TIFF

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TIFF 2019, Last Days: Uncut Gems, Atlantis, Jallikattu, This Action Lies

At Marriage Story‘s TIFF premiere, the audience applauded the Netflix logo; a night later, the same happened for A24 at Uncut Gems. The latter makes slightly more sense—rightly or wrongly (no comment), A24 has coherent brand cachet in positioning itself as Art-Fixated rather than purely profit-motivated—but in both cases I felt like I was going mad, and even more so when I heard that the first question for The Lighthouse‘s cast and crew at their first screening was why is A24 is so very special (surely that’s not on Willem Dafoe to answer.) Admittedly, Adam Sandler shaking Kevin Garnett’s hand onstage […]

TIFF 2019, Days 7-9: Collective, To the Ends of the Earth, Ema

One benefit of an extended stay at TIFF (if you can swing it) is is allowing time for friends with trustworthy taste and far more patience to slog through non-obvious titles, then adjusting my endgame schedule accordingly for what they recommend. Hence the unexpected highlight of 29 TIFF screenings (24 features, four Wavelengths shorts programs and one revival screening of Pickpocket), Alexander Nanau’s verite doc Collective, about a scandal that had entirely passed me by. Opening title cards establish the fundamentals: a pyrotechnics accident at a 2015 concert led to a fire killing 26 on site, the death toll swelling to 64 […]

“The Privileged Life Can Also Come at a Price”: Eva Mulvad on her TIFF-Premiering Love Child

Having committed adultery and conceived a child out of wedlock, a couple is forced to choose between keeping secrets and family ties — or being true to love and residing in exile. Though that could be the plot of an old-fashioned romance novel (or modern-day soap opera), it’s actually the all-too-real situation the protagonists at the heart of Eva Mulvad’s documentary Love Child are forced to reckon with. Over the course of six years Mulvad (the Danish documentarian behind lighter dramatic fare such as the Grey Gardens-in-Portugal standout The Good Life, and more recently, A Cherry Tale and A Modern […]

“I am Interested in Multiple Uses of Power and the Different Forms of Violence and Abuse That Take Place in Close Relationships”: Five Questions for Disco Director Jorunn Myklebust Syversen

Religious extremism and its cult-like symptoms are of intense interest to filmmaker Jorunn Myklebust Syversen, her two feature films, Hoggeren (The Three Feller) and Disco offering ample evidence of this. The two films portray cultural manipulation from the top down, with the hierarchies of religious institutions providing the confinements for their leading characters. Premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Disco links professional shortcomings to a lack of belief in the holy spirit. Disco tells the story of 19-year-old Mirjam, a world champion freestyle disco dancer whose stepfather serves as pastor of the local church, Freedom. Once Mirjam’s success in […]

TIFF Wavelengths 2019, Program Two: Home Movies

Following on the eccentric construction of the first program, where the coherence of a quartet of formally disparate films was established by a shared interest in alternative means of image production (gender, as The Bite reminds us, being one of these as well), the second slate of Wavelengths shorts traced a much clearer arc, as all six works offered variations on the home movie. Though I found it lesser in quality than the night before, Picard’s curation here was brash and confrontational in a way it rarely is, a charmingly punk gesture to make in primetime on the festival’s first […]

“A Movie is Not Something Where I Need to Convey a Message About How People Are Supposed to Live”: Director Kôji Fukada on A Girl Missing

Since his debut feature, Human Comedy in Tokyo, in 2008, Kôji Fukada has steadily become one of the most interesting filmmakers working out of Japan in the last decade plus. Many of his features can be characterised by a protagonist or family unit’s apparent stability being upended by one event, a plot development that illustrates how easily and turbulently lives can spiral out of control. In his sophomore feature, Hospitalité (2010), this was played for laughs. In that film, a family printing business is gradually taken over by a former associate who talks his way into a job, moves into […]

“Deragh Had Never Skydived Before…” Five Questions for Writer/Director Kazik Radwanski about His TIFF-Premiering Anne at 13,000 Ft.

