Sunday, September 19, 2010

TIFF 2010 Festival Wrap-Up

Well, another festival done for the year. I was up slightly from last year, with 26 films or discussions, totalling 44 hours, 1 minute.

Things that worked well:

  • As always, the volunteers did a great job, and there was an occasion or two I watched them have to put up with crap from festival goers. But in general everyone was appreciative of the effort, as evidenced by the applause during the volunteer trailer, as soon as the cloud of names appeared.
  • Ended up using again this year to actually schedule my movies, and it continues to work well.
  • I liked the RBC trailers again this year (especially the guys wondering where they were going to get the 50k to save their store), but there were too few of them to last for an 11-day festival.
  • No problems with the advance order book this year, and it was good that premium screenings were so-marked in the official film schedule.
  • Luckily I made it through the entire festival without someone asking a meandering question in the Q&A (or worse yet, not asking one at all!)
  • The TIFF Bell Lightbox is a nice building. Free wi-fi, good food, cheaper concession prices, nice theatres (seating and sound), good location, permanent gift shop. And they'll be showing not only their normal year-round programming, but also the commercial runs of smaller festival-type films like Trigger.

Things that could use improvement:

  • The online box office seemed particularly bad this year, and they quickly abandoned the "shopping cart" in favour of the old-style single page for all the movies for purchasing tickets. Part of the problem is everyone has to go through the main, media-rich site for the TIFF organization to get to the film schedule, and then each film page is also filled with media and auto-playing slideshows and videos. Great most of the time, but not when thousands of people are hammering your site. They should probably consider a cloud-based solution (Amazon, Windows Azure) to scale up the website on the first day of general ticket sales. But then who knows if their old MaxWeb ticketing back-end could process orders fast enough?
  • There seemed to be an abnormally high number of technical and projection issues this year. For me, Film Socialisme at the Ryerson had no subtitles, and Dhobi Ghat was delayed 3 hours. More embarrassingly still, the gala for Little White Lies had to be moved from Roy Thomson Hall to the Scotiabank because the new digital projector couldn't do the subtitles, and the premiere of Cave of Forgotten Dreams had a projector issue a few minutes before the end, with Werner Herzog in the audience.
  • Downsides of the Lightbox: the theatre entrances seem a bit tight compared to the AMC or the Scotiabank, and they've got artifacts on display inside the theatre entrances where you're never going to see it (it's too dark, and you're usually in a rush to get in or out). And what's up with the men's bathroom on the second (or should that be second-and-a-half) floor? Everyone I saw was surprised by the stairwell you had to hike up, and there's only two stalls. Plus, there didn't seem to always be enough room to hold the lines for the theatres inside the building.
  • I may complain about the Lightbox, but really, it is nice to have the building complete and available year-round to foster film in the city, and it's great the festival now has a permanent home.
  • The general consensus between veteran festival-goers was that the number of screenings available during the early morning during the week were reduced from previous years, making it difficult to make use of some of the packages (like the 50-pack or the daytime pack). Not sure if that was due to the availability of theatres, impact of press/industry screenings, or just a philosophical change.

Miscellaneous notes:

Overall, was pretty happy with the films I saw this year. My favourites below, from those films that I saw:

  • Favourite Film: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, because it was so unexpected, and was well-paced, well-written, and well-acted.
  • Best Canadian film: Tossup for me between Bruce McDonald's Trigger and Xavier Dolan's Heartbeats.
  • Best drama: I liked Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat, Trigger, and Heartbeats.
  • Best action film: Takeshi Miike's 13 Assassins.
  • Funniest film: The Trip
  • Best documentary: Tossup between Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie. Tabloid and Inside Job were pretty good, too.
  • WTF?! Award: Film Socialisme, and I don't think the subtitles would have actually helped any.
  • Screening with the most celebrity wattage: The Way, which had both Martin Sheen (fresh from walking the picket lines outside his hotel) and Emilio Estevez.
  • Director I enjoyed seeing the most: Werner Herzog edges out Errol Morris.

I hope to post other reviews and Q&A transcripts in the immediate future (although I say that every year and never get around to it). Hopefully people found this blog useful again this year, and with any luck I will be back again next TIFF with more ticketing tips, reviews, and Q&As. Thanks for reading this year!

TIFF 2010 Award Winners

The festival announced its award winners for 2010:

  • The Cadillac People's Choice Award, voted on by the public based on ballots submitted after screenings, went to The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The runner-up was The First Grader, a movie I saw earlier in the week, based on the real-life story of a Kenyan who enrolled in primary school at the age of 84 when the government announced free education for all its citizens.
  • The Cadillac People's Choice Midnight Madness Award, voted on by the public for the best film in the Midnight Madness programme, went to Stake Land, with Fubar II the runner-up.
  • The Cadillac People's Choice Documentary Award, voted on by the public for the best documentary, went to Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie, which I reviewed earlier in the festival. The runner-up was Nostalga for the Light.
  • The FIPRESCI Prize for the Discovery programme went to Shawn Ku's Beautiful Boy. This award is voted on by a panel of international critics from the International Federation of Film Critics.
  • The FIPRESCI Prize for the Special Presenations programme went to Pierre Thoretton's L'Amour Fou.
  • The award for Best Canadian Short Film went to Vincent Biron's Les Fleurs de l'age.
  • The SKYY Vodka Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film went to Deborah Chow's debut, The High Cost of Living (starring Zach Braff).
  • The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian Feature Film went to Denis Villeneuve's Incendies.

