Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Toronto Film Critics Association Gives Its Nod To...


Well, the Toronto Film Critics Association has made their list and checked it twice, and we can all now speculate as to how this roster of films will do at the upcoming Golden Globes and the Oscars. Some awards such as the Manulife Financial Student Film Award (best from programmes at Humber College, Ryerson University, Sheridan College and York University ) and the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award will be selected on January, 17, 2014. The three finalists are: The Dirties, directed by Matt Johnson, Gabrielle, directed by Louise Archambault; and Watermark, directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky.

It’s been an unusually thrilling year for cinema,” said TFCA President Brian D. Johnson, film critic at Maclean’s. And these awards celebrate a remarkable diversity. Among our distinctive Canadian finalists, each offers an inspired take on a compelling issue—from school bullying in The Dirties to sexual liberation among the disabled in Gabrielle to epic environmental crisis in Watermark.”

The full list of Toronto Film Critics Association Awards winners and runners-up:

BEST PICTURE
Inside Llewyn Davis” (Mongrel Media)
Runners-up
            “Her” (Warner Bros.)
            “12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight)

BEST ACTOR
            Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Runners-up
            Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
            Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

BEST ACTRESS
            Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Runners-up
            Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”
            Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
            Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Runners-up
            Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
            James Franco, “Spring Breakers”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Runners-up
            Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
            June Squibb, “Nebraska”

BEST DIRECTOR
            Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”
Runners-up
            Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
            Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”

BEST SCREENPLAY, ADAPTED OR ORIGINAL
Spike Jonze, “Her”
Runners-up
            Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”
            Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis”

BEST FIRST FEATURE
            “Neighboring Sounds”, directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho
Runners-up
            “Fruitvale Station”, directed by Ryan Coogler
            “In a World …”, directed by Lake Bell

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
            “The Wind Rises” (Touchstone Pictures)
Runners-up
            “The Croods” (20th Century Fox)
            “Frozen” (Walt Disney Pictures)

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
            “A Touch of Sin” (Films We Like)
Runners-up
            “Blue Is the Warmest Color” (Mongrel Media)
            “The Hunt” (Mongrel Media)

BMO ALLAN KING DOCUMENTARY AWARD
            “The Act of Killing” (Films We Like)
Runners-up
            “Leviathan” (Films We Like)
            “Tim’s Vermeer” (Mongrel Media)

ROGERS BEST CANADIAN FILM AWARD FINALISTS
The Dirties” (Phase 4 Films)
Gabrielle” (Entertainment One)
Watermark” (Mongrel Media)

The Toronto Film Critics Association was established in 1997 and is comprised of Toronto based journalists and broadcasters who specialize in film criticism and commentary.  All major dailies, weeklies and a variety of other print, electronic and web outlets are represented. Members of the TFCA also participate in the Federation of International Film Critics (FIPRESCI).  As such, they have sat on juries at festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, Montreal, Miami, Palm Springs, Chicago, Pusan, Moscow, Amsterdam, London and Vienna, among others.

Source (quote/list):
Virginia Kelly, Meghan Parnell
V Kelly & Associates

Source (logo):
http://www.torontofilmcritics.com

Source (Poster): courtesy of imdb.com

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Canada's Top Ten Announced!

CANADA'S TOP TEN 2014
"10 FILMS
10 DAYS
$10 A TICKET
1 PROUD NATION" 
-TIFF



As a supporter of Canadian film, I look forward to TIFF announcing its selection of films that will be screening at its Canada's Top Ten To make the list, "each film must have premiered at a major film festival or obtained a commercial theatrical release in Canada in 2013. The filmmaker must be a Canadian citizen or resident working on a Canadian production or co-production."  Canada's Top Ten runs January 3 to 12, 2014 at TIFF Bell Lightbox and besides films will include In Conversations with filmmakers Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal, and John Greyson and TIFF Artistic Director, Cameron Bailey.

