My comments on the film selection and the festival's new initiatives follow below. The hot links connect the reader directly to the online catalog of Toronto International Film Festival which will be September 10-17 and will screen 273 features. Last year it screened 249. 242 are world, international or North American premieres, and 71 are first features.
First off, my thanks go to the Toronto International Film Festival for the new City To City Section's selection of Tel Aviv which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Ten films have just been announced and there will be a public forum for filmmakers and thinkers from Tel Aviv and Toronto.
I do more than hope that we will not see the "Ken Loach experience" of Edinburgh and Melbourne repeat itself in uglier colors reminding us that September 11, 2001 happened in Toronto as it did everywhere else in the world. “The Ken Loach experience” happened when Ken Loach pulled 'Looking for Eric' because Edinburgh and Melbourne festivals were "supporting" Israeli filmmakers and he was supporting a boycott of Israel on behalf of the Palestinian cause. (For the record Loach is publicly affiliated with a UK based ultra leftist Trotskyite splinter political party.) The bravery of Edinburgh and Melbourne was tested in the face of those wanting to muzzle free expression, though in the end Edinburgh was coerced into pulling its offer to fly an Israeli filmmaker to Scotland and even pulled the film under fire. Melbourne stood firm but received bad news on another front from selected Chinese filmmakers who pulled their films because China was objecting to Melbourne's showing a doc on the Uighurs, the Muslim minority who were staging protests in China. Toronto is really putting itself on the line here and hopefully will not have to defend freedom of expression as it relates to artistic freedom and freedom of choice.
The City to City Section will “explore the evolving urban experience while presenting the best films from and about a selected city.” “Cities are, almost by definition, cinematic,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF co-director. “ By 2025, two-thirds of us will lead urban lives. We need to take a moment to think about what it means to live in these large and growing communities, with increasingly diverse and multicultural populations, and to consider how a city’s identity is perpetually in flux.”
Toronto probably could have shared City to City honor with Cairo: I counted at least 5 films taking place there: Agora, Scheherazade Tell Me A Story, The Traveler with Omar Sharif, Heliopolis, Cairo Time
Speaking of cities, let's talk urban U.S. indies which number among many of the festival films dealing with issues of youth, crime, and immigration. I'm proud to see the American indies are giving voice to theses universal issues. One of the buzz films at the festival is La Soga which takes place in Washington Heights, NYC and the Dominican Republic. Here's the synopsis off the Facebook page: An edgy, action-drama, combining the gritty reality of movies like "City of God" and "Amores Perros." It is the personal journey of a brave man who risks everything to find justice, a visceral and gripping story of redemption that lays bare brutality and corruption. The executive producer, Henry Mu, already has his next (finished) film to discuss in Toronto.
Down For Life takes place in South Central L.A. during one day in the life of a 15 year old Latina gang leader who wants out. And of course there is the Sundance gem, Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire.
Other strictly urban films include Heliopolis, Sawasdee Bangkok, Passenger Side, Cairo Time, My Tehran For Sale, The Waiting City.
Those dealing with the inevitable cross cultural links that must be made in urban environments include Bouchareb's London River// Jean Charles (both deal with the London bombings in 2005)// Reel Injun// Jaffa, Kirot// Crab Trap// Should I Really Do It// Gaia// Heiran// Same Same But Different.