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 11

Thoughts on the final day:

  • Boy, there were some die-hards lined up for tickets for the free screening of the Cadillac People's Choice Award Winner, The King's Speech. I was there at 2:00 for The Trip, and there were already people lined up, and they weren't releasing tickets until 4:00.
  • The Trip: hilarious improvised romp through the restaurants of Northern England with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon played fictionalized versions of their real-life selves. As everyone has mentioned, their dueling Michael Caine impressions are one of the highlights of the film (and having seen Michael Caine in person at the festival last year, I can attest to that). But their conversations are also interspersed with personal moments, Brydon missing his wife and newborn, and Coogan having one-night stands while longing for his girlfriend in America and thinking about his own pre-teen son, lending a bit of dramatic flair to the comedic road trip. Well worth seeing.
  • 13 Assassins: the latest from Japanese director Takeshi Miike, 13 Assassins is a remake of the 1963 Eiichi Kudo film of the same name, and follows the real-life story of Shinzaemon Shimada, a samurai who is secretely charged with a mission to assassinate Lord Naritsugu, the adopted younger brother of the current shogun. Naritsugu is brutalizing his subjects, and after another lord commits seppuku, the consipracy is put in motion. Shinzaemon recruits others to his cause, and it all comes to a head in an action-packed 45-minute climax reminiscent of The Seven Samurai or Miike's last film, Sukiyaki Western Django. Even though there is a long buildup, the film never felt like it dragged, and the assassins' last stand again insurmountable odds is worth the wait.

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 10

Some thoughts on Day 10:

  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives: winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, this latest from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul finds Uncle Boonmee at the end of his days, suffering from kidney failure. He is visited by ghosts and spirits from his past, and experiences some of his past lives. This is a fairly arty film with a lot of levels not necessarily apparent on first viewing, so your enjoyment might or might not be tempered as such (I think I fall into the former camp).
  • Trigger: Vic (played by the late Tracy Wright) and Kat (Molly Parker) were once the two halves of a band called Trigger, until a falling out on tour. Fast forward to 10 years later, and the two women meet up for dinner, right before a tribute concert to the women of rock. The film follows the two over the course of a night, during which they hash out their long buried issues, conflicts, and feelings. Directed by Bruce McDonald (Roadkill, Highway 61) and written by writer/playwright Daniel MacIvor, Trigger features a couple of great performances by the leads, even more so especially considering the short time frame in which the completed the movie (a matter of days). Actor Don McKellar, Wright's real-life husband and who had a small cameo in the film, was at the Q&A and almost broke down while giving his thanks to everyone who worked so hard to get the film completed.
  • Henry's Crime: average heist movie that finds sad sack Henry (Keanu Reeves) serving time for a botched bank robbery for which he was duped into being the getaway driver. Eventually parolled, Henry decides if he's done the time, he might as well do the crime. Teaming up with former cellmate Max (James Caan), Henry figures out the best way into the bank is to tunnel from the theatre next door. This embroils him with a production of Chekov's The Cherry Orchard being staged there, along with leading actress Julie (Vera Farmiga). Whether you enjoy this movie is likely closely linked to whether you would have bought Reeves as Hamlet when he played the role in Winnipeg a number of years back.
  • Fire of Conscience: excellent high-adrenaline Hong Kong action flick from director Dante Lam. Follows Manfred (Leon Lai), an emotionally damaged cop who prowls the streets at night looking for a particular pickpocket. But his days are occupied trying to solve the murder of a prostitute and teaming with another detective, Kee (Richie Ren), to track down a cop killer who may be linked to something bigger. As typical with the genre, nothing and no one is as they seem.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 9

Some thoughts on Day 9:

  • This blog was referenced by an article on The Guardian's film blog.
  • Home for Christmas: based on some of the short stories of Levi Henriksen, this film from director Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories, O'Horten) consists of several vignettes, largely connected only by the fact they all occur on the same Christmas Eve. There's the workaholic doctor called out for a childbirth; a couple of teenagers connecting with one another; the woman in an affair with a man who will never leave his wife; a divorced man who can't give his own kids presents on Christmas; a homeless man trying to make it back to his hometown; and others. The film constantly shifts between stories, and despite the short time available to each, you do develop feelings and sympathies for the characters. Only one story, that of an old man and his aged mother didn't really click for me, but the others found me longing for family and the holidays.
  • The First Grader: this film is based on the real-life story of Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge, a veteran of the Mau Mau Uprising against British colonial rule in Kenya in the 1950's. After the government announced free universal education for all in 2003, Maruge, at the age of 84, enrolled in primary school to get the education he never had as a child. At first, the teachers refuse to admit him, but his persistence causes head teacher Jane Obinchu (played by Naomie Harris) to relent. Jane and Maruge must fight against wary parents and the system to keep Maruge in school, all the while Maruge must deal with his own demons from the past. An inspiring, dramatic, and at times, funny, story.

