurient about the numerous scenes of her dressed in this manner. She plays a young woman who witnesses a gang-related shoot out at a night club. When she snitches to the wrong police officer (most of Latin friends would laugh at her naivete, but I chose to let this plot point go) she ends up having to deal with the leader of the gang (Noe Hernandez). We know she is going to end up at some point having sex with him to save her family, and that she will also be forced to do drops for the gang, but it's the cinematic choices made by director Gerardo Naranjo (who wrote the script with Mauricio Katz) that doesn't deliver the message about the huge impact that drugs and drug-related crimes have had on Mexico. Hernandez is wonderful in his role as the ruthless gang leader who takes a liking to the Miss Baja beauty contestant, but Sigman doesn't match his acting prowess and doesn't quite know how to show understated emotion. I was never bored watching this film but I definitely left the theatre dissatisfied.

Sunday September 11, Scotiabank Theatre 4, 9:15pm
Monday September 12, AMC 3, 2:45pm

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011
Info: http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

Thursday, 8 September 2011

TIFF 11: I Triple Dog Dare You!

Up for a challenge? Then I triple dog dare you to go and see these two films: Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet and Béla Tarr's The Turin Horse. As I always say, you take yourself to the movies, so how you react to any film will be coloured by your experiences and your personality. If you think you can handle two very beautiful films that are not fast-paced, where you have to fill in the silences yourself, and where you have to watch how the director stages scenes and positions the actors within those frames, then take a chance on these.

A couple (Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenberg) take a tour of Georgia with their guide (Bidzina Gujabidze). There is a lot of walking and talking, a lot of greenery (breathtaking mountains and valleys) and minimal action. The sound design and music captivates as well as it enhances the vistas, filling silences with emotions that complement the unfolding story. Along the journey, we get to know more about the lives of the trio and we are lulled into thinking we know them until a pivotal moment in the film where something occurs in the blink of an eye--no, no one has to hack their leg off with a pocket knife! The moment will make you question your own response to the situation that occurs. Director, Loktev gives you plenty of time to ponder what happens, as there is no quick escape out of the mountains, there is no taxi to call, no door to slam while you contemplate. I hate seeing actors "act", but I do enjoy watching characters think, and that is exactly what you see when you look at each person on screen. Intrigued? I certainly hope so!

Monday September 12, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 8:00pm
Tuesday September 13, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 9:00am
Sunday September 18, Isabel Bader Theatre,10:00am

Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, I bow to you! You will too, if you give yourself a chance to watch and listen to this movie. A father and daughter (Erika Bók, János Derzsi), a stubborn horse, and the wind (yes, the wind) are the central characters in this film. The daily rituals of life are played out mostly in silence except for the almost human wailing of the blowing wind, a constant companion that envelops and covers everything around it in a shroud of dust and leaves. So, why do I love this film? Because of where the co-directors choose place the camera; the silvery hue of the black and white they have chosen to use; the way Fred Kelemen's camera moves slowly in on faces, and out on landscapes and interiors; the manner in which corners of the house and barn are revealed to us, adding interest to repeated scenes by showing us a new way to view them, and... multiple other reasons that I want you to experience. This plays in the Master's programme at TIFF giving you another reason besides my own for seeing this film.

Thursday September 15, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 9:30pm
Friday September 16, Scotiabank Theatre 4, 6:15pm
Sunday September 18,TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 12:30pm

If you choose to accept my dare, then please leave a comment letting me know about your reaction--good or bad. THANKS--dg

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011

Info: http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

Sunday, 4 September 2011

TIFF 11: May I Recommend/Skip It

Single tickets went on sale September 3rd and many of my friends and listeners stood in line, waited on line, and called TIFF to buy tickets. While they were doing that, I was busy with TmTm, interviewing Kirk Cooper of Film Market Access (FMA) and one of his interns, Victoria Clowater. Victoria is one of 8 film students/filmmakers that will be exploring the industry side of TIFF courtesy of FMA's Toronto Program: 5 in the Internship and 3 in Networking (FMA also has a Cannes Program.) Victoria had first heard about FMA when she caught a TmTm broadcast while driving back to school (UNB) last year. Also joining me on the show was the director of Patch Town, Craig Goodwill and the cast: Julian Richings, Toya Alexis, and Rob Ramsay. Patch Town screens in Program 1 of Short Cuts Canada, the strongest of the shorts section in this 6 program section.

With the long week-end upon me, I didn't get a chance to post any thoughts about some of the films that I have had a chance to screen before TIFF starts on September 8th. Here goes the first of many other posts to come.

