The 35th Toronto International Film Festival
By Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Member
Opening Night at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo from the TIFF website)
The 35th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was held from September 9-19, 2010 and included an additional second Sunday of screenings this year. Although a number of critics complained that the 2010 Cannes Film Festival had been disappointing, many were anticipating films that would screen at Toronto and Venice Film Festivals this year such as The Black Swan, 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, Hereafter, The Town, and Blue Valentine. Only a few films from major studios this year did do not see the need to spend advertising at festivals for films like True Grit, The Social Network, The Way Back, and The Fighter. The success of last year’s Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire, which was TIFF’s 2009 Audience Award winner, may have influenced more films coming on the festival circuit. Major stars, major directors and major films all come to Toronto. As part of TIFF2010, 339 films 258 features and 81 shorts were shown from 59 countries, including 112 world, 24 international and 98 North American premieres, chosen from 3,526 films submitted. TIFF has a large economic impact on Canada, Ontario and Toronto since it brings in over $170 million Canadian dollars annually and currently employs more than 100 full time staff, 500 part time and seasonal staff and over 2,000 volunteers. The use of volunteers at TIFF really maintains the festival’s reputation as one of the best organized film festivals and one of the largest festivals still geared somewhat to public screenings unlike the Cannes Festival.
TIFF also has sections or categories of films and also has some art installations. Sections this year were: Gala Presentations, Masters, Special Presentations, TIFF for free (some free films publicly screened outdoors and a free additional screening of the Audience Award winner on the last Sunday), Discovery (first and second time filmmakers), Real to Reel (documentaries), Vanguard, Mediations: thoughts on contemporary film culture, City to City (this year’s selection was several films about the city Istanbul), Mavericks, Contemporary World Cinema, Canadian Programming, Canada Open Vault (retrospective films), Short Cuts Canada, Visions (filmmakers who challenge our notions of mainstream cinema), Wavelengths (avant garde cinema), Future Projections (cinema meets visual arts with moving image projects throughout the city of Toronto), and their famous Midnight Madness section (primarily horror and black comedy films screening at Midnight with usually an appreciative and rowdy crowd).
With the opening of the Lightbox and the press screenings now being shown at the Scotia Theaters downtown instead of the Varsity theaters near Yorkville, the festival has all but moved to the downtown Queen Street area of trendy restaurants, bars, and CityTv. The Cumberland Cinemas and Royal Ontario Museum were not used as screening venues this year, leaving only the Varsity and Isabel Bader theaters as screening centers in Yonge and Bloor Streets area. Last year you could elect to stay all day at the Scotia cinemas which also have several small fast food restaurants within the multiplex building. This was more difficult to do this year due to many screens there targeted for separate press screenings. Over 3,400 industry delegates attended TIFF2010.
Unlike 2009 when concern was expressed that not as many U.S., foreign, and independent film buyers are buying films these days, many were bought at or just after the festival this year. Cameron Bailey, Co-Director of the Toronto International Film Festival however, announced an impressive list of film sales resulting from participation at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival. As the festival ended this year, U.S. sales were confirmed for Barney’s Version, Casino Jack, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, The Conspirator, Dirty Girl. Incendies, I Saw the Devil, Outside the Law, Potiche, Sarah’s Key, Super, and Submarine. Some other titles were picked up also soon after the festival ended.
TIFF2010 was also a landmark year since the newly finished Bell Lightbox building complex finally was completed and open. An official ribbon cutting ceremony and block party (with free admission, cupcakes, and live bands) was held Sunday September 19th. The new Bell Lightbox complex includes theatres, a film reference library, café, and administrative offices. Three of the theatres were used for TIFF screenings this year, the largest of which held 1200 seats. The facility will run first run independent and foreign language films, much like our AFI Silver theatre and also handle many Cinematheque Ontario screenings. Like our AFI also, TIFF polled film critics, Festival-goers and TIFF supporters, asking which films they considered essential cinema. The resulting Essential Cinema list has identified 100 International and Canadian important films. These films are also listed on an installation and wall kaleidoscopic presentation inside the LightBox. Panels on the walls allow patrons to choose a film from the list and a segment of the film or information on it is presented. You can see the list here. For more information on the Lightbox see the website.
I thought the selections this year were particularly good, having only viewed 2-5 films that I could describe as poor or very mediocre out of 51 films seen. There seemed to be fewer feature films this year and less screening venues but I had a very high percentage of the films attended by either the director, producer or actors. The AMC theaters are used by Ryerson College during the weekday mornings for classrooms, so the first Friday morning had no morning screenings, and the week day morning screenings were limited to only about 2-3 films daily for everyone to try to schedule. This left some major gaps in unscheduled films that were remedied by going early to the TIFF box office some mornings for 7:00am openings. A small number of tickets for screenings listed as sold out were usually available early in the morning. The added second Sunday screenings were also loaded with interesting films. Because of the scheduling, I saw many more American films than I usually do.
My recommendations include:
MUST SEE FILMS
Another Year (Mike Leigh, United Kingdom, 2010). This is a fascinating look at the life of a loving and stable married couple, Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and their friends and relatives including Gerri’s co-worker Mary (Lesley Manville) told from Leigh’s intimate observational directorial eye. Rehearsed in Leigh’s style with input from the actors, we find Tom and Gerri as the emotional support for both their relatives and friends who may never change. Lesley Manville is wonderful as the ditzy, boozy, friend Mary who drops in at all times for support. Four seasons are covered in a very Romeresque tale of a couple who has managed to obtain and keep married bliss.
Armadillo (Janus Metz, Denmark, 2010). Reminiscent of films like Restrepo, this documentary follows Danish soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. We see several soldiers at home and in training in Denmark and then following them to the battlefield and see how war has changed their lives. The film has caused discussion in Denmark on the rules of engagement and the need for military investigations about wartime atrocities. It also was the first documentary to have screened in Cannes in the Critics Week competition and was the winner.
Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, United States, 2010). Far from the arena of his last film The Wrestler, Aranofsky this time provides a psychological thriller about a ballet company and the competition for lead ballerina for a production of Swan Lake. The lead role may go to either Nina (Natalie Portman), a shy, but consistent dancer with an overbearing stage mother (Barbara Hershey) or to Lily (Mila Kunis), a new sensual dancer to the company. Vincent Cassel portrays the artistic director who wants to see if Nina, perfect as the White Swan, also has inner depths to play the Black Swan role. Wonderful visual techniques make this a building thrill ride. Some critics have described it as The Red Shoes on acid. One could also say it is Phantom of the Opera meets The Red Shoes or Carrie. It received standing ovations and opens here around Christmas.
Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, United States, 2010). Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) are a young married couple with a young daughter in a tale that may reflect main stream America and the reality of how employment issues affect a marriage. Cindy has a rewarding job as a rehabilitation therapist, but Dean has several temporary of low paying blue collar jobs. The movie captures both the dissolution of a marriage and retrospectively how the couple fell in love. It is extremely well acted and provides character development of how a couple can grow together or apart.
In A Better World (Susanne Bier, Denmark/Sweden, 2010). Another stunning film to go with Bier’s films Open Hearts, Brothers, and the Oscar nominated After the Wedding, In a Better World again tackles the theme of male responsibility, fatherhood, and masculinity. Physician Anton (Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt) serves part of his time in embattled African nations providing needed care to refugee families and children. He is becoming more distant from his young sons and separated wife. Claus (Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen), a successful businessman is suddenly having problems with his son Christian, who retaliates with others who bully Anton’s son Elias on his first day of school. A finely layered story of both the fathers’, sons’, and society’s morals and actions are questioned in this introspective work.
Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, United States, 2010). A documentary that tries to explain the cause and greed that led to the 2008 economic crisis. As in his nominated film, No End in Sight, Ferguson has lined up many interviews and gathered research to as he said, “make a film for non-political, non-conservative, non-liberal viewers that started with a short list of interview subjects but grew as we shaped the story. I want the American people to bring these issues on stage and request needed action.“ Matt Damon narrates the film. A fascinating analogy presented is that scientific and academic researchers must address conflict of interest issues when publishing their research, but we do not require similar statements or morals from those in government and elsewhere that have worked in the banking and other financial communities about their past activities and employers. Inside Job is currently playing at Landmark's E Street Cinema.
Colin Firth and fans at the opening of The King's Speech. (Photo from the TIFF website)
The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper, United Kingdom/Australia, 2010). Colin Firth again provides an Oscar worthy performance as King George VI, who must learn to overcome his stuttering to give public speeches, after he becomes king when his brother Edward VII abdicates the throne for his love Wallis Simpson. Firth said that Hooper provided a very intense 3 week rehearsal environment and research was also done to recreate the look and feel of the time. When asked about how he researched stammering Firth said, “I researched stammering and we stuck closely to the diaries that were available, and the effort is really in trying not to climb out of the stammering.” Geoffrey Rush plays the unorthodox speech therapist that Queen Mary finds who may be able to help her husband. The characterization, power control, and friendship developed by the king and the therapist is finely portrayed by both actors who may both obtain Oscar nominations. This was one of the few films that I attended that received a standing ovation. Originally planned for November 2010 release, I believe it is now being pushed nearer to the December release dates in the U.S. and not until early January in the U.K.
NEDS (Peter Mullan, United Kingdom/France/Italy, 2010). NEDS means non-educated delinquents and is the harrowing tale of John, who at the beginning is a shy, sensitive, but intelligent boy going to a new school in Glasgow, Scotland in the early 1970s. His home environment includes an abusive alcoholic father (played by Peter Mullan). A young man who may be able to climb above his circumstances, he is constantly brought down by his brother, father, teachers and society until he may become one of the troubled violent youth that surround him. Almost documentary in style, it thankfully has English subtitles for those who may have problem understanding Glaswegian dialects. This film won the Golden Seashell at the San Sebastian Film Festival.
Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois, France, 2010). Based on real life events, the kidnapping of seven French monks in Algeria in 1996. The daily lives and routines of the monks in the Cistercian monastery are shown as well as their work with the local Algerian communities. The brothers are warned by the local magistrates to leave for their safety, but they have a higher calling and work in medical and spiritual care that aligns both with Christian and Muslim customs. This is France’s submission for Oscar foreign language film.
Poetry (Lee Changdong, South Korea, 2010). Changdong also directed the excellent films Oasis and Secret Sunshine, and again provides another film that stays on your mind long after its viewing. Mija, a grandmother, cares for her grandson and works part time as a housecleaner and caregiver. She also has started taking a poetry class but can’t seem to write anything. When a local teenage girl commits suicide, information about a possible rape by school students is hushed. Mija is also beginning to lose her memory. A deeply moral story involving personal and social responsibility, forgiveness, and grace is the result. The director discussed how cinematography was used to highlight scenes between the grandmother and grandson, showing how, amid the marvels of technology such as games, phones, and tvs, there is still alienation, and a communication gap between the generations. South Korea unfortunately, did not nominate the film as their foreign language submission.
Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, United States, 2010). Yes this is the director and actor of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, who directs a very different film starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as an upper middle class couple trying to deal with the loss of their young son. Kidman as the mother Becca has melt downs, despite her icy exterior and really becomes the character. I would not count out Kidman and possibly Dianne Wiest as her mother, garnering Oscar nominations.
Additional Must See Films recommended by others at TIFF: Biutiful, 127 Hours, Tabloid, Nostalgia for the Light, and Incendies.