Overwhelming anxiety, bad workplaces and ill-advised self-medication are all very on-trend for 2019—Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 Ft is right for the moment. A Torontonian child care worker at a government-run facility, Anne (Deragh Campbell) is the protagonist of a handheld drama whose initial energy is very in a post-Dardennes vein, with nervy-but-not-illegibly-jumpy camerawork following her. One way to add production value to your lowish-budget production is suggested by the opening, where Anne skydives out a plane as part of a bachelorette party (!). The footage is clearly unfaked and my nightmare; smartly intercutting between the build-up and her job, a […]

Diana Sanchez, TIFF’s New Senior Director of Film, on Her First Year at TIFF and the Future of Film Festivals

In March Diana Sánchez was promoted to the newly created role of Senior Director of Film for the Toronto International Film Festival. Previously, Sanchez was the Spanish language selector for the Canadian festival. She now oversees the programming strategy for the main festival; TIFF Cinematheque; Film Circuit, the Canadian organization’s nationwide film network; and theatrical programming at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Given the size of that job, it was inevitable that she would have to relinquish her role as Artistic Director of the Panama Film Festival, the festival she helped start in 2011. Under her direction, the Panama Film Festival […]

“My Zombi is Not Like Other Zombis… It is Someone Between Life and Death”: Bertrand Bonello Talks Haiti, Day for Night, and his New Zombi Child

A clear standout in Director’s Fortnight at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Bertrand Bonello’s mystifying, euphonious headfuck Zombi Child finally drifts onto North American screens this week at TIFF. Among other pleasures and singularities, Bonello’s work has long employed a meticulously curated soundtrack to bridge internal gulfs in subject matter both historical and cultural. In his House of Tolerance, set in a brothel late in the Belle Époque, the (at the time, at least) scandalously anachronistic soundtrack featured rare soul and blues records that exemplified the spirit if not the letter of what was on-screen—namely, the pained, Henry Miller-like alternations […]

Frightening with Cosmic Consequences: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead on their TIFF-Premiering Synchronic

Working for the past several years as a directing tandem, filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead return to the Toronto International Film Festival with Synchronic, a film described by TIFF programmer Michael Lerman as “both suspenseful and subversive.” Following two paramedics based in New Orleans as they uncover a series of odd, drug-related deaths, Synchronic represents the next step forward for the two genre-filmmakers. Complete with two franchise-leading stars (Anthony Mackie of Avengers fame and Jamie Dornan of Fifty Shades of Grey), the film marks the directing duo’s return to TIFF after a five-year hiatus (when their gory foreign romance, […]

“It’s About Pursuing ‘Truth’ and How Each Journalist Interprets That Word for the Rest of Us”: Yung Chang on His TIFF-Debuting This Is Not a Movie

Long a thorn in the establishment’s side, veteran foreign correspondent Robert Fisk has spent the past four-decades-plus reporting “subjectively” from frontlines the world over, most notably in the Middle East. An Arabic speaker, who interviewed Osama bin Laden three times before 9/11, Fisk has forever served “on the side of the suffering,” political implications be damned. Unsurprisingly, this has caused the Beirut-based Brit to become a controversial, if highly respected, figure, labeled both human rights advocate and terrorist sympathizer alike. Now in his seventies and still dodging bullets, both literally and figuratively, Fisk continues to file columns for The Independent […]

TIFF Wavelengths 2019, Program One: Double Iambs

It grows more difficult with each passing edition to assent to the standard line that the Wavelengths program is a small clearing for artistic purity amidst a shrill, militaristically corporate environment. This has nothing to do with Andréa Picard’s curation—as deft and illuminating this year as any in the decade I’ve attended the Toronto International Film Festival—and everything to do with ongoing shifts in the social and institutional situations of artists interested in making work whose form is other than that of the commercial narrative feature. Shifts within the institutional priorities of the festival itself have required that Picard take […]

