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Showing posts from September, 2013

TIFF13: Meeting Concrete Night Director, Pirjo Honkasalo

Remaining Screening:
Saturday, September 14
Scotiabank 14 9:45 PM
Deciding that we both liked the cool temperatures of the September morning, Finnish director, Pirjo Honkasalo, and I decided to sit on the patio of our downtown meeting place rather than chat inside the "old boys club" (her words) ambiance of the main floor bar. 
While she had a cappuccino and patiently sat through my mishap, first with my recorder then camera, she delighted in my reversion to pen and paper, lamenting the fact that digital technology doesn't allow our memories to retain information the way we used to. When you write, you remember, when you allow technology to do everything, your mind doesn't have to retain it in the same way. "Will you remember what we had discussed?" I assured her that I would and we segued into talking about Concrete Night, her thoughts on filmmaking, and the film industry. 
A fearless director, who clings to her indie spirit of making films on her …

TIFF13: Canadian Filmmakers Rock!

As the host country, and with Toronto being the location for an "A" list festival such as TIFF, lets show our filmmakers that we acknowledge and respect their work. What impression are we giving if our guests are going to our films, but we choose to skip them? To get you started here are a few feature film selections from some of my favourite Canadian filmmakers. (Note, I've already posted about Alanis Obomsawin's  Hi-Ho Mistahey and the Short Cuts Canada programe.)

THE ANIMAL PROJECT. I've been following Ingrid Veninger's work for a while now both as producer (NURSE. FIGHTER.BOY) and director (MODRA, i am a good person/i am a bad person). I adore her independent spirit in making films that she is passionate about.
TIFF Description:A Toronto theatre director endures a series of creative and personal travails in this affecting and typically inventive new film from Festival favourite Ingrid Veninger. 

Wednesday September 11 Isabel Bader Theatre 7:30 PM Thursday Septe…

TIFF13: Nordic Observations ( Concrete Night, Heart of a Lion, Hotell, Sex Drugs & Taxation)

Okay, so how are my Nordic films faring at TIFF? I haven't had a chance to see them all, and my schedule is full, so I can only share quick thoughts now about the ones I've seen.

CONCRETE NIGHT. What happens when a boy on the cusp of manhood cloaks himself in the mantle of adulthood? Remember in a previous post I said I wasn't sure I would be able to handle the devastation of Pirjo Honkasalo's Concrete Night? Well, I am thankful that I sucked it up and went to see this Master's brilliant silver screen work of sight, sound and story. For those who were at the Chuck Workman What is Cinema? Maverick session, here is one answer to add to the list of definitions; for those who were not there, this film is a piece of art worth investing in.

Well, I've seen four of the films on my list, and the frontrunner for an audience pleaser with a solid contemplative plot is  HEART OF A LION. If you haven't bought your ticket yet, then do it now! Can a skinhead in love with a…

TIFF13: There's Something About Alanis Obomsawin (Hi-Ho Mistahey)

HI-HO MISTAHEY. There's something about award-winning director Alanis Obomsawin that the subjects of her documentaries must see as well. I'm not going to try and define it except to say that she has a touch that enables her to draw you into watching difficult subject matters on screen. A documentary about First Nations children demanding their rights to an education? Haven't I heard about these issues before? Yes, but what Alanis does in Hi-Ho Mistahey (as she does in all films) is engage both her participants and her viewers so that they connect: their story becomes ours. How can the Canadian government turn a blind eye to children loosing interest in school as early as grade 4? A string of freeing cold, vermin-infested portables has been the only "school" available to Attawapiskat First Nation children for over a decade, ever since their school proper was demolished because it turned out it was build on a toxic dump. Inspired by the late child activist Shannen …

TIFF13: Bad Boys, Bad Boys (Brazilian Western and iNumber Number)

BRAZILIAN WESTERN. I've looked up at enough screens to recognize a star when I see one, and there is no doubt in my mind that Brazillian television actor, Fabrício Boliveira, is a star. I'm talking the old school kind of star, a star that is both charismatic and an outstanding actor. The screen magic in Boliveira's soulful eyes and the restrained passion with which he plays his character, João, captivated me from the moment he appeared on screen. 
The Brazilian title of this film is based on a famous fold ballad, Faroeste Caboclo, in which an impoverished man murders his father's killer, moves to the city and tries to eschew his life of crime when he falls in love with a middle-class young woman, Maria Lúcia (Isis Valverde). Impeding João's ability to leave a life of crime is a rival drug dealer, Jeremias, who is obsessed with Maria Lúcia. In director, René Sampaio's version of the song, the love triangle, rather than the politics, is the focus of the film--a wi…

TIFF13: Short Cuts Canada Programmes 6 and 5

I love short films. I'm always fascinated by how filmmakers rise to the challenge of constructing and delivering a compact visual story that has all the impact of a full-length feature. To me they are like the perfect hors d'oeuvres: a bite of bliss in one bite, or a bite of blech that conjures the Tom Hanks caviar moment in Big. I had a few blech moments watching the Short Cuts Canada Programme this year, with individual bites of perfection in each section, but with Programme 6 being the most satisfying viewing followed Programme 5.


At left is director/writer, Jasmin Mozaffari, whose work, Firecrackers surprised me with the overall quality of the filmmaking and the depth of the acting (by Vanessa Orford and Lindsay Smith). Who hasn't seen the story before of two young women wanting to escape their small town prisons to make it in the big city? Mozaffari has crafted a film cloaked in gray and black, in which you can feel the girls' dreams and smell the desp…

TIFF13: Nordic Films

When I get my TIFF programme book each year, I automatically flip to the back and look up Iceland to see which films will be screening. I developed this passion thanks to TIFF programmer Jane Schoettle, when she ran Sprockets (now TIFF Kids). From listings under Iceland, I peruse the rest of the Nordic film offerings before moving on to other countries to see what my favourite TIFF programmers have selected. Here are my thoughts on this year's Nordic films programmed by Steve Gravestock. (At left, me with Mamma Gogo director, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson).


METALHEAD. I haven't had a chance to see works by director, Ragnar Bragason, but programmer Steve Gravestock calls this film a "darkly comic drama about a grief-stricken young woman who adopts the persona — and decibel-blasting predilections — of her deceased brother." The editor on this one is Valdís Óskarsdóttir, who directed  a blast of a road comedy, Country Wedding (TIFF '08) and edited …