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Showing posts from September, 2010

TIFF 2010: What I Saw and My Top Ten Faves

At left:Cameron Bailey (TIFF Co-Director) and actress, Ludavine Sagnier at the screening of LOVE CRIME in the historic Eglin Theatre.

Top Ten lists are never easy, but this year, there were so many films on the same level of enjoyment that my list could have been a list of ties. In the end, though, I went through the elimination process several times, whittled down my list, and restrained myself to one tie (40 and Africa United). The only easy choices for me to make was my overall favourite: West is West and my runner up, Nostalgia for the Light.

1. 40 (Turkey) + Africa United (UK)
2. Beginners (USA)
3. Blessed Events (Germany)
4. The Housemaid (Korea)
5. The Hunter (Iran)
6. Mamma Gógó (Iceland)
7. Nostalgia for the Light (Chile)
8. Small Town Murder Songs (Canada)
9. A Useful Life (Uruguay)
10. -West is West (UK)

40. A bag of money connects three residents of Istanbul, a screw-up bag man, an African refugee longing to reunite with his childhood sweetheart, and a nurse …

TIFF 2010: Made My List Now Checking It Twice

So, TIFF 2010 may be over, but now comes the hard part--listing my Top 10 faves. As soon TIFF ends everyone wants to know how many I saw (57) and what I enjoyed. Well, I can readily admit to liking an overwhelming majority of what I saw this year, so making my Top 10 list has been even more daunting than usual. Since I will be announcing these on The More the Merrier tomorrow, I have given myself until midnight tonight to make my final selections.

If you can, tune in tomorrow between 1-2pm and join my discussion with blogger, Heidy M. and Kirk Cooper of Film Market Access. To listen tune in to CIUT 89.5 FM or listen online at The number to call is 416-946-7000.
Photo: A shot from Box #2 at beautiful Winter Garden Theatre.

TIFF 2010: What Have You Seen?

How is your TIFF going? Please share by leaving a comment about what you liked didn't like. One film I was surprisingly bored by was John Carpenter's The Ward. It didn't scare me, a self-confessed scardy cat who couldn't even watch everything at Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Amber Heard was the weak link that spoiled this picture. The girl has only one expression and I'm not even sure what her face is trying to say...

Here are some recent viewings that I can recommend:

Africa United
The Housemaid
Karla and Jonas (family)
Little Sister (family)
Nostalgia for the Light
Red NightsThis one plays tonight!

TIFF 2010: Mother of Rock: Lillian Roxon

I am more than happy (can you tell?) to be posing with the guys from MOTHER OF ROCK: LILLIAN ROXON: director, Paul Clarke (orange shirt), producer, Robert de Young (gray jacket) and legendary rock photographer, Leee Black Childers (striped shirt). Had a great interview with the trio on the floor of Paul's hotel room at the Hyatt Regency; Leee held court in a desk chair (as befitting rock royalty). I could spend a whole day with Leee and not learn everything about the people he has met, photographed and rubbed shoulders with. No doubt, Paul and Robert felt the same way when they were working on the documentary about Lillian Roxon, the rock critic who also wrote the historic Rock Encyclopedia. She was a woman way ahead of her time, recognizing such talents as Leee himself (fresh from the south when she met him in New York), Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, The Doors and countless others. The documentary is a revelation about an extraordinary woman who died way too young (in her thirties) and w…

TIFF 2010: Mamma Gógó director, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson

Met Oscar-nominated director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson yesterday. I rudely kept him waiting for five minutes (yikes!) because I lost track of time interviewing Iranian director, Raffi Pitts (The Hunter)--more about that interview at a later date. Thankfully, Fridrik didn't seem to mind and our interview about his film, Mamma Gógó was short and sweet.
The film is a semi-autobiography about his financial trouble and the onset of his mother's illness. Alzheimer's is not an illness that is often treated with humour in films, but Fridrik said that some of the situations he encountered with his mother were so comical that he decided to approach this aspect of his life through comedy. He was also tired of the bleak nature many of the films he had seen that dealt with the issue. His mother remains healthy, but her illness has progressed beyond what is depicted in the film. She still remembers him in her own way, and squeezes his hand and smiles when he visits her. His mother'…