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 8

Some thoughts on Day 8:

  • Beaver!
  • Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Hilarious and thrilling film. Young Onni Tommila is the real star of the film, and the next great action hero. Well worth seeing.
  • Monsters: Interesting film, but don't go in expecting an action piece. The "monsters" of the title are almost more of a background piece to the relationship between the two leads (played by real-life couple Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy). Much of the dialogue is improvised, which didn't always work for me especially when it tried to get allegorical, but probably does fit with director Gareth Edward's goal of having a "real-life" monster movie. Some of the sci-fi elements reminded me of The Mist or Cloverfield, but like I said, the film is more about the journey of the leads (both physically and emotionally) than the aliens around them.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Pietari (played by Onni Tommila), a young boy living in rural Finland with his single father Rauno (Jorma Tommila), is intrigued by the excavation being done on a nearby mountaintop by a group of supposed scientists. After investigating with his friend, Pietari becomes consumed with the thought that the scientists have found Santa Claus frozen in the ice; but this is not the "Coca-Cola" version of Santa we're used to today, but a much darker one from ancient lore, one that would sooner spank or boil alive young children. As mysterious happenings soon envelope his neighbours, only Pietari knows what's going on, and may be their only saviour.

It's hard to characterize this film; it's more of a thriller with some horror elements thrown in, but with a lot of humour and some tender moments around the relationship between father and son. The film, from director Jalmari Helander based on idea from himself and his brother, is a prequel of sorts to the short films Helander has previously released on the Internet (YouTube has Part 1 and Part 2).

The movie maintains a brisk pace right out of the gate, and the suspense builds to a thrilling and hilarious climax. Young Onni Tommila does a great job as Pietari, and is one of the best things about the film. Overall, it was really fun and exciting, and it seemed to be a real crowd-pleaser. Well worth seeing if you get a chance.

Director Jalmari Helander did a Q&A after the film:

  • He's made two shorts on the same topic before, and this movie is kind of a prequel; everyone seems to like the shorts and always ask him why he doesn't make a feature, so he did.
  • The idea was developed by him and his brother; they wondered why Santa Claus has changed over the years. The original Father Christmas is totally opposite from the one we have now. So they started to investigate it.
  • The music was done by first-time composer Juri Seppä, who is a friend of Helander's.
  • Onni Tommila is actually Helander's nephew, and has been in a few of Helander's short films. Helander thinks Tommila is really something.
  • When asked why there are no women in the film, Helander responded that there was one in the beginning on the first shooting day, but he suddenly realized that there couldn't be any in the story. He originally had more women in the script (for example, Pietari had a mother), but when men have their own plans, it's so much easier to do those plans when there's no women around asking "what the hell are you doing?"
  • Shooting took place over 26 days.
  • They went to the northern part of Norway because the mountains are great there, unlike in Finland. The real Korvatunturi mountain is a really stupid, sad hill.
  • It was nice to be really isolated with the whole team, it was really interesting.
  • They don't have the Easter bunny in Finland, they have an Easter Witch, but Helander doesn't have any opinion on her.
  • Helander is 34 years of age. One of his influences is the movie E.T.

Possible spoilers below:

  • He's working on something else right now, but does have an idea for a sequel. He says it's not going to be pretty with all these Santas around the world.
  • There's lots of CGI in the last 15 to 20 minutes of the film, not so much in the beginning, except for some snow, the excavated pit, and dead reindeer (because they didn't have enough real ones).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 7

Some thoughts on Day 7:

  • How to Start Your Own Country: funny yet thoughtful look at a few micronations around the world that raises deeper questions about what it means to be a country. The film takes a look at well-known micronations like Sealand, as well as lesser known ones. While some of the founders come off a bit eccentric, the filmmakers do portray them in a sympathetic light, and all have their own deeply held beliefs as to why they do what they do.
  • The Solitude of Prime Numbers: based on the best-selling Italian novel by Paulo Giordano, who co-wrote with director Saverio Constanzo, this film examines a boy and a girl through different period of their lives; their childhood, their teens, their early 20's, and their late 20's. Both are damaged, either physically or emotionally or both, and struggle with relating to family, people, and each other. Filled with melancholy, it's occasionally as difficult to relate to the characters as it is for them to relate to their own world, but the shifting timeframes gradually reveal the source and depth of their sorrows.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 6

Past the halfway point now, with 14 movies seen, and 12 to go.

  • Mercifully, no technical issues today, but then again, I only watched one movie.
  • Heartbeats (Les amours imaginaires): director/actor Xavier Dolan's follow-up to J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother), the film finds friends Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (played by Dolan himself) becoming obsessed with newcomer Nicolas (Niels Schneider), a blond, curly-haired Adonis that bewitches them both, threatening to drive a wedge between them. By turns funny and sad, comedic and dramatic, Heartbeats is a worthy sophomore effort from Dolan.

Into the Wind

As part of the Mavericks program, Steve Nash (of the Phoenix Suns) and Ezra Holland brought their new film about Terry Fox to the festival. The film was developed as part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series of films to celebrate the network's 30th anniversary, but this also happens to be the 30th anniversary of Terry Fox's run across Canada to raise funds for cancer research.

