Saturday, 29 September 2012


TIFF12 FAVES: donna g
Eran Riklis Zaytoun
A Royal Affair/The Hunt
Francis Ha

TIFF12 FAVES: HeidyMo (Blogger, )
 The Central Park FiveKen Burns
Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Rafea: Solar Mama

The Last White Knight

TIFF12 FAVES: Kirk Cooper (Founder, Film Market Access
Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master
Home Again
Middle of Nowhere
The Hunt

TIFF12 FAVES: Siobhan Rich (cinefile)
Joss Whedon's Much Ado
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners
The Hunt
Perks of Being a Wallflower

  1. 3
  2. 90 MINUTES
  3. All That You Possess
  4. Argo
  5. Blancanieves
  6. Blondie
  7. Camion
  8. Come On Out and Play
  9. Disconnect
  10. Dormant Beauty
  11. Eat Sleep Die
  12. End of Watch
  13. English/Vinglish
  14. First Comes Love
  15. Fly With the Crane
  16. Frances Ha
  17. Gebo and the Shadow
  18. Here Comes the Devil
  19. Imagine
  20. In Another Country
  21. Inescapable
  22. London – The Modern Babylon
  23. Love Is All You Need
  24. Men At Lunch
  25. Motorway
  26. Mushrooming
  27. No
  28. Penance
  29. Quartet
  30. Road North
  31. Song for Marion
  32. The Deep
  33. The Hunt
  34. Zaytoun

Thursday, 13 September 2012

TIFF12 Reviews: 3, Come Out and Play, Disconnect, Dormant Beauty, Eat Sleep Die, English VIinglish, First Comes Love

3 (Uruguay / Germany / Argentina / Chile). Directed and co-written by Pablo Stoll Ward (with Gonzalo Delgado Galiana), this film focuses on three members of a family: a divorced mother, Graciela (Sara Bessio) and father, Rodolfo, (Humberto de Vargas), and their daughter, Ana (Anaclara Ferreyra Palfy). Although mother and daughter live together, they are disconnected from each other and are just as dissatisfied with their own lives as Rodolfo is with his. We have scenes with mother and daughter passing each other like ships in the night as they enter and exit their apartment, and shots of a lonely Rodolfo alienated from his new wife, whom we never see. Rather than successfully reaching out to each other, they try to connect elsewhere. Graciela, who visits her aunt in the hospital, forms a relationship with a man who visits an aging friend; Ana tries to connect with her boyfriend, but is really going through the motions which lack any real intimacy; and Rodolfo can only connect with the houseplants that have taken over his balcony. Over the course of the film, this triptych gradually transforms itself into a realistic family portrait.

COME OUT AND PLAY (Mexico). After seeing this film, I agree completely with Midnight Madness programmer, Colin Geddes, that it is indeed "reminiscent of the foreboding atmosphere of The Birds". Upon arrival at a small Mexican island resort a couple discover, to their mounting horror, that the innocent-looking children they see smiling and playing in this beautiful setting are, in fact, menacing psychopaths intent on murder. Director, Makinov knows how to pace his film, building the suspense and enveloping us in an cloud of tension before the action begins. Credible performances by Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw as the married couple allows us to tap into the emotional chaos of the pair; we feel the desperation in their attempts to escape their waking nightmare, and we empathize with rancisco's role as protector, and Beth's role as the expectant mother of their third child. Empty street shots, overhead shots of the maze-like island, and the stillness of children perched on fences and balconies waiting to amass all add to the claustrophobic nature of this dramatic horror film.

DISCONNECT (USA). Once you get past the realization that Alexander Skårsgard and Paula Patton will never look plain, no matter how bedraggled the make up and wardrobe people attempt to style them) you will get caught up in their portrayal of a married couple coping with the death of their baby and the new stress of identity theft. Documentary filmmaker, Henry Alex Rubin, tries his hand at fiction in this cyber-focused narrative feature that also stars Jason Bateman and Hope Davis as a couple whose son is the victim of online bullying, Frank Grillo as a cyber cop who's relationship with his son has suffered since the death of his wife, and Andrea Riseborough as a reporter who attempts to expose the world of underage online sex workers. The various stories are taken from the headlines, but seeing them all play out in front of our eyes is a reminder how disconnected we are from the people who are physically close to us, and how much, for good or ill, we share with strangers. There are no easy answers to our relationship to the internet, and Andrew Stern's script doesn't offer any pat answers to make us feel better. What the film does offer are wonderful performances by a very tight ensemble cast.