We know some of the delights of the city are food and wine and here are films touching on these subjects: Cooking with Stella// Soul Kitchen// The Vintner’s Luck//,Vengeance// I Am Love
And we know some of the dark sides of the city involve drugs, crime and prison. I'm skipping the drug and crime films but here are the prison films: Presumed Guilty// Moloch Tropical// Every Day is a Holiday// Cell 211// Giulia Doesn't Date at Night
There is a notable number of films made by women. At my last and possibly inaccurate count there were 51 (not counting shorts). The reader may be aware of more, and if so add them in the comments. When the number reaches a near parity with the number of films made by men, this issue will no longer be something to note. But until then, I make note of those films here: The Waiting City// Partir// Women Without Men// My Tehran For Sale// Google Baby// Jaffa// Stolen// The Most Dangerous Man in America// Mall Girls// My Queen Karo// Heiran// Hipsters// The Topp Twins// Whip It// Blessed// Green Days// Bran Nue Dae// Beautiful Kate// A Brand New Life// Bare Essence of Life// The Day Will Come// Eamon// Every Day is a Holiday// Last Ride// Mall Girls// My Tehran For Sale// Nora// La Pivellina// My Dog Tulip// Saint Louis Blues// The Unloved// Fish Tank// The Angel// Once Upon a Time Proletarian: 12 Tales of a Country by same director as She, A Chinese// Hotel Atlantico// Melody of a Street Organ// Vision// White Material// Lourdes// My Year Without Sex// Le Pere de mes Enfants// Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel// Bright Star// Cairo Time// Tanner Hall// Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould// Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound// The Private Lives of Pippa Lee// The Vintner’s Luck
Women are not only directors, and as women they have issues, they are mothers, they have families, their families have issues, their partners have issues, their children have issues. I have broken out some of these issues as depicted in films as follow:
About women: My Heart Goes Hadippa// Partir, Women Without Men// Wheat// Whip It// Ahead of Time// Google Baby// The Topp Twins// Backyard, Blessed// Applause// Every Day is a Holiday// Le Jour ou Dieu est parti en voyage (The Day God Walked Away)// Nora// Should I Really Do It// She, A Chinese// Vision// Mother and Child// The Private Lives of Pippa Lee// The Young Victoria// Precious// Slovenian Girl// My Queen Karo// Scheherazade Tell Me A Story
About mothers: Mother// Google Baby// My Son My Son What Have You Done?// The Sunshine Boy// Blessed// The Angel// The Day Will Come// La Pivellina// Shirley Adams// Together// Excited// Mother and Child// J'ai Tue Ma Mere// My Toxic Baby
About family: Partir// The Hole, Eamon// The Happiest Girl in the World// Dogtooth// Heiran// Huacho// What's Your Raashee?// The Young Victoria// The Last Days of Emma Blank// Together// White Material
About school: The Trotsky// Whip It// Mall Girls// Heiran// Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire// Cracks// Tanner Hall // The Loved Ones
About fathers: The Boys Are Back//My Toxic Baby//The Vintner’s Luck// To The Sea// St. Louis Blues// Carmel// The Translator// Dixie Chicks// The Road// Vengeance// Beautiful Kate// A Brand New Life// Last Ride// The Misfortunates// Bena
About professors: After last year's Despair now being released in the U.S., what can these say? Leaves of Grass, A Single Man. A lot apparently, as A Single Man is based on a late novel of Christopher Isherwood. Leaves of Grass, The Loved Ones, High Life apparently belong in their own category but I won't go into that for now.
About politics: The Most Dangerous Man in America// Once Upon a Time Proletarian: 12 Tales of a Country // The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de sus ojos)// Women Without Men// Bassidj, Stolen, Videocracy// The Bubble // Beyond the Circle(Britter Bairey)// Moloch Tropical// Le Jour ou Dieu est parti en voyage (The Day God Walked Away)// Heiran, Prince of Tears// Tales From The Golden Age (Amintiri Din Epoca de Aur) // My Tehran For Sale, Independencia, Stolen, Cell 211, Scheherazade Tell Me A Story
About war: Triage// Balibo// Lebanon (Levanone) // Le Jour ou Dieu est parti en voyage (The Day God Walked Away)// City of Life and Death// Glorious 39 Other subjects which seem more prevalent than others in this line up include:
Other subjects that stand out by their prevalence in the program include:
India: My Heart Goes Hadippa// Road, Movie//Cooking with Stella// The Waiting City// Google Baby, The Man Beyond the Bridge (Paltadacho Munis)// What's Your Raashee? // A Hindu's Indictment of Heaven// Windo (Janala)
Iran: I have not had enough time to look at the many titles from Iran listed...yet...stay tuned.
Epic: Kamui (Kamui Gaiden) // Baaria// The Road // Valhalla Rising // Wheat
Based on the book: Women Without Men// Dorian Gray // Youth in Revolt // The Private Lives of Pippa Lee// Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire// What's Your Raashee?// Shameless//A Single Man// Under the Mountain // The Warrior and the Wolf// Beautiful Kate
Based on the true story, memoirs: Creation// My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done // The Boys Are Back// Hiroshima // The Informant! // Bright Star