Sick is a zombiesque thriller about a plague torn world where civilization has collapsed, the military is trying to find a cure and everyone else is simply fighting to survive. There is a military research compound, and nearby a safe community, of sorts. Dr. Leigh Rozetta (Christina Anne Aceto) is a researcher, along with assistant Claudia Silveira (Jennifer Polansky), who is trying to find a cure for her dying mother when the plague breaks out. As she says goodbye to them, the military is moving her to a secure research facility. She promises to come back. Not too far away is a secure settlement that sends out small groups for supplies. We encounter one such group as it prepares to move, with some of the more seasoned member advising the younger ones. Soon enough, the groups finds trouble and is most of them killed. Seph Copeland (Richard Sutton) and Mckay Jacobs (Robert Nolan) are on the run after their group was attacked. As the two try to make their way back, they run across Leigh. The three then deicide, at Mckay’s insistence, to go to Leigh’s parental home. Mckay doesn’t trust Leigh and can’t understand how or why she is out alone, so feels they must remain with her. Once there, tensions between the three begin to build from this mistrust. Claudia has discovered Leigh’s absence and set out to find her as well. The night finds the Sick more active, and with tensions high, one wonders who, if anyone, will survive the night.
Shot in and around the Toronto area, Director Ryan M. Andrews along with co-writer Chris Cull have created a film that had great potential, but came up short in some key areas. Budget constraints are often the bane of the indie filmmaker, forever trying to reconcile the ideas and elements of the film they want to make with the realities of the film they can make. Not having the ability to shoot complex scenes, or using locations that are simply too expensive, or complicated effects, means the films show a creativity and uniqueness the larger budget films can’t match. And a precious few wind up as cult favorites. Canadian indie filmmakers struggle to have their films made and viewed, both in the US and at home. It is good that films such as this are a part of a festival showcasing Canadian indie/grindhouse films. By focusing on these films this way, the opportunity for them to reach a wider audience develops, as well as promoting Canadian filmmakers whose talent promises more than fringe filmmaking allows them to deliver.
While well acted and shot, it seems to be grasping for more than it can actually grab. Inconsistencies in character development were evident throughout the film. They simply all were just too emotionally scattered to understand over the course of the film. While this can be overlooked in favor of the action between humans and the sick, there wasn’t enough action to distract from the story. At key moments the camera moves to another angle, so the splatter is missed. As such, the story and the action both leave the viewer wanting more, which the film never quite delivers on. Those living with an ever present and very real threat of death tend to become quite good at focusing on what is and isn’t absolutely necessary for survival, of which our two militant survivalists seem to be lacking. While understandable from the recently sheltered Leigh, coming from two men who watched their entire group die around them, their attitude and actions leave one wondering how they managed to survive as long as they have.
Grindhouse festivals are the perfect place to showcase new and emerging talent, as well as classics. This film fits well within the constraints of a grindhouse festival, allowing its audience to grow from those that would both appreciate and enjoy this film. As it was never made or designed for a larger audience, many mainstream viewers may struggle with its shortcomings.
There is something about this doc that I am really digging. It seems to be an interesting take on a problem that is a bit of a hidden/not so hidden secret of the hood. The trailer is well done and if this doc delivers half as good as this trailer does, then I think we have a great little look at a particular part of society that has been overlooked for so long.
About the Film This documentary offers an in-depth look at the high-stakes world of drug dealing and drug enforcement, featuring interviews with top-ranking government officials and such celebrities as Woody Harrelson, Susan Sarandon and The Wire creator David Simon. From TIFF: “Blending authentic reportage with pop culture references and a video game-like progression from level to level, the film illustrates step-by-step how to create a drug empire, from dealing on the corner to running a major cartel.” This is the directorial debut of former tech exec Matthew Cooke, who also edited the award winning doc Deliver Us from Evil. Cooke’s How To Make Money is premiering at the Toronto Film Fest, where it’s seeking a distributor.
We are weeks away from the 37th Toronto International Film Festival and with that comes the final announcement of films to round out the festival’s programming. Next up the festival shines a spotlight on first and second feature films from up-and-coming filmmakers, with 27 diverse features charging up its Discovery programme. The lineup showcases dynamic films by enterprising directors from around the world including Paraguay, France, Sweden, Estonia, Ivory Coast and Serbia.
