Wednesday, 10 September 2014

TIFF14: Running Naked in Out of Nature

With Ole Giaever. Photo by Nathalie Pampin, Clutch PR
You must admit that this poster for Out of Nature is eye-catching, so besides the fact that Nordic films are my priority at TIFF, I was curious to know why this character was running without pants. Well, I now know the secret, but you should go see the film yourself to find out the answer. After speaking to director Ole Giaever, he did admit that while filming the
scene, he did feel a sense of liberation, and apparently the rest of the crew were jealous of his freedom from pants.

What I liked about this film is it's simplicity: a man out in nature questioning his path in life. The character, Martin (played by Ole), is a married man with a son, and on the outside looking in, he appears to have a wonderful life, but Marin is bored with his status quo. He is not an alpha male. He is not the guy who gets chosen to go to lunch with the rest of the office gang, and as the film unfolds, we learn about his upbringing and how he was not the best socialized child.

While hiking through the beautiful Norwegian woods we are privy to his thoughts, some of which are quite funny while others are honest and cruel. Be honest, don't you sometimes have thoughts that happen only in your head, that you would never dare (or hope you don't) ever utter aloud? Sometimes such thoughts are fleeting and may even shock us, but when we hear them voiced by Martin we understand them. It was refreshing to hear a man's thoughts, as we never see men voicing their raw feelings in film. Did he marry too young, should he work out more, was his life better back when he use to go to clubs, is he a good father, what lies ahead or is this it?

My full interview with Ole will air on The More the Merrier on CIUT 89.5 FM (date TBC). Follow me on Facebook so you don't miss the broadcast.

Out of Nature
Saturday, September 13, 6:00 pm
Scotiabank Theatre

Monday, 8 September 2014

TIFF14: Estonia's Martii Helde's Fresh Vision (In the Crosswind)

Estonian director, Martti Helde shared with me that he felt his grandfather's presence on the set of his first feature film, In the Crosswind. During my conversation with Martii, I learned that the history of the Baltic "deportations" is studied in school, and his grandfather (who lost a leg in WWII) openly spoke about the time period, although never too much about being in the camps; rather, his impact on Martii was about how to be a good person and to live life to the fullest. 

In the Crosswind, in which Martii labels the "deportations" as a "Soviet Holocaust" to symbolize the universality of these horrible and continuing human actions, we follow the forced journey of Erna (Laura Peterson) and her daughter  (and to a lesser extent, her husband Heldur) to Siberia. Martii was given Erna's letters by an archivist while doing research and, spurred by the stories from his grandfather, he decided to make a film about the consequences of June 14, 1941. What began as an attempt to make a short film about a time when thousands of Baltic citizens were forced from their homes in Stalin's attempt to purge the region of its people, turned into a feature when Martii was told that his style of telling the story was neither documentary nor short enough for a short fiction film. 

His style, that of tableaux vivants, forces the viewer to move their eyes and fill in the gaps as the camera weaves in and around their bodies. Months were spent placing the actors in their positions so that by the time shooting occurred, blocking and camera movements were worked out. Imagine looking at a portrait that suddenly becomes almost three dimensional, and your eye and brain follow the movements that are slowly revealed. Sometimes it is as if you are looking at a triptych framed by walls or trees providing a barrier that interrupts a shot. In these cases, you move your head to see what's beyond the wall or behind a tree. 

Shot in beautiful black and white (a deliberate choice influenced by flipping through the period photographs of his grandfather's album), the film is scored simply and presented in with delicacy that it will overcome any sentiments of holocaust viewer fatigue. Give yourself about ten minutes to get used to the fact that you will be hearing voiceover narration instead of dialogue, that there will be no re-enactments, and you will find yourself experiencing film in a brand new way. You will also find unexpected beauty in this "frozen in time" cinematic historical drama.

My full interview with Martii Helde will be broadcast on The More the Merrier on CIUT 89.5 FM (date TBC). Follow me on Facebook so you don't miss the broadcast.

TIFF 4-14.14

Tue, Sep 9
Thu, Sep 11
Sun, Sep 14

Sunday, 7 September 2014

TIFF14: Questions, Questions...

Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää
I could spend hours interviewing actors/filmmakers about their work. As an interviewer I rarely feel as if I have asked all the questions I want or need. I always have the basic questions in mind going into to the interview, but as I don't use a script, the conversation can flow in any direction. If my subject becomes passionate about an aspect of their work, I don't cut them short; my next question is not as important as what they are presently sharing; as a result, I sometimes end my 15-20 minute chat with questions unanswered.

Today, for example, after interviewing Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää (They Have Escaped) for example, we began talking about the sound in the picture. It was on my list of questions that I had wanted to ask, but other elements of the filmmaking came up that trumped the question. I didn't turn my recorder back on because we were having a natural conversation and pulling out the recorder would have intruded on our conversation, even though what we were talking about wasn't private. 

I always think filmmakers as being confident in their vision but, as JP shared, watching the first cut of his films is always a "humiliating experience" where he feels uncertain about the film he is making. As for the sound elements, it wasn't until the last few weeks of the editing process that he felt he had the right mix for They Have Escaped. I was quite taken by the sound elements in his film and was happy that he was content to answer a question that fascinates me: how directors deal with silence. As JP agreed, "silence has a sound" and he worked very hard to find the right piece from his collection of sounds to use.

I'm satisfied with the recorded content of my interview, which will air post-TIFF on The More the Merrier (date TBC), but even as I said good-bye to JP, I realized that as usual, I had even more questions to ask...

The next screenings of They Have Escaped are:
WED Sept. 10, 4:00 pm, Scotiabank Theatre
SAT Sept 13, 10:00 pm, Scotiabank Theatre
Finnish with English Subtitles
My Warning: not for the faint of heart. It's in the Vanguard section!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

TIFF14: How About a Quick Trip to Finland?

For the past several years, I have been focused on Nordic films at TIFF, a passion I developed thanks to Sprockets (now TIFF Kids) founder, and TIFF programmer, Jane Schoettle), and continues with programming by Steve Gravestock. The calibre of films from this region continues to impress me and I am beginning to establish a relationship with a few directors. Here are a couple of Finnish entries that you might want to check out. Complete details at The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 4 - 14.

I first interviewed Finnish director, Dome Karukoski, in 2010 with his TIFF entry, the comedic, Lapland Odyssey, and then last year with Heart of a Lion, a drama with unexpected touches of humour about a skinhead who falls in love with a white Finnish women with a bi-racial child. This year I am looking forward to seeing The Grump, and continuing my conversation with Dome about his filmmaking.

When I first interviewed another Finn, Jalmari Helander in 2010, he had just finished Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, and was looking forward to heading back home to see his brand new baby daughter; he had no idea what his next project would be "who the fuck knows". This year, he has a film screening in the Midnight Madness program and I am so happy for him! With Big Game, he is directing the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Felicity Huffman, James Broadbent, and Victor Garber!

The VANGUARD selections at TIFF are described as "provocative, sexy...possibly dangerous. This is what's next." The still (left) for They Have Escaped definitely fits that description; however, I am curious to see what director JP Valkeapää has in store for us with this drama about two young social outcasts trying to negotiate society norms. One positive note for the film is the attachment of Aleksi Bardy, the producer of Karukoski's highly successful, Heart of a Lion.

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...