DORMANT BEAUTY (Italy / France) Marco Bellocchio riffs on euthanasia and Sleeping Beauty in his latest film. Inspired by the Italian Eluana Englaro right-to-die court case, Bellocchio's film depicts two young lovers on different sides of the debate, a mother who continues to keep her young comatose daughter alive, eschewing her own career as a great actress, and a drug addict who wants to end her life and the doctor who combats her attempts to do so. Despite the always magnificent performance of French actress Isabelle Hupert as the mother, and a fine turn by Maya Sansa as the drug addict, there are too many stories being told, and not enough depth in any of them, even though the shots are brilliantly composed. I just couldn't connect emotionally with these characters to ponder the ethical boundaries of the subject matter.

EAT SLEEP DIE (Sweden). Gabriela Pichler directed, wrote and co-edited this first feature that explores job loss in a factory town, as well as Swedish reaction to foreign workers/immigrants in their country. Viewed through the actions of young Raša (Nermina Lukač), whose father is from the Balkans, we get a glimpse of a changing Sweden, one that is rarely explored on film, and never from the standpoint of a Tom-boyish young woman, who wrestles, and has a very close, frank and loving relationship with her ailing father. Although the film is Swedish, the tone of it reminds me of early works by the Finnish Kaurismaki brothers, in the rich storytelling and depictions of the working class. Gabriela Pichler demonstrates a talent that, I sincerely hope, evolves into a long career in the film industry.

ENGLISH VINGLISH (India). There are better films at TIFF12, but I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed Gauri Shinde's first feature film starring Sridevi as Shashi an under-appreciated Indian mother of two, who, while awaiting her family to join her in the US for her niece's wedding, determindly sets out to learn English and boost her confidence. Romanced by a charming French student, who happens to appreciate food as much as Shashi loves making her incredible ladoos, Shinde's film is as sweet as the Indian confection, and harkens back to the days of Women's Films. This new director is also blessed to have an incredible lead actress, in the famous, Sridevi, whose beautiful brown eyes are so magnetic, and whose expressions are so vulnerably melting, that you can't help but root for her to succeed. The effervescent soundtrack does well in forwarding the simple plot of a woman's voyage in rediscovering her self and her self-worth, and while it's a bit too broad, this is a feel-good film made even more magical by the presence of Sridevi.

FIRST COMES LOVE (USA). I thought I knew what to expect from this documentary about a 40-something woman desperate to have a baby, but director and star, Nina Davenport is so open about her personal journey to single motherhood, that I was both delighted and surprised by its content: delighted because Davenport is so funny, her friends so New York (therapy sessions included), and surprised because of the inclusion of her mother's death and her father's conservative reaction to pregnancy and her career path as a filmmaker. Footage of Davenport's mother Trudy, who died during the filming, are touching and revealing of a woman who knew how to nurture and support all three of her children: her corporate and lawyer sons and her equally hardworking creative daughter. Besides motherhood, Davenport touches on issues of dating in the Big Apple, adult children who find themselves still seeking approval from their parents, and the lack of respect for people in the arts. I highly recommend this Doc. Not just a chick flick.

Toronto International Film Festival
September 6 - 16, 2012
Get Tickets:
416.599.TIFF | 1.888.599.8433
Film Schedule:

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


I try to mix it up at TIFF and see the dramas as well as the comedies, the big to-be-released-tomorrow films and the small, shoestring budget, no distributor films. Every once in a while, I will run into someone who thinks this mix is somehow problematic. It seems that, somehow, I have offended their cinematic taste by seeing something that they would never see: snobbery and reverse snobbery is in full effect. If I see a big movie at a public screening (even worse if it's in English), I'm betraying cinema; if I see something independent, then I've removed myself from populist culture, and become one of those people.

TIFF mixes it up, so why can't I? I love film. I see films according to my mood. Don't try and box me in, or kick me out of some "club" that I never joined in the first place. Peace

Sunday, 9 September 2012

TIFF12 Picks & Pans: All That You Possess, Frances Ha, Imagine, Motorway, Mushrooming

ALL THAT YOU POSSESS (Canada). Canadian director, Bernard Émond, is a favourite of mine. I was first introduced to him via a DVD of his film, La Neuvaine, and that was such a positive experience that I proceeded to catch his subsequent films in the trilogy, Contre tout espérance (07) and La donation (09) at TIFF. With this latest film, Émond continues to display his keen observation of human behaviour within a certain set of circumstances. This film about a man who tries to distance himself from the world,  is poetic (in fact poetry is a significant part of this movie), insightful and contemplative. There are no big action moments, so this film is not for those who prefer quick edits and music montages.