VERY GOOD FILMS
Four Times or Le Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino, Italy/Germany/Switzerland, 2010). Inspired by the Pythagorean theory of four-fold transmigration of the soul from human to animal to vegetable to mineral, this engaging film is literally without much dialog and begins with the tale of a local shepherd and his herd on the outskirts of a small Italian village. The director said, “You need to work when watching this film. In Italy, the comparison of image and power are very important. One long shot is over 9 minutes, and we set it up and filmed what happened. We took 22 takes on that shot. The dog was the star of the film. Everyone brought their dogs around so he could mate with them. I don’t like to write dialog and this is a film about nature and using nature’s sounds.” It won the Europa Cinemas label as best European film at the Cannes Film Festival this year and It will also be shown at this year’s AFI European Union Film Festival in November.
How I Ended This Summer (Alexi Popogrebsky, Russia, 2010). Young Sergei is a meteorological technician for the summer on the Arctic island of Chukotka working with Pavel, the older technician stationed there. Nature and the wonderful cinematography become the third character in this morality play which becomes a thriller. The director was inspired to write the screenplay after reading the diaries of N.V. Pinegin, who went with the ill-fated Russian explorer Georgio Sedov who tried to reach the North Pole in 1912. A rich story of the responsibility of youth, experience of others, and forgiveness in a harsh environment really sticks with you long after its viewing. This film won best feature film at the 2010 BFI London International Film Festival.
Human Resources Manager (Eran Riklis, Israel/Germany/France/Romania, 2010) . From the director of the excellent films, The Syrian Bride and The Lemon Tree, this is a story of a human resources manager of a bakery who accompanies the body of one of his deceased employees back to her town in Russia. The road trip allows the manager to get to know Yulia’s son and estranged family and village and slowly to know Yulia herself. The manager must also try to keep promises made to his own family and still somehow honor his past employee.
I Wish I Knew (Jia Zhang-ke, China/Netherlands, 2010). Fascinating documentary with interviews from people who have lived in Shanghai, mixed with archival footage from the 1930s to today showing the changes in the culture and architecture of the city. It was commissioned by the Chinese government for the 2010 Shanghai World’s Fair. The place of course becomes a main character, just as in the director’s other fine films: 24 City, Platform, Still Life, and The World.
The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet, United Kingdom, 2010). Another wonderfully animated film from the director of Les Triplettes de Belleville. Based on an unfinished script of Jacques Tati, the film is about a shabby magician still traveling to the British districts against the emerging world of 1950s rock and roll. He finds a shy young woman in Scotland who thinks he is really magical and follows him to the cities. With little dialog, the story shows how two peoples' different dreams may be realized.
Little White Lies (Guillaume Canet, France, 2010). This film could be billed as the French Big Chill. A large group of friends, including Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard, leave Paris for a get together at a beach house. Many stories unfold about the house owner, best friends, lovers and ex-lovers and the one friend who could not attend due to a motor accident. What seems at first like a fluffy tale, quickly becomes a test of friendship, loyalty and interpersonal relations on deeper levels.
The Majority (Seren Yuce, Turkey, 2010). One of the City by City entries about Istanbul, this is a film about a hopeless slacker in a middle-class home who is having problems in the university and with finding girlfriends. Mertkan is an unlikeable character who quickly grows on you and must accept responsibility in this later coming of age film that also is a fine portrait of the varied societies in Turkey.
Mama Gogo (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Iceland, 2010). Although not totally autobiographical, the director's mother did die from Alzheimer’s disease which is the framework of this film about a filmmaker and his family dealing with the onset of the disease in his mother. The archival footage of an early Icelandic film Girl Gogo also has the star of this film Kristbjorg Kjeld and her dead husband in the film, in the original film which nicely works with the mother’s fantasies. The director also said that the economic disasters in Iceland have made directors work on tighter, smaller budgets, and that the state now finances 2-3 films annually instead of 5 or more films.
My Joy (Sergei Loznitsa, Germany/Ukraine/Netherlands, 2010). The director has made several documentaries and this is his first feature film about a road trip of a truck driver, a protagonist, who must endure many harsh realities in the Russian outback. Romanian cinematographer Oleg Mutu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days) makes the rural locale a character and the director used town’s people in many areas as the extras for the market scenes. "The bazaar scene took 19 takes. We chose 215 people from over 2,000 extras for that scene. Some of the script is inspired by my documentaries and some real stories. Flashbacks show how things and people have changed by circumstances. The film also deals with tolerance, dignity, and the personality of our lead character despite the survival of the fittest mentality."
Om Puri at West Is West. (Photo from the TIFF website)
West is West (Andy De Emmony, United Kingdom, 2010). A long awaited follow up to East is East with our Anglo-Pakistani family headed by George (Om Puri), his wife (Linda Bassett), and family who run a fish and chips shop in Salford, England. It is now the 1980s and George decides to go back to Pakistan and visit his first wife and family, and a British son who has emigrated there to find a wife. George also wants to orient his youngest son, teenager Sajid who feels he doesn’t belong in either culture, to Pakistan. As funny and poignant as the first film, George must confront his ghosts, life choices, and responsibilities amid varying cultures.
40 (Emre Sahin, Turkey/United States, 2010). A well made film about the aspirations and dreams of immigrants coming to Istanbul and an underlying theme and use of numerology. Three interweaving stories about money, fate, and alienation follow Metin, a cabbie and thief, trying to escape Turkey; Godwill, a Nigerian trying to enter France from Turkey for a better life; and Sevda, a nurse and battered wife trying to start a new life.
Brighton Rock (Rowan Joffe, United Kingdom, 2010). A remake of the famous film of the same name in 1947 that played recently at the National Gallery of Art. This time Pinkie is played by Sam Riley, who could be a British double for Leonardo De Caprio, a small time gangster and his relationship with Rose (aptly played by Andrea Riseborough) who knows too much but is in love with Pinky. Helen Mirren plays the tea room hostess Ida, who knows both sides of the street. A thriller in the old noir sense that is quite entertaining and has an engrossing cinematography, based on the 1938 novel by Graham Greene.
Cirkus Columbus (Danis Tanovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2010). Danis Tanovic directed the Oscar winning film No Man’s Land and returns to his native land again with a story of errant father, Divko (Miki Manojilovic) who fled to Germany during wartime and returns with a girlfriend and black cat in tow. He has not communicated with his ex-wife and now-teenage son for many years. A comedy/drama about lost opportunities and responsibilities, going back home, and forgiveness. The director said a friend had sent him the 90 page book that was the impetus to write a screenplay, although the original story is really about the black cat Bonny. “The film also shows the continuity of age old hostilities, and the rise of nationalism, and greed in my country.” This is also Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Oscar submitted film for best foreign language film.
Deep in the Woods (Benoit Jacquot, France/Germany, 2010). Based on a real case in the French courts, this is the 1865 tale of Josephine, a country doctor’s daughter (Isild Le Besco) who finds a strange looking young man who professes to have hypnotic powers, and becomes subject to his power. She travels with him across rural France and responds to his carnal and emotional needs. She later claims that she was kidnapped and bewitched by him and he was sentenced. Jacquot said he looked very hard for an actor to play the role of the feral savage. He chose Argentinian actor Nahuel Perez Biscayart, who is wonderful in this role and who did not speak French. He learned what was necessary for the dialog. The film is a constant review of who is controlling whom and an interesting psychological study.
The Ditch (Wang Bing, France/Belgium, 2010). A very graphic documentary like feature about Chinese political prisoners living in ditches in the desert from 1957-1967 in re-education camps. Partly taken from Yang Xianhui’s novel Goodbye Jiabiongou, the director said it is based on various stories told by some of the over 1,000 prisoners. The story of the woman who travels far distances to see her husband is also a true incident. Warning: not for the faint of heart, many viewers left this screening due its very graphic presentations of vomiting and inhuman conditions. Many prisoners starved to death.
Gorbaciof-The Cashier who Liked Gambling (Stefano Incerti, Italy, 2010). Fascinating character study of Pacileo, a cashier, nicknamed Gorbaciof because of his birthmark, who gambles and is involved with loan sharks. He meets a young Chinese girl that he likes. Gorbaciof is played by the brilliant Italian actor Toni Servillo (from both Gommorah and Il Divo) who slowly grows on you and uses his facial expressions expertly in this film that has very little dialog.
Home for Christmas (Brent Hamer, Norway/Germany/Sweden, 2010). Director of black comedies like Kitchen Stories and O’Horten, Hamer this time provides us with several interconnected stories of couples and singles in the small town of Skogli, Norway. A doctor who works on Christmas eve, a young immigrant couple about to have a baby, a teen who is in love with his Muslim neighbor, an older man preparing for something, and a divorced father who wants to spend Christmas with his children are a few of the stories told. Black comedy, drama, and emotional outbursts, as usual, are included in Hamer’s palette for filmmaking.
The Housemaid (Im Sang-soo, South Korea, 2010). A remake of Kim Ki-young’s movie of the same name about 50 years ago, but with different details. Actress Jeon Do-youn won best actress for her role in Cannes this year as the innocent young city worker who accepts a job as nanny and housemaid for a wealthy couple. A highly stylized and glossy looking film that is quite entertaining as we see who holds power in the household.
Jucy (Louise Alston, Australia, 2010). Jucy is the combined names of Jackie (Francesca Gasteen) and her friend Lucy (Cindy Nelson) who work in a video store, smoke marijuana, and are very eccentric. A fresh, colorful look at female friendships and relationships that provides some unique perspectives.
Late Autumn (Kim Tae-Yong, South Korea, 2010). A moving story of two people who meet as passing ships in the night. Anna is in prison for killing her abusive husband, but is on a short visit home for her mother’s funeral. Hoon, a young man, begs Anna for money for his bus ticket. He is on the lam from someone who wants to kill him. Will they meet again? A bittersweet tale deftly layered. The director said the coffee and cake in the café scene is a symbol of their bittersweet romance. He cast Tang Wei as Anna, because he could not forget her performance in Lust, Caution.
Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, United States, 2010). It is 1845, and new emigrants are aboard a small wagon train led by Stephen Meek and moving through the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Running low on food and water, Meek decides to take a shortcut. Is this the correct decision? Michelle Williams as the heroine has her doubts.
Miral (Julian Schnabel, United Kingdom/Israel/France, 2010). After the 1948 conflict in Israel, Hind Hussein (Hiam Abbass) founds an orphanage for street children. Nadia, a young Palestinian woman abused at home by her father, fights with an Israeli woman who calls her a whore. Nadia meets inmate Fatima’s brother and later marries him and gives birth to Miral (Frieda Pinto), who later attends the school. Schabel was criticized by many for giving the role of Miral to Frieda Pinto (Indian from birth). The journalist who is the basis for Miral was present at the screening and indeed looked much like the Indian actress. I liked this film but was somewhat disappointed with the Hollywood style of the film compared to his more creative films like: Before Night Falls and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Norwegian Wood (Tran Anh Hung , Japan, 2010). Director of The Scent of the Green Papaya, Hung adapts Haruki Murakami’s novel with music from the Beatles to tell the tale of two childhood friends, now enrolled in the same college. Slow but gorgeous cinematography highlights this nostalgic tale of friendship versus love and choices made for passion or moral principles.
The Poll Diaries (Chris Kraus, Germany, Austria/Estonia, 2010). The director of Four Minutes provides a costume drama about a house in Estonia in 1914 through the eyes of 13 year old Oda Schaefer (Paula Beer). Her father is a professor and surgeon who has many German and Russian visitors. Oda hides and protects a young Estonian anarchist as wartime is approaching. Artistic, with a very lush look.