Like every list out there, debates will break out on social media in regards to the merit of the 10 features and 10 shorts that have been chosen this year. Entertainment One Films should be proud to have five films in the mix, but I'm happiest about the mix of established (Denis Villeneuve) and new filmmakers (Jeff Barnaby) that they have chosen to support. The rest of the features list doesn't surprise me, and as someone who has had the difficult task of doing a Top Ten list, I know that not all good films can make the cut. I'm thrilled that I will get to see some of the features that I missed at TIFF 2013, especially Asphalt Watches, Gabrielle, and When Jews Were Funny

In terms of the shorts, I am stunned that shorts such as Cory Bowles' Anatomy of Assistance, Jasmin Mozaffari's Firecrackers, Bruce Alcock's Impromptu and Randall Okita's Portrait as a Random Act of Violence were not included in the Shorts Programme. I would have selected any of these films over the way-too-long, An Extraordinary Person and Paradise Falls! But hey, not my list, and I would sit through these again to see the brilliant Noah, the heart-warming, Nous avions, The Chaperone 3D and other the selections.

Asphalt Watches, Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver (Delusional Brothers)
Enemy, Denis Villeneuve (Entertainment One Films)
The F Word, Michael Dowse (Entertainment One Films) 
Gabrielle, Louise Archambault (Entertainment One Films) 
Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Jeff Barnaby (Entertainment One Films) 
Sarah préfère la course (Sarah Prefers to Run), Chloé Robichaud (Les Films Seville) 
Tom à la ferme (Tom at the Farm), Xavier Dolan (Entertainment One Films) 
Vic et Flo ont vu un ours (Vic + Flo Saw a Bear), Denis Côté (Films We Like)
Watermark, Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky (Mongrel Media)
When Jews Were Funny, Alan Zweig (KinoSmith)


A Grand Canal, Johnny Ma (Maktub Films)
Quelqu’un d’extraordinaire (An Extraordinary Person), Monia Chokri (La Distributrice de films) 
The Chaperone 3D, Fraser Munden and Neil Rathbone
The End of Pinky, Claire Blanchet (NFB)
In guns we trust, Nicolas Lévesque (Travelling) 
Noah, Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg
Nous avions, Stéphane Moukarzel (Travelling) 
Paradise Falls, Fantavious Fritz
Subconscious Password, Chris Landreth (NFB)
Yellowhead, Kevan Funk


For complete schedule, please visit: http://tiff.net/topten/films/2014/schedule#03/01/2014
416.599.TIFF (8433) 1.888.599.8433
Tickets: $10 each/ 6 Film Pack $50 

CCT quote/list courtesy of TIFF.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Regent Park Film Festival (Nov. 13th - 16th) Welcomes Everyone!

Ananya Ohri is the Executive Director of the Regent Park Film Festival (RPFF). She is an educator and filmmaker and holds a Master’s degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. In this interview, she shares how RPFF is different from other Toronto film festivals, and welcomes everyone to attend.
donna g: Some people may have the impression that Regent Park Film Festival (RPFF) is mainly for youth? Who attends RPFF?

ANANYA OHRI: Youth are very important to the festival, but we get people from all backgrounds and ages, and people from across the city attend. It’s a very welcoming event that offers excellent programming and a great film festival experience to everyone.
About 12 films from the 38 films at the festival this year are geared towards youth. We have our School Program that invites teachers for Grades 1-8 to bring their classes to the festival, and then we have our Saturday Morning Breakfast and a Movie that invites families with young kids.

The rest of the 26 films are for people of all ages. There are captivating documentaries like Blood Relative, wonderful fiction films like Mumbai Cha Raja. For those of us really interested in city building there is Check Check Poto, about inner city in France, or Playful City about culture jamming in Toronto.

donna g: RPFF has been around for 11 years, and seems to be growing each year. With so many film festivals in Toronto, what do you think makes RPFF festival so successful?

ANANYA: We strongly believe that people from all walks of life should have access to seeing and sharing great stories, and that the stories we see, hear and tell shape who we become. For this reason we are dedicated to bringing a diversity of stories to inner city communities, beginning with Regent Park.

