Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our First TIFF

No, this post isn't about the first time Vicki and I had a big disagreement... Instead, it's about our trip to Toronto earlier this week to take in our first ever Toronto International Film Festival with Tammy!

Tammy and I had picked out three relatively obscure movies to buy advance tickets for, after discovering that all of the films we'd actually heard of were already sold out.  The ones we selected ended up all being interesting, in one way or another, and here's a brief description of each:

South is Nothing - We started off with an Italian story about a father and daughter trying to come to terms with the death of a family member.  The teenage daughter is interestingly presented as a boy throughout the early parts of the film, and it only gradually becomes apparent that she's actually a young girl.  Dressing and acting like a male are just her way of resisting the pressures to outgrow her tomboy adolescence in the wake of her brother's mysterious and sudden death.  For the Q&A session after the film, both the director and the actress who played the daughter fielded questions from us, and I asked a couple.  First, I wondered if the story had been inspired by anything in the director's background (he said 'yes' but was vague as to exactly what).  I also asked if the slow reveal of the character's gender had been done to allow each audience member to come to the realization at their own pace, and he confirmed that was exactly his intent.  I thought this was a very good film, though not quite nosing into great territory because of a few aspects of the story that could've been presented more clearly.

Canopy - This was the film I was most looking forward to, and perhaps my high expectations worked against it.  The premise sounded fascinating to me: an Australian paratrooper in World War II is stranded in a Singapore jungle and meets a Chinese soldier there while both try to evade capture by the Japanese army who've invaded the island.  I could imagine all kinds of ways to make that interesting, but the actual product was paced too slowly and spent much too much time on the scenery.  I liked the film but only just.  As with each of the shows we went to, the director (from Australia) and the lead actor (also an Aussie) took part in a Q&A afterwards, though it wasn't all that illuminating.

A Place in Heaven -  The highlight of the festival, for me anyway, was our final film on Monday night.  This Israeli tale about a father and son relationship against the backdrop of the hostility between the Jews and the Palestinians, stretching back several decades, was riveting from start to finish.  I found myself trying to guess what would happen next and failing nearly every time, which is a wonderful feeling when the developments on the screen exceed your expectations!  The lead actor Alon Aboutboul (playing the father) was present for the Q&A along with the director, and I discovered from Tammy that he'd had a small part in the opening Bane sequence of The Dark Knight Rises.  That may constitute the closest I've come yet to Batman!  At any rate, I loved A Place in Heaven and wouldn't be surprised to see it get Oscar consideration for Best Foreign Film.

On the Monday afternoon, while Tammy was working, Vicki and I went to see another film, more or less on a lark:

The Green Inferno - This is the latest from Eli Roth, known for horror films (like Hostel and Hostel II) although he more famously played Sgt. Donny Donovitz in Tarrentino's Inglourious Basterds, which Tammy claims to have seen 10 times (making her quite jealous that she missed seeing him live and in person at this show).  Anyway, this was billed as a homage to the Italian cannibal movies of the 70s, and it certainly delivered on that promise.  The story was completely predictable and appropriately gory, but otherwise fairly forgettable.  Vicki stuck it out like a trooper, though, reminding me once again that I did, indeed, win the wife lottery all those years ago!  In the Q&A afterwards, we learned that most of the natives (i.e. the "cannibals") shown in the film were from an actual tribe in the Amazon who'd had limited contact with civilization before Roth and the crew found them.  They'd never seen a movie before, and so they were shown Cannibal Holocaust, from 1980 (billed as "The Most Controversial Film Ever Made"), which they found to be hilariously funny!  They loved what they perceived as the comedic aspects of it, laughing from start to finish, and this experience completely sold them on the idea of appearing in the film and hamming it up as cannibals.  That, I have to admit, is strangely awesome all on its own.  The movie crew did their best to upgrade the tribe's little village before they left, including installing metal roofs and providing some cash that could be used in trade with the boats that travel up and down the Amazon selling supplies.  The Q&A was definitely the most interesting part of this, but I suppose I've also earned a tiny bit of street cred from being able to say I've been in the same room as Eli Roth!  That puts me one degree of separation from Tarrentino, for whatever that's worth (much less than being one degree from Batman, if you ask me!).

And that was our TIFF 2013 experience.  We all loved it, and hope to be able to repeat it next year.

No comments: