Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Poll results

Results of last week's poll looked like this:

1-10: 7 (38%)
11-20: 7 (38%)
21-30: 2 (11%)
31-40: 0 (0%)
41+: 2 (11%)

Monday, September 17, 2007

TIFF 07 winners announced

TIFF has announced the titles of this year's award winners. Even though TIFF claims they are not a competitive festival with a juried competition, there are still a number of awards given out in a handful of specific categories. The big award, The People's Choice award, goes to the film with the best audience feedback, as determined by the ballots the audience fills out after each screening. This year's award goes to David Cronenberg's EASTERN PROMISES. An interesting choice considering the heartwarming, culturally significant nature of past winners such as WHALE RIDER, TOTSI and HOTEL RWANDA. Not to say it's not going to be a great film, it just appears to break the mold. Who would have thought the director of RABID, SCANNERS and CRASH would eventually make a picture that would please the masses.
The following is a full list of this year's winners...

- Best Canadian Short Film: Chris Chong Chan Fui's POOL.
- Citytv Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film: Stéphane Lafleur's CONTINENTAL, UN FILM SANS FUSIL.
- Toronto-City Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: Guy Maddin's MY WINNIPEG.
- DIESEL Discovery Award, voted on by the festival press corps: Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán's COCHOCHI.
- Artistic Innovation Award, for a film in the Visions program: Anahí Berneri's ENCARNACION.
- Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize): Rodrigo Plá's LA ZONA.
- Cadillac People's Choice Award (as determined by festival-goers): David Cronenberg's EASTERN PROMISES.
- Cadillac People's Choice Award, the first runner-up: Jason Reitman's JUNO.
- Cadillac People's Choice Award, the Second runner up is Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro's Body of War.

Catching Up: Reviews pt.2

RELIGULOUS: A Conversation with Bill Maher and Larry Charles

As the title suggests, this is more a conversation with the two titular stars, than that of a film. The pair discuss the making of, and the ideas behind their upcoming film RELIGULOUS, a documentary that takes a satirical stab at organized religions across the world. Mahr and Charles spoke without a filter about their views on religion with the mentality of: “No one knows what happens when we die, so why make up stories and pretend like we do”? The results were eye opening, thought provoking, and utterly hilarious. The audience spent the majority of the hour and half program practically in tears laughing, as was I. The film promises to be the next BORAT, and after viewing 30 minutes of the work in progress, I can tell you I will be the first in line. This was my Sunday service.


Story follows a traveling Egyptian police band that gets stranded at an Isreali airport on their way to perform at the opening of an Israeli cultural centre. Without a host or place to stay, the band relies on the kindness of a café owner and fellow villagers for food and shelter, and in the process, discover a great deal of similarities that bridge strenuous cultural differences. It’s a gentle souffle of a comedy that allows the characters room to breath with minimal dialogue, and while funny and heartworming, the film never illicits a reaction it did not earn. Focus is on only a few central characters, but each is handled carefully with a specific path, and when their paths intersect, their connections allow the film to shine. Looking back, this was a breath of fresh air among the dark and serious fare.


Documentary following what happens when the film crew on Liev Schreiber’s EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED invites a young Iraqi to work on their set after his film school is destroyed in the U.S. invasion. What follows is an unexpected turn of events after the young man fails to live up to expectations and proceeds to frustrate those around him, resulting in many broken relationships, including the documentary filmmaker’s. The film begs the question: What is the role of the documentary filmmaker, and how does this change the film and it's subject when he/she becomes involved? The director, Nina Davenport at first appears to have found the perfect character with the perfect idealistic story, but as the film progresses, we realize the person we’re following is not necessarily the person we thought, and he, as well, discovers the hard way; he may not be the person he thinks he is either. Davenport cleverly identifies parallels with that of the Iraq invasion with what is occurring on screen. The metaphor provides insight and perspective into the escalating tensions between her and her subject, and allows for a similar, unfortunate conclusion. Riveting from start to finish.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Catching Up

Whew. After spending 5 days in Toronto in what I like to call “festival time”, my travels have finally caught up with me. I’m now finding time to catch up on all the things I didn’t get to do while away, such as adding my reviews to the blog, working, and of course, sleeping. It’s always sad when the festival is over, but the films will go on, and it will be exciting to track their progress as many will find homes at local cinemas.

I’ll start by gradually posting a few brief synopses of some of the films I took in at TIFF07. These will be sporadic, so anticipate more to come as I recover from my fest-lag…


It’s the tale of a Texas man who steels 2 million from a drug sale gone bad, the psychopath who hunts him, and the police chief who contemplates his future in the violent land. The Cohen brothers go back to their dark BLOOD SIMPLE / FARGO roots, but instead of North Dakota, this time it’s the Texan desert where their quiet, languid pace is perfectly at home. The tension is also perfectly crafted, the performances are all around solid, but Javier Bardem steels the show, transforming himself into a monster more frightening than those found in slasher films. I left the Visa Screening Room ready to see it again.



Gone are the subtleties of the metaphors found in his previous efforts, and instead we now find Romero’s social messages repeatedly hammered into our heads, just as the many bullets and arrows find their way into the heads of zombies. These messages come in the form of a voiceover, shot from the first person perspective of an amateur film crew as they discover the dead have come back to life. It’s also found in the campy dialogue between the stilted and amateur performances, as the actors do their best to document the zombie uprising on two cameras and various forms of “new media”. Romero attempts to have his say on many issues such as the Katrina disaster, his lack of trust in the government, immigration, as well as the overriding message/vehicle of how information is spread and shared in the age of web 2.0.
Since this was a Midnight Madness selection, it’s hard to rate a film solely on its content, when the overall experience of watching it is so different when you’re at the Ryerson at midnight. The streets themselves were lined with fest-goers in zombie make-up, Romero and Dario Argento are present, and most importantly, the audience was pumped. So, while the film may have faltered, the experience did not. Every time a zombie was blown to bits (which happened quite frequently, a showcase for some standout FX such as when acid is poured onto a zombie’s head and it proceeds to melt convincingly into nothing within seconds), the audience erupted into cheers. Every time a line of bad dialogue was spoken, the audience erupted once more. In the end, there were a lot of noisy moments, but that’s what makes Midnight Madness so great.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Updated links

If you're like me, you'll be tinkering with your schedule up to the very last minute. In that case, some of the new links in my TIFF RESOURCES section may be what you're looking for. Numerous websites and publications have dedicated entire sections to the Toronto International Film Festival. You can find tips on places to eat, how to spot celebrities, and even advance reviews of some of the festival's films. This section can arm you with the info you need to make the right choices at this year's TIFF.

Take a look at Now Magazine's TIFF Coverage for a full list of film reviews. Or, listen to the latest BlogTO podcast, which features scheduling tips, programers to avoid, as well as their personal film recommendations.

TIFF TIP: What next?

If you get your first choices, congratulations. Last year was the first year in five years I did not get all of my first selections, and being from Michigan, I have to do the Advance Draw every time. This year marks my second.

If you don’t get your first choices, like myself, then you have a few options. Be content with the second choice, or if after considering it for a few days and decided you MUST see that first choice selection, you can begin the quest for the golden tickets. This quest can consist of many things:

- Try to buy them when the individual tickets go on sale. This means waiting all morning in a line around multiple blocks, or logging onto the website to make the purchase. But many hardened festival veterans will tell you: Don't count on individual ticket sales. The online system is notoriously unpredictable and has been known to crash for long periods of time. I would tend to agree with this sentiment, but its still worth a try if you have the patience. But, I would still say do your best to get your choices in early for the advance draw and use the option for backup purposes only!

- Go to the festival box office routinely. When you get there, you will see a large board with a list of every title screening, listed by date. The films with red crosses over them indicate they are "off sale". This board can be very intimidating! But don’t put a ton of stock into it. I have discovered that tickets will become available throughout the week for films that were previously sold out and the Big Board will not reflect the addition of these newly added tickets. Ask a sales agent or call whenever possible.

- It is frowned upon by TIFF, but you may have luck trying the websites Tiffreviews.com or eBay. Many people who no longer can attend their films want to get rid of their extra tickets and use this as a forum to do so. But as with any internet based purchase not affiliated with TIFF, you run the risk of scams and bogus tickets. Buyer beware.

- Try the Rush lines. Rush lines are formed at the sold-out film’s box office prior to the film’s screening time. Moments before show time, empty seats are filled and any spare tickets are made available to the public. I have only had to do this once and had great success with it. The line was much longer than expected and I will admit, after taking one look at the line, I had my doubts. But it moved quickly and we got our tickets with time to spare. I have also spoken to many other attendees that swear by them. Attempting the Rush line is an underused and under appreciated option that I can recommend for those that have exhausted their other options.

What did I forget? Please add your suggestions in the Comments section below!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Show me your TIFF

I must apologize for my lack of postings over the recent days. I've been spending every last minute pouring over the TIFF schedule, and fine tuning my daily itenerary with great precicion. Unfortunately, there were a handful of titles I didn't get, so now I'm trying to find ways to get the tickets I need, and get rid of the ones I don't. Below is my tentative TIFF schedule. I'm still not 100%, but I'm getting closer...