The Regent Park Film Festival has been very lucky to carve out a very unique space for itself. It is Toronto’s only free, multi-cultural, film festival. There are so many wonderful film festivals in the city, and what we offer, that is different is that we bring these great stories on film, many of which circulate in these other festivals, to people who would otherwise never be able to see them. And we do it in a very down to earth way, – welcoming everyone to join in.

donna g: I have a couple of questions about your Opening Night: Arts, Escape, Action:
1. How many filmmakers are involved, and how were their films selected?

ANANYA: 10 films are being screened at our Opening Night. It’s a tradition at Opening Night that we show films by young filmmakers, honoring their voices, and giving them a platform. These films were selected by our community based, volunteer Programming Committee. The committee watched all the submitted films and picked the best ones. We are very happy to be able to feature three films from Regent Park in this year’s opening night.

2. The evening also includes a panel discussion with three well-respected Canadian filmmakers: Charles Officer, Alanis Obomsawin, and Anita Doron. RPFF must be very excited about this. How did RPF manage to get such incredible talented and busy filmmakers to attend the festival?

ANANYA: We just asked! The staff and the Board of Directors worked together to figure out and approach filmmakers, and because there is such a good buzz around the festival, and filmmakers are people that really get and support our vision - They said yes!

This year’s panel is on finding courage to tell difficult stories.

donna g: Besides film, RPFF also offers Workshops. What's on offer this year, and what's involved in the registration process?

ANANYA: This is the first time we are offering workshops during the festival. Some highlights include our collaboration with UforChange to host a workshop called Shaping Your Own Enterprise, for people looking to put their technical video and filmmaker skills to earn some money. We have a panel on Community Based Arts Practices, and a special screening of the amazing film on the power of spoken word, Louder Than A Bomb, with a youth based spoken word workshop to follow. People can register by going onto our website www.regentparkfilmfestival.com

donna g: RPFF recently had a fundraising night. Could you tell us more about the evening? For those of us who weren't able to attend, what did we miss out on? Are you still accepting donations?

ANANYA: Our annual fundraising screening helps us keep the festival free for everyone. The fundraiser this year began with a reception, where we were treated by two fantastic performances by local musician Freddy King, and the talented Regent Park dance troupe, the South Side Swag. The main feature of the evening was Sudz Sutherland’s and Jennifer Holness’ film Home Again. The night was a great success, and a huge thank you to everyone who came out!

Anyone who would like to support the film festival can make a donation through our website:
http://regentparkfilmfestival.com/support/donate/



REGENT PARK FILM FESTIVAL
NOV. 13 - 16, 2013
www.regentparkfilmfestival.com
416.599.RPFF (7733)

Find us on:
facebook.com/regentparkfilmfestival
twitter.com/regentparkfilm #rpff

Monday, 4 November 2013

Toronto Reel Asian Film Fest (Nov. 5-16) Kicks Off with Bombay and the Boxer

The 17th Annual Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (RA) is getting the party started right with an Opening Night that celebrates 100 years of Indian Cinema with Bombay Talkies, followed by an After Party in Yorkville's Empire Lounge. Bombay Talkies, a Cannes Film Festival gala showcase, is comprised of four short films by four of Mumbai's most talked about, hit box office directors: Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap. The film his making its Canadian premiere, November 5, 7:00 pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles Street West. Keep your ticket stub and the gala party (10:00 pm - 1:00 am) is free. Can't make the film but want to celebrate RA's kick-off? Then poney up $10 at the door. Click here for complete details.

Live in Richmond Hill? RA comes to you with your own Opening Night screening of UNBEATABLE (Ji Zhan) by director, Dante Lam. The film is about a boxer and aspiring MMA contender who gets involved with the single mother of a "sassy" ten year-old daughter. Look for Election's bad boy Jet, Nick Cheung in this one.

SCREENS
Friday,November 15,7:00pm
Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts
10268 Yonge Street
Click here for details.