FRANCIS HA (USA). What a delightful film! I loved being in the company of this post-university intern dancer, who is not quite sure what she should be doing next. Usually twenty-something comedies annoy me, but Greta Gerwig's winning performance as Frances is captivating and charming, and the screenplay she co-wrote with director, Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) is modern yet incredibly timeless; an instant classic.

IMAGINE (Poland / France / Portugal). I'm probably going to be booed or this, but I didn't like this film about a blind teacher Ian (Edward Hogg) who encourages his students to walk around without a cane. Yes, the techniques he teaches them is fascinating to watch, and I appreciated the techniques he uses to improve their observational skills and scope of the world, but after a while, I found myself thinking "so what?". The plot does pick up towards the end, and the budding romance between Ian and Eve (Alexandra Maria Lara), an adult student at the Portuguese school, has some lovely moments, but the dramatic tension comes so late in the film that I didn't really care. Ian's confidence as a blind man who wants to use more than a cane to explore his world is admirable, but at what cost? I found his unwavering beliefs to be sometimes reckless and selfish. It's one thing to have new teaching methods, but they must be balanced with common sense.

MOTORWAY (Hong Kong). I absolutely loved the sound design and sound editing in this film, beyond that, I didn't see much in it for me. The film is never boring and I think it's perfect for those who enjoy racing games and car chases. I would have loved this movie when I was thirteen, but I need more depth than is displayed here. In my opinion, the mentor-mentee relationship between the speed-loving young cop (Shawn Yue) and the near-retirement veteran (Li Haitao) a bit Karate Kid-esque, but the sound is what really focussed my attention: the silences are just as well-captured as the squeal of the car wheels.

MUSHROOMING (Estonia). Skip it! First time director, Toomas Hussar's comedy about a couple and a musician who get lost in the woods while looking for mushrooms tries too hard to be ironic and comes across as directionless. The underlying political commentary about misappropriation of funds doesn't pay off with any credibility or humour and the hyperbolic music added nothing to the plot except to annoyance with its inappropriate insertions.

Toronto International Film Festival
September 6 - 16
Get Tickets: 416.599.TIFF | 1.888.599.8433

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

TIFF12 Nordic Wish List

I've become a hue fan of Nordic films, thanks to TIFF, so I thought I would share my TIFF12 Nordic Wish List with you. Are any of these films on your list?

90 MINUTES (Norway). I don't usually see films about domestic violence because I know too many women (and children) who have or still dealing with the issue. What is drawing me to this film is the fact that the setting is Norway, and the director, Eva Sørhaug studied social science at University. How will the setting impact the subject matter? We're very familiar with North American film narrative on the subject, but how will it be viewed through another culture's eyes?

BLONDIE (Sweden). I saw Jesper Ganslandt's Ape at TIFF09, and I still remember talking to a bunch of women in the washroom post-screening. That open-ended film left us with much to discuss and debate, but we all agreed that we really appreciated the film. With that memorable festival experience, I wanted to see the director's latest film, plus TIFF programmer Steve Gravestock lured me in with this description: "An aggressive, almost angry deconstruction of Ingmar Bergman family dramas, Jesper Ganslandt's powerful and audacious Blondie follows three sisters as they return home to celebrate their mother's seventieth birthday."

CALL GIRL (Sweden). I'm so happy that TIFF has a section for new talent, and this Discovery Programme film by Mikael Marcimain got my attention for two reasons: it's a policier, and it's based on a 1970's scandal that involved sex and the government.

THE DEEP (Iceland / Norway). Baltasar Kormákur's first film, 101 Reykiavik won the Discovery Award in 2000, and he's got a good track record with Jar City and Contraband, but it's the star of his film, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, who solidified my interest; I loved him in Valdís Óskarsdóttir's Country Wedding, and he has worked with Kormákur on several films. This shipwreck survivor story promises to at least have some fantastic cinematography, and some tense moments.

A HIGHJACKING (Denmark) Tobias Lindholm is the director and writer of this high seas highjacking tale of a Danish ship being captured by Somali pirates. Besides the suspenseful aspect of this film, I'm inspired to see it because Lindholm is the co-writer for Vinterberg's Submarino and The Hunt. How will he fare in his first solo directing piece?

KON-TIKI (Norway / Denmark / United Kingdom) Directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg WWII film, Max Manus, introduced me to a period of Norwegian history that I knew nothing about, so I'm fascinated to see how they and Max Manus cinematographer, Geir Hartly Andreassen handle this story about explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his crew's expedition across the Pacific on a raft.

ROAD NORTH (Finland). It's by Mika Kaurismäki.

