Skip to main content


Showing posts from September, 2009

Why Cairo Time Made My Top 12 Faves

Since posting my Top 12 Faves I've been asked why, since I said Cairo Time wasn't Ruba Nadda's "strongest work" (see review) , I selected the film as a favourite. What I should have made clear in that earlier post is the fact that I don't think Ruba Nadda is capable of making a bad film, period. So even though I think Sabah is a stronger film it in no way casts a shadow over the languid beauty of Cairo Time, which I did enjoy.

I never separate my heart from my head in making decisions about Art. Why should I? Even in literature I can appreciate that Hamlet is a better play than The Scottish Play, but I'll chose Mackers any day over Hamlet. It's the same for film: Cairo Time made my favourites list because it was unforgettable. I couldn't forget Patricia Clarkson's character, Juliette, and her blossoming relationship with Egyptian culture and Tareq (Alexander Siddig), her husband's past employee and her de facto guide. I also could not …

TIFF '09 Day 10: A Few of My Favourite Flics

I was able to see more pre-festival films this year than ever, so I had a record-breaking year for the number of films I was able to see at TIFF. I tried very hard, but I could not get my list down to a Top 10. To do so, I would have had to eliminate 2 films based on the fact that they were attached to "big name" directors or producers: Jacques Audiard's A Prophet won the Grand Prix at Cannes, and Lee Daniel's film Precious (a.k.a The Oprah Movie) won rave reviews at Cannes, won awards at Sundance, and picked up the Audience Choice Award today at TIFF. These two films are well-told stories and it would have been an injustice to penalize them because they are attached to known names.

MY TOP 12 FAVES (in Alpha Order)
Air Doll
Cairo Time
Castaway on the Moon
Crab Trap
Every Day is a Holiday
Melody of a Street Organ
A Prophet

To choose my favourites, I had to be pretty ruthless. From 56 films I got my list down to 20, and fr…

TIFF '09 Day 9: Canada, Denmark, Senegal, Zimbabwe

I took a trip around the world today, as so often happens at TIFF, and travelled from Denmark to Senegal, Zimbabwe and then back to Canada. I met some wonderful travellers between my destinations, as so often happens at TIFF, and had conversations with strangers who shared a common interest in film, as so often happens at TIFF. I hope next year you will take the journey to TIFF and buy tickets to places you may never have been. You don't even need a companion; just start a conversation in line with "So what have you seen?".

NORA A beautifully narrated dance performance by Nora Chipaumire, who shares the story of her life in growing up in Zimbabwe. Nora's movements and the settings in which she dances offers us a glimpse into a life that is rooted in the dirt and floors of Zimbabwe. Africa's colours burst forth in full bloom, as does Nora's dancing and radiant ebony skin.

NORA is teamed with the Senegalese road musical SAINT LOUIS BLUES.I couldn't imagine a …

TIFF '09 Day 8: A Mixed Bag

FACE I love the work of director, Tsai Ming-liang, but he is not for everyone. I always get the sense that he makes movies to please himself, and if you like it too, great. If not, he's on to the next project regardless. He makes art house films that are beautiful to look at, but not always easy to understand. I accept that I won't always understand everything he is trying to say, but I'll have a good time watching it. Honestly, I was tired when I saw FACE and was hoping that it would get boring so I could leave, but that never happened and by the end I was tired but laughing. How can you be bored with a film that has stunning photography, French actress, Fanny Ardant, cameos by her countrywomen, Jeanne Moreau and Nathalie Baye, a deer, a bird, and a woman obsessed with banishing her reflection? A few people did walk out of the screening, but most in the sizeable theatre at the Scotia stayed. As one guy said on the way out of the screening: "I think I love it, but I …

TIFF '09: Interview w/PRESUMED GUILTY Directors

Below is an interview with PRESUMED GUILTY directors, Roberto Hernandez and Geoffrey Smith. The film has its final TIFF screening on Saturday, September 19th, 4PM at Jackman Hall-AGO. For my thoughts on this documentary see my Sept. 11th post.

donna g: How did you two meet?

Roberto:Martha Sosa introduced us. She is the famous producer of a famous Mexican film titled "Amores Perros". How she got involved in the film is also quite a story.

Geoffrey: Through Martha Sosa, one of the Producers on the film

donna g: Could you please describe your division of tasks as co-directors?