TIFF 2019, Day 4: Dolemite Is My Name

Eddie Murphy was all of 21 when he started shooting 48 Hrs. There were no years of supporting player quips to work himself up the ladder—instead, he landed the lead in an excellent, commercially successful movie first time out. He wasn’t the kind of comic who needed a movie to be built around his limitations, but an instantly seasoned player with serious dramatic chops. There’s a moment in Coming to America where the subway doors slam shut on him registering surprise and disappointment, and Murphy nails the look without overplaying—I think at that point in his career he was capable of […]

TIFF 2019, Day 3: The Personal History of David Copperfield, Cunningham

Does Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield have an obvious/meaningful relationship to his other work, and what attracted him to this adaptation in the first place? The former is easier to answer: Iannucci, age 55, studied English literature at Oxford and almost wrote a PhD on Paradise Lost, so it’s not surprising he has an affinity for Charles Dickens, any more so than it’s unexpected that the overeducated Oxbridge students at Monty Python’s core would perform a sketch about Proust. Nor is Iannucci’s love for Dickens recent news: check out his hour-long 2012 BBC special Armando’s Tale of Charles Dickens, where […]

TIFF 2019, Day 2: I Was at Home, But…, Zombi Child, First Love

As Giovanni Marchini Camia notes in this valuable, context-providing review/interview of I Was at Home, But…,  Angela Schanelec’s fourth feature, 2001’s Passing Summer, was the first to give rise (in a Die Zeit review) to the term “Berlin School,” an imprecise but generally accepted designation for contemporaries including Christian Petzold, Maren Ade, Ulrich Köhler, Christoph Hochhäusler, Thomas Arslan et al. As Camia also notes, Schanelec’s relationship to this term is tense; her work is the most overtly severe, and it’s taken her longer to break through than her highest-profile peers. Internationally, Schanelec didn’t receive significant recognition until her ninth feature, 2016’s The Dreamed Path, until […]

“I Tried to Take a Look at These Things from a Distant Future”: Thomas Heise on his TIFF-Premiering Berlin Doc, Heimat is a Space in Time

Winner of the Caligari Film Prize at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Heimat is a Space in Time is German documentarian Thomas Heise’s absorbing look at 20th-century history in his homeland via his own family’s artifacts — most notably astonishingly intimate letters that sweep us from the rise of Nazism, to the Cold War division of the country, to life on the Stasi-controlled side of the Berlin Wall. Three generations of firsthand accounts, read in unobtrusive voiceover, are gracefully interwoven with family photos and archival images to create a nearly three-and-a-half-hour cinematic epic — one that unfolds in digestible parts like a […]

TIFF 2019, Day 1: Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Pain and Glory, The Report

For P&I-accredited attendees without the scratch to make it to Berlin/Cannes/Venice (let alone Telluride, with its $780 cost of press entry), day one of TIFF is traditionally a marathon catch-up march through their biggest titles, often scheduled in competing Sophie’s choice slots, with the big-name world premiere titles coming later. All this year’s Cannes main slate awardees are in the program minus two (the pointed omissions are Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe and the Dardennes’ Young Ahmed). This year’s Palme d’Or went to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which is fine by me: he certainly deserves some kind of significant honorific at this point. Bong’s career […]

TIFF 2019 Announces First Gala and Special Presentations Titles: Joker, Rian Johnson, Safdies, Bruce Springsteen and More

On the heels of last week’s announcement of TIFF 2019’s opening night film, today the festival dropped the first titles announced for its Gala and Special Presentation sections. Per usual, this first wave announcements is heavy on big-name festival titles. Among the galas, world premieres include Marielle Heller’s follow-up to Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the Tom Hanks-starring Mr. Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighbhorhood; Western Stars, a performance film co-directed by Bruce Springsteen for his latest album; the Eddie Murphy-starring Rudy Ray Moore biopic directed by Craig Brewer; and Rian Johnson’s Agatha Christie-inflected murder mystery comedy Knives Out. Other prominent titles include […]