TRAILER




Sad that Hallowe'en is over? Well, don't be. RA is offering some "weird and wonderful" screenings that feature zombies, grave-robbing, explosive chokers and a vengeful serial killer. Click here for details about The Kirishima Thing, Tales From the Dark Part 1, Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo and Confessions of Murder. Hope you get chills!
 

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
17th Annual Editon
November 5-16, 2013
Toronto & Richmond Hill
http://www.reelasian.com/

Credits: stills and trailer by Reel Asian with the exception of Bombay Talkier poster by movietalkies.com

Thursday, 31 October 2013

I Wanna Dance with Cornejo German (Tango Fire is Back in T-Dot)

Angentina's TANGO FIRE is coming to back to Toronto after a five year absence and a highly successful recent run in London, England. I had a wonderful opportunity to interview Cornejo German, the Company's award-winning choreographer/dancer, about his dancing and his partnership with Gesela Galeassi, with whom he was a finalist on Jennifer Lopez and Marc Antony's ¡Q'Viva! The two-time World Tango Champions were JLo's special guests at her 2012 concert in Buenos Aires.



donna g: I watched several videos of you without the sound turned on because I wanted to watch how you moved. Man, you have incredible talent in your hips and legs! You know how to control your movements in such a way that your dancing never seems mechanical or too flashy. You make it look easy, but even a non-dancer like myself knows that it's not. What methods have you included in your training to help you attain this level of fluidity in your dancing?

CORNEJO GERMAN: Thank you, donna. As you know, I have a foundation in different dance techniques and styles like contemporary and classical dance among others. That was very important for my formation because each technique gave me different ways to move my body and different points of view to develop my own style. I think that if you want to see the difference in the quality of your dance you need to train a lot to get good results.

A normal day for me starts with 3 to 4 hours of rehearsals. After rehearsals I have a break before I start giving lessons to my regular students for 4 hours more. Some days I am at the dance studio for 10 hours in a row (with some breaks of 20 minutes).

donna g: Nélida Rodriques, one of your teachers was a Tango star before you were even born. You call her your “Artistic Godmother” and credit her with teaching you “the secret of the tango steps.” I don't want you to reveal any secrets but I am curious about your first meeting and first classes with her. Had you met before she began teaching you, and did she whip your butt in those first classes?

CORNEJO: Yes, I know Nélida from the early days of my career. I saw her dancing many times in videos and in TV shows. She was really a Tango Super Star! Even today she is considered by the tango people to be one of the most influential women in tango dance. She is an icon for many generations of dancers.

She searched for me after she saw my performance with my dance partner at that moment (Angeles Trabichet) in one of the most highly rated TV shows in Argentina. She wanted us for work in a show that she directed. From this moment, we started a great relationship. She was always lovely with me, like a mother. Even in the beginning, when I hadn't made the steps in the right way she gave me her respect--something that not all the great artists do normally with their young students. I learned a lot from her about dance, and I loved listening to her words and stories about her life as a person and as a dancer. She is an amazing person and a terrific artist. I have to say thank God for putting her not only in my career but also in my life!

donna g: I watched you dance with several women, and you are an excellent partner. It would be so easy in a sensuous dance such as the Tango, for the man to get lost. You never lose our attention. In fact, your partnering abilities just makes us want to line up to dance with you. How do you do this? Is it something in your posture, is it the choreography or is it chemistry between partners?

CORNEJO: To answer your question: all of the above, but first, I must say that all of my partners were amazing dancers always. In fact, without the right technique on their bodies, all that I created would be impossible for them to realize.

One of the items you ask about is the posture: I keep the line of my back from my waist to my neck as if I am trying to increase my height. That posture allow us to show an elegant line of the body, and at the same time works to keep a closer embrace between us.

Your other point is the choreography. With the correct steps you can tell a story to the audience, enjoy the moment, and express yourself.