Roberto: Geoffrey and I worked on the edit of this film for 2 months in Valle de Bravo. Before Geoffrey got involved, I filmed this story with the help of my family. We followed Toño's case for 2.5 years. Between Layda and myself we obtained the access to shoot in Mexico's prisons, and we edited the film into a 90 minute rough cut with editor Felipe Gomez (Historias del Desencanto). But the technical…

TIFF '09 Day 7: An Ape a Castaway and a Kitchen

Only 3 more days until TIFF '09 wraps up, so don't delay in getting tickets to these films:

THE APE Click the link or check out the TIFF programme book for the description of this Swedish because I'm not going to add anything else to Steve Gravestock's write-up. All I can say is that your curiosity will be aroused from the beginning of the film, and you will remain curious until the end of the film. Bring a friend or two for the lively discussion that is sure to follow.

CASTAWAY ON THE MOON A man attempting suicide ends up alive on an island in the middle of the Han River. The only person who seems to be aware that he is there is an agoraphobic young woman who enters his life on the island via her telescope. How these two characters have created their own spaces in the world, and how they connect with each other is highly amusing, sad and tender. I absolutely LOVED this movie.

SOUL KITCHEN Who says that TIFF only programmes for the older, established filmgoer? Soul Kitche…


I have mixed feelings towards ACCIDENT. I enjoyed the concept of a group of criminals for hire, plotting and executing murders for pay that look like "accidents". The group, headed by The Brain (Louis Koo) don't care why the murders are contracted, they just care about being paid, and not leaving any evidence at the scene that can be traced back to them. This part of the film is fascinating to watch, but when The Brain becomes paranoid about occurrences that may or may not be "accidents" the film goes into psychological territory, and I'm not sure this is where I wanted to go with Louis Koo. Having seen Koo in Johnnie To's Election 1 and Election 2, and other members of the ACCIDENTS's cast in other of To's films, I had expectations of an action movie. This is not where director, Soi Cheang was headed, so I have only myself to blame for my expectations, and my personal disappointment.

The film ventures down the road of the classic Gene Hackma…

TIFF '09 Day 6: Blackness

CRAB TRAP Sometimes you don't know you are hungry for something until it is placed right in front of you. I didn't realize how hungry I was to see Black people on screen. I mean, I know there is a dearth of films with Black people in them, but I didn't realize just how desperate I was to see them (me) on a regular basis. Watching CRAB TRAP at TIFF today, I relaxed into the arms of comfort. The Black people on screen were speaking Spanish, but some of them looked like people I knew, and some of them looked nothing like people I know, but being Black, I automatically went into my "wonder what he/she is mixed with" train of thought. Then my love of culture kicked in and I began to take note of how the Afro-Colombian words flavoured the Spanish dialogue.

Like the main character, Daniel, I entered a world that seems like time forgot with its open beach, wooden houses, and tropical landscape filled with green. Time has not completely forgotten La Barra, however, and m…

TIFF '09 Day 5: The Beauty of the Bosphorus

MEN ON THE BRIDGE I go to TIFF for films like this, films that probably won't be playing on multiple screens at the local multi-plex, and which, if they make it to television, will appear on a niche channel rather than on a network station. I like to see how people live in other countries, and this film gave me a glimpse of Istanbul that I have never seen before. The film follows the lives of three different sets of people who are all connected by the Bosphorus Bridge. The story of the young, uneducated street kid, who tries to find a job other than selling flowers to passing cars on the bridge is my favourite. Like the others, he is trying to improve his life, but with no schooling, his chances of getting even a minimum wage job are not good. My second favourite story is that of the single traffic cop who dreams of finding love and leaving Istanbul. His story elicits from us a certain sadness as we witness his ineffectual attempts at dating. Of least interest to me is the taxi…


AIR DOLL Do not confuse the plot of the comedy Lars and the Real Girl with AIR DOLL. This film starts out light, but goes on to explore the very modern issue of societal alienation in Japan, however this theme could apply to any major city, as neighbourhoods and communities move away from traditional housing to vertical density. Isolated as we become in these modern constructions, we have to admit that something is lost from being able to exchange even a passing nod to our neighbours. In many such large buildings it is very difficult to know who you are sharing space with. In such a setting where relationships are very hard to form, the film's main character has established intimacy with an "air doll" as a sexual substitute. He has conversations with her about his day, and they have sex on a regular basis, but she is, of course, not real and not able to respond. This lack of intimacy is mirrored in the peripheral characters that we are introduced to, but never meet; …

TIFF '09 Day 4: It's ALL good!

Exhausted, but content. Since I'm too tired to blog, I'll just recommend the following films since you can't go wrong with any of these titles. Click on links for full descriptions and screening times.