“North American audiences have first found films like Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg and Steve McQueen‘s Hunger in our Discovery programme,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival. “With another strong crop of films this year and two prizes specifically for Discovery filmmakers, Toronto continues to be a prime place for debut films.”
Films in the Discovery programme are eligible for two awards: the new Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award that honours a filmmaker in the Discovery programme for their exceptional journey to date and that includes a $10,000 cash prize to support the winner’s next project, and the juried International Federation of Film Critics Award (FIPRESCI Prize) for the Discovery programme.
Check out the lineup below and head stay tuned for Xavierpop’s ongoing and unmatched coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival.
7 Boxes Juan Carlos Maneglia, Tana Schémbori, Paraguay International Premiere
It’s Friday night in Asunción and the temperature is 40ºC. Víctor, a 17-year-old wheelbarrow-boy, dreams of becoming famous and covets a cell phone in Mercado 4. He is offered the chance to deliver seven boxes with unknown contents in exchange for $100. This sounds like an easy job but it soon gets complicated. Something in the boxes is highly coveted. Víctor and his persecutors find themselves caught up in a crime they know nothing about. Starring Celso Franco, Lali González, Víctor Sosa and Nico García.
Augustine Alice Winocour, France International Premiere
Paris, winter 1885. At the Pitié-Salpêtriere Hospital, Professor Charcot is studying a mysterious illness: hysteria. Augustine, 19 years old, becomes his favourite guinea pig and the star of his demonstrations of hypnosis. The object of his studies will soon become the object of his desire. Starring Soko, Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni.
Blancanieves Pablo Berger, Spain/France World Premiere
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who never knew her mother. She learned the art of her father, a famous bullfighter, but was hated by her evil stepmother. One day she ran away with a troupe of dwarfs and became a legend. Set in southern Spain in the 1920s, Blancanieves is a tribute to silent film. Starring Maribel Verdú and Daniel Giménez Cacho.
Boy Eating the Bird’s Food Ektoras Lygizos, Greece North American Premiere
A 22-year-old boy in Athens has no job, no money, no girlfriend and no food to eat. He has only a canary bird and a beautiful singing voice. When he finds himself without a home, he must seek shelter for his bird. Starring Yiannis Papadopoulos.
The Brass Teapot Ramaa Mosley, USA World Premiere
John and Alice are in their 20s, married, very much in love, and broke. In high school, gorgeous Alice was voted “most likely to succeed” but now she’s just trying to make ends meet while her friends are enjoying the good life. Her husband John, loving but
immature, just wants to get the bills paid. After they get into an accident and end up at a roadside antique shop, Alice is uncharacteristically drawn to shoplift a brass teapot. It isn’t long before they realize this is no ordinary teapot. Starring Juno Temple, Michael Angarano, Alexis Bledel, Alia Shawkat, Bobby Moynihan, Stephen Park, Billy Magnussen and Debra Monk.
Burn It Up Djassa Lonesome Solo, Ivory Coast/France World Premiere
In the busy streets of Abidjan, Tony, an out-of-school youth, scrapes together a living by hawking cigarettes but he soon turns to violence. Shot in 11 days in Abidjan, Burn It Up Djassa breathes new life into Ivory Coast film. Starring Abdoul Karim Konaté, Adélaïde Ouattara, Mamadou Diomandé and Mohamed Bamba.
Call Girl Mikael Marcimain, Sweden/Ireland/Norway/Finland World Premiere
Stockholm, late 1970s. Within a stone’s throw of government buildings and juvenile homes lies the seductive world of sex clubs, discotheques and private residences. Call Girl tells the story of how young Iris is recruited from the bottom of society into a ruthless world where power can get you anything. Starring Pernilla August, Sofia Karemyr, Simon J Berger, Sven Nordin, David Dencik, Ruth Vega Fernandez, Josefin Asplund, Magnus Krepper and Kristoffer Joner.
Clip Maja Milos, Serbia North American Premiere
Jasna is a beautiful girl in her mid-teens, leading a crude life in postwar Serbia. With a terminally ill father and dispirited mother, she is disillusioned and angry with everyone and everything, including herself. Having a huge crush on a boy from school, she goes on a spree of sex, drugs and partying, constantly filming with her mobile phone. Still, in that very harsh environment – love and tenderness emerge. Starring Isidora Simijonovic, Vukašin Jasnic, Sanja Mikitišin, Jovo Makisc and Monja Savic.