For those who are unfamiliar with Terry Fox, he was a young man in his 20's, who lost a leg to cancer. After reading about Dick Traum, the first amputee to finish the New York Marathon, Fox became inspired to run across Canada, from the east coast to the west, and in the process raise money to go towards finding a cure for cancer. Into the Wind tells the story of Terry Fox and of his run.

Nash and Holland, who are cousins and together have a production company, had previously tackled smaller projects like commercials and music videos. But after being approached by ESPN to be part of their 30 for 30 project, Nash and Holland decided to make Terry Fox the focus of their contribution. Narrated by Taylor Kitsch, the film interweaves footage of Terry's run with
interviews of his mother and father, his childhood friend Doug Alward who drove the support van, Terry's brother Darrell who eventually joined Terry and Doug on the road, Bill Vigars, a PR representative of the Canadian Cancer Society who worked with Terry during the run, Terry's high school coach, and Douglas Coupland, who wrote a book about Fox back in 2005.

One of the unique things about this particular film is that it also incorporates the journals that Terry Fox kept on his run, providing insight into his motivations and feelings as he moved across the country.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Fox's run, and this year's Terry Fox Run is next Sunday, September 19th. You can visit the Terry Fox Foundation for more information or to donate.

Notes from the Q&A below. I don't think this really needs a spoiler alert, but if you aren't familiar with Terry Fox's story, there are points below that discuss how it ended.

  • Nash: Terry fox is a hero to all us Canadians. Nash was 6 in 1980 when Fox did his run, and he would watch the news every day to see where Fox was. The run raised a lot of questions for a 6-year old, like what is charity, what is giving, what is community, what is cancer, what is terminal illness? He hopes that the traits that Terry Fox displayed became a part of him and of the community.
  • Nash: You can see why Fox's Marathon of Hope continues today, and why it is still taught in schools. Fox was a normal guy who did extraordinary things, but the way he went about it is quintessentially Canadian.
  • Holland: They wanted to tell a story from Terry's perspective. They tried to figure out how to get the audience on the journey with Terry in an honest and simple way.
  • You can see the his reflections in his diaries, his insecurities contrasted with his public persona.
  • Holland: Steve Nash is conversational with people, and has an ability to get people to open up and tell it as it was, that's Steve's magic.
  • Nash: Being able to sit down with Terry Fox's family was a pleasure and a great personal experience. He didn't want to go in with a list of questions, he wanted to have a conversation, leave open possibilities of new angles and directions, emotions, and hopefully uncover some things about Terry we haven't realized before.
  • Overall it was a celebratory tone, with sad moments.
  • Inside Canada, he's our biggest figure, but to his family and friends, they remember the Terry before the Marathon of Hope.
  • His run had an impact internationally, and is run in 50 countries around the world. It's very Canadian that he is relatively unknown outside of the border, and that we don't go around thumping our chest about it.
  • Holland: It was incredible the amount of archival footage they were able to find. As an 8-year old in England, he vaguely remembers a school assembly about Terry Fox, but when he read Douglas Coupland's book, Terry, it really hit home for him.
  • When ESPN approached them to make a film about an athlete, Fox was the one who stood out, even just on the pure athletic achievement alone, plus he's a normal kid with a good friend, and the whole arc of the movie was right there. Nash: the film is made primarily for a US audience on ESPN, so he wanted to just get out of the way of the story and let it tell itself.
  • But they also wanted to do something different, and get inside Terry's head through his journals. But Nash could relate to Terry Fox as an athlete full stop. They were also interested in the contradiction in Fox; did he know he was going to die? It wouldn't have stopped him; he refused to see doctors and kept going. It was ironic that the motto for the run was "Cancer can be beaten," but it was killing him to do it.
  • Nash and Holland are co-producers with director Bill Guttentag on a movie about Pele.
  • They would like to make dramatic feature films at some point.
  • Nash: It's humbling to work in a new profession, but it's amazing to challenge yourself and grow. The teamwork, collaborative nature, and creativity in film-making is similar to basketball.
  • Nash: On the topic of Terry Fox being a small, not very good basketball player and then rising to be the captain of his high school team through sheer determination and practise, it never crossed Nash's mind the similarities to his own career and challenges in the NBA.
  • On what they think Terry would be doing today, Nash thinks he might have continued on as a leader in the community, or he may not have wanted that 24 hours a day and just wanted to be a regular human being in his community as a teacher or coach. Holland said that Bill had said Terry said to him that he wanted to carry on with his education and get back to his life after the run was over.
  • Nash: it would be great if this film inspires people the way Terry Fox inspired him.
  • Fox's family has seen the film, but they haven't had the chance to speak with them yet. They have heard the family is pleased with the film, and it means a lot to Nash and Holland that the family likes it.
  • Someone asked if Julian Schnabel influenced Nash at all, since Schnabel painted Nash's daughters, which is actually hanging in the Art Gallery of Ontario currently in an exhibition of Schnabel's work. Nash had made a Nike commercial with Schnable's daughter and knows Schnabel's son, so they have talked on occasion about film-making, but not specifically about this project.
  • On the fact that the early days of the run were not widely publicized, Nash thinks that today it would be unlikely to go unnoticed, but Holland said there are so many competing media interests today, it may not have had the same impact.
  • The reporter who said Terry hadn't crossed Quebec is no longer alive, but at the time issued a retraction. Nash and Holland said everything they read indicated the reporter was kind of a jerk in real life, and they think the retraction was probably driven more by the paper.
  • On if they ever disagreed about anything on the movie, Nash and Holland said it was like having a conversation, a continual dialog, but it was really fun.