Route 132 (Louis Belanger, Canada, 2010). This is a Quebecois road film that addresses grief and how to restart your life. Gilles is a professor, who is still trying to get over his young son’s death. He runs into an old friend Bob in the city and they decide to go on a rural adventure and visit some of Gilles relatives and we can see his childhood memories. This seems somewhat like the male version of Thelma and Louise, filled with danger, humor, and self-reflection.
Three (Tom Tykwer, Germany, 2010). Tykwer returns to his German language roots in this film about a middle-aged Berlin couple, Hanna and Simon, who both secretly start affairs of their own but with a twist. Well acted, and an interesting study in interpersonal relationships.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, United Kingdom/Thailand/France/Germany/Spain, 2010). Golden Palm winner this year at the Cannes Film Festival. Another strange, ethereal film from the Thai director of Syndromes of the Century and Tropical Malady, this is the story of Uncle Boonmee dying of kidney disease, and his memories and visits by ghosts and spirits and transformation. I think it may need a second viewing, since much is going on. I did find the characters in gorilla suits with red eyes more odd than revelatory, however.
Films You Can Skip
Film Socialism (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland, 2010). The great French New Wave director of such fine films as Breathless and Week-end has made another essay or what is called a symphony of three movements. One section called Our Europe is set aboard a large cruise ship signifying France or Europe and the social and political state of decay while the passengers indulge in all kinds of activities, and other opaque sections deal with capitalism and the prurient press. In several languages, but primarily French with no subtitles, it seems like a very long 97 minutes that may have been an interesting and pertinent 30 minute short. The same images are hammered or portrayed several times. Godard needs to edit or obtain an editor.
What I Most Want (Delfina Castgagnino, Argentina, 2010). This film has been at several film festivals and is the director's first feature film. A young woman visits another young female friend in Patagonia who recently lost her father. The film is primarily their dialog about her father, their love lives and boyfriends. It only clocks in at 76 minutes but is pretty leaden, except for the landscape cinematography.
Other Reviews and Awards
An indieWire poll of film critics and bloggers selected their favorite films at TIFF2010 as: (1) Meek’s Cutoff; (2) 127 Hours; and (3) Black Swan; and (4) The King’s Speech. Their favorite documentaries were Tabloid and Inside Job.
Another criticWire@Toronto poll of input from 33 critics is available to review here. The top films with an average of an A from at least 3 reviewers were: Danny Boyles 127 Hours, Andrei Ujica’s The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Kim Jee-woon’s I Saw The Devil, Tom Hopper’s The King’s Speech, Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light, Thom Zimny’s The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee, Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
Oscar buzz about TIFF2010 films and actors included:
Best Film: 127 Hours, Black Swan, The King’s Speech, Blue Valentine, and Let Me In.
Best Documentaries: Tabloid, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Inside Job, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Armadillo, and The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town (about Bruce Springsteen).
Best Actor: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), James Franco (127 Hours), Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Robert Duvall (2008 TIFF title: Get Low).
Best Actress: Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Hilary Swank (Conviction), Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham), and Lesley Manville (Another Year—it may be considered a supporting actress role).
Best Supporting Actor or Actress: Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), Barbara Hershey or Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Sam Rockwell (Conviction), Sissy Spacek or Bill Murray (2009 TIFF: Get Low), and Miranda Richardson (Made in Dagenham).
THE OFFICIAL AWARDS
The 35th Toronto International Film Festival announced its awards: (taken from their press announcement).
AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM
The award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Vincent Biron for Les Fleurs de l'âge, which explores a summer day for a regular group of school kids. The jury remarked: “Director Vincent Biron manages to take a moment of an ordinary childhood summer and render unforgettable art from it. This gem of a film captured the jury’s hearts with its quiet, poignant, but also vivid and wonderfully sympathetic portrayal of ‘a day in the life’ of several children on the cusp of small but revelatory experiences of teenage life. The jury was stunned by the talent and originality we found in the short films selected this year. We hope there will be more venues and increased opportunities for the public to see these incredible films and shall be working toward this end.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize and is supported by the National Film Board of Canada.
THE SKYY Vodka AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN FIRST FEATURE FILM
The SKYY Vodka Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to Deborah Chow for her compelling debut feature The High Cost of Living. Starting with a collision between unlikely characters, Deborah Chow's The High Cost of Living maintains a compelling realism with a strong sense of emotional power. Eliciting inspiring performances from her perfect cast, and with a keen eye for subtle detail, Chow demonstrates exceptional maturity in this superbly directed debut feature. The award carries a cash prize of $15,000.
THE CITY OF TORONTO AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM
The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Denis Villeneuve for Incendies. In stories of immigration and war, one generation's quest for closure and forgetting can conflict with the next generation's search for identity. Denis Villeneuve takes a wrenching family drama and successfully navigates it through the brutality of a real life war with a breathtaking level of film making artistry. For its masterful telling of a complex story which spans cultures, continents, and generations, the City of Toronto Award goes to Incendies. Generously sponsored by the City of Toronto, the award carries a cash prize of $30,000.
CANADIAN FILM AWARDS JURY
All three Canadian film awards are selected by a jury of industry professionals. The feature film jury consists of writer/director Ruba Nadda (Cairo Time); filmmaker/producer Nick de Pencier (One Week, Four Wings and a Prayer); journalist and TFO veteran Lucie Amyot; and director Bruce Sweeney (Last Wedding, Excited). The short film jury members are Canadian documentary filmmaker and author Shelley Saywell (In the Name of the Family, Women in War); documentary producer, journalist and author Noah Richler (This Is My Country, What’s Yours); and writer and directorSudz Sutherland (Love, Sex & Eating the Bones, Doomstown).