Saturday Sep 8 11:59pm George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead (RYERSON)

Sunday Sep 9 1pm Religulous: A Conversation with Bill Maher and Larry Charles (RYERSON)
Sunday Sep 9 3:30pm The Band's Visit (RYERSON)
Sunday Sep 9 7pm Operation Filmmaker (ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM)
Sunday Sep 9 9:15pm White Lies, Black Sheep (VARSITY 7)

Monday Sep 10 9am No Country for Old Men (RYERSON)
Monday Sep 10 9:15am King of the Hill (SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4)
Monday Sep 10 1:15pm The Counterfeiters (CUMBERLAND 1)
Monday Sep 10 9:15pm Lars and the Real Girl (RYERSON)
Monday Sep 10 9:30pm Across the Universe (ROY THOMSON HALL)

Tuesday Sep 11 12:15pm With Your Permission (CUMBERLAND 2)
Tuesday Sep 11 9pm Body of War (ISABEL BADER THEATRE)

Wednesday Sep 12 12pm Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (CUMBERLAND 2)
Wednesday Sep 12 3:30pm The Savages (SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1)
Wednesday Sep 12 8:30pm I'm Not There (RYERSON)

As you can probably see, I'm double booked Monday morning and Monday night. I'm also short a film or two on Saturday. So, based on what I end up seeing Saturday evening, I will trade or sell the duplicate tickets to the Monday screenings. I'm looking for IN BLOOM, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, or EASTERN PROMISES on Saturday.

What's your TIFF look like? Feel free to share your TIFF schedules in the Comments section.

EDIT: Revised line-up...
Saturday Sep 8 6pm No Country for Old Men (Elgin)
Saturday Sep 8 11:59pm George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead (RYERSON)

Sunday Sep 9 1pm Religulous: A Conversation with Bill Maher and Larry Charles (RYERSON)
Sunday Sep 9 3:30pm The Band's Visit (RYERSON)
Sunday Sep 9 7pm Operation Filmmaker (ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM)
Sunday Sep 9 9:15pm White Lies, Black Sheep (VARSITY 7)

Monday Sep 10 9:15am King of the Hill (SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4)
Monday Sep 10 1:15pm The Counterfeiters (CUMBERLAND 1)
Monday Sep 10 9:30pm Across the Universe (ROY THOMSON HALL)

Tuesday Sep 11 12:15pm With Your Permission (CUMBERLAND 2)
Tuesday Sep 11 9pm Body of War (ISABEL BADER THEATRE)

Wednesday Sep 12 12pm Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (CUMBERLAND 2)
Wednesday Sep 12 3:30pm The Savages (SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1)
Wednesday Sep 12 8:30pm I'm Not There (RYERSON)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Telluride Film Festival

From EW.com:
Every September, the Toronto Film Festival is where many movie journalists and industry folk go to get their first and most wide-ranging look at the fall's big films, but getting a jump on some of Toronto's movies are the festivalgoers at the Telluride Film Festival, a fest so exclusive and secretive that it doesn't even announce its lineup until the guests start arriving at the Colorado resort town. The slate has just been announced this afternoon for this year's Telluride gathering, which runs from tomorrow through Sept. 3. Some of the films on the list have already played at Cannes this spring (and won awards there, like Palme d'Or-winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days and Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), but others will be screened at Telluride for the first time, notably, Sean Penn's Into the Wild, Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding, and perhaps most eagerly anticipated, Todd Haynes' I'm Not There (featuring Cate Blanchett, pictured, and several other actors taking turns in the role of Bob Dylan). Keep an eye on PopWatch throughout Labor Day weekend for coverage from Telluride.

The full line-up can be found here.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Lucky box #66

It appears that out of 75 total boxes this year, box #66 was selected. This is a significant increase, considering there were only 40 boxes total last year. Now, if you have submitted your selections remotely, it's my understanding that you can log onto the TIFF website, and under the "Buy Now" section, you can click "Check Order Status", then "View Detail", and it will reveal the selections you were granted. Otherwise, an email will be sent out sometime Monday with your list.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The next day

After reading the multiple comments in the sections below, I must say that I sincerely hope that those of you that did not receive your OOT packages on Wednesday, have received them today. I share your aggrevation.

I had my doubts considering how things stood last night, but I was fortunate enough to receive my package today and get it back out to FedEx just hours later. It still doesn't mean I'll get my selections, nor does it mean the package won't get hung up at customs on it's way back. But, its out of my hands and the work is done for now.

For those of you are still completing your schedules and have given up on the MyTiff tool at the official website, Tiffreviews.com has created an alternative. It's a Google Calandar based tool that works directly with the Tiffreviews film list. You can give it a try here.

If the task of filling out the order forms is a bit confusing for you, the TIFFTalk blog has put together a thorough walk-through of the entire process. Nice work Richard. Just remember that all advance orders must be submitted by 1:00 PM this Friday, August 31, in order to be eligible for the advanced order lottery.

Let's all hope the online ordering system that's been beta-testing, worked out well this week. I know we would all appreciate an alternative to this madness next year. If you were one of the lucky one's to test the online ticket selection system this year, let us know how the experience went, and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Not happy...

It's almost midnight, and I'm just completing my tentative schedule, in anticipation that my OOT package will arrive only 24 hours late. I am extremely dissappointed that it did not arrive today, and will be devestated if it fails to arrive tomorrow. FedEx has told me repeatedly that there is no missing information, and that its simply customs that is holding up the shipment due to an excessive amount of packages. Not sure if this is true or not, but its all I have to go on, considering at 11:00 PM EST Thursday, my package was still in Newark, New Jersey. I sincerely hope the festival will at least consider extending the deadline for the advance draw by at least a day, so all of the dedicated and devoted fans that have sponsored the festival with their business over the years, get a chance at the tickets they've been yearning for. Lets see how things develop tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

True story

As most of you probably already know, the full 10 day schedule for the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival is now online at the TIFF website. But, for those of you that are receiving the Out Of Town packages, I had an interesting experience this evening I thought you might find interesting. About 20 minutes after I get home from work, I get a phone call from FedEx in Ontario. A man named Mark proceeds to tell me he’s sitting on 400-500 packages from the Toronto International Film Festival that cannot move unless he gets some additional information about where they’re going. It turns out, someone at TIFF did not download or submit the necessary information into the FedEx Powership system. This data is needed in order for FedEx to get the “manifest” that’s required so the packages can get to their destinations. So, he gives me the names of the senders on the labels, and asks me to let them know the packages aren’t moving tonight unless he gets the necessary info. Once I scrape my jaw off the floor, I tell him that I really don’t know who these people are, and that I would try and track them down via the website. Unfortunately the box office was closed and I ended up scrambling through phone numbers from the TIFF Industry website until I finally landed on a live human being at 7:30 EST. The kind woman assisted me with the necessary email addresses and phone numbers. Thankfully, the TIFF staff was on the ball, and got my email after-hours, thus contact was made. I received a confirmation email from the staff member and Mark confirmed he was able to get the info he needed. SO, long story short, the packages are slated to arrive ON TIME tomorrow morning. No mention of how FedEx got my phone number though…

Monday, August 27, 2007

TIFF interview from CBC

From CBC news, Heather Hiscox interviews CBC film critic and TIFF jury member Jesse Wente on the upcoming festival and the slate of Canadian films. (Runs: 5:02)
Click here to watch the Real Media file.
Click here to watch the QuickTime file.

CONTROL wins top prizes

Anton Corbijn's CONTROL took both top awards at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this past Sunday. Awards included the Michael Powell Award for new British feature, as well as the best performance award to lead actor Sam Riley for his portrayal of late Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.

TIFF TIP: Scheduling Pt.3 (Considerations)

Now that you know of at least some of the films you want to see, it's important to take certain things into consideration before diving head first into the rest of your scheduling. Here are some things you'll want to consider when constructing your advance ticketing film schedules:

- Identify directors of films you've enjoyed in the past, or directors you typically follow. This can give you some idea of what to expect from their latest release.

- Consider the length of the films. One film may be as long as two of your alternate choices. Also, make sure the selection doesn't run into other possible First Choice or Second Choice selections later in the day. Both First and Second Choice selections need to work interchangeably based on what tickets are available at the time of the lottery.

- Review the programs, and the films in them, from past years. For example: Did you like the films that were selected for the Visions program over the past two years? What types of films did they turn out to be? This can be a good indicator of the type of film that fits that classification.

- If you're debating taking the first or second screening of a particular film, consider the number of seats in each theater. Try and select the screening with the larger number of seats. You'll have a better chance at getting tickets for the larger screenings. Along the column to the left, I have identified the number of seats in each venue to aid in this selection process.

- Mix it up. In order to get the most of the festival experience, try and select films from a variety of genres, programs, as well as films that can balance the darker films with lighter content. For instance, try and select at least one documentary, one gala, and even a midnight madness selection (everyone will tell you the audiences are part of the "madness").

