TIFF Day 7: Hooray for Nollywood!



TIFF Day 7: Hooray for Nollywood!

Some TIFF deals get made, too.

Exhaustion might be setting in for many festival attendees after six straight days of seeing several movies per day. Some movie lovers go from nine in the morning until the Midnight Madness screening lets out when the subways are closed, and one cannot subsist on a diet of Sprite and #popcorn on little sleep. But the movies play on!

What Were People Talking About Yesterday?

TIFF made news in the trades yesterday after the Midnight Madness screening of the cannibal film Raw led to “multiple attendees” (two people) passing out in the theatre during the screening. In some ways it wouldn’t be Midnight Madness without someone in the theatre being overwhelmed by the craziness on screen. But still…exhaustion is a real thing if you’re loading up on a ton of movies day after day, so please remember to stay hydrated, eat proper meals, and try to get some rest. Also in the papers, some major deals were inked on the industry side of the festival: Natalie Portman’s film Jackie was picked up by Fox Searchlight for a late-year release in time for Oscar consideration and a shadowy “unspecified Chinese-based media company” paid an astronomical sum to acquire the rights to the Anne Hathaway monster movie Colossal in order to invest in a U.S. studio and use the film as their launching pad to become a major Hollywood player. It’s strange considering that the film itself is more of a character study than a full-blown kaiju movie. Will this gambit work? We shall find out in 2017.

Justin Timberlake brought sexy back to Toronto last night, wowing the crowds at the red carpet. He was here to present the premiere of his new concert documentary Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (directed by Jonathan Demme, director of the greatest concert doc ever made, Stop Making Sense). TIFF attendees with a good memory will remember Timberlake was here a few years ago for one of the weirdest Closing Night Gala choices in the history of the festival, the thriller Edison (retitled Edison Force when it went straight to video), which starred the unlikely lineup of Timberlake, LL Cool J, Kevin Spacey (in a bad toupee), and Morgan Freeman.

What’s Going on at TIFF Today?

Tonight’s free screening, as part of the Cinematheque’s festival programming, is a must-see: the 1961 Western One-Eyed Jacks—the one and only film directed by Marlon Brando, who volunteered to take over after he and the studio fired the original director (Stanley Kubrick!) and screenwriters (first Rod Serling, then Sam Peckinpah!). Brando plays a bank robber who is betrayed by his partner and best friend (Karl Malden) and spends the rest of the film seeking revenge. The film was a notorious project, rife with weird Freudian content, idiosyncratic performances and sequences, and singular in the Western genre in that it is set mostly on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. It was a bomb in its day and has languished in rights limbo for many years until rescued by this recent 4K restoration (supervised by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg!), which screened at Cannes and arrives in Toronto tonight ahead of a Criterion home video release this fall. Showtime is 6:00 p.m., with tickets given out to those in line at Bell Lightbox (first-come, first-served) two hours prior.

This year’s City To City programme, a sidebar spotlighting filmmaking from different international cities, focuses on Lagos, Nigeria, which has a booming film industry second only in the world to India’s Bollywood in terms of annual output. Nollywood productions are widely seen across the African continent, and the diaspora though much of its reach has been due to piracy rather than proper copyright and distribution. But this is a moment of evolution for the Nigerian film world, with new young directors, a growing cinema market, and a more developed distribution system that has made it possible for TIFF to bring some of this new work to Toronto. Two of these films play tonight at the Isabel Bader Theatre: Green White Green (7:15 p.m.), a zippy-sounding comedy about a group of hip young bohemians in Lagos on the cusp of starting university, followed at 9:15 p.m. by Oko Ashewo (Taxi Driver), a huge box office hit in Nigeria about a young mechanic who becomes a taxi driver and winds up becoming a chauffeur for the Lagos underworld. This film sounds like a heady mix of comedy and film noir, set against the bustling nightlife of Lagos, and seeing new Nollywood films in the spacious Isabel Bader Theatre sounds like an opportunity not to pass up.