So tonight is the big opening of the Festival, with certain sections of the city all abuzz with poseurs yammering into cell phones, except now not in Canadian accents! All the staff and hardworking volunteers will be hoping it all goes off without a hitch, terrified and excited at the thought of nearly two weeks of celebrities, parties, networking… oh, and films, I guess. The opening night Gala tonight is Deepak Mehta’s Water, a film shut down by Indian extremists, forcing the director to film the rest of her examination of ostracized Indian widows in Sri Lanka. Torontoist, naturally, doesn’t have tickets, and due to Ontario’s severe laws won’t be scoring any on eBay either, so we’re here with a look at the Contemporary World Cinema and Reel to Reel programmes.
Contemporary World Cinema
The programme that makes up the bulk of the festival (by being marginally larger than any of the other ones). There are enough films here that Torontoist are guaranteed to miss several classics not already on it’s radar. If you’re not happy, try devouring the Film Festival’s listings section – a lengthy tour, but certainly worth it.
Top of the list goes to a couple of Torontoist’s own personal must sees. Wisit Sasanatieng, director of the searing neon Technicolor Thai Western Tears of the Black Tiger, attacks the festival with Citizen Dog, narrated by Pen-Ek Ratanarung and centring on the life of a Thai hick adapting to life in Bankok (with a slightly less violent reaction than Tony Jaa, we imagine.) and Linda Linda Linda holds a special place in Torontoist’s heart, with a previous experience with Japanese punk band the Blue Hearts titular track in a Tokyo karaoke room affirming that this track is clearly good enough to write a whole film about. The score is by James Iha, for anyone with slightly more normal musical tastes that have held a long secret urge to see a rockin’ flick about a Japanese high school riot-grrl band.
For cinemagoers who are looking for controversy (there are always a few, no one else can explain the column inches given to TIFF 2004 porn-o-bore 9 songs) Battle in Heaven is where it’s at, with a genuinely interesting sounding opening- a shot of a blowjob with a ‘stunning, three hundred and sixty degree flourish’, whatever that means. It’s not actually about a battle in heaven, if you’ve bothered to read any further past ‘blow job’. It’s about stuff (sex stuff?) happening in Mexico City.
C.R.A.Z.Y, Jean-Marc Valee’s annoying-to-type-the-name-of coming of age in 70’s Montreal film is perhaps the most exciting Canadian presentation in the programme, with the USA well represented by films such as Michael Cuesta’s Twelve and Holding, Alex Steyermark’s One Last Thing…, and Aric Avelino’s American Gun, starring Donald Sutherland and Forest Whittaker in an examination of, uh, guns (that are American).
Denmark has a strong showing, as does China, Iran, France, the UK… Pick a country at random, pick a film at random – It’ll be interesting, if nothing else.
Reel to Reel
The Reel to Reel programme of ‘Non-Fiction Cinema’ includes, for Canadians who have as soft a spot for their own pop-culture as Douglas Copeland, Souvenir of Canada, Robin Neinstien’s adaptation of the best selling series of books. Torontoist has wanted a Wayne Gretzky 1978 Rookie Card for as long as it can remember, for example. Might settle for a ticket for this instead.
China Blue offers a simple look at the plight of textile manufacturers in mainland China, without a great deal of politicising or spin, but no where near the minimalist beauty of Workingman’s Death, Michael Glawogger’s examination of the plight of the working man of today. Featuring some truly graphic and shocking scenes of a Nigerian Slaughterhouse, the visuals speak for themselves throughout a truly spellbinding experience, such as images of rusting tankers being cut into pieces by Pashtun labourers, or the vision of the Duisburg-Meiderich smelting works lit up at night.
For music fans who consider Scorcese’s exploration of Bob Dylan far too main stream, be sure to check out The Devil and Daniel Johnston, an exploration of indie rock hero Daniel Johnston. Torontoist never got round to seeing the Wesley Willis documentary, so this could fill the hole. There’s also Pick Up the Mic, the gay hip hop documentary that has a title that is either very obtuse or they don’t want to scare away the traditionally homophobic rap audiences (though we’re aware that many are very enlightened, don’t worry.)
And finally, the story of poor old burned out Edmontonist Tommy Chong’s stitch up in the American courts, a/k/a Tommy Chong, rounds out the pick of documentaries Torontoist likes the look of.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the Visions, Discovery, and (saving the best for last?) Canada First! Programmes.