TIFFF 2010: Blessed Events (Glückliche Fügung)

Met director, Isabelle Stever and actress Annika Kuhl yesterday. Very nice women, a bit shy, and concerned about their English (they are German), but I had a good time speaking with them about their film, BLESSED EVENTS (Glückliche Fügung). The interview is in the bag, so stay tuned for that to air on CIUT 89.5 FM in the upcoming months. In the mean time you can catch this very original film based on the short story by Anke Stelling. Kuhl plays Simone, a very lonely, insecure woman who becomes pregnant from a one-night stand. When she runs into the father, she is surprised that he wants to become part of her life. The two become a couple and set up home, but Simone's lack of confidence undermines every step of the relationship. She cannot understand why a man like Hannes (Stefan Rudolph) would be interested in her. In contrast to Simone's distant emotions and anxieties, Hannes is warm and caring--he is the perfect nurse caring for dying people.
The tension that builds in thi…

TIFF 2010: Director Emre Sahin and Producer, Sarah Wetherbee's "40"

Will director, Emre Sahin (pronounced sha-heen) be credited with kicking off a new generation of Turkish cinema with his debut film, "40"? Only time will tell. I had a chance to sit down with the young director and his producer (and wife) Sarah Wetherbee yesterday to talk about the film which had it's International premiere on Friday night. Sahin and Wetherbee are from the world of documentaries, which is probably why their film about a bag of money and how it affects the life of three people, comes to life so well on the big screen. As, the two are at ease working with the general public, so when scouting the streets of Istanbul for shoot locations, they were able to make friends with some locals in order to gain access to a very sketchy neighbourhood in the city. The team were not shooting a tourist brochure; they wanted to bring their city to life for Turks as well as an international audience. Little did the two dream that their film would make it in to the Toronto I…

TIFF 2010: Interview with Steve Gravestock, Associate Director, Canadianan Programming (TIFF)

donna g: Why should people consider seeing Canadian films at TIFF? I love and support Canadian films but many people tell me they choose foreign films over Canadian because they may not get a chance to see those films again.
Steve Gravestock: One of the reasons to see Canadian films at the Festival is that some may not show up in Toronto again (especially the Quebecois films -- though this will change with the opening of the Bell Lightbox). More significantly, the directors and in many cases the performers will be present at the screenings -- and that kind of situation is unique and unlikely to be duplicated. (This would apply especially to this year since there are a large number of very prominent international performers in a large number of productions -- as well as Canadian performers who have become internationally known.) Also, there's a certain excitement in seeing films first. That said, it's always a good idea to mix up things and see films from a variety of different …

TIFF 2010 Reviews #6: Behind Blue Skies, Small Town Murder Songs, Soul of Sand

Behind Blue Skies, Hannes Holm, (Contemporary World Cinema)
Bill Skargard
is the focus of this film about a teenager who seizes the opportunity to escape the tension in his family home and make some money to help his beleagured mother.

The film is inspired by a true story that occurred in Sweden in the 1970’s, but honestly, the events are so universal, and the film is told in such a way, that the facts hardly matter. There are no date and time stamps to follow except, the clips and commentary about another young Swedish teen, Bjorn Borg. Bill Skargard’s character, is just like any teen who goes away for the summer to work at a resort. He has to share a room with a pots-moking lout, he falls in love with young woman, and he tries to find his place among hierarchy of new and returning workers.

When his circumstances at the resort change, Martin becomes captivated by other means of making money. His new father-figure, Gösta (Peter Dalle), the camp director, introduces him to a way of life t…

TIFF 2010 Review #5: How to Start Your Own Country, Pink Saris,

TIFF’s Real to Reel programme is a great section to pick from if you prefer documentaries to fiction features, or, if, like me, you like to mix up your screening experience at TIFF. Both Jody Shapiro and Kim Longinotto are award-winning documentarians whose works are always films to look for on the festival circuit.

Jody Shapiro’s realm is the world of nature and the environment. He co-directed, Green Porno, about the sex lives of insects, with Isabella Rossellini and directed and produced Ice Breaker about life on a Canadian Coast Guard vessel. Shapiro also was the producer and cinematographer on Guy Maddin’sMy Winnipeg (winner Best Canadian Feature, TIFF 2007).

Kim Longinotto’s primary focus is the world of women and trans people. In watching her work over the years, I am always impressed with the way she is able to connect with people of varying cultures in her features. I don’t know how much time she spends with her subjects before she starts filming but her obvious white-skin privi…

TIFF 2010 Reviews #4: Girlfriend, Norberto's Deadline, Pinoy Sunday, Wasted on the Young

According to TIFF, the Discovery programme is "a showcase for innovative new filmmakers." This is the section where you might find the next big director (or not) and have the privilege of saying that you were there at the beginning of their career. Here's my take on the few I've seen so far...

Girlfriend, Justin Lerner, (Discovery)
Don’t go see this film because you heard that it is the first American film to cast an actor with Down syndrome in a starring role; Girlfriend is not a gimmick. Set in a small Massachusetts town, the film is the story of Evan (Ben Sneider) a young many with Down syndrome, who lives with his mother and works with her at a café. The love of Evan’s life is Candy (Shannon Woodward), a young, single mother who can’t seem to shake her ex-boyfriend, Russ (Jackson Rathbone). Evan, Candy, and Russ all went to school together, where Candy and Russ were a known couple. With Russ no longer with Candy, Evan desperately wants Candy to be his girlfriend. W…

TIFF 2010 Review #3: Special Treatment

Special Treatment, Jeanne Labrune (Special Presentation) One of my favourite French actresses, Isabelle Huppert, is back on the screens at TIFF, playing Alice, a self-managed prostitute of a certain age who has become tired of her profession. Xavier ((Bouli Lanners) is also tired of his profession as a psychoanalyst and seems incapable of dealing with his failing marriage. Besides their professional malaise, Alice and Xavier share a love of fine art: both are collectors. Alice’s focus is a beautiful chandelier; Xavier’s focus is a statue of an angel.

Director, Jeanne Labrune’s carefully constructed film contrasts the lives of these two characters with edit choices and dialogue that move fluidly from scene to scene and character to character. In both worlds, clients arrive by appointment and depart at the end of their special treatment. Perfunctory and not in the least intimate, these exchanges are merely business transactions with neither Alice nor Xavier being emotionally engaged.


TIFF 2010 Reviews #2: Amazon Falls, WomenArt Revolution – A Secret History

Amazon Falls, Katrin Bowen, (Canada First)
April Telek stars as Jana, an aging actress living in L. A. with a much younger DJ boyfriend. At the beginning of the film, Jana is a buxom blonde with perfect hair and make-up. It’s the day before her fortieth birthday and Jana is a self-assured actress going to an audition with Lee, her protégée and best friend. Lee is a twenty-something who thinks of Jana as a seasoned actress who knows all about the acting world. Jana’s legitimacy as a screen actress is her starring role in a series of "Amazon" films that have a minor cult following, but which were done many, many years ago.

When a producer tells Jana that he might have a part for her as a “confident but desperate” woman it seems like a contradiction in terms, but as the story progresses the assured Jana becomes increasingly obsessed with attaining stardom, even as she faces rejection. Her amour of make up, hair extensions, and foundation garments are flimsy fortifications agains…

TIFF 2010 Reviews #1: Crying Out/À l’origine d’un cri, Jaloux

Crying Out/À l’origine d’un cri, Robin Aubert, (Contemporary World Cinema)In this film by Québécois director, Robin Aubert, the grandfather is dealing with his pending mortality; the father is mad with grief over the death of his second wife (“the love of his life”); and the son is an angry out-of control mess who fills his life with alcohol and one-night stands. When the father takes off after his wife’s funeral, the son is ordered by his army of aunties to go get his grandfather from the retirement home and go looking for the father. It seems the grandfather is the only one that has a chance of convincing the runaway father to come home.

There is the expected series of misadventures that take place during the search, some funny, some sad, but it’s the small, unusual facts dropped into this film that makes it seem so real (despite the magic realism that is part of this film). The fact that there are two sets of children (a daughter from the first marriage takes care of her younger ste…