Thoughts on Day 5

Some random thoughts for Day 5:

  • Wouldn't be a day at the festival without technical issues. They had to "reboot the server" at the AMC for a showing of 22 of May, and then the Lightbox had a building-wide problem with all the theatres when we were about 5 minutes from the end of Cave of Forgotten Dreams. At least they were able to restart after a couple of minutes, which means we didn't miss the Herzogian ending of the film.
  • Tamara Drewe: light, funny, entertaining bedroom farce. Nothing too taxing, which was a nice way to start the day.
  • 22nd of May: in contrast, this was a lot darker, with a security guard being haunted by the people killed in a bombing he didn't stop. Not too bad, ending shots quite good, get a bit of sense of the characters but could've done with something deeper on them.
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams: fascinating look at the Chauvet caves in France, which contains cave paintings that are over 30,000 years old. Herzog utilized 3D cameras, which really bring to light the drawings, especially given that they are painted on uneven, rolling surfaces. Amazing to think of our far distant ancestors drawing on those walls so many years ago.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie

Non-Canadians might not be aware of who David Suzuki is, but for Canadians, he is a household name. A scientist, broadcaster and environmentalist, Suzuki has for years hosted a science program on the CBC called The Nature of Things. Suzuki is passionately devoted to the environment and has done much to highlight the problems facing us through his work and through his organization, the The David Suzuki Foundation.

Force of Nature, the latest film from director Sturla Gunnarsson (who's Beowulf and Grendel I saw previously at the festival), takes a slightly different focus with Suzuki than we're used to seeing. Rather than just be science film, Gunnarsson weaves excerpts from Suzuki presenting his "Legacy Lecture" with insights into his personal life, influences and the evolution of his activism. Suzuki talks in the first-person about his childhood in the internment camps for Japanese-Canadians during World War II, his work for the US government as a scientist during the Cold War, his obsession with research during the 60's and 70's, his eventual shift to TV, and his increasing involvement in environmental concerns.

Suzuki is quite open and honest with how his experiences influenced him. How his isolation in childhood, being between two worlds, not quite Japanese, and not quite accepted as Canadian, drove his initial interest in the natural world. How his drive to write the perfect paper resulted in long hours in the lab which would eventually lead to divorce from his first wife. How a conversation with a student initially sparked him to look at the responsibility scientists have for how their basic research may eventually be applied. How reporting on the Haida's efforts to stop logging in the Queen Charlotte Islands crystallized his thoughts on how humanity and nature are intrinsically linked to one another.

Having grown up watching The Nature of Things on CBC, and coming from a similar cultural background, the film really resonated with me. Suzuki, and by extension the film, did a good job at highlighting the pivotal events in his life that shaped and directed his opinions and beliefs, and you could clearly understand and appreciate why he is so passionate and driven to sound the call about our impact on this planet. I think this makes the film even more effective than just a simple presentation of his lecture would be.

For anyone who got nostalgic when they played the old theme music from the show, here's a link to the opening.

Director Sturla Gunnarsson and David Suzuki himself were at the screening and did a Q&A after the film:

  • When asked where the hope is today, Suzuki replied that the environmental movement alone is not enough. If we reach out to human rights, social justice, and peace movements, it creates a very broad tent to include all of these issues, making a big movement that would be hard to ignore.
  • He continued that he is afraid if you look at our own actions, Canada ratified Kyoto, but you never hear about it anymore. Most countries that have ratified will meet their targets, but Canada elected a law-and-order PM who obviously doesn't give a s--- about international law and said he wasn't going to do anything about Kyoto.
  • Having said all that, Suzuki thinks the hope is that we will have a broad tent and the public will do something. It looks to him that unfortunately it may take more Katrina-like events before we get serious about making change.
  • The hope is that we can imagine a future; we always have. Knowing based on our past we can use our experience to see where the danger lies, where the opportunities lie, and imagine a different way of going.
  • When asked if the participation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) guarantees wide distribution, Gunnarsson said it's really Entertainment One, the top distributor in the country, that guarantees that. The film opens October 1, 2010 in Toronto and Ottawa, and 2 weeks later across the country.
  • The CBC guarantees it will be seen on TV in 2011, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of The Nature of Things. The NFB will ensure the film will travel far and wide in international and educational markets. Planet Green will ensure the film will be seen in the US.
  • When asked about what hope do we have with the world's spiralling population, Suzuki said that we are way over the capacity of the planet to sustain us indefinitely. 1/5th of the world's population (the developed world) consumes 80% of the planet's resources and produces well over 80% of the toxic waste sent back into the biosphere. If we have too many people, the solution will not be to get rid of them or forget about them. The opportunity we have is to reduce the hyperconsumption in the developed world. All the stuff we consume, a lot of it should be utilized by the developing world to bring them up as we radically reduce our consumption. Hyperconsumption and population are the two driving factors undermining the future.
  • He never thought he would be in this role, leading the charge. He always thought of himself as a messenger, transmitting information out to everyone else to exploit. He gets a lot of people coming up to him, saying they support his foundation for which he is very grateful, but then may say, "boy, am I glad you're out there doing that," as if that is somehow enough. We all have to be involved; every day we are doing things, making decisions, that are all adding up to the impact on the planet. Becoming aware is only the first step, we all have to become more directly involved. It's very rewarding when you start down a different path.
  • Co-executive producer Laszlo Barna first contacted Gunnarsson to ask him to meet David Suzuki to discuss doing a project together. Gunnarsson wasn't sure at first, but Barna was very persuasive. Suzuki wanted to do a film about the meaning of life and the history of time back to the Big Bang and moving through to the present. They had many discussions about making a popular science movie, but as discussions unfolded, Gunnarsson became more interested in Suzuki himself. What emerged was a film that dealt with the relationship between David, his character, his life story, and his ideas.
  • Suzuki continued that he himself is not a filmmaker, it was really Gunnarsson's film. Suzuki couldn't see where this direction was going to go. He kept thinking in terms of his work in television, where you start with something and have to explicitly link everything together. In film, it's a different audience when someone has paid $10 to sit in a seat for an hour-and-a-half. They are going to be looking at it in a different way than someone watching television.
  • What excited Suzuki was that Gunnarsson has given the audience a lot of credit by exposing them to his ideas and letting them think about it and put them together. It doesn't have to be driven like in TV where you tell the audience something and the repeat it again and again to drive it home.
  • Gunnarsson said that with every documentary film, there is a process of getting engaged and building trust. After the first few shoots, he realized he was on the right track when he would ask Suzuki a question and Suzuki would respond to him and not the camera.
  • On the topic of the music in the film, Gunnarsson said that right from the beginning he was so taken by the fact that Suzuki has been at the centre of all these major turning points in the 20th and now 21st centuries, so he always imagined in part the film would be a trip through modern history and imagined using pop music from different eras.
  • He didn't know exactly which songs he would use, but one tune he did want was a Neil Young song for the opening, but it fell through. He says that was his good fortune, because he got Jonathan Goldsmith to do a version of "Hard Rain" he really liked.

Thoughts on Day 4

Some random thoughts for Day 4:

  • Mr. Horse-man!
  • Thanks to who pointed out the music used in this year's TIFF Bell Lightbox Trailer is Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart from Miracle Fortress. The single is available from from iTunes.
  • I missed the cupcakes, but did catch the inaugural screening of theatre 2 in the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Errol Morris' Tabloid. The theatre was nice; lots of leg room, high plush seats, stadium-type seating, drink holders, and rear-window captioning capability. Downsides were small entrance doors that become a bit of a bottleneck, and insufficient space to hold people in line before the movie let in. Will have to try the cafe and the bar at some point this upcoming week.
  • Can programmers please remember to repeat the Q&A questions through the mike? Some are really good about it like Thom Powers and Steve Gravestock, and some should know better by this point.
  • Piano in a Factory: I'm not entirely sure about some of the scenes and motivations, but overall liked and enjoyed the film. Probably could also be a bit shorter, but we did see a director's cut that is 15 to 20 minutes longer than what the commercial release will be.
  • Into the Wind: moving documentary from Steve Nash and Ezra Holland about Terry Fox, done for ESPN's 30 for 30 series. Interviews with Terry's parents, brother, friend, and others, interspersed with archival footage and excerpts from Terry's own journals from the trip. This is the 30th anniversary of Fox's run, and this year's Terry Fox run is next Sunday, September 19th. You can visit the Terry Fox Foundation for more information or to donate.
  • Tabloid: Errol Morris' newest documentary. I actually went into this blind, not knowing anything about the subject, and found I really enjoyed the film that way. The revelations that are piled on one after the other as the film progresses is one of the ways it hooks you.
  • Norwegian Wood: based on the Haruki Murakami novel, this is the latest film from Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya). I haven't read the novel so I can't comment on how faithful the film is, but I did find the movie interesting and emotionally engaging. Stars Kenichi Matsuyama, who's becoming something of a fixture at the festival for me; I've seen Matsuyama in Linda, Linda, Linda, Detroit Metal City, Kamui Gaiden, and Bare Essence of Life.
  • Thanks to everyone who's read or linked to this blog. Sunday morning it passed 100,000 page views since its inception back in 2004. Here's to the next 100,000!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 TIFF Lightbox Trailer Theme Music

Thanks to who pointed out the music used in this year's TIFF Bell Lightbox Trailer is Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart from Miracle Fortress, from the album Five Roses.

Miracle Fortress is a band from Montreal and their site can be found at

The single is available also available from from iTunes.