- When completing your schedules, its important to remember to make time in between films to find time to eat and travel. This may sound obvious, but it's amazingly easy to forget. Screening times frequently run over due to late starts, Q&A's, introductions etc. Consider adding at least a half-hour to the run-time of each film to account for this. Also, if you want decent seats, consider getting to the screening at least a half hour early. There are usually lines around the block just before the start time. And last but not least, remember the locations of each theater. Some are across town and will take 20+ minutes by subway, while others are in the same venue, just a different theater.

As usual, feel free to add your pointers to the list, and don't forget about my sidebars for links, locations and theater seat numbers.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Premiere statuses revealed!

I just happened to stumble upon a fantastic pdf Variety put together that reveals the official premiere status of each film at this year's TIFF. You may have noted in a past post, this information has been MIA from the official press releases this year. So anyone who uses this info as a deciding variable, you're in luck. Click here to download the document. As I also previously stated, I've been updating the TIFF RESOURCES section (in the column to the right) with new links as they appear, including this one. I anticipate adding at least another handful before the week's end so keep checking back.

TIFF trailers

In order to help ease the pain of researching all 349 films this week, Twitch, a wonderful website with similar tastes, just created a page devoted to TIFF trailers. All trailers are neatly organized by category and will continue to be updated as they become available. Click here to check them out.

TIFF TIP: Scheduling Pt.2 (Prioritizing)

As you begin to narrow down your film selections, you should establish what you hope to get out of the experience.

Step 1: Decide what kind of festival-goer you are:
Many people like to only select the smaller films that don’t have wide releases planned or distribution deals inked. The rationale is that they can eventually see the studio films when they are released officially later in the year. This would mean avoiding many of the Galas or any film from a large studio. If this is what you’re interested in, the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly is the fall movie preview and outlines the upcoming films by date. You can also access this list online here. Other festival-goers prefer to follow the stars. For this, I would suggest Galas and the Special Presentation programs. But if catching a glimpse of a celebrity is something you take seriously, you don’t necessarily need tickets to do that. Go to the film’s theater an hour to two early and get a great spot in front of the theater. This way you can catch the stars entering the theater at a good distance without having to be restrained by the length and distance of the ticket line. The bigger stars are typically in the larger films, which are the Galas. But, from my experience, you have a better chance staking out a smaller venue to see the smaller films with marquee names. And lastly, if you don't care who's in the movie, when it’s coming out, and simply want to see a good film, then the selection process is wide-open. I personally don’t have the luxury of skipping out on the studio films since I have 2 kids and don’t get out to the theater as often as I would like. So, I simply select a wide mix of films that simply cater to my tastes. For this, there is no real way to immediately narrow down the selection besides following your instincts and the intrigue of the film’s premise.

Step 2: With such a large and wonderful selection of films, you will have to start prioritizing somewhere. As I stated in my previous posting, start by highlighting and identifying the films you absolutely CANNOT miss. This will make things surprisingly more concrete because, as luck will always have it, there will be 3 films you think you HAVE TO SEE that are playing simultaneously. So, by identifying which of those Must See films are most important, you have already made some decisions about your priorities. Consider making the films that are playing simultaneously and subsequently not chosen, your Second Choice selections.

Step 3: Determine your First and Second Choices. If you’re doing the advance draw, take the First and Second Choice labels seriously and be sure to always have a Second Choice identified. This determination will shape your entire schedule. If you want to see both the First and Second Choice films, look to find when their repeat screening takes place and try to select that one as your First Choice on another day. But sooner or later, you have to accept that a Must See film may become a Second Choice film by scheduling default. Also, make sure your Second Choice works with your next/upcoming First and Second choices later in the day. So in actuality, you’re creating two schedules and they both have to work interchangeably.

You have identified your must list, now its time to fill in the gaps. This will be the majority of your film selections. The next TIFF Tips will explore all the things to consider when narrowing down your final film list.

Questions about the post or having trouble navigating the festival? Post your questions in the Comments section and I will do my best to respond promptly.

Friday, August 24, 2007

LUST, CAUTION receives NC-17 rating

On Wednesday, Ang Lee's espionage thriller, LUST CAUTION, went before the MPAA for review and was slapped with the dreaded NC-17 rating. Focus Features has decided to keep the rating without appeal. This rating typically makes it hard for a film to find advertising outlets, as many publications, not to mention theaters, ban promoting what they consider an adult film. Click here for more on this story.

The film is screening at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival in its original form as a Special Presentation at 9:00 on Friday, September 7th at the Visa Screening Room.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

TIFF TIP: Scheduling Pt.1 (The Technique)

What I consider to be Christmas in August is the day the Festival Guidebook and Schedule arrive at my doorstep. This year that day is August 29th and it’s already less than a week away. So before the three day hysteria of studying 349 films, 3AM scheduling debates, and strategic time management exercises, I thought it might be helpful to share my TIFF scheduling technique, and hopefully you, the casual reader will feel inclined to share yours!

The TIFF website traditionally offers a helpful resource to organizing and saving your films with a system called My Film List. You can currently find buttons on the official site that read “+Add”. This will add the film to a master list of films that you have personally selected. You can log in to retrieve this list and even update it to reflect your actual final selections. Its handy and quite easy to use, being that the interactivity resides alongside the film descriptions. I use it to get a head start on my planning the day the schedules go live, simply to create a general list of the films I’m interested in.

But I leave the tool to do only that. It’s useful, but not yet perfect (but who knows, this year may be different). Next, I will print out the schedules from the website by day, for each day I will attend. Sometimes the day’s schedule doesn’t fit onto one page so I’ll have to tape them together vertically. This allows me an easy way to get the entire day’s schedule at a glance. You can also photocopy the pages in the official festival schedule book, but being that I am in Michigan, I do not receive it until Wednesday, so this option allows me an extra day to work. It’s important to note that it’s good to print the pages in black and white as opposed to color. It will make your notes and markings easier to read.

At this point, the selection process begins. I use a pencil to immediately circle anything I know I want to see, and cross off anything I know I don’t want to see. Then with a range of colored highlighters, I will highlight the films that I am interested in ranging from very interested, to hardly interested. I will most likely have more than one copy of each day on hand in order to transfer my findings/notes from the “draft” onto a new “working” version. That just makes it easier for me to read after all the highlighting and pencil markings.

What comes next is determined by the types of films you want to see while there, and what type of festival-goer you consider yourself to be. The next TIIF Tips I post will explore those questions.

Again, feel free to use the Comments section to share your neurotic, systematic, or just plain logical scheduling solutions, to what I consider the three day scramble of TIFF scheduling madness!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Full TIFF line-up announced

The complete line-up to the Toronto International Film Festival was posted today, as well as the schedules for the Galas and Special Presentation programs. There were also a number of newly announced titles, many of them rather significant. The festival has also added what they are calling a “screening room” with trailers and clips from a small selection of films. It’s not working for me at the moment, but it may possibly be working by the time you read this. Click here to go check it out.

Below is a summary of today’s announcement from the TIFF press release:

Today's announcements feature six Gala Presentations, including Renny Harlin's CLEANER, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Eva Mendes and Keke Palmer; Richard Attenborough's CLOSING THE RING, starring Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Mischa Barton, Neve Campbell, Pete Postlethwaite and David Alpay; Alain Corneau's LE DEUXIÈME SOUFFLE, starring Daniel Auteil, Monica Bellucci, Eric Cantona, Michel Blanc, Jacques Dutronc, and Daniel Duva; Robin Swicord's THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, starring Kathy Baker, Maria Bello, Marc Blucas, Emily Blunt, Amy Brenneman, Hugh Dancy, Maggie Grace, Jimmy Smits, Kevin Zegers and Lynn Redgrave; Kenneth Branagh's SLEUTH, starring Michael Caine and Jude Law; and Paul Schrader's THE WALKER, starring Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Lily Tomlin, Willem Defoe, Ned Beatty, Moritz Bleibtreu and Mary Beth Hurt.

Four enlightening Mavericks presentations will feature appearances by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Bill Maher, Larry Charles, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Don Cheadle, Mira Nair, Santosh Sivan and more. Eight presentations in Dialogues: Talking with Pictures will feature Max von Sydow, Bell Festival Centre architect Bruce Kuwabara, Ken Loach, Arthur Dong and Nancy Kwan, Peter Bogdanovich, Ellen Burstyn, Sidney Lumet, and Lord Richard Attenborough showcasing films that have inspired them or have marked a significant period in their careers.

For the first time in ten years, Wayne Wang returns to the low-budget filmmaking that made him a leader in the American independent cinema movement with A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS and THE PRINCESS OF NEBRASKA, two tales about the experience of Chinese immigrants in the United States screening as part of Masters. This year's Masters will feature a complete line-up of 20 films.