THE INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF FILM CRITICS AWARDS (FIPRESCI PRIZES)
The Festival welcomed an international FIPRESCI jury for the 19th consecutive year. The jury members consist of jury president Lotfi Ben Khelifa (Tunisia), Madhu Eravankara (India), Janusz Wróblewski (Poland), Necati Sönmez (Turkey), Pierre Pageau (Canada) and Alice Shih (Canada).
The Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for the Discovery programme is awarded to Shawn Ku for Beautiful Boy (USA). The jury remarked: “This film shows its audience that in a world of chaos and insanity, humanity is the only key to life.”
The Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for Special Presentations is awarded to Pierre Thoretton for L'Amour Fou (France). The jury remarked: “This film portrays the poignant, emotional and cinematic expression of the life and times of an internationally renowned artist, exploring his stark loneliness and artistic overtones.”
CADILLAC PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD
The Cadillac People's Choice Award is voted on by Festival audiences. This year’s award goes to Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech (United Kingdom/Australia). The King's Speech tells the story of King George VI. After his brother abdicates, George ‘Bertie’ VI (Colin Firth) reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded nervous stammer and considered unfit to be King, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The award offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by Cadillac. Runner-up is Justin Chadwick’s First Grader (United Kingdom).
Cadillac People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award
The Cadillac People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award goes to Jim Mickle’s Stake Land (USA). In the aftermath of a vampire epidemic, a teen is taken in by a grizzled vampire hunter on a road trip through a post-apocalyptic America, battling both the bloodsuckers and a fundamentalist militia that interprets the plague as the Lord’s work. Runner-up is Michael Dowse’s Fubar II (Canada).
Cadillac People’s Choice Documentary Award
The Cadillac People’s Choice Documentary Award goes to Sturla Gunnarsson’s Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie (Canada). At 75 years old, David Suzuki shows no signs of slowing down. In this captivating documentary portrait, the passionate environmentalist's legacy lecture is entwined with candid interviews in which he reflects on his life and shares deeply personal stories, revealing a side previously unseen. Runner-up is Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light (France/Germany/Chile).
Additional information about ticket prices, combination passes, news, events, screening venues, and other information about the festival can be found at the website.
The Fifth Annual Washington DC African Diaspora Film Festival
By Cheryl L. Dixon, DC Film Society Member
For the same price at the movies one regularly attends, perhaps you got to see the movies at the fifth annual Washington, DC African Diaspora Film Festival. Presented by the African Diaspora Film Festival, TransAfrica Forum, and the All Roads Film Project (“All Roads”) at the Grosvenor Auditorium, National Geographic Society, the festival featured the works of seven countries, and eight D.C. premieres.
TransAfrica, whose mission is in part is to connect African-Americans to Africa, and All Roads, to gather films from all over the world that are rarely seen in the U.S., combined purposes to great effect, in gathering a small, but quality, diverse selection of films reflecting the African Diaspora.
Every once in a while, it’s a pure delight to encounter a “new” film festival. The Washington, DC African Diaspora Film Festival has been running for five years, so it’s not exactly “new,” but it was the first time that I had ever attended it. My motto is “what’s new, exciting, and different?” Well, this one was for me all three. I received an email from a dear friend who always keeps me in the loop about DC’s cultural scene. All I had to see was that the festival’s Opening Night film, Freedom Riders, was featuring the talents of MacArthur Genius Grant Awardee and Director Stanley Nelson whose works I have always admired. I had to be there to see his latest creation. I first met Mr. Nelson while we were Filmfest DC volunteers at our esteemed Festival’s Opening Night Film over 20 years ago, but I digress ... here are a few gems that I uncovered:
Freedom Riders, (USA, 2009), billed as an official Sundance 2010 selection, is a documentary film about the courageous African-American and White Americans who risked their lives to stop segregation in public accommodations in the South during the turbulent sixties. The documentary features never-before-seen footage: photography stills, film clips, and participant interviews. Meticulously researched, the film is emotional, searing, vivid, painful, and revelatory to watch. Deeply-moving, it is a must-see for those interested in Civil Rights history. The first-hand accounts of actual participants, including journalists accompanying the riders and covering the events as they unfolded, are amazing. The behind-the-scenes strategy meetings take the viewer into heretofore unchartered territory that adds resonance and fire. Bring a handkerchief, this is a multilayered “living” history unlike anything ever taught in school.
Made in Jamaica, (Jamaica/France, 2006), a Filmfest DC feature in 2009, chronicles the lives and music of some of Jamaica’s greatest and most controversial musicians including, Third World, Toots, Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer, Elephant Man, Lady Saw, and Capleton. Musical performances, interviews, and lots of social commentary on Jamaican music heard round the world from one small island. There’s mostly reggae, and dancehall in this Jamaica/France collaboration from Jerome Laperrousaz. It works best when true confessions reveal the artists’ struggles for survival in the ghetto, amidst single-parent households, absent fathers, and violence. But fueled by ambition, these artists uplift the masses and create powerful music heard round the world. Watch Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer, Stephen “Cat” Coore, and William “Rugs” Clark wax philosophical about the roots of reggae, mento, and other Jamaican music genres and attempt to explain the violence: “a hungry man is an angry man.” And, yes, there are hilarious scenes of Jamaican cowboys, and raunchy dancing, definitely not for the fainthearted!
The Harimaya Bridge, (Japan/USA/Korea, 2009), portrays the story of an African-American father, estranged from his son, who accepted a teaching position in Japan. Upon hearing that his son has been killed in an accident, he travels overseas to Japan to collect his son’s artwork and other personal belongings. While on his personal journey of understanding and forgiveness, the father discovers that his son was involved in a love affair with a Japanese woman, secretly married her, and fathered a child. The film’s themes revolve around the need for love, understanding, and reconciling cultural differences. The film was written and directed by Aaron Woolfolk and co-produced by Danny Glover. An International Human Rights Activist, Actor and TransAfrica Board Chairman, Danny Glover made a special appearance at the festival’s Opening Night film.