And the last thing that you ask me -but not less important- is the chemistry between the couple. The tango couple should be like a bubble: all the things that happen are between them, and the audience should feel like they are spying on them through a key hole.

donna g: You have formed a new partnership with Gisela Galeassi and the two of you have become very successful. How did the two of you become partners?

CORNEJO: I know her since 2003 when she became World Tango Champion. I always admired her work, but it was after we split up with our ex partners that we decided to start creating our own artistic world. She is an amazing woman and artist. It was so crazy, because we felt incredible embracing each other, and all the movements were flowing between us, unforced. The audience can feel how our hearts feel when they see us dancing together because both of us are very passionate.

donna g: Originally, the Tango was never a public dance. Over the years, this has changed and the dance has emerged as a theatrical event. How do choreographers such as yourself maintain a balance between a very intimate dance with roots in working class Argentina and a dance that is done on stages before large international audiences?

CORNEJO: I think that the problem appear when the choreographers are searching in the wrong places. The common mistake is that many choreographers try to show to the audience a lot of steps and movements without sense, just to show off that they can do many things. This is a huge problem because the tango is about passion, sensitivity and the communication that is born out of the deep intimate embrace of each couple. You need to keep the balance between the steps and the heart, as well as between the tango dance technique and emotion.

You can create different choreography showing several ways of tango dance because it is a reality that tango is changing all the time, but you need to keep the roots always, the essence of the tango. If you can find the right way to do this, I assure you that it is totally magical and at the same time as simple and basic as human contact. That is tango!

Show One Productions Presents...

TANGO FIRE
with the all-new
Flames of Desire
accompanied on stage by Quarteto Fuego, led by violin virtuosa Estefani Corsini, with vocals by Jesus Hidalgo

November 8th & 9th, 2013
Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge Street, Toronto
Friday, November 8 @ 8pm,
Saturday, November 9 @ 3pm and 8pm

Tickets range from $49-$109 and can be purchased in person at the Winter Garden Theatre Box Office, by calling 1.855.622.2787 or online at www.ticketmaster.ca
For more information visit www.showoneproductions.ca

Saturday, 12 October 2013

TMTM SHOW OCT. 12: Rosa Laborde and Santee Smith

Bad news made good! Here is the October 12, 2013 edition of The More the Merrier! Because of things crashing and banging in the technological atmosphere, TMTM could not be broadcast today in its usual time slot. Thank goodness, I had a back up recording and the time I spent Tuesday night in the recording studio with guests Rosa Laborde and Santee Smith was not lost completely. Yay!











Rosa Laborde"s "Marine Life"
Performance Date: October 18, 8pm

De Colores Festival of New Works
by Latin-Canadian Playwrights

Oct. 16-18, 2013
Wychwood Theatre, 601Christie Street
Tickets: $15, Sen/Students $13, Pass $40
http://alamedatheatre.com/decolores2013.html



A Story Before Time (ages 5+)
October 16 -24, 2013
Young People's Theatre, Main Stage
65 Front Street East
416-862-2222
http://www.youngpeoplestheatre.ca/shows-tickets/a-story-before-time/


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

TIFF13: Recap/Top 5 Faves

I recently did my annual TIFF wrap up with TMTM regulars, Kirk Cooper, founder of Film Market Access (http://filmmarketaccess.com/), and blogger, Heidy M. (http://hyemusings.blogspot.ca/). I look forward to this discussion every year because our perspective of TIFF is so different. This year because of her schedule, Heidy M, did mostly public screenings; Kirk was busy with his Toronto Program at TIFF, so saw some of the bigger films in between taking care of his clients (he also so some films at Cannes); and I attended media screenings and a few public ones, which I always love because of the feedback from the audience. To hear the complete discussion, click here.



Here is my Top 5 out of the 19 feature films that I saw. 

Concrete Night MASTERS -Pirjo Honkasalo
A fourteen-year-old boy in a stifling Helsinki slum takes some unwise life lessons from his soon-to-be-incarcerated older brother, in Finnish master Pirjo Honkasalo’s gorgeously stylized and emotionally devastating work about what we pass on to younger generations, and the ways we do it. 
-Steve Gravestock

Click here to read my interview with Pirjo and my thoughts on the film.