So, What do I recommend?

I am a good person/I am a bad person: A CanCon indie film that is just as good as Veninger's last film, MODRA. Mother-daughter experience without any unnecessary drama or tears. It's always good to go and hear the director talk about her work, but if you cannot afford to see this at TIFF watch for the Mongrel Media release at Canadian cinemas, but go the first week as a second week is never guaranteed for Canadian films!

Le Harve: A sweet gem of a film by one of my favourite directors, Aki Kaurismäki. This film about a young African refugee (Miguel Blondin) in Normandy is not your usual look at the immigrant story thanks to a winning performance from Andre Wilms as a genial shoeshine man who helps the young boy. , and the expected low-key and enchanting acting of . The community spirit that pervades the film contrasts greatly with the gravitas and irony of the Inspector (Jean- Pierre Darroussin) on the hunt for the refugee. Look for other Kaurismäki signatures in the film, like Kati Outinen, the inclusion of a dog named Laika, and music from Little Bob (Roberto Piazza).

Lipstikka: My eyes usually roll at flashbacks in movies, but the technique is used so well in this film that I found them just as fascinating as what the film depicted in its present tense. The film unfolds like a mystery with clues doled out amidst our growing fascination with the two women, friends from teenagehood in Palestine to adulthood and differing paths in London, England. Who are they? Is there a good and a bad gal? What is the secret from the past that underscores the tension between them? The complete truth is never revealed, it cannot be when memory is at play, but the film does offer a conclusion that will have you talking. Director, Jonathan Sagall, his cast and his filmmaking team have created a film in which each frame has substance and interest.

Once Upon a Time in Anotolia: What can I say, but BRILLIANT. Director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's film is part of the Masters programme at TIFF, and this police investigation/procedural has more than earned its well-deserved place here. Screenwriters Ercan Kesal, Ebru Ceylan, and Nuri Bilge Ceylan have written a script that I could listen to with my eyes closed, the dialogue is so good; I could eavesdrop forever on the conversations between the cops in the car, the exchanges with their superior (the Inspector), the doctor, and even the prisoners. If I had my eyes closed, however, I would miss the Turkish countryside, the meandering road and the cinematography of Gokhan Tiryaki (his interiors are not to be missed either!) as the trio of vehicles travel throughout the night from place to place. Crime is a serious matter, of course, but the humour of this film reminds us that even at its most morbid, life is not always without its bright spots nor its beauty. The film is a bit too long, but so what! Bravo!

Summer Games: Don't expect sun soaked vineyards in this trip to Tuscany! Do expect a serious film with wonderful performances by the five young cast members who are the central focus of this drama about a families at a campground during the summer. Two brothers defend their mother from their abusive father; a girl demands information about her father from her single mother in between hanging out with her younger cousin, the brothers and the young Korean boy whose father owns a local convenience store. The children all reflect the angst of their parents even as they go off on their own forays making up games that push boundaries and reacting to the changing dynamics of teenage/childhood friendships. This peek into the lives of others is not without hope, so while you might bring out the hanky it won't be drenched to the point of wringing it out by the end of the film.

The Island President: One man is trying to make a difference in the world as he fights for his people's survival. The Maldives are sinking due to climate change: a physical fact the president is trying to show to the world. A former political prisoner, who rose to form the first democratic party in the Maldives, President Mohamed Nasheed is one man who cannot give in to the pressure of the larger economies, not when his land, culture and existence is at stake. A film that I would recommend to all, not only because of the social content, but because the president himself is so darn charismatic that you can't help rooting for him. Like a hero in a piece of fiction who never gives up, you want him to succeed and triumph and have his happy ending.


Think of Me: This one is for the Industry buyers at TIFF who are looking for something suitable for Lifetime or the Women's Network. Not worth standing in TIFF line ups for, or the money you would have to spend to see it. Lauren Ambrose, who stars (as well as produces) is very strong in her role as a single mother trying to raise her young daughter while battling poverty in Las Vegas, but the episodic scenes makes it more suitable for television than cinema viewing.

A Funny Man: Not one bit funny to me, and I usually love Nordic films. I must say, in its defence that actor, Nikolaj Lie Kaas is brilliant, but I didn't like the script for this bio pic about Danish comedian Dirch Passer nor did I like the way the film was directed.

Generation P: If you can tell me what this film is about, I will write the review. Still baffled.

The Cat Vanishes: Would have been a wonderful suspense if Alfred Hitchcock had been at the helm.

Toronto International Film Festival

Sept. 8-18, 2011

I was reviewing past coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and realized that as good as it is to use social media, I m...