Thirteen titles have been added to Special Presentations for a complete programme of 50 films. Titles announced today include Sidney Lumet's BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD, Melisa Wallack and Bernie Goldmann's BILL, Michael Moore's CAPTAIN MIKE ACROSS AMERICA, Gillian Armstrong's DEATH DEFYING ACTS, Vadim Perelman's IN BLOOM, Jason Reitman's JUNO, Ira Sachs' MARRIED LIFE, Jonathan Demme's MAN FROM PLAINS, Alison Eastwood's RAILS & TIES, Brian De Palma's REDACTED, Brad Furman's THE TAKE, Thomas McCarthy's THE VISITOR, and Anand Tucker's WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER?

Eight documentaries join Real to Reel for a complete programme featuring 32 of the world's finest non-fiction films. Titles announced today include Paul Crowder/Murray Lerner's AMAZING JOURNEY: THE STORY OF THE WHO, Julian Schnabel's LOU REED'S BERLIN, Ran Tal's CHILDREN OF THE SUN, Philippe Kholy's CALLAS ASSOLUTA, Wang Bing's FENGMING: A CHINESE MEMOIR, Grant Gee's JOY DIVISION, Olga Konskaya and Andreï Nekrasov's REBELLION: THE LITVINENKO CASE, and Jia Zhang-ke's USELESS. A series of conversations with directors and producers exploring the how and why of documentary filmmaking, Doc Talks will be open to the public for the first time this year; previously the series was offered exclusively to the Festival's industry delegates.

The 32nd Toronto International Film Festival is proud to announce a Special Event at which Hollywood great Peter Bogdanovich (THE LAST PICTURE SHOW) will be presented with the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) Award for his contribution to film preservation. He has chosen to screen Jean Renoir's historic gem LA GRANDE ILLUSION (1937) as an example of the importance of film restoration.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

TIFF TIP: Research

The full list of films is only a day away. From the point in which the titles go live, this gives you exactly 6 days to get a head start on researching your films prior to receiving the festival guidebook and there is no need to wait for that. There are typically over 350 films each year, and if you end up waiting until the book and schedules go out, then you have a lot of ground to cover in a very short period of time, especially if you plan on attending most of the festival. Now, if you don’t plan on submitting your selections for the advance draw, then you have a bit more time, but you also run the risk of your films selling out before you get tickets.

The most common method to researching is to scour the past press releases for that one or two sentence synopsis. That can help, but it’s not necessarily the most efficient method, nor does it tell you much about each film. Here are a few great tools for researching that are right under your nose:

  1. IMDB.com is an incredible resource and houses background info on most releases, even if the film is still in development. If it’s not listed here, there may not be much info elsewhere. Try this site first.

  2. Use a search engine to look for the official websites. Many films have websites, even if they don’t have a distributor. These sites can contain a wealth of information, providing summaries, trailers, photo galleries and more.

  3. Many trailers are added to YouTube for promotional and marketing purposes. This is especially true for the larger more commercial films such as those in the Galas or Special Presentation programs. A good trailer can give you a better idea of the film’s tone and content, something descriptions don’t always convey. But proceed with caution. One of the things I like best about seeing films at TIFF is the ability to go in knowing very little. The experience can be greatly rewarding.

  4. Check websites and magazines like Variety, Film Comment and Entertainment Weekly. Many of the films that screened previously at Cannes have already been covered to some length in these publications. I just picked up the August issue of Film Comment and there are 14 pages dedicated to the films at Cannes. Some sites have also dedicated specific sections to festivals, like Variety, (see right sidebar). I will be posting more links to similar sites as they go live and as the festival draws near.
What did I leave out? Share your film researching methods in the comments section. I will be sure to link to additional resources as they appear.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The HOW TO of TIFF...

Over the course of the next couple weeks, I will be offering a series of tips to help guide TIFF-goers through the festival madness. These will include research, film selection, festival navigation, as well as just general TIFF advice. Now, many of you have probably attended before, so hopefully there will be something of benefit for you as well, but if not, feel free to chime in with a comment to share with others. Hopefully this can become a resource for those of you looking for a few pointers. I’ve attended for over five years now, and I can still use advice because I know the moment those schedules and books go out, every second counts!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

TIFF update

Due to the passing of TIFF colleague Richard Bradshaw this week, and the following funeral on Tuesday, the Toronto International Film Festival Group has rescheduled the Tuesday press conference in which the full list of films were to be announced, to Wednesday, August 22nd at 12 noon. My condolences to Richard Bradshaw's friends and family.

Unofficial TIFF addition: DEATH OF A POET

Another pre-Tuesday title addition comes by the way of the Asian Journal Online, which reports that Laverente Diaz’s DEATH OF A POET has been added to the TIFF07 line-up. No additional information was given concerning the title. Look for more information to come this Tuesday via the TIFF website.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ira Sachs MARRIED LIFE to screen at TIFF

Yet another title has been unofficially announced. Commercialappeal.com has reported that the dark comedy MARRIED LIFE, starring Pierce Brosnan, Rachel McAdams, Patricia Clarkson and Chris Cooper, will screen Wednesday September 12th at this year's TIFF. It will also screen later in the month at the 45th New York Film Festival. The website describes the film as this: "The story concerns an adulterous husband (played by Chris Cooper) who decides it would be kinder to murder his loyal wife than to divorce her." The film is currently planned to open wide in early 2008.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

2 unofficial TIFF additions

In addition to yesterday's big TIFF update, there were a few additional inclusions that apparently did not make the press release. The Toronto Star has reported that 2 additional films will be joining the line-up this year. Although not "official" since it was not published by the Toronto International Film Festival Group, it at least provides a good idea of what will be included in next week's big announcement. From Martin Knelman at the Toronto Star, the titles are:

The Second Wind (Deuxième souffle): Gets a Gala slot. It's French director Alain Corneau's remake of a 1966 crime thriller about a gangster who has escaped from jail but needs to pull off one more robbery.

The Edge of Heaven (directed by Fatih Akin): It won the prize at Cannes for best script. It's about a university professor in Germany who is less than thrilled when his immigrant father chooses a prostitute from Turkey as his new girlfriend. But then they form an unlikely bond.

73 new titles from around the globe

The Toronto International Film Festival has announced an absolute slew of new titles from multiple categories. Galas, Special Presentations, Masters, Visions, Vanguard as well as the Contemporary World Cinema programs all have new additions from countries around the globe. The list is quite expansive and will most likely be the last significant press release prior to the complete film lineup, to be announced this coming Tuesday (Aug. 21st). Below is a list of titles by country, courtesy the TIFF press release. Click here to read it in full with complete film descriptions.

THE PAST Hector Babenco, Argentina/Brazil Masters

UNFINISHED SKY Peter Duncan, Australia Contemporary World Cinema

LOVE COMES LATELY Jan Schütte, Germany/Austria/USA Special Presentations
RECLAIM YOUR BRAIN Hans Weingartner, Germany/Austria Special Presentations
THE COUNTERFEITERS Stefan Ruzowitzky, Austria/Germany Contemporary World Cinema
FOREVER NEVER ANYWHERE Antonin Svoboda, Austria Contemporary World Cinema

ON THE WINGS OF DREAMS Golam Rabbany Biplob, Bangladesh Contemporary World Cinema

ANGEL François Ozon, France/UK/Belgium Special Presentations
L'AMOUR CACHÉ Alessandro Capone, Italy/Luxembourg/Belgium Visions

THE PAST Hector Babenco, Argentina/Brazil Masters

BLOOD BROTHERS Alexi Tan, Taiwan/China/Hong Kong Gala Presentation
THE SUN ALSO RISES Jiang Wen, China Special Presentations

Czech Republic
EMPTIES Jan Sverák, Czech Republic Contemporary World Cinema

ERIK NIETZSCHE THE EARLY YEARS Jacob Thuesen, Denmark Contemporary World Cinema
JUST LIKE HOME Lone Scherfig, Denmark Contemporary World Cinema

CHAOS Youssef Chahine and Youssef Khaled, Egypt/France Masters

ANGEL François Ozon, France/UK/Belgium Special Presentations
CHACUN SON CINÉMA Various, France Special Presentations
PERSEPOLIS Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, France Special Presentations
CHAOS Youssef Chahine and Youssef Khaled, Egypt/France Masters
DÉSENGAGEMENT Amos Gitai, Israel/France/Germany/Italy Masters
LA FILLE COUPÉE EN DEUX Claude Chabrol, France/Germany Masters
AVANT QUE J'OUBLIE Jacques Nolot, France Contemporary World Cinema
THE BAND'S VISIT Eran Kolirin, Israel/France Contemporary World Cinema
DANS LA VIE Philippe Faucon, France Contemporary World Cinema
L'ENNEMI INTIME Florent Siri, France Contemporary World Cinema
JELLYFISH Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, Israel/France Contemporary World Cinema
THE SECRETS Avi Nesher, Israel/France Contemporary World Cinema
SON OF RAMBOW Garth Jennings, France/UK Contemporary World Cinema
UNE VIEILLE MAÎTRESSE Catherine Breillat, France Contemporary World Cinema
MISTER LONELY Harmony Korine, UK/France/Ireland/USA Vanguard