Up from the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream, (USA, 2009), narrated by award-winning actress Cicely Tyson, this is a historical documentary focusing on the “massive migration of African Americans from the rural South to the prosperous North.” Written and directed by James Schaub, the documentary details the migrants’ quest for jobs, education, and a chance at the American Dream: to own a home or a car. The documentary hones in on Muskegon, Michigan, where southern blacks arrived having left the South in droves to find factory work in the North in the 1940s. Formerly rural, agricultural workers now found work building airplane engines, tank parts, and in sheet metal factories where the work was often dirty and dangerous and there was little to no advancement. “The Bottoms” area of Muskegon depicts the lives of the newcomers. Men came first and sent money home for their families who came later. Shared beds and limited housing eventually gave way to better conditions, thriving communities, and better jobs for their children.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
The AFI European Union Film Showcase begins November 4. See below and also the AFI website, for new films from most of the EU's member countries.
"New Spanish Cinema" is a program of 8 films: The Condemned, Estigmas, 3 Dias con la Familia, After, Rabia, Garbo the Spy, La Isla Interior, Yo Tambien. Check the website for times and dates.
Two films remain from the "Kids Euro Festival 2010": Hands Off Mississippi from Germany and In the Attic: Who Has a Birthday Today from Czech Republic.
"Noir City DC: The 2010 Film Noir Festival" concludes in November with Cry Terror!, Nightfall, The Night of the Hunter, Julie and The Steel Trap.
A series of films directed by Victor Fleming starts late November and continues into December. Titles for November are The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.
Carlos (Olivier Assayas, 2010), a five-hour epic about Carlos the Jackal, will be shown November 24-27.
Freer Gallery of Art
"Southeast Asia Visions" concludes November 5 at 7:00pm with The Rainbow Troops (Riri Riza, 2008) from Indonesia. "Selected by Fiona Tan" is a four-part series of films to accompany the exhibit of Fiona Tan's artwork. On November 7 at 2:00pm is Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983); on November 12 at 7:00pm is The Island (Kaneto Shindo, 1960; on November 14 at 2:00pm is Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1960; and on November 21 at 2:00pm is Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972).
National Gallery of Art
"Julien Duvivier: The Grand Artisan" is a series of ten features by French director Julien Duvivier. On November 14 at 4:30pm is Allo Berlin? Ici Paris (1932); on November 24 at 2:30pm is Pepe le Moko (1936); on November 27 at 1:00pm is Voici le temps des assassins (1956); and on November 28 at 4:30pm is Pot-Bouille (1958), with more in December.
"Straub and Huillet: The Work and Reaches of Creation" is a short series looking at the work of artists Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet. On November 13 at 2:00pm is a program of shorts films; on November 21 at 4:30pm is Class Relations (1984) with one more in December.
"Haroun Farocki: Essays" will introduce the work of German media artist Haroun Farocki. On November 20 at 4:30pm is In Comparison (2009) preceded by Immersion (2009); and on November 27 at 4:00pm is Images of the World and the Inscription of War (1988).
On November 7 at 4:00pm is "Iris Barry and American Modernism," a program of short films. "Polanski and the Lodz Film School" is a program of short films made by Roman Polanski in the 1950s, shown on November 13 at 4:30pm. Revolution (2010) is a portmanteau of 10 short films, on November 20 at 2:00pm.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
On November 4 at 8:00pm is a documentary Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar (2010), with director/writer James Rasin present to introduce the film and take questions. On November 18 at 8:00pm is another documentary Waste Land (Vik Muniz, 2009), a portrait of garbage pickers at the world's largest landfill outside Rio de Janeiro.
National Museum of the American Indian
Shown every day in November at 3:30pm except for Wednesdays is A Thousand Roads (Chris Eyre, 2005), about various Native American characters including a Mohawk stockbroker, a Navajo gang member and a Quechua healer.
On November 13 at 2:00pm is a program of two documentary shorts to accompany the exhibition of arts and crafts from the Japanese American internment camps: Out of Infamy (Nancy Kapitanoff and Sharon Yamato, 2010) about Michi Nishiura Weglyn, civil rights activist and the author of a book on Japanese American internment; and Days of Waiting (Steven Okazaki, 1988) about artist Estelle Ishigo, one of the few Caucasians in the Japanese American internment camps.
National Portrait Gallery
On November 6 at 2:00pm is G.I. Blues (Norman Taurog, 1960), part of the "Reel Portrait" series and an accompaniment to the exhibition "Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer."
South Asian Literary and Theater Arts Festival
On November 13 10:00am-5:30pm is a day-long program of films, lectures and discussions from South Asia. Two films will be shown: Tere Bin Laden (Abishek Sharma, 2010), a tongue-in-cheek comedy about a journalist in India and his crazy scheme to migrate; and Shakti Rising (2010), about a woman trying to start her own business in Madurai, India.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On November 2 at 7:30pm is Rabin (1995/2010), an updated TV documentary about the late Prime Minister. Special guests Dan Arbell and David Makovsky will attend. On November 7 at 3:00pm is Deep Down (Sally Rubin and Jen Gilomen, 2010), a documentary about coal activists in Kentucky.