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 3

Some random thoughts on day 3:

  • No new trailers for me today.
  • What's up with all the technical problems this year? Or is it just more visible because everyone and their brother are on Twitter? Subtitling issues at Roy Thomson Hall for Little White Lies and moving everyone to Scotiabank, then issues at Scotiabank for Dhobi Ghat pushing the screening back 90 minutes, and I suspect there were similar problems for the Film Socialisme screening on Day 1 I attended.
  • Speaking of Dhobi Ghat, it was worth the wait. Very nice film, story and performances. Director Kiran Rao and actors Aamir Khan, Prateik Babbar, Monica Dogra, and Kriti Malhotra were all there and did a Q&A. This was the first role for both Dogra and Malhotra, and I think the second for Babbar.
  • Note for anyone who ended up skipping Dhobi Ghat because of the delay, they were saying in line that you can do exchanges or refunds at the main festival box office on Sunday.
  • Also saw Force of Nature, the documentary about scientist, environmentalist, and broadcaster David Suzuki, who was in attendance with director Sturla Gunnarsson (who's Beowulf and Grendel I saw previously at the festival). The film weaves Suzuki's Legacy Lecture with his personal life, providing a first-person look at the influences that shaped Suzuki's life and passions. Having grown up watching The Nature of Things on CBC, and coming from a similar cultural background, the film resonated with me, and Suzuki was fairly forthcoming about his own failings and successes, and how he came to be such a champion for the environment.
  • For anyone who got nostalgic when they played the old theme music from the show, here's a link.
  • Cupcakes tomorrow! Unfortunately, Sunday is one of my busier days, and I'm not going to be near the Lightbox in time to partake.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 2

Some random thoughts for day 2:

  • Dr. Strangelove! Terminator! Don't forget to rinse your hook...
  • Link from the Globe and Mail's website today from Amber MacArthur's tech column.
  • The Way: a bit uneven in places, but overall, I liked this film from Emilio Estevez, directing his father, Martin Sheen, as a man who is driven to finish his son's pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, reconnecting with the memory of his son, himself, and the world along the way. Those in the audience who did the route themselves seemed to find the film captured the experience quite well. After seeing this movie, you'd be hard pressed to not find yourself wanting to do the same. Estevez and Sheen were there for a Q&A. Co-star Deborah Kara Unger was there at the start, but had to duck out early.
  • Guest: I saw Jose Luis Guerin's last film at the festival, Dans la ville de Sylvia, back in 2007. On a tour of festivals for that movie, Guerin took the opportunity to film his travels, resulting in Guest. Along the way, he observes life in many countries, from Italy to France, Peru, Chile, Cuba, China, and Jerusalem, connects with many of the locals, and finds common themes among the often difficult lives people lead.

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010 Programme Book Gift Bag

Finally connected up with my friend who picked up our tickets this year, and there was a programme book gift bag after all. One rumor I read said the bags were not given out when you picked up your programme book because they were held up at customs. When my friend went to pick up the completed order, bags were available, although he had to specifically ask for it. No word on whether any would still be left at this point.

Highlights of this year's bag:

  • A tote bag.

  • No Stella Artois glass! So much for my collection.

  • A small 237 ml bottle of Diet Coke.

  • A bag of Blockbuster popcorn.

  • A Crest 3DWhite teeth whitening strip.

  • A rent 1/get 1 free coupon for Blockbuster with post-its to bookmark your programme book.

  • A card advertising the Tim Burton exhibition organized by MOMA that will be at the Lightbox in November.

  • A card advertising 50% off the Toronto Star.

  • A Pizza Nova gift card.

  • An ad for, which seems to list all the various film festivals around Toronto during the year.

  • A card advertising the Liberty Entertainment Group's restaurants, like the Rosewater Supper Club (no discount, though).

  • A Blockbuster gift card, although it doesn't say if there's any credit on it.

  • A scratch and win card for the Drake Hotel.

  • 3D glasses for the National Film Board of Canada's website (

Inside Job

Inside Job is an intriguing look at the causes and the effects of the recent financial crisis. With narration by Matt Damon, and interviews with some of those that contributed to the problem and those who foresaw the results but went unheeded, director Charles Ferguson's film lays out the initial origins of the problem back in the 70's and 80's when deregulation of the financial industry began, moves through its expansion in the 90's and early 2000's, right up to the boiling point in 2008/2009. The film presents a clear explanation of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and credit default swaps (CDSs) and shows how they created a house of cards just ripe for a collapse.

Inside Job reminded me somewhat of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, in that both films took a rather esoteric topic and made it understandable to a layperson, and highlighted how greed created a self-perpetuating cycle that piled more and more bad decisions on top of one another to the point that failure was inevitable. The film shows the intertwining connections between academia, government, and the financial services industry, with the same players moving back and forth between each of them, further entrenching the same principles that led to many of the problems.