LOVE COMES LATELY Jan Schütte, Germany/Austria/USA Special Presentations
MONGOL Sergei Bodrov, Germany/Kazakhstan/Mongolia/Russia Special Presentations
RECLAIM YOUR BRAIN Hans Weingartner, Germany/Austria Special Presentations
DÉSENGAGEMENT Amos Gitai, Israel/France/Germany/Italy Masters
LA FILLE COUPÉE EN DEUX Claude Chabrol, France/Germany Masters
IT'S A FREE WORLD… Ken Loach, UK/Italy/Germany/Spain Masters
THE COUNTERFEITERS Stefan Ruzowitzky, Austria/Germany Contemporary World Cinema
JAR CITY Baltasar Kormákur, Iceland/Germany Contemporary World Cinema
MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD Daniele Luchetti, Italy/France Contemporary World Cinema
THE TRAP Srdan Golubovic, Serbia/Germany/Hungary Contemporary World Cinema

Hong Kong
BLOOD BROTHERS Alexi Tan, Taiwan/China/Hong Kong Gala Presentation
MAD DETECTIVE Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai, Hong Kong Special Presentations
THE EXODUS Pang Ho-cheung, Hong Kong Vanguard

THE TRAP Srdan Golubovic, Serbia/Germany/Hungary Contemporary World Cinema

JAR CITY Baltasar Kormákur, Iceland/Germany Contemporary World Cinema

THE LAST LEAR Rituparno Ghosh, India Gala Presentation
FOUR WOMEN Adoor Gopalakrishnan, India Masters
THE VOYEURS Buddhadeb Dasgupta, India Masters

UNFINISHED STORIES Pourya Azarbayjani, Iran Contemporary World Cinema

GARAGE Lenny Abrahamson, Ireland Contemporary World Cinema
KINGS Tom Collins, Ireland/UK Contemporary World Cinema
MISTER LONELY Harmony Korine, UK/France/Ireland/USA Vanguard

DÉSENGAGEMENT Amos Gitai, Israel/France/Germany/Italy Masters
THE BAND'S VISIT Eran Kolirin, Israel/France Contemporary World Cinema
JELLYFISH Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, Israel/France Contemporary World Cinema
THE SECRETS Avi Nesher, Israel/France Contemporary World Cinema

DÉSENGAGEMENT Amos Gitai, Israel/France/Germany/Italy Masters
IT'S A FREE WORLD… Ken Loach, UK/Italy/Germany/Spain Masters
DAYS AND CLOUDS Silvio Soldini, Italy/Switzerland Contemporary World Cinema
MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD Daniele Luchetti, Italy/France Contemporary World Cinema
L'ORA DI PUNTA Vincenzo Marra, Italy Contemporary World Cinema
L'AMOUR CACHÉ Alessandro Capone, Italy/Luxembourg/Belgium Visions

GLORY TO THE FILMMAKER! Takeshi Kitano, Japan Masters
A GENTLE BREEZE IN THE VILLAGE Nobuhiro Yamashita, Japan Contemporary World Cinema
SAD VACATION Aoyama Shinji, Japan Vanguard

MONGOL Sergei Bodrov, Germany/Kazakhstan/Mongolia/Russia Special Presentations

L'AMOUR CACHÉ Alessandro Capone, Italy/Luxembourg/Belgium Visions

Republic of Macedonia
SHADOWS Milcho Manchevski, Republic of Macedonia Special Presentations

MONGOL Sergei Bodrov, Germany/Kazakhstan/Mongolia/Russia Special Presentations

WOLFSBERGEN Nanouk Leopold, Netherlands Contemporary World Cinema

GONE WITH THE WOMAN Petter Næss, Norway Contemporary World Cinema

PHILIPPINE SCIENCE Auraeus Solito, Philippines Contemporary World Cinema
SLINGSHOT Brillante Mendoza, Philippines Contemporary World Cinema

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, THE ENIGMA Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal Masters

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' (ENDLESS) Cristian Nemescu, Romania Contemporary World Cinema
4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS Cristian Mungiu, Romania Visions

MONGOL Sergei Bodrov, Germany/Kazakhstan/Mongolia/Russia Special Presentations

THE TRAP Srdan Golubovic, Serbia/Germany/Hungary Contemporary World Cinema

South Korea
BEYOND THE YEARS Im Kwon-taek, South Korea Masters
HAPPINESS Hur Jin-ho, South Korea Contemporary World Cinema

FADOS Carlos Saura, Spain Masters
IT'S A FREE WORLD… Ken Loach, UK/Italy/Germany/Spain Masters
CHAOTIC ANA Julio Medem, Spain Special Presentations
BARCELONA (A MAP) Ventura Pons, Spain Contemporary World Cinema

TO LOVE SOMEONE Åke Sandgren, Sweden Contemporary World Cinema

DAYS AND CLOUDS Silvio Soldini, Italy/Switzerland Contemporary World Cinema

BLOOD BROTHERS Alexi Tan, Taiwan/China/Hong Kong Gala Presentation
LUST, CAUTION Ang Lee, Taiwan Special Presentations

United Kingdom
ANGEL François Ozon, France/UK/Belgium Special Presentations
IT'S A FREE WORLD… Ken Loach, UK/Italy/Germany/Spain Masters
BATTLE FOR HADITHA Nick Broomfield, UK Contemporary World Cinema
BRICK LANE Sarah Gavron, UK Contemporary World Cinema
KINGS Tom Collins, Ireland/UK Contemporary World Cinema
RUN, FAT BOY, RUN David Schwimmer, UK Contemporary World Cinema
SON OF RAMBOW Garth Jennings, France/UK Contemporary World Cinema
BOY A John Crowley, UK Vanguard
MISTER LONELY Harmony Korine, UK/France/Ireland/USA Vanguard

THE POPE'S TOILET Enrique Fernandes and César Charlone, Uruguay Contemporary World Cinema

LOVE COMES LATELY Jan Schütte, Germany/Austria/USA Special Presentations
CHOP SHOP Ramin Bahrani, USA Contemporary World Cinema
KING OF CALIFORNIA Mike Cahill, USA Contemporary World Cinema
STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING Andrew Wagner, USA Contemporary World Cinema
NEW YORK CITY SERENADE Frank Whaley, USA Contemporary World Cinema
MISTER LONELY Harmony Korine, UK/France/Ireland/USA Vanguard
SMILEY FACE Gregg Araki, USA Vanguard
WHITE LIES, BLACK SHEEP James Spooner, USA Vanguard

Monday, August 13, 2007


Thirteen titles have been added to the Toronto International Film Festival lineup under the Discovery program, a showcase for new and emerging filmmakers. Past years have brought us the fine film THE MAGDALENE SISTERS as well as one of my personal favorites, WHALE RIDER. It should also be noted that these films are eligible for the DIESEL Discovery Award. The winning filmmaker will walk away with a cash prize of $10,000 as determined by 1000 members from the international media. At first glance, this looks to be a promising year for the program with some very intriqing films. Of personal interest are FROZEN, THE PASSAGE, and WITH YOUR PERMISSION. Who knows what gems will be found...
Below is a complete list of the newly added titles from the TIFF press release:

Sixteen-year-old Shirley (Katherine Waterston) turns her babysitting service into a call girl ring for married men after she begins an affair with a customer. Writer David Ross' (THE WOODS) directorial debut stars John Leguizamo, Cynthia Nixon, Denis O'Hare and Andy Comeau.

BLIND Tamar van den Dop, Netherlands/Belgium/Bulgaria
Marie (Halina Reijn) a young albino woman struggling with her looks finds love with a blind man named Ruben (Joren Seldenslachts). Marie becomes disheartened when she discovers that surgery may repair Ruben's eyesight. A period piece, BLIND is a touching portrait of how blind love can be.

COCHOCHI Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán, Mexico/UK/Canada
After returning home from elementary boarding school, two brothers Tony (Luis Antonio Lerma Batista) and Evaristo (Evaristo Lerma Batista) are sent to deliver a package to a far community in La Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico, by their grandfather. Without permission, the brothers take the family horse but lose the horse and one another after making a wrong turn. They each then embark on a separate adventure, leading them to discover a new world.

CORROBOREE Ben Hackworth, Australia
A dying theatre director hires a young man named Conor (Conor O'Hanlon) to visit him in a meditation retreat and perform scenes from the director's life. Following a tape of instructions, the young man must visit different rooms over the weekend and in these rooms, encounters five actresses who portray key women in the director's life. As the final scenes unfold, Conor must decide whether the performance has gone too far.

FROZEN Shivajee Chandrabhushan, India
Lasya (Gauri), a girl in her late teens, lives with her father Karma (Danny Denzongpa) and younger brother Chomo (Angchuk) in a remote village, somewhere in the mountains of the northern Himalayas. The family's quiet life is disturbed when the army moves into the village in search of the enemy but instead they find a frozen body. Director Shivajee Chandrabhushan strips away excess to reveal a simple succession of telling moments that build to a remarkable final image.