Toronto International Film Festival
September 6 - 16
Get Tickets: 416.599.TIFF | 1.888.599.8433

Monday, 3 September 2012

TIFF12: A Royal Affair, The Hunt, NO, Inescapable, Barefoot, Zaytoun

Mads [pronounced MAS] Mikkelson [think Nicholson but 'sen' instead of 'son'] is not only a star, he's a wonderful actor whose range is evident in A ROYAL AFFAIR (Nikolaj Arcel) and THE HUNT (Thomas Vinterberg). We tend to think of present day Denmark as fairly liberal, but this wasn't the case in the eighteenth century. If you are a history buff who likes a bit of romance in your movie, then put this period piece on your list. With a star like Mads playing the role of a German physician who subversively tries to bring Enlightenment to the Danish court via his friendship with the mercurial, sometimes simple-minded King Christian VII you have a riveting drama that's more than bustiers, petticoats, and tumbling between the royal bed sheets of the forward thinking Queen Caroline (Alicia Vikander). Want more Mads? Then go see the Love It or Hate It film of TIFF12, THE HUNT, in which Mads plays an affable Kindergarten teacher whose professional, personal, and community life quickly unravels after he is accused of abusing a child. I loved it, but will you? Only you can answer that and I hope you share your answer with me in a blog post.

Gael García Bernal is hot, but is that reason enough to go see this move by Pablo Larraín? NO! Whether or not you know anything about Chilean history, this film is interesting in the way advertising strategies are used by Bernal's character to "sell" the NO side of a 1988 referendum on General Augusto Pinochet remaining in office. Shot in the manner of a television documentary, this film will have you wondering exactly how spin tactics are used in politics today, how they have impacted your decisions, and how far you would go to exercise your democratic rights.

I've long been a fan of director Ruba Nadda (Sabah, Cairo Time), and my interest in her work as a writer/director continues after seeing her venture into the thriller genre. In INESCAPABLE, a father (Alexander Siddig) risks his life by returning to Damascus to find his daughter who, without telling him, took a side trip to Syria during her vacation and has gone missing. The mandatory chases, shouting and action sequences are present, but what fascinated me about this film is the theme of family secrets, and the issue of immigrant parents living in a new country, with a new "identity" that is not completely true or revealed. People can have fresh new starts in a country like Canada, where the term "disappeared" is not part of our lexicon. Children raised with these new family identities may sometimes wonder what their parents, even grandparents, may have gone through "back home", but many will never know and many may never guess what is in the past. Curious about knowing more about their families' past, and raised in a country with a human rights charter, some of these children will go exploring in danergous areas, revealingg secrets that are not their own. Inescapable is a thought-provoking dramatic thriller with an outstandingly credible performance by Siddig as a desperate father, and a surprisingly seamless performance by Marissa Tomei, as the woman left behind.

Danis Goulet's film BAREFOOT about Alyssa (Emily Roberts), a teenage girl trying to fit in with her peers, takes us to the Lac La Ronge reservation and the Cree community in northern Saskatchewan. Screening as part of Short Cuts Canada Programme #5, this film approaches the coming of age story with a quietness and underlying pathos that makes you want more than the 11-minute story line, thanks to Goulet's patient hand as writer/director, and the fine acting by Roberts. Danis's short film Wapawekka, which used dialogue primarily in Cree, screened at TIFF11. In Barefoot, Ida Tremblay (a non-actor and artist) who plays Alyssa's grandmother, speaks entirely in Cree while the others speak English. Trivia: Danis' father does the Cree to English translations for her films.

Director, Eran Riklis has managed to capture my heart again, the way he did with The Lemon Tree and The Human Resources Manager. I often talk about the precious balance between comedy and drama and Riklis has the secret recipe for this formula because he gets it right every time. He never sacrifices reality for humour, but he never leaves us so deflated by his dramatic depictions that we feel bruised and depleted. In ZAYTOUN an Israeli soldier named Yoni (Stephen Dorff) and Fahed (Abedallah El Akal) a Palestinian boy form an unusual alliance of sorts. Set in 1982, this piece of recent history revolves around theme of "home" amidst the displacement and chaos of Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. Stephen Dorff has long been overlooked as an actor of worth, and I am hoping now is his moment to be recognized for his formidable talents. I wish the same for young El Akal who is just dynamite in the role off a boy caught between childhood wishes and the danger of an emerging manhood that will only lead to a dangerous conclusion.

Photos courtesy of

Get Tickets: 416.599.TIFF (8433)


1.         Photo courtesy of A BUMP ALONG THE WAY (DISCOVERY) Synopsi s: With her charismatic smile and formida...