You may have figured out already, we like film festivals. Having attended Sundance the last 5 out of 6 years, it felt only necessary to check out North America’s oldest film festival this year – the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), a place where… (according to TIFF promoters) “OMG meets WTF”, where “Indie meets Epic”, and where “Seeing meets Believing.” It’s the latter that caught my attention and resonated with our own pursuits of seeing differently.
Here are some highlights:
Thieves. Lights go down. Film starts. Sub-titles role. Audience begins laughing. And I quickly realize I’m left out of some big joke. It then became clear. I was the minority in the room. Being that Toronto is considered one of the most diverse cities in the world and is home to a large Asian and Korean population, it quickly became obvious that out of the 800-or-so attendees, I was one of what felt like 10 English speaking ticket holders.
But honestly, this made the experience. What was for all intended purposes Korea’s version of Oceans 11, it was captivating to understand and experience what shapes Korean humor and intrigue. Worthy of a Netflix stream.
Jayne Mansfield’s Car. Let’s be honest. Billy Bob Thorton is a little odd and creepy. And at the screening of Jayne Mansfield’s Car (his first directing role since Sling Blade), he basically owned this reality. In short, Billy Bob blamed at least some of his creep on his father’s obsession with car crash scenes – one being Jayne Mansfield’s wreck that killed her back in 1967. But this film is only a nod to this accident and more-so functions as a dysfunctional family drama. I’m assuming whoever purchases it will trim it down 15 minutes – making it a strong film for ole Billy Bob’s filmography and a respectable theater viewing for yourself.
Cloud Atlas. This hyped film directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer is the most expensive independently-funded film ever to be produced ($100 million). In short, it’s complex, thoughtful, non-linear, and intriguing. And while it took me about an hour to get my bearings, it was as enjoyable and thought-provoking as you’d expect. Enough to see again – mostly because it might require such a viewing to grasp. If you are a reader, I’d suggest reading the book first.
Twice Born. My favorite film of the festival. See it.
Ill Manors. Left the biggest mark on me; hard to watch… and I still was contemplating three days later. The artist Plan B (Ben Drew) not only did the music, but directed this British crime drama about the ill fortunes of life midst poverty, drugs, and sex exploitation. Maybe the best aspect of the film is Drew’s ability to integrated sound and lyrics into the narrative of each character. Worth the rent when available.
Artifact. The only disappointing part of TIFF was this wanna-be documentary. Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars decided he was going to play hero to the countless bands of the world under slimy record contracts with big labels. The only problem? Well, he didn’t save any bands – including his own – from really anything. Rather, the only real task of Artifact was to feed Leto’s narcism. And unfortunately, TIFF’s audience fell for it and allowed the 30 Seconds to Mars fan base to vote it into an audience award for best documentary. Sad, because when you have the protagonist as director, it’s not a documentary. It’s a promo piece. Sad that TIFF programers allowed this to happen.
But as any film festival venture goes, the screenings are only part of the magic. The post-film conversations are what truly shape the experience. And this year, there was plenty to discuss, plenty to see, and plenty to (as TIFF might suggest)… believe.