I AM FROM TITOV VELES Teona Strugar Mitevska, Macedonia
A social drama, I AM FROM TITOV VELES is the story of three sisters living in Veles, a small industrial town in Macedonia, searching for a better life. With painful honesty, writer/director Teona Strugar Mitevska follows the sisters as they struggle with themselves, their dissolving family and difficult relationships.

KING OF THE HILL Gonzalo LGpez-Gallego, Spain
While travelling through an isolated area in Spain, Quim (Leonardo Sbaraglia) meets Bea, a young woman (María Valverde), at a stop at a gas station. After a brief encounter, Bea steals his wallet, and takes off. Quim pursues her on an unmarked road, but during the chase, he is suddenly shot and wounded by a sniper. As he searches for safe cover, he eventually finds Bea, who has also been mysteriously shot at. With a small cast and few locations, director Gonzalo LGpez-Gallego (OVER THE RAINBOW, NOMADS) keeps the tension high throughout this thrilling and surprising film.

LA ZONA Rodrigo Plà, Spain/Mexico
Three youths from the slums break into one of the houses of The Zone, an exclusive residential neighbourhood in Mexico City. Miguel (Alan Chávez), one of the intruders, survives the botched burglary and escapes deeper into The Zone. Alejandro (Daniel Tovar), a young boy celebrating his birthday, discovers Miguel but makes a difficult decision to protect him from The Zone residents who want to carry out justice themselves.

During a trip to Morocco, Luke (Stephen Dorff) meets and falls in love with Zahra (Sarai Givaty) a beautiful local. After discovering that their forbidden romance could cost them their lives, the couple leaves the confines of the city for the Atlas Mountains. However, they soon discover that being miles away from anywhere leaves them unprotected and without a place to hide.

ROMING Jirí Vejdelek, Czech Republic/Romania/Slovakia
A slapstick road-movie, ROMING traces the misadventures of Romany community members, Jura (Vítezslav Holub), his father Roman (Marián Labuda), and an old family friend Stano (Bolek Polívka) as they journey in a broken truck from northern Bohemia in the Czech Republic to Slovakia. More than just a comedy, this film is a portrait of a nomadic culture searching for identity and acceptance.

SEPTEMBER Peter Carstairs, Australia
A coming-of-age story set in the Australian wheat-belt in 1968, SEPTEMBER tells the story of two 16-year-old boys, Ed (Xavier Samuel) and Paddy (Clarence John Ryan) - one white and one Aboriginal - as the social and political climate of the time threatens to fracture their close friendship, especially with the arrival of a new girl in town.

WITH YOUR PERMISSION Paprika Steen, Denmark/Sweden
Paprika Steen's (AFTERMATH) second feature film, WITH YOUR PERMISSION, is a dark and twisted comedy on marital discord. Jan (Lars Brygmann) and Bente (Sidse Babett Knudsen) are in an unhappy marriage. Upon insistence of his boss, Jan goes into therapy where he meets two mechanics willing to get rid of Bente. Everyone's lives take an unexpected turn when the two hitmen meet Bente and take a liking to her.

THE WORLD UNSEEN Shamim Sarif, UK/South Africa
Free-spirited Amina (Sheetal Sheth) and the married Miriam (Lisa Ray) fall in love in the 1950's apartheid South Africa and set in motion a chain of events that changes both women forever. THE WORLD UNSEEN, is a captivating drama, based on a highly acclaimed awarding-winning novel of the same title by director Shamim Sarif.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Visions program

Last year, a selection in the TIFF Visions program - a program highlighting films that utilize experimental or innovative techniques to aid in storytelling - became an overnight sensation after its initial screening. The film was TEN CANOES. It told the story of how an aborigine tribe, while building canoes, taught another tribe member the virtues and dangers of lust, jealousy, pride and revenge through elaborate ancestral stories. It was beautifully shot, utilized native environments, an all-Aboriginal cast, and was filmed in both black and white as well as color. It was the first feature in an Australian Aboriginal language and celebrated the power of the spoken word.

After the screening, the public quickly raved about its powerful imagery and its ability to resonate across cultures and generations. But then word got out that the print was not complete and was not intended to be seen as is. What could have been missing?


It lacked a translated soundtrack, but the film left an impact through its strong visual and narrative techniques, and was clearly at home in the Visions program. What can we expect from the program this year? The director of TEN CANOES, Rolf de Heer, is back again this year with DR PLONK, a black and white silent comedy set in 1907, about a scientist determined to prove the world will end in 2008, and creates a time machine in order to gather the proof. It appears lightning will not strike twice as there will be no audio to translate.

The festival also announced an additional 12 films to the program this week. All of which will be eligible for the Artistic Innovation Award, now in it’s second year. Click here to read descriptions of each new title at TIFF web site.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

2 official, 2 unofficial TIFF announcements

The big TIFF07 news this week is that Woody Allen’s newest feature, CASSANDRA’S DREAM, will premiere at the festival as a Gala presentation. The film stars Colin Farrell, Tom Wilkinson, and Ewan McGregor and will no doubt be on many critc's must see lists as the festival countdown continues. The festival describes the film as "...a powerful and thrilling story about two brothers (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) who are desperate to better their troubled lives. One is a chronic gambler up to his ears in debt; the other is a young man in love with a beautiful actress (newcomer Hayley Atwell) whom he has just recently met. Their lives gradually become entangled as a result of a sinister situation with intense and unfortunate results."

It seems that there are 2 types of filmgoers; the kind that adores the filmmaker that brought us the films ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN, and those that will respond to this announcement with a shrug of the shoulders and the click of a mouse. So depending on the camp you’re in, this announcement may or may not have the resonance a press release like this tends to garner. Either way, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering its appearance in Venice days earlier.

The other title that was “officially” announced this week is the film ACROSS THE UNIVERSE from Julie Taymor. This will also be screening as a Gala presentation and unfortunately, seems to have been overshadowed by the above announcement. The film is a romantic musical set in the 1960’s and follows the story of two lovers as they explore the challenges and changes of the turbulent times, all to the soundtrack of “30 revolutionary, generation-defining songs”. As the current list stands, this looks like one of the more intriquing Gala releases.

Two more titles were also added to the festival roster recently, albeit unofficially. Outside sources report that Ang Lee’s World War II-era espionage thriller LUST, CAUTION will have an official screening, as well as Shinji Aoyama's SAD VACATION. SAD VACATION will be a part of the Vanguard program, while the program for LUST, CAUTION has yet to be confirmed. While these have not been officially announced by the festival, expect to see a press release with these titles soon.

Friday, August 3, 2007

DVD releases for 7/31/07

The last time we saw Simon Pegg, he was a lumbering, slow moving, disheveled couch potato, flinging records and beer bottles at lumbering, slow moving, disheveled zombies. His wonderful fondness and understanding for all things undead gave the film SHAUN OF THE DEAD a silly, relaxed sense of humor while staying true to it's genre. Simon Pegg's newest venture, HOT FUZZ, out now on DVD, is another affectionate homage to the genre film, but this time he takes on the buddy-cop film. Expect the same dry wit you've come to expect from the rising Brit writing team of Pegg and Edgar Wright, but instead of scares, expect guns, explosions and most of all, a thoroughly entertaining 2 hours for any couch potato.

Other notable releases this week include:


Everything’s Gone Green

The Darwin Awards

Encounter Point

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Real to Reel and Vanguard selections

Below are the newly added titles to the Real to Reel and Vanguard programs. Standouts are the eagerly anticipated Phil Donahue documentary BODY OF WAR and Gus Van Sant’s Cannes selection PARANOID PARK. Full list and descriptions from the TIFF website are below:


PARANOID PARK Gus Van Sant, France
Alex (Gabe Nevins), a teenaged skateboarder, is at the centre of a criminal investigation after a security guard is killed near a skate park. Through non-linear fragments of action, voiced memories, skating scenes and Alex's inner conflict, his connection to the case is made clear. Like Van Sant's recent trilogy (GERRY, ELEPHANT and LAST DAYS) the sophisticated PARANOID PARK, based on the novel by Blake Nelson, is a provocative work about the human condition.

DÉFICIT Gael García Bernal, Mexico
Mexican star Gael García Bernal's compelling directorial debut is about a 20-something rich kid named Cristobal (Bernal) and a party he throws over a weekend. The clash between his and his younger sister's friends is comic and intense; class differences also reveal a unique social commentary on the state of Mexico.

CHRYSALIS Julien Leclercq, France
In Julien Leclercq's action feature debut, a lieutenant returns to the line of duty to hunt down a dangerous smuggler behind a series of murders, including his wife's own. The investigation leads him to a state-of-the-art clinic where memories are a precious and highly coveted commodity. Starring Albert Dupontel, Estelle Lefébure, Marie Guillard, Marthe Keller and Mélanie Thierry.