The Color of the Chameleon Emil Christov, Bulgaria World Premiere
This is a story without innocents. A maniacal informant creates his own phantom secret-police department. He recruits a group of intellectuals to spy on each other and uses his secret archive to wreak havoc on the government. Secret policing reveals its dark nature not only in its nauseating cruelties, but in its deviant pleasures. Starring Ruscen Vidinliev, Irena Milyankova, Rousy Chanev, Deyan Donkov, Svetlana Yancheva and Samuel Finzi.
The Deflowering of Eva van End Michiel ten Horn, The Netherlands World Premiere
The Deflowering of Eva van End is a tragicomedy about the van End family who, after the arrival of an impossibly perfect German exchange student, can no longer imagine how they ever managed to live with their imperfect selves. Starring Vivian Dierickx, Abe Dijkman, Tomer Pawlicki, Jacqueline Blom, Ton Kas and Rafael Gareisen.
Detroit Unleaded Rola Nashef, USA World Premiere
Caught between the cultures of contemporary Detroit and traditional Arab-America, Sami works behind the bulletproof glass of a 24-hour gas station with his cousin Mike. Inside this unique East-side neighborhood, the once university-bound Sami is forced to put his dreams aside and resign himself to a world composed of junk food, overpriced Tigers baseball memorabilia, and cheap, long-distance phone cards. And then the beautiful Naj walks in. Starring E.J. Assi, Nada Shouhayib, Mike Batayeh, Mary Assel, Akram El-Ahmar and Steven Soro.
Eat Sleep Die Gabriela Pichler, Sweden North American Premiere
When the forceful young Muslim Swedish/Balkan factory worker Raša loses her job, she must navigate the unemployment system. With no high school diploma, no job – but her boots deeply stained with the mud of the small town she grew up in – Raša finds herself on a collision course with society and its contradictory values and expectations. First time amateur actors play all of the main characters in the film. Starring Nermina Lukac, Milan Dragišic, Peter Fält, Ružica Pichler and Jonathan Lampinen.
Fill the Void Rama Burshtein, Israel North American Premiere
Fill the Void tells the story of an Orthodox Hassidic family from Tel Aviv. Eighteen-year-old Shira is the youngest daughter of the family. She is about to be married to a promising young man of the same age and background. It is a dream come true and Shira feels prepared and excited. When her 28-year-old sister, Esther, dies while giving birth to her first child, Shira’s promised match is postponed. When Shira’s mother finds out that Esther’s widower may leave the country with her only grandchild, she proposes a match between Shira and the widower. Shira will have to choose between her heart’s wish and her family duty. Starring: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Chaim Sharir, Razia Israely, Hila Feldman, Renana Raz, Yael Tal, Michael David Weigl and Ido Samuel.
The Interval Leonardo Di Costanzo, Italy North American Premiere
A boy and a girl have been locked up in an enormous abandoned building in Naples. The boy has been forced by a Camorra gang to act as her jail-keeper. But as the hours go by, hostility gives way to a form of exchange and when the Camorra gang members make their appearance at sunset, the pair are different from what we were expecting. Starring: Francesca Riso, Alessio Gallo, Carmine Paternoster, Salvatore Ruocco, Antonio Buil, Jean Yves Morard
Janeane from Des Moines Grace Lee, USA World Premiere
A conservative housewife wants to “take America back” in the 2012 election, but a tough economy causes some difficulties in her life, leading her to confront Republican contenders as they criss-cross her state during the Iowa Caucuses. But will anyone hear her story? Starring Jane Edith Wilson, Michael Oosterom, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.
La Sirga William Vega, Colombia/France/Mexico North American Premiere
Alice is helpless. War memories invade her mind like threatening thunder. Uprooted by the armed conflict, she tries to reshape her life in La Sirga, a decadent hostel on the shores of a great lake in the highlands of the Andes. There, on a swampy and murky beach, she will try to settle down until her fears and the threat of war resurface again. Starring Joghis Seudin Arias, David Fernando Guacas, Julio César Roble, Heraldo Romero and Floralba Achicanoy.
