Friday, 18 September 2015

TIFF15 Review: A Patch of Fog

Conleth Hill (left) & Stephen Graham, "A Patch of Fog"

I don't watch Game of Thrones nor Boardwalk Empire so walking into "A Patch of Fog", I didnt' have any pre-conceived notions of what to expect from Conleth Hill and Stephen Graham. Hill stars as Sandy Duffy, an author famous for a seminal work that's celebrating it's twentieth anniversary. Duffy is also a creative writing professor, a regular contributor to an arts television show and a shoplifter. Unfortunately for Duffy, he gets captured in the act by security guard, Robert (Stephen Graham), who blackmails Duffy into a one-sided friendship.

The tension between Duffy and Robert is skillfully maintained by director, Michael Lennox, who knows when to go for the close up and when to pull away and let the action unfold. The script by John Cairns and Michael McCartney is smart, well-crafted, and delivered with credibility by the two leads. Watching the successful Duffy, who is so imposing and opinionated in his own world of television and academia, reduced to beseeching and bargaining with the quiet, non-descript Robert is a fascinating voyage that is at once uncomfortable and relatable. Who can't empathize with someone who has a secret that, if revealed, could blow their world apart if uploaded on social media? Conversely, Robert is indeed lonely in his box of a room at work and in his modest apartment; and while Duffy has friends and fans, Robert has no one except his pet snake. The contrast and emotional sparring between the two men is further emphasized by the stature of the actors with Hill being the wide-shouldered heavyweight and Graham the quick-stepping bantam.

I had a ball watching this cat and mouse story unfold, and by the rare sound of applause at the end of my the Press and Industry screening, I was not alone in my appreciation of A Patch of Fog.

Final Screening
Saturday, September 19
9:00 AM, Scotiabank Theatre (Richmond and John)

Details/Buy Tickets:

Thursday, 10 September 2015

TIFF '15 Interview : Director, Sanna Lenken on "My Skinny Sister"

My Skinny Sister (Min Lilla Syster) screens as part of TIFF Kids, but this Swedish film about eating disorders is far from being an after-school special. I was especially impressed by the casting of this smart, realistic film with its portrayal of sisterhood and family dynamics.

donna g: You are so right in your Director's Statement that eating disorders are as common in families as alcoholism, yet the subject is never given equal attention.  Based on this lack of awareness, did you have any problems getting this film made or was funding readily available for this project?

Director/Writer, Sanna Lenken, "My Skinny Sister"
SANNA LENKEN: It  wasn’t as hard as I had expected even though we, of course, had some meetings without luck. The main problem was distribution in Sweden. The distribution companies didn’t believe in the film as a commercial product, mainly because of the cast, two young girls, and the heavy subject. I was really scared for a while because in Sweden you can’t get all the money before having a distributor. In the end, Scanbox said yes and very luckily we could shoot when we had planned. I have heard other filmmakers who have a story with children or a young cast having the same problem, especially when the subject is a bit darker than usual. Now we have sold the film to almost 50 countries!

donna g: I have to ask about your cast because I truly felt as if I was watching a real family:  Firstly, what a star you have in Rebecka Josephson. She is absolutely incredible in the  role of Stella. I know you spent a long time looking for her but where did you find her? You could easily have gone with one of the young people you've worked with previously.

Rebecka Josephson as Stella
Sanna L: Yes it was very, very hard to find her. I knew she had to be in every scene. She had to have integrity but also be able to show a lot of emotions. Strong and weak at the same time. And then, since she was a child, also be able to perform on a high level for seven weeks. Rebecka was a blessing, only one and a half months before the shooting we found her. I was on my way to just say yes to another choice but I’m so happy I waited and had the patience even though it was nerve-racking.

donna g:  Amy Deasismont  is taking on a large role in this film as the “skinny sister”. She is not new to the scene, but her role as a skater battling anorexia is a challenging one. As Katja, she is both a loving older sister to Stella and a raging teen who is cruel to her.  What did you see in her that made you know she could play this very emotional role?

Amy Deasismont  as Katja
Sanna L: She wasn’t a person I had thought about, but she came to a casting. I wanted to find a person no one had seen before. But Amy did the best casting (I met so many girls before her). She completely gave herself to the project and we trusted each other through the whole shooting. She gave so much of herself and she wasn’t scared to be ugly. I wanted to make her beautiful in the beginning, the picture of the ideal girl, the norm (which I think, with her being famous in Sweden, was a nice thing to play with). And then just show the truth behind. How the norm is fake and makes us sick. To me the disease is a symbol for a society that is making women sick. Through both Stella and Katja, I show the limitations a girl is forced to face. Being a woman and not just a human being.

donna g: I was familiar with Henri Norlén from seeing him in Lisa Langseth's "Hotell', so it was a pleasant surprise to see him as the father of teenage girls in this film. As for Annika Hamlin, I remember her from "Patrick, Age 1.5" (although she is probably better known for The "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy of films). Could you please comment on finding and casting them as the parents in this film?

Sanna L: I tried different couples and the main reason (except that they are both great actors) was that they immediately had a strong connection together as a family. They are, like Amy, not vain. They want to be truthful and they also went into the project with so much love and energy.

donna g: How long was the rehearsal period before you started shooting?

Amy Deasismont  & Rebecka Josephson
Sanna L: I actually see the casting as a rehearsal period because I use casting a lot to really get the right actors, and also the right actors together. I guess it was about a week of casting and trying the scenes without them knowing for sure that they had the part. Then I had one week of different sort of rehearsals. We improvised some of the scenes I was unsure about and that was a great way to change the scenes into more authentic dialogue. I will do that with the whole film next time. We also did a lot of things together, like cooking, going to a museum, talking on Skype and we also stayed in the house we shot in for a day. Everything I could come up with to make them a family and trust each other before shooting.

donna g: This film is beautifully shot. I especially appreciate the way in which you position the camera at Rebecka/Stella’s height. Could you please talk about your collaboration with your Director of Photography, Moritz Schulthefeiß?

Sanna L: We hadn’t worked before. He’s from Germany and I got a recommendation and then watched one of his films, "Tore Tantz”. I understood after watching it that he was great with actors and we had a meeting in Sweden. Our collaboration is the best I have had with a DoP. He was on my side the whole pre-production and shooting, and together we created an atmosphere which was focused and totally in ”the moment” which is so important to get good acting. He loved the actors and I think he is a big part of the acting as well, everyone felt happy and filled with energy around him. Positive but also questioning things in a great way. We shot the film through Stella's perspective. I wanted "a girl's gaze" through the whole film.

donna g: Costuming is something I always pay attention to. Having said that, am I correct in noticing that Stella is the only one in the family that wears bright colours? If so, was this a deliberate choice to play into the isolation she sometimes feels as the unnoticed sister, or was this just “teen gear”?

Rebecka Josephson as Stella

Sanna L: I fell in love with her jacket, it was something I can’t explain. Of course, it was an artistic choice but sometimes pure love makes me do decisions without any other reasons. I love pink and I know it is a ”girl” colour but to use it without the normal cuteness connected to it was a reason of

donna g: I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and think that it playing in TIFF Kids will give parents (and other adult viewers), a wake up call. I know the film has won awards, but what has been the audience response to the film in your home country?

Sanna L: We have our premiere next week so I don’t know yet! But during the pre-screenings the film has been very well received by the audience. tmtm

TIFF '15
September 10 - 20, 2015

My Skinny Sister (Min Lilla Syster)
Swedish & English with subtitles
Recommended for ages 11 and up

Screening Dates
Saturday, September 12, 4:15 pm, Scotiabank Theatre
Saturday, September 19, 12:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox

For screening details please visit:
For tickets:

Photo stills from My Skinny Sister, courtesy of WIDE.
TIFF photo courtesy of

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...