EX DRUMMER Koen Mortier, Belgium
Three disabled punk rockers find their perfect drummer in the uber-hip and arrogant author Dries, except for the fact that he can't actually play drums. Dries' unscrupulous behaviour sets off tension within the band, as family vendettas and personal disputes begin to jeopardize their fragile future. Set to a blood-soaked, sweat-drenched punk rock soundtrack, Koen Mortier's debut feature is as coarsely gruesome, sexually raunchy and blackly comic as the novel - by controversial writer Herman Brusselmans - on which it is based.

HELP ME EROS Lee Kang-sheng, Taiwan
From acclaimed actor Lee Kang-sheng comes a darkly comic and sexually daring tale that follows a young, penniless stock broker (Lee) who consoles himself with marijuana grown in his apartment closet. In his misery, he calls a suicide help line and falls for his counsellor, then sets a love triangle in motion when he projects his fantasy of her onto another girl who sells nuts at a nearby stall.

ME Rafa Cortés, Spain
The feature-directorial debut from Spain's Rafa Cortés, ME sees the writer-director musing on the place of his birth - the island of Majorca. When Hans (co-writer Alex Brendemühl) arrives in a small island town to take up work as a caretaker, his presence persistently invokes memories of the previous caretaker, also named Hans - memories that hang heavily over him as he searches and struggles to find an identity to call his own.

Streetwise swaggering Christopher "C-dub" Wang is a suburban guy who waxes political on all things Asian American and clings to pro basketball pipe dreams. But when misfortune strikes his family, C-dub must overcome living at home, working a dead-end job and his worldly older brother, to run his Mom's ping pong classes and defend the family's athletic dynasty.

XXY Lucía Puenzo, Argentina/Spain/France
Fifteen-year old Alex carries a heavy secret about her gender status and, at puberty, must make a decision one way or the other. But friends visiting from the family's former hometown with their 16-year-old son, Álvaro, and the inevitable attraction between teenagers, complicates matters.


Four Algerians of Muslim origin revisit the last years of their country's War of Independence, searching for truth about their own lives while recalling memories of troubled relationships with their Jewish and Christian neighbours.

BODY OF WAR Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro, USA
Wounded after serving in Iraq for less than a week, 25-year-old Tomas Young - now paralyzed from the chest down - transforms his personal suffering into political activism, evolving as a powerful voice against the ongoing war. Featuring new music by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

A call to action to help stop the genocide in Darfur, the struggles and achievements of six very different individuals - including actor Don Cheadle - bring to light the situation in Darfur and illustrate the need to get involved.

THE DICTATOR HUNTER Klaartje Quirijns, The Netherlands/USA
Revisiting the horrific torture, imprisonment and murder carried out in the 1980s under the regime of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, THE DICTATOR HUNTER follows Human Rights Watch activist Reed Brody in his quest to bring Habré to justice.

DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT: A NATION'S JOURNEY Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan, Pakistan
In October 1999, Pervez Musharraf assumed power in Pakistan through a bloodless military coup. Hearing his vision for Pakistan over dinner, filmmakers Sumar and Sathananthan ponder the irony of a President in army fatigues delivering democracy to the masses. A part of Why Democracy?.

In his first documentary since GRIZZLY MAN, Herzog, accompanied only by his cameraman, travels to Antarctica, gaining unrestricted access to the raw beauty and humanity of the ultimate Down Under.

Filmmaker Scott Hicks (SHINE) documents an eventful year in the career and personal life of distinguished composer Philip Glass as he interacts with a number of friends and collaborators, including Chuck Close, Ravi Shankar and Woody Allen.

Punctuated with clips from over 100 movies, HOLLYWOOD CHINESE offers a captivating revelation on the Chinese in American feature films, from the very first Chinese-American film produced in 1916 to Ang Lee's triumphant BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.

IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA Siatta Scott Johnson and Daniel Junge, USA
As the first freely elected female head of state in Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf appointed other extraordinary women to leadership positions in all areas of government. IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA asks the question, 'can Liberia's first female president bring sustainable democracy and peace to such a devastated country'? A part of Why Democracy?.

A JIHAD FOR LOVE Parvez Sharma, USA/UK/France/Germany/Australia
The first feature-length documentary to investigate the complex global intersections of Islam and homosexuality, Sharma's feature directorial debut brings to light the hidden lives of gay and lesbian Muslims with empowering stories from twelve countries.

Variety critic Todd McCarthy explores the legacy of Pierre Rissient, a key behind-the-scenes figure in Cannes for more than 40 years.

MY ENEMY'S ENEMY Kevin Macdonald, France/UK
From the director of THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND comes a documentary about the post-war activities of one-time Gestapo commander Klaus Barbie, infamously known as the "Butcher of Lyon."

Chronicling the rise to fame of Marla Olmstead - a four-year-old painter whose work has taken in over $300,000 - filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev examines society's obsession with child prodigies while exploring the complex on-going debate over what constitutes art.

OBSCENE Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O'Connor, USA
Drawn from more than 60 years of home movies, media appearances and rare archival footage, OBSCENE tells the story of American publisher Barney Rosset, who fought battles in court to put out some of the most forbidden works of the explosive post-war decades, including Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch.

When the dreams of a young Iraqi film student are crushed following the bombing of Baghdad's film school, actor Liev Schreiber invites him to intern on the production of EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED. But in a comedic turn of events, Schreiber's good intentions quickly backfire as the eager student proves to have intentions of his own.

PLEASE VOTE FOR ME Weijun Chen, China
In an experiment to determine how democracy might be received in China, third-graders hold an election to select a Class Monitor, competing against one other for the coveted position while being egged on by teachers and doting parents. A part of Why Democracy?.

Filmmaker Doug Pray tells the bizarre story of an eccentric family: 85-year-old legendary surfer Dr. Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, his wife Juliette, and their nine children - raised and home-schooled in a camper on a California beach.

Veteran director Barbet Schroeder explores the life, career and conscience of criminal lawyer Jacques Vergès, whose clients - including Klaus Barbie, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein - are among the most infamous figures of the 20th century.

TRUMBO Peter Askin, USA
Told through spoken-word performances of some of its subject's extraordinary letters, TRUMBO presents a portrait of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who fought back after being blacklisted by HUAC. Featuring appearances by Donald Sutherland, Michael Douglas, Joan Allen and Liam Neeson.

VERY YOUNG GIRLS David Schisgall, USA An eye-opening survey of teenage prostitution in New York City, David Schisgall's film also tells the story of Rachel Lloyd, the remarkable woman who founded Girls Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS), dedicating her live to help ensure that young girls avoid making the same mistakes that she did.

30 new titles

It looks like TIFF has turned an ordinary Tuesday into an event. I was only aniticipating the announcement of the final two Midnight Madness films, and instead, we are introduced to 30 new titles, including the 2 remaining from Midnight Madness, most of the Reel to Real program, and 8 new Vangaurd titles.
The final 2 Midnight Madness titles are...



Monday, July 30, 2007

Fest winner finds distribution

The TIFF06 "People's Choice Award" winner BELLA, looks to have found a distribution deal almost one year after it's premiere in Toronto. Bella follows in the footsteps of past winners TSOTSI, HOTEL RWANDA, ZATOICHI and WHALE RIDER. It was also the first winner since the festival changed their voting procedure. Only time will tell if the new system is a good indicator of future success, as it was with the last three out of four.

Article is by By John Jalsevac for Lifesite.net:

July 26, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Bella, the heart-warming independent film that took the 2006 Toronto Film Festival by storm, winning the prestigious "People's Choice Award," is in final negotiations with a major U.S. distributor, a representative at Metanoia Films told LifeSiteNews.com.
According to the representative, barring any last minute glitches in the signing of the papers, the film will be released in theatres across the country on October 26 of this year. Currently, however, he said, further details cannot be released until the contract is finalized.

Click here to read the full article.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wishful thinking

Even though the announcement of the final 2 Midnight Madness selections are only days away, I can’t help but keep my fingers crossed for a very unlikely entry; [REC] is receiving all kinds of hype due to it’s (originally) imaginative execution and simplistic teaser trailer (see below). The idea of a zombie film shot with hand-held camera footage, documentary style, was an interesting concept months ago, but now with the technique becoming so popular, by the time J.J. Abrams CLOVERFIELD hits theaters in March, it may have already become a tiresome gimmick. Anyone remember the noise theatergoers raised after sitting through THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT? Regardless, I’m sure DIARY OF THE DEAD will be fantastic, given this is Romero’s first independently produced film in over 20 years, and I’m sure it will be filled with his unique blend of social commentary and scares. But for me, [REC] was the one to beat. With such a similar theme and execution, I doubt we’ll see two hand-held, first person perspective zombie films in the same festival. So what are the chances? Not great, but [REC] is playing Venice days earlier, so there is always hope (and whatever the 2 selections are, they’re not UNDERWORLD)!

Friday, July 27, 2007

What's missing?