Director Charles Ferguson, producer Audrey Marrs, and Gillian Tett, US managing editor of the Financial Times, did a Q&A after the film:

  • Ferguson's hope for the film is to be able to show the world these issues and hope it leads to action.
  • When asked about how they got people to interview for the film, Marrs said that in getting people, they gave them a brief synopsis of the film and Ferguson's CV, and she was surprised more people didn't ask for more information. She thinks that many thought they were going to them just for the expertise, and that they had never been challenged before. For those people that declined, they pushed really hard to get specific no's, as opposed to people just saying they were too busy and deferring.
  • Gillian Tett described that before moving to the editorial side, for 5 years she covered global markets, and she used to be frustrated at trying to take these complicated, specialized topics and ideas and communicate them to other people. It was an area of activity that was incredibly important to the global economy but very hard to communicate. She thinks the film does a good job of taking this geeky, complex stuff and communicating its core essence to a wider audience, and wishes there had been some version of this 5 years ago.
  • She continued that it is tempting to take a topic like CDOs, which seems dull and geeky and boring, and stick it on the back page. People would tend to say its geeky and boring, so leave it to the technical experts. And technical experts are not used to be questioned, because people aren't looking at what they are doing, so they are left alone and get on with their stuff, but we now know in finance that is dangerous.
  • She raised the question of how many other geeky areas of activity are there in society today where people are averting their eyes, like how many people knew what was happening in the Gulf of Mexico before the BP well blew up, and how many other areas is there a need for people to make serious films looking at these technical areas where experts are not used to being challenged?
  • Some interview subjects tried to back out afterwards, but they had all signed releases before doing the interviews. Ferguson got an e-mail from Martin Feldstein the day after the interview rescinding his permission, but they already had a signed release so they left the footage in; Ferguson had thanked his legal team before the start of the screening.
  • On the academic connection: Ferguson started in academia, has a PhD in political science from MIT, and did economic policy. He noticed some of his professors popping up as expert witnesses in antitrust cases or regulatory proceedings. Over time he kept in touch with academia, and has friends who are academics, and he noticed this became more prevalent, and once the crisis hit, he looked deeper, and found what you saw in film and much more. The Law and Economics Consulting Group, one of the firms mentioned in the film, is a $300 million a year publicly held company; overall, it is a billion dollar industry, and their website listed all the academic experts you could hire, and there are a lot of serious people
    on there.
  • When asked about the film's position that President Obama hasn't addressed the issue in more depth (and the film is fairly non-partisan in that both Republican and Democratic administrations alike get blame for contributing to the problem), Ferguson said that he doesn't know the President personally, but says once he made certain appointments for positions like the Secretary of the Treasury, the Fed, etc. the die was cast. He said
    he really doesn't know the answer to that, but in discussions with others, some people think it's actually contrary to the President's own political self-interest to do what he has done and probably had the capital to do much more.
  • Gillian Tett said she thinks President Obama was trying to to tackle many targets at once, and to reform the financial industry would require a strong, concerted focus, but the lobby is very powerful. Before becoming a journalist, she trained as a social anthropologist, and one of thinkers that had an impact on her was Pierre Bourdieu, the French anthropologist, who argued the way elites stay in power is not by controlling the means of production
    (i.e. money), but by controlling the cognitive map (how we think). This plays into Ferguson's point about the academic role in all this; academics were reinforcing and supporting a cognitive map that served the financial industry very well. There is a powerful nexus of thinkers, politicians, idea people, money men and women, who worked together in recent years to create the system.
  • Ferguson concluded by agreeing that the US political system has become more a servant of the financial service industry, but it's not irreversible, and the American people have in past come to realize similar problems in the system and asserted themselves, and thinks that the President has the capacity to do much more.
  • The film will be released this fall in North America.

Film Socialism

I can't really comment too much on this film. Everything I've read indicated that there should have been English subtitles (albeit ellipitical ones), but the version I saw at TIFF had none, and my French is extremely limited, so that made it even more difficult to interpret what I was seeing. Especially the middle section of the film, set at a small gas station, where there was a fair amount of dialogue.

If you're a fan of Godard's work, and/or you have a good working knowledge of French, consider seeing this, but otherwise, you may not get much out of the film.

Thoughts on Opening Day

Some random thoughts on day 1:

  • New trailers! RBC one was funny, but hope they have more in store, because it will get old fast. Cadillac seems to be going for iconic film images this year (Psycho!).

  • Liked the new volunteer trailer.

  • The Lightbox Tim Burton trailer was visually interesting. Have to checkout the exhibit when it comes to town.

  • The TIFF woman doing the intro for Film Socialism found it cute the audience remembered the arrrrrr for her anti-piracy spiel.

  • Speaking of Film Socialism, what was up with the 30 minute delay? Heard conflicting reasons for the delay, from the projectionist being late to the film itself being late. And were there supposed to be subtitles? The few reviews from Cannes I've read seem to imply that there should've been (although they probably wouldn't have helped me interpret the movie any better).

  • Inside Job was a fascinating look at the causes and impact of the financial crisis, and does a good job explaining collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and how they led to the whole financial mess. Took a fairly non-partisan view in the sense that both Republican and Democratic administrations alike take blame, along with the major players in the financial industry and academia. Director and producer were in attendance, and did a Q&A which I'll post a summary of when I get a chance.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

My TIFF 2010 Fest Schedule

Got my tickets for this year:

Friday, September 03, 2010

Individual Tickets Now On Sale

Individual tickets to screenings are now on sale:

Online at, starting September 3, 2010 at 7:00 AM

At the Festival Box Office at 363 King Street West (King and Peter Streets) or by phone at (416) 968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM:

  • September 3: 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • September 4 to September 8: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • September 9 to September 18: 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • September 19: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM
The website is pretty unresponsive at the moment.

My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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