The Land of Eb Andrew Williamson, USA World Premiere
The Land of Eb relates a compassionate portrait of the Marshallese diaspora in Kona, Hawaii from the point of view of a hard-working and loving family man. Jacob forgoes cancer treatment in order to provide for his family when he’s gone. An insightful and ultimately joyful reminder of the lasting effects of the nuclear age. Starring Jonithen Jackson, Rojel Jonithen, Jeff Nashion and Hilary Monson.
Nights with Theodore Sébastien Betbeder, France World Premiere
A party in a Parisian flat. Theodore meets Anna. Later in the night, while walking through Paris, they decide to climb the fence of Buttes-Chaumont Park. There, they will share their first night and they will continue to come back until this strange attraction begins to separate them. In Nights with Theodore, fiction meets documentary to show the mysteries and fantasies of Buttes-Chaumont Park. Starring Pio Marmaï and Agathe Bonitzer.
Mushrooming Toomas Hussar, Estonia North American Premiere
Politician Aadu and his wife set out to pick mushrooms on a day when he gets a call from a journalist confronting him with suspected corruption. By coincidence, the married couple find themselves in a car with a pompous rock idol named Zäk. After discovering the spot his wife chose to pick mushrooms is full of vacationers, Aadu decides to find a quieter place. The woods where he ultimately ends up however, are perhaps too deep and inhospitable. Finding a way out may not be easy. This black comedy, with touches of political satire, aims at the often unscrupulous behaviour of contemporary politicians and media stars on their way to power and popularity.
Starring Raivo E. Tamm, Elina Reinold, Juhan Ulfsak, Üllar Saaremäe and Hendrik Toompere Jr.
Our Little Differences Sylvie Michel, Germany International Premiere
The seemingly harmonious relationship between the prestigious Doctor, Sebastian and his Bulgarian cleaning lady, Jana, develops into a vicious power game, when her daughter Vera and Arthur, the doctor’s son, vanish without a trace. Starring Wolfram Koch, Bettina Stucky, Leonard Bruckmann, Silvia Petkova, Wilhelm Eilers, Cornelia Brunig, Katharina Kubel and Jacqueline Macaulay.
Out in the Dark Michael Mayer, Israel/USA North American Premiere
Two young men—a Palestinian grad student and an Israeli lawyer—meet and fall in love amidst personal and political intrigue in this striking debut feature. As their relationship deepens, Nimer is confronted with the harsh realities of a Palestinian society that refuses to accept him for his sexual identity, and an Israeli society that rejects him for his nationality. Starring Nicholas Jacob and Michael Aloni.
Satellite Boy Catriona McKenzie, Australia World Premiere
While trying to save his home from being bought up by developers, a young Aboriginal boy becomes lost in the Outback with his smart-mouthed friend, and must call on the wisdom and survival skills passed down to him by his grandfather (played by legendary Australian actor David Gulpilil) in order to lead them out of the wilderness. Starring David Gulpilil, Cameron Wallaby, Joseph Pedley, Rohanna Angus and Dean Daley-Jones.
Wasteland Rowan Athale, United Kingdom World Premiere
Battered, bruised and under arrest, Harvey Denton sits in a police interview room facing interrogation. Clutching a stack of eyewitness statements, Detective Inspector West has no doubt as to Harvey’s part in a foiled robbery and his subsequent attempted murder of local businessman Steven Roper. Denying nothing, Harvey agrees to tell his version of events in full. As the story unfolds, we discover that a malevolent and unjust act perpetrated by Roper put Harvey in prison and now he has a score to settle. What unfolds is a tense and exhilarating heist of unexpected proportions. Starring: Luke Treadaway, Iwan Rheon, Matthew Lewis, Gerard Kearns, Timothy Spall, Vanessa Kirby and Neil Maskell.
Canadian films previously announced in the Discovery programme include: Jason Buxton’s Blackbird, Igor Drljaca’s Krivina, Kate Melville’s Picture Day and Kazik Radwanski’s Tower.
Nono, The Zigzag Kid Vincent Bal, Belgium/The Netherlands World Premiere
Nono wants to be like his father – the best police inspector of the world – but he gets into trouble all the time. Two days before his Bar Mitzvah, he’s sent away to his uncle Sjmoel, in order to keep to the straight and narrow. However, during the train ride Nono gets a last chance to prove himself. Along with master burglar Felix Glick – an old acquaintance of his father – he’s able to stop the train. He then enters a world of disguises, chases, French chansons, and of Zohara, a mysterious lady whose secrets will change Nono’s life forever.
The Festival’s Official Film Schedule was released today, and is available at the Festival Box Office or by visiting tiff.net/festival. Copies will also be distributed in The Grid on Thursday, August 23. Thursday’s issue of the Toronto Star will contain a 24-page section on the Festival, which includes the full film schedule.
Single tickets go on sale September 2. Purchase Festival tickets online at tiff.net/festival, by phone Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to
7 p.m. ET at 416.599.TIFF or 1.888.599.8433, and in person at the Festival Box Office located at 225 King St West. The 37th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 6 to 16, 2012.
About TIFF TIFF is a charitable cultural organization whose mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. An international leader in film culture, TIFF projects include the annual Toronto International Film Festival in September; TIFF Bell Lightbox, which features five cinemas, major exhibitions, and learning and entertainment facilities; and innovative national distribution program Film Circuit. The organization generates an annual economic impact of $170 million CAD. TIFF Bell Lightbox is generously supported by contributors including Founding Sponsor Bell, the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, the Reitman family (Ivan Reitman, Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels), The Daniels Corporation and RBC. For more information, visit tiff.net.
With the final block of 18 Special Presentation films announced this week, let’s see…that brings the grand total to 63 for this programme, and that’s not counting 7 Canadian features that we’ll cover in a special Canuck preview all its own.
TIFF is so bursting at the seams with titles that we had to cut the baby in three!
Films in this programme typically find distribution in North America, tend to combine a pedigree of talent from directing to acting, win tons of awards, and can most often be seen premiering at either the Elgin or the Ryerson Theaters.
Here are the deets on the final 18:
Arthur Newman Dante Ariola‘s feature directing debut stars Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) along with Emily Blunt as two people who have run away from their lives and who form a connection while they squat or break into other people’s homes. I stopped reading the synopsis when it got up to the part of them being “damaged souls”. Ya think? The director is an unknown quantity, but the leads are first-rate and Becky Johnston pens her first screenplay here since The Prince of Tides and Seven Years in Tibet back in the mid-90′s.
Bad 25 It’s a double dose of Spike Lee this summer, what with his indie pic Red Hook Summer opening in limited release and feat. Mookie delivering pizzas in a brief cameo. And then on the heels of that, his new Michael Jackson doc premieres at TIFF, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bad–the follow-up to the phenomenon which was Thriller, still the #1 bestselling album of all time. Bad hangs tough as the #5 bestseller around the world and although Thriller remains higher in sales, Bad continues to hold the record for most #1 singles (5) off one album with “I Just Can’t Stop Lovin’ You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana“. The doc promises a “treasure trove” of new footage, some of which Jackson shot himself, and will no doubt be wall-to-wall with music. Totally hyped for this one. Shamon!
Disconnect Henry Alex Rubin makes his long-awaited follow-up to Murderball (2005) which is one of the most exhilarating documentaries you’ll ever see, about paraplegics who take to specially-made wheelchairs to play their own Mad Max version of rugby. That was nominated for an Oscar that year. This marks his first fiction film in another of TIFF’s big hyperlink dramas featuring multiple storylines and characters who are seeking some kind of connection in their lives in this age of social technology. It stars Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, and Paula Patton (the teacher in Precious) among several others. I’m a sucker for hyperlink flicks and I hope this is great.
Do Not Disturb Tel Aviv native Yvan Attal brings his third directing effort to TIFF since My Wife Is an Actress (2001) and …They Lived Happily Ever After (2004). As an actor, Attal has appeared in titles including Munich and The Interpreter. His new dramedy stars himself as a still free-spirited, wildflower type who barges into his old friend Ben’s place, played by France’s Dustin Hoffman, Francois Cluzet–who just appeared in the multiple Cesar-winning The Intouchables). Charlotte Gainsbourg (the ice queen mother in Melancholia) co-stars.
Greetings from Tim Buckley It opened to mixed reviews, but I thought Daniel Algrant‘s People I Know (2002) was a delicious New York City drama with one of Al Pacino‘s best performances of the last decade. Now, after a long hiatus, Algrant returns with a musical drama about the late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, one of my favorites from the 90′s. This story recounts the events leading up to his 1991 tribute performance to his late father Tim, at New York’s St. Ann’s Cathedral. The intense performance launched the young performer’s short career, which gave us Grace, one of the best records of the last couple decades. Penn Badgley (Margin Call) stars as Jeff Buckley, along with Imogen Poots (Blanche from last year’s Jane Eyre, also here with A Late Quartet). Finally, a movie about Jeff Buckley!