TIFF '09 Day 3: Michael, Michael Caine

I always try to see at least one film at the historic Elgin Theatre. The interior is just so beautiful and the screen for they use for TIFF screenings is huge. I love to sit in the balcony because I'm not tall, and I like the stadium seating up there. Even from the heights the screen is still bigger than most. TIFF also uses experienced projectionists (no hastily trained employee for this event), which means that there is no chance of any part of the screen being out of focus or out of alignment with the frame.

Tonight I had the pleasure of seeing Michael Caine take the stage along with Emily Mortimer, and the director and producers of the film, HARRY BROWN. Micheal walked on to thunderous applause, and asked us to spread the word if we enjoyed the film and to say "nothing" if we didn't. I loved Michael Caine as Harry Brown, and liked the film.

Michael Caine is so good. No matter what role you see him play, he always disappears into the character. This is not an ea…

TIFF '09 Day 2: The Vampires, Orphans, and a Prisoner

DAYBREAKERS Vampires are harvesting humans for their blood, unfortunately, the supply is running out and blood substitutes fail with each clinical trial. Starring Ethan Hawke as a vampire with a conscience, Sam Neil as the corporate giant whose company is behind the farming of humans, and Willem Dafoe as "Elvis", this film is a great mix of jump-in-you-seat horror and bloody entertainment. Willem Dafoe must have taken this movie for the corny, cheesy lines he delivers. You can almost see the glint in his eyes as he compares being a human in a vampire world as being as dangerous as "bare-backing a five-dollar whore", or when he quotes the original Elvis. Great use and timing of the special effects. A film like this could have easily been destroyed by spending too much screen time on CGI and not enough time on the actors and plot development. Twins, Micheal and Peter Spierig (Undead) harness this movie well, providing a good balance of all the elements. They know ho…

TIFF '09 Day 1: George & Penelope

Day 1 at TIFF '09 got off to a great start with two screenings: The Men Who Stare at Goats, and Broken Embraces.

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS Mmmm...YUM! George Clooney AND Ewan McGregor in the same film! Ba-Ring it on! They could do a poster of these two sexy, talented actors, and I'd be happy, but casting them in the same movie? Thank you, George Heslov. Reminiscent of George's other wartime satire, Three Kings, this film pokes fun at war while delivering a serious message about peace. Ex-soldier/mentor (Clooney) and journalist/mentee (McGregor) are most excellent collaborators in this film about psychic soldiers, the New Earth Army (lead by Jeff Bridges) and the illogical aspects of war. This film will be coming soon to a theatre near you, so don't fret if you don't get a ticket to the TIFF screening. Yes, you will miss seeing George and Ewan in the flesh, but at least you have another chance to see the film.

BROKEN EMBRACES That's right, Penélope, give Pedro A…

TIFF '09: Picks & Pans #4

EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY This film of three women on their way to visit their respective husband at the men’s prison in Lebanon is a feast for the eyes and the intellect. It was an existential meal of dry desert landscape, female friendship and atmospheric tension. Each woman’s story is fascinating as it is revealed. Two of the women are Arabic-speaking Lebanese (one slightly older than the other; one middle class and bi-lingual, one working class) while the third is a young, newly married, French-speaking Lebanese. Cast with a trio of fabulous actresses, this film offers a refreshing and welcoming female-centred perspective of Lebanese society.

I loved the way first-time feature director Dima El-Horr composed this film. Maybe it’s her work as a former projectionist and editor that has given her an experienced eye for what will hold an audience’s attention and for certain lengths of time. Her work as a stage and television director shows in her placement of the actors in relation to b…

TIFF '09: Picks & Pans #3

MAX MANUS Unfair it may be, but after Tom Cruise miscast himself in Valkyrie and ruined a brilliant opportunity to bring a fresh viewpoint to the screen, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about seeing a bio pic about a Norwegian resistance fighter. Documentaries are so much better at these screen portraits, that I almost skipped the press screening thinking that I would do my own research on Max now that I had been introduced to his name, and his exploits. I’m glad I stayed.

Directors, Espen Sandbergrand and Joachim Roenning deliver a solid film that tells the story of one of Norway’s most well-known World War II heroes and his very effective team of resistance fighters. Max’s blatant and daring escape from the Nazis spurred a war-long effort by the Germans to recapture him, and put an end to the destruction he and his team caused with their efficient sabotage of Navy vehicles and intelligence operations.

Max Manus is not an American-style war picture with a larger than life actor playing t…