Heart of a Lion-CONTEMPORARY WORLD-Dome Karukoski

The leader of a gang of racist skinheads finds his prejudices and misplaced loyalties pitted against his desire for love and family when he falls for a waitress whose son is of African descent
-Steve Gravestock

Click here for my thoughts on this film. 

A Touch of Sin MASTERS-Jia Zhangke

Internationally acclaimed Chinese master Jia Zhangke (The World) won the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes for this startling — and startlingly violent — modern wuxia tale of four outcasts on the margins of a rapidly changing China who channel their underclass rage into a bloody and murderous rampage. 
-Giovanna Fulvi





Pioneer SPECIAL PRESENTATION -Erik Skjoldbjærg

Erik Skjoldbjærg (Insomnia) directs this gritty drama about the risky experiments and shady dealings that led to the birth of the Norwegian oil-drilling industry in the early 1980s
 -Steve Gravestock
 


Le Weekend SPECIAL PRESENTATION-Roger Mitchell

Revisiting Paris for the first time since their honeymoon, a long-married British couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan--Laurence Olivier Award twice, Tony nom, CommanderOBE for drama) run into an old colleague (Jeff Goldblum) and discover a new vision of what life and marriage might be, in the new film from director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette). -Cameron Bailey


HONORABLE MENTION

Witching and Bitching MIDNIGHT MADNESS-Alex de la Iglesia

Fleeing through the impenetrable forests of the Basque countryside after a jewel heist, a hapless band of robbers runs afoul of a coven of witches, in this madcap supernatural spectacle from Spanish genre specialist Alex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus). 
-Colin Geddes
  
Heidy's Top 5 Faves 
 
1. The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears
2. Concrete Night3. Rhymes for Young Ghouls
4. Pioneer
5. Cannibal

To read more about Heidy's picks, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/m29xcng




Kirk Cooper's Top 5 Faves
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Prisoners
3. Omar
4. Stranger By the Lake
5. Dallas Buyer's Club



My other film screenings included the following:

  1. A Promise
  2. Brazillian Western (my review of this and iNumber Number)
  3. Cold Eyes
  4. Face Of Love
  5. Hi Ho Mistahey (my review)
  6. Hotell (my review of this and Sex, Drugs & Taxation)
  7. iNumber Number
  8. Metalhead
  9. Mystery Road
  10. Sex, Drugs & Taxation
  11. The Invisible Woman
  12. This Is Satlitun
  13. What is Film?

"Firecrackers", a film by
Jasmin Mozaffari
For my thoughts on the Short Cuts Canada Programmes, please click here





Wednesday, 11 September 2013

TIFF13: Meeting Concrete Night Director, Pirjo Honkasalo

Pirjo Honkasalo at TIFF '13
Photo by donna g
CONCRETE NIGHT
Remaining Screening:
Saturday, September 14
Scotiabank 14
9:45 PM

Deciding that we both liked the cool temperatures of the September morning, Finnish director, Pirjo Honkasalo, and I decided to sit on the patio of our downtown meeting place rather than chat inside the "old boys club" (her words) ambiance of the main floor bar. 

While she had a cappuccino and patiently sat through my mishap, first with my recorder then camera, she delighted in my reversion to pen and paper, lamenting the fact that digital technology doesn't allow our memories to retain information the way we used to. When you write, you remember, when you allow technology to do everything, your mind doesn't have to retain it in the same way. "Will you remember what we had discussed?" I assured her that I would and we segued into talking about Concrete Night, her thoughts on filmmaking, and the film industry. 

A fearless director, who clings to her indie spirit of making films on her terms, Pirjo filmed Concrete Night using only the shots she would need for the final cut. As a veteran director, cinematographer and editor, she has the experience to shoot a seven-minute sequence in the film, despite her gaffer's suggestion that they might need a master shot for coverage. "Why start something with the thought that it might not succeed?" is Pirjo's attitude. Knowing the scene in question, I am amazed at her guts and even more in awe of her experience.