Lines of Wellington Chilean native Valeria Sarmiento (frequent collaborator to Raoul Ruiz) returns to TIFF for the first time in a decade with her own film (she edited Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon last year). It covers the 1810 invasion of Portugal by France. John Malkovich stars as the leader of the Anglo-Portuguese army, General Wellington.
Love is All You Need And a good screenplay. Oscar-winner for foreign language pic In a Better World two years ago, Danish helmer Susanne Bier is back this with a dramedy starring Pierce Brosnan as an English widower in Denmark, along with Paprika Steen (Applause).
On the Road Festival fave Walter Salles (Motorcycle Diaries, Linha de Passe) returns with another highly-anticipated travelogue, this one based of course on the Jack Kerouac novel about a young writer and the free-spirited couple he meets on the road while on an existential search for everything in post WWII, beat-generation America. Sam Riley (played Ian Curtis in Control) stars as Sal, Garrett Hedlund (Jeff Bridges‘ son in Tron: Legacy) as Dean, and Kristen Stewart as MaryLou. Do you suppose the TIFF audience will greet her politely after her recent philandering? We’ll see.
Passion Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace are a corporate duo who face off against each other, with McAdams seeking revenge on her protege Rapace. Brian De Palma returns to TIFF for the first time since his indie Iraq drama Redacted in 2007, though this stuff thematically has more in common with Femme Fatale, which was a festival hit 10 years ago. Can’t wait.
Rhino Season Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi has brought virtually all of his films to Toronto since his incredible debut in 2000 with A Time for Drunken Horses. His 2004 drama Turtles Can Fly was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign film and told the story of kids who take money from both Iraqi and U.S. officials to go out and find landmines that haven’t done their thing yet. In 2006 he brought us Half Moon, another poetic neo-realism flick about an old Kurdish musician trying to get to a show he needs to perform at, travelling all the way around the U.S. occupied Iraq of the time. His films were the first on-the-ground efforts where we could feel the war in Iraq in the air from the perspective of the people over there, even if they were not war stories. His new one is another travelogue, this time about a freed Kurdish-Iranian poet from prison who sets out across Turkey in order to find the wife who must imagine him to be dead. Ghobadi is a treasure.
Spring Breakers Harmony Korine. I really only need to type his name and if you’re any kind of indie movie lover of the last 15 years, that name just went in your eyes and set something off in your brain and now you either really need to see his new one or you really don’t. He’s sort of by himself over in the corner, an untamed indie writer-director that makes almost every other indie movie look a lot more mainstream. He wrote much of the screenplay for Kids (1995) as a teenager. That was one of the best films of the 90′s. On his own as a director, he is even more surreal and free-spirited. Part of the wonder is that his movies even got made, like with Mister Lonely (2004) which tells of characters who live as impersonators of famous people like Michael Jackson and the Pope, or Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) told from the viewpoint of a young schizophrenic and also featuring that mesmerizing performance by Werner Herzog. His new one appears to have a budget to go with stars James Franco and Selena Gomez, in this spring break comedy that I’m betting won’t be just another vanilla one.
The Master One of the last movies I saw at the old Uptown Theater at Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto was the premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Punch-Drunk Love (2002). That was an event. It was the 6th film playing that day in the large #1 theater that was famous for its expansive front row where you could put your coat and book-bag up on that stage in front of you instead of under your seat or in your lap. It got going closer to midnight when it had been scheduled for about 10:30 as I recall, and it didn’t matter because we were going to see a PTA movie on a screen we knew it would never show on again. All of his movies are like that for me; I remember the day, the weather, where I saw it, who with, what we ate after. PTA is this generation’s humble heavyweight director and a student of the game, his work recalling heavyweights such as Scorsese, Altman, Kubrick and Ophuls. His new one stars Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a drama soaked in dogmatic themes in McCarthy-era America.
The Paperboy Matthew McConaughey‘s on fire this year. This will be his fourth movie in four months and the second deep-fried gothic thriller in a