You may have noticed something is missing from the TIFF press releases this year. The film descriptions are missing that drum roll of hype that typically follows the sprawling list of stars. Give up? It's that there is absolutely no mention of whether a film is having its World Premiere, International Premiere or North American Premiere at the festival. These types of titles that accompany most films are what have typically helped festivals build prestige, pride and publicity. They help festivals define themselves and stand out amongst their competition. Apparently TIFF no longer believes this is effective. Or, it’s quite possible that, in this strange overlapping festival universe, that Venice and Telluride are stealing their thunder. Both festivals have the ability to show the same films, just days earlier. Granted, distinguishing an International premiere from a North American premiere is strictly for the PR/marketing professionals and rarely resonates with the general festival going audience. But what does this say about the TIFF? Does festival director Noah Cowan have a bigger picture in mind for the festival, or is this simply a ploy to prevent the appearance of eating leftovers?

Since Venice (which is similar to Cannes - both are considered “competitive” festivals, unlike Toronto) runs Aug. 29-Sept 8., many films will screen there prior to playing in Toronto. Take a look below for their complete list, just released Thursday:


Opening Film: "Atonement," Joe Wright, (U.K-U.S.)

"The Darjeeling Limited," Wes Anderson (U.S.)
"Sleuth," Kenneth Branagh (U.K.-U.S.)
"This Is Chaos, " Youssef Chahine (Egypt)
"Redacted," Brian De Palma (U.S.)
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," Andrew Dominik (U.S.)
"Nessuna qualita agli eroi," Paolo Franchi (Italy)
"Michael Clayton," Tony Gilroy (U.S.)
"Nightwatching," Peter Greenaway (Canada-France-Germany-Poland-Netherlands-U.K.)
"En la cuidad de Sylvia," Pilae Lopez De Ayala, Xavier Lafitte (Spain)
"In the Valley of Elah," Paul Haggis (U.S.)
"I'm Not There," Todd Haynes (U.S)
"The Sun Also Rises," Jiang Wen (China-Hong Kong)
"Help Me Eros," Lee Kang Sheng (Taiwan)
"La Graine et le mullet," Abdellatif Kechiche (France)
"Lust, Caution," Ang Lee (U.S.- Taiwan)
"It's a Free World." Ken Loach (U.K.-Italy-Germany-Spain )
"L'ora di punta," Vincenzo Marra (Italy)
"Sukiyaki Western Django," Takashi Miike (Japan)
"12," Nikita Mikhalkov (Russia)
"Il dolce e l'amaro," Andrea Porporati (Italy)
"Les Amours d'Astree et de Celadon," Eric Rohmer (France-Italy-Spain)

"Cassandra's Dream," Woody Allen (U.K.-U.S)
"Cleopatra," Julio Bressane (Brazil)
"La Fille coupee en deux," Claude Chabrol (France)
"Beyond the Years," Im Kwon Taek (South Korea)
"Glory to the Filmmaker," Takeshi Kitano (Japan)
"Cristovao Colombo-O enigma," Manoel de Oliveira (Portugal-France)

"For a Fistful of Dollars," Sergio Leone (Italy-Spain-Germany) (as part of Spaghetti Westerns retro)
"Blood Brothers," Alexi Tan (Taiwan-China-Hong Kong)
"REC," Paco Blaza and Jaume Balaguero (Spain)

"Far North," Asif Kapadia (U.K.-France)
"The Hunting Party," Richard Shepard (U.S.-Croatia-Bosnia)
"The Nanny Diaries," Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini (U.S.)
"Nocturna," Adria Garcia, Victor Maldonado (Spain-France)

"Sad Vacation," Shinji Aoyama (Japan)
"Mal nascida," Joao Canijo (Portugal)
"Searchers 2.0," Alex Cox (U.K.)
"Medee Miracle," Tonino De Bernardi (Italy)
"Cochochi," Laura Amelia Guzman, Israel Cardenas (Mexico-U.K.-Canada)
"With the Girl of Black Soil," Jeon Soo-il (South Korea-France)
"L'Histoire de Richard O," Damien Odoul (France)
"Autumn Ball," Veiko Ounpuu (Estonia)
"The Silence Before Bach," Pere Portabella (Spain)
"Exodus," Penny Woolcock (U.K.)
"The Obscure," Lu Yue (China)

"Dust," Hartmut Bitomsky (Germany)
"Madri," Barbara Cupisti (Italy)
"Death in the Land of Encantos," Lav Diaz (Philippines)
"Man From Plains," Jonathan Demme (U.S.)
"L'Aimee," Arnaud Desplechin (France)
"Umbrella," Du Haibin (China)
"Andarilho," Cao Guimares (Brazil)
"Useless," Jia Zhangke (China)
"Il Passaggio delle linea," Pietro Marcello (Italy)
"Anabazys," Joel Pizzini, Paloma Rocha (Brazil)
"Berlin," Julian Schnabel (U.S.)

"Hotel Chevalier," Wes Anderson (U.S.)

"La Via del petrolio," Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy)
"Spider's Stratagem," Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy)

"Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D," Tim Burton and Henry Selick (U.S.)

Roll out the red carpets

The star power just got kicked up a few notches when the TIFF released 8 additional titles to their Special Presentations program, a showcase for high-profile films featuring major stars and directors. Great news for the celeb spotters and red carpet regulars this year. Click here for the full film descriptions.

A film from Andrew Dominik and stars Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Mary-Louise Parker, Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner, Zooey Deschanel and Sam Rockwell.

ATONEMENT A film from Joe Wright and based on the award-winning novel by Ian McEwan. The film stars Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave.

BATTLE IN SEATTLE from Stuart Townsend and stars Andre Benjamin, Woody Harrelson, Joshua Jackson, Ray Liotta, Michelle Rodriguez, Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron.

I'M NOT THERE from Todd Haynes and sees Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw and Marcus Carl Franklin as the embodiment of different 'Dylanesque' characters - expressions of Dylan's mercurial personality and his chameleon-like persona. Also starring Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Bruce Greenwood and Michelle Williams.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH from Paul Haggis and stars Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron, Jason Patric, Josh Brolin and James Franco.

INTO THE WILD from Sean Penn, and based on a true story documented by author Jon Krakauer. The film stars Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener and Vince Vaughn.

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING from Noah Baumbach, and stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicole Kidman and Jack Black.

THE SAVAGES from Tamara Jenkins, stars Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Philip Bosco.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

DVD releases for 7/24

A couple TIFF06 selections are debuting this week on DVD. THE HOST is available in a standard issue single disc as well as the two-disc Collector's Edition. It's a fantastic film that's become an international sensation and will hopefully find a new audience here on DVD. I've gushed over the film in a previous posting, so all I will say is: If you have not seen it yet, rent/buy it now.

The other release is RENAISSANCE, which was featured in last year's newly formed Vanguard program, and is created in what Colin Geddes labeled "revolutionary high-tech animation" in striking black and white. It also includes a talented voice cast of Daniel Craig and Catherine McCormack just to name a few. Netflix summarizes it best; "It's 2054 Paris, and a megacorporation called Avalon dominates contemporary life and sells eternal youth and beauty to the citizenry in this animated sci-fi thriller. When promising young Avalon scientist Ilona Tasuiev is kidnapped, the company hires top detective Barthélémy Karas (voiced by Daniel Craig) to find her. As he investigates, Karas discovers others on the hunt for Tasuiev -- along with a trail of witnesses that keep turning up dead."

Other notable DVD releases this week include:


The Number 23

Raise the Red Lantern

Hard Boiled Collector's Edition

Les Enfants Terribles

The Monster Squad

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A few updates

In order to make this site more useful, I've added a few new sections to highlight some helpful TIFF info. In the left column, I've added TIFF box office locations, TIFF participating cinemas, and (to some, most importantly) theater seating numbers. When it comes time to select your first and second choice film selections, seating may become an important factor in your decision making process (more on that to come).

On the right, I've created a TIFF Resources section to feature links to sites dedicated (or sites with sections dedicated) to the TIFF. I have many, many more links ready to post once the sites go live. This will be a great resource for those of you looking to get an early scoop on film reviews, film buzz, and festival events. Keep checking back as it gets closer to the festival for those.

If there is anything else you would find useful, or would like to see added to the blog, please post a comment below and I will do my best to accommodate. Just 43 days to go!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Midnight Madness announced!

New this year, the festival is releasing a handful of full program lists and schedules before the usual full schedule announcement in August. 8 out of the 10 Midnight Madness program titles were announced today and as usual, they are a rowdy mix of blood, kinetic marital arts, edgy animation, and (new this year) superhero giants! The final 2 titles will be announced July 31st. Anyone know, or have any speculation of what those final 2 films will be?

To wet your appetite, I posted the schedule as well as the trailers to (most) of the selections below. Let the madness begin...
(Beware, some trailers may not be for the squeamish.)

Friday, September 7

Watch more Frontieres Trailer 's

Saturday, September 8
(no link as of yet, keep posted!)

Sunday, September 9

Monday, September 10
Click the link below or copy and paste:

Tuesday, September 11

Wednesday, September 12

Thursday, September 13:

Friday, September 14
(5th link from the left)

Saturday, September 15