Based on the much-lauded Finnish novel Betoniyö by Pirkko Saisio, Concrete Night is set in a rough Helsinki neighbourhood and relates the story of a teenage boy on the eve of his elder brother going to jail. After reading the book, Pirjo knew the one hundred and eighty-eight page book could be transitioned completely into a feature film. She strongly believes that distilling longer books into film language inevitably leads to a diminished creation.

After being tempted away from the book-to-film project by documentary work (The 3 Rooms of Melancholia, Ito Diary of an Uban Priest) Pirjo returned to the novel ten years later. In crafting the film, Pirjo immediately began planning the lighting she would use in the film: "I begin with images, rather than the story." Allowing the images to develop in her mind, she simplifies everything to the essential elements until the film is an expression of what is needed. She chose to shoot in black and white because she trained in black and white, and that is what she felt was was called for in Concrete Night. Why use colour if it's not needed? "Finns will be surprised at how the city looks," she says of the cinematic vision of Helsinki which she has created with black and white and lights. Why use artificial rain if the weather is cooperating? "Nothing is as good as natural rain. With artificial you can always see the source of the rain somehow."  


She called actor Jari Virman whom she had originally chosen for the roll of the elder brother, Ikko, and demanded that he"come and show his face." Upon seeing him, Pirjo decided that he was even better for the roll than he had been years earlier. As for the casting of Johannes Brotherus as younger brother Simo, she awarded him the role based on his ability to pass the audition of listening to a twenty-minute symphonic piece and reacting naturally and without words. "He was different from the others," Pirjo points out. While she observed them through her lens to see if they were suitable for the character of Simo, some young men would become restless, bored, and even leave mid-audition. Brotherus was able to react to the music, which is what she was looking for and why she didn't have a rehearsal period for the film. "I chose well," she says with conviction, to which I agree readily and whole-heartedly. Simo is at the core of the film, and had Brotherus been miscast, the dramatic tension in the film would have fallen flat; the boy's gradual awakening to the harsh truth about life would not have been communicated to us so thoroughly.

Making up the main quartet of actors in Concrete Night is, Anneli Karppinen as the Mother and Juhan Ulfsak as The Man. While Estonia-born Ulfsak is quite well-known in Finland, Karppinen is from what Pirjo calls "the treasure of older women" living in areas outside Helsinki, who are quite well-known in their small theatres but are not given a chance to participate in major projects. While she understands the financial need of some filmmakers to choose continually from the same roster of "twenty actors" she says that style of working is not what she wants. 
Pirjo's belief in her actors is what allows young Brotherus to show the innocence and experience necessary for his close up shots, and it is what allows him to withstand the nerves needed for the many underwater sequences that are a part of the film's metaphor. Virman, as the hardened older brother, is ruthless and irresponsible which makes his cry from the soul so much the more devastating when it arrives on screen. Karppinen's garishly made up face shows the age and hard living of her character, and Ulfsak's monologue on life manifests splendidly his years of training.

As the publicist gives us the five-minute warning and disappears inside to set up Pirjo's Skype interview, I ask Pirjo if she had any advice for young filmmakers. She acknowledges that there are many ways to learn and that film school shouldn't be mandatory, she does say that attending school gave her "the peace to try anything, to experiment without fear. You can make films and not succeed, but you can grow." Whichever way young filmmakers choose to go, she suggests that "they take the time to decide the type of filmmaker that they are going to be, to make films without self-censoring, and to make films for themselves, never for the financiers." Making films for financiers leads to a treadmill of compromise that will take them away from their original passion. Even at her stage of the game, she secured her financing before she started shooting because she  didn't want to go through the experience of filmmakers she knows who make a film and spend the rest of their lives paying for it. She wanted to make the film she wanted to make, not something that would be turned into a "product" as she calls the Hollywood system.
In a twist of fate, Pirjo and Betoniyö author, Pirkko Saisio now live together. I ask if her partner has any plans to have the book translated into English. I assure her that after seeing the film at TIFF many people would probably want to read the book. Apparently, Saisio is content with being famous in Finland and although a reprint of the book is scheduled for launch when Concrete Night opens there, we English speakers will either have to learn Finnish or be content with the magic that Pirjo has translated through the language of cinema.