"Made in West/East Germany" is a new film series starting in November, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of German unification. Each screening compares one film from the East with one from the West; discussion of the films and the topics will take place after the film screenings on the second evening of each pairing. The first subject is "World War II" and the films are The Bridge (Bernhard Wicki, 1960) on November 1 at 4:00pm and The Adventures of Werner Holt (Joachim Kunert, 1965) on November 1 at 6:30pm. This pair is repeated on November 8: The Adventures of Werner Holt at 4:00pm and The Bridge at 6:45pm. Discussion follows with Peter Rollberg, Professor of Slavic Languages, Film Studies and International Affairs, George Washington University. The second subject is "Guilt After the War" and the films are Yesterday's Tomorrow (Wolfgang Staudte, 1978) on November 15 at 4:00pm and The Second Track (Joachim Kunert, 1962) on November 15 at 6:30pm. This pair is repeated on November 22: The Second Track at 4:00pm and Yesterday's Tomorrow at 6:30pm. Discussion follows with Antja Passenheim, WDR (West German Broadcasting). The third subject is "Divided Germany" and the films are Yesterday Girl (Alexander Kluge, 1965) on November 29 at 4:00pm and Divided Heaven (Konrad Wolf, 1964) on November 29 at 6:30pm. Discussion follows with Gregor Peter Schmitz, US Correspondent Spiegel|Spiegel online. This pair of films is repeated in December. The series continues into early January.
National Geographic Society
On November 1 at 7:30pm is "The Making of Great Migrations" about the making of the National Geographic's seven-part television program about animals and their movements. A post-film discussion will follow with the filmmakers, cinematographer, producer and biologist. On November 6 at 7:00pm is "The President's Photographer" following chief White House photographer Pete Souza as he follows the president. Discussion will follow the screening with the producer and several past White House photographers. On November 9 at 7:00pm is Bouncing Cats (Nabil Elderkin, 2010), followed by Q&A with the filmmaker and others.
On November 3 at 7:00pm is Eight Times Up (Xabi Molia, 2009), which won the Best Actress award at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
The Japan Information and Culture Center
On November 10 at 6:30pm is an anime film King of Thorn (Kazuyoshi Katayama, 2010), an apocalyptic survival thriller based on the manga by Yuji Iwahara. On November 17 at 6:30pm is Toilet (Naoko Ogigami, 2010).
On November 5 at 7:00pm is Long Distance Warrior a documentary about William McGowan who challenged AT&T's powerful monopoly. There will be post-screening comments by the film's producers and others.
"Discovering the Civil War, Part 2" continues the exhibit and two films will be shown this month. On November 10 at 7:00pm is Buster Keaton's great classic The General (1927) with live music by pianist David Drazin. On November 13 at noon is The Andersonville Trial (George C. Scott, 1970), a TV adaptation of the 1959 hit Broadway play by Saul Levitt, based on the actual 1865 trial of Henry Wirz, commander of the Confederate prison at Andersonville.
Interamerican Development Bank
On November 16 at 6:30pm is the DC premiere of World of Wings (León Gieco), a musical road trip through Argentina and winner of numerous awards. León Gieco will answer questions with the co-director, Fernando Molnar.
This month's "Greek Panorama" film is Chariton's Choir (Grigoris Karantinakis, 2005), a comic drama starring George Corraface, and Greece's selection as Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards, showing November 3 at 8:00pm.
On November 10 at 8:00pm is this month's "Czech Lions" film, Kawasaki's Rose (Jan Hrebejk, 2009), winner of numerous awards and Czech Republic's entry to this year's Academy Awards as Best Foreign Language Film.
On November 17 at 8:00pm is the "French Cinematheque" film for November,Inspector Bellamy (2009), Claude Chabrol's final film. Gerard Depardieu stars as Police Chief Paul Bellamy.
Anacostia Community Museum
On November 21 at 2:00pm is Family Across the Sea (Tim Carrier, 1991), a documentary about linguist Loronzo Dow Turner's discovery of the connection between the people of South Carolina's Sea Islands and the people of Sierra Leone.
On November 5 at 6:30pm is Truck Farm!, a sneak peak at Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis's latest film, about urban farms. The filmmakers will be present for discussion, and a reception follows.
On November 10 at 12:30pm is Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk 3D a new IMAX film. River advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will introduce the film and answer questions.
Reel Affirmations XTra
Reel Affirmations Xtra is a once-a-month screening held at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center. Tickets are $12. On November 12 at 7:00pm and 9:15pm is Different From Whom? (Umberto Carteni) from Italy, about a gay man whose life becomes complicated when he runs for office in a right-wing town.
The Wilson Center
"The Cold War and Divided Germany in East German Cinematography" offers viewers a glimpse of some of the Cold War-era movies produced in the former East Germany. The series features five films released between the years 1950 and 1972 and one post-1989 production. On November 15 at 5:30pm is Council of the Gods (Kurt Maetzig, 1950), based on actual events--the story of I.G. Farben, a colossal German industrial corporation that helped supply Hitler’s war effort and manufactured the gas used in the Nazi death chambers. It will be introduced by Helmut Morsbach, chair of the DEFA Foundation in Germany and Christian Ostermann, director of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. Joining the post-screening discussion will be: Dolores Augustine, professor, St. Johns University, Hartmut Berghoff, director, German Historical Institute, Stephen Brockmann, professor, Carnegie Mellon University, and Paul Werner Wagner, independent cultural historian.
The series continues on November 16 at 5:30pm with Divided Heaven (Konrad Wolf, 1964) held at the Elliott School of International Affairs 1957 E., NW St. #211. On November 17 at 5:00pm (in German only) is For Eyes Only (János Veiczi, 1963); on November 18 at 6:30pm is East Germany's first science fiction film The Silent Star (Kurt Maetzig, 1960) held at the Goethe Institute; on November 19 at 5:00pm is Sunseekers (Konrad Wolf, 1972); on November 20 at 3:00pm is Latest from DaDaeR (Jörg Foth, 1990) held at Funger Hall 208
2201 G. St., NW with the director present for post-screening discussion. All film shows are introduced by Paul Werner Wagner and include post-screening discussions. Locations and starting times vary, check the website for more information.
George Mason University
On November 8 at 6:00pm is Family Affair, a documentary about Chico Colvard's dysfunctional family and winner of numerous awards. Chico Colvard will be present to take questions. On November 18 at 6:00pm is Loins of Punjab, a musical comedy and winner of the Audience Award at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Director Manish Acharya will appear for post-screening discussion.