The honking horns, truck deliveries, and Monday morning pedestrians stream by, oblivious to the fact that one of Finland's celebrated filmmakers is in their midst. I sit and enjoy a fresh, well-made Americano--the coffee shared earlier with another Finn, Dome Karukoski (Heart of a Lion) had grown cold in my travel mug--and looked forward to my second screening of my favourite film at TIFF '13, Concrete Night.

For all this TIFF13 visit http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-TIFF (8433) or 1-888-599-8433
Film stills courtesy of tiff.net

TIFF13: Metalhead Interview

Thinking of going to see METALHEAD at TIFF? Here is my interview with director, Ragnar Bragason and the lead actress, Þorbjörg Helga Þorgilsdóttir.

REMAINING SCREENING

Friday September 13
Scotiabank 10
9:00 PM





For all this TIFF13 visit http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-TIFF (8433) or 1-888-599-8433


Monday, 9 September 2013

TIFF13: Canadian Filmmakers Rock!

As the host country, and with Toronto being the location for an "A" list festival such as TIFF, lets show our filmmakers that we acknowledge and respect their work. What impression are we giving if our guests are going to our films, but we choose to skip them? To get you started here are a few feature film selections from some of my favourite Canadian filmmakers. (Note, I've already posted about Alanis Obomsawin's  Hi-Ho Mistahey and the Short Cuts Canada programe.)



THE ANIMAL PROJECT. I've been following Ingrid Veninger's work for a while now both as producer (NURSE. FIGHTER.BOY) and director (MODRA, i am a good person/i am a bad person). I adore her independent spirit in making films that she is passionate about.

TIFF Description: A Toronto theatre director endures a series of creative and personal travails in this affecting and typically inventive new film from Festival favourite Ingrid Veninger. 


Wednesday September 11
Isabel Bader Theatre
7:30 PM
Thursday September 12
Scotiabank 13
5:00 PM
Saturday September 14
TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
7:45 PM



SIDDARTH. I fell in love with Richie Mehta's first feature, Amal, and can't wait to see how he has matured in his sophomore film.

TIFF Description: A powerful and heart-rending tale about a poor Delhi street merchant desperately searching for his missing young son.


Tuesday September 10

Winter Garden Theatre
5:00 PM

Thursday September 12

TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
12:00 PM

THE HUSBAND. That's right the guy you see around town in the cowboy hat!

TIFF Description: Saddled with an infant son, and a wife doing jail time for sleeping with a 14-year-old, a disgruntled Toronto ad-agency copywriter struggles to deal with his impotent rage, in this gutsy black comedy from beloved Canadian maverick Bruce McDonald.


Wednesday September 11
Ryerson Theatre
9:00 PM
Saturday September 14
Scotiabank 14
12:00 PM

WHEN JEWS WERE FUNNY. I have never been disappointed by Alan's work!

TIFF Description: Insightful and often hilarious, the latest from documentary filmmaker Alan Zweig surveys the history of Jewish comedy, from the early days of Borsht belt to the present, ultimately exploring not just ethnicity in the entertainment industry, but also the entire unruly question of what it means to be Jewish.


Tuesday September 10
Scotiabank 13
9:15 PM
Thursday September 12
The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
9:15 PM
Sunday September 15
Scotiabank 9
4:45 PM


TIFF Descriptions by Senior Programmer, Steve Gravestock.
For more Canadian Films CLICK HERE
For all this TIFF13 visit http://tiff.net/thefestival
416-599-TIFF (8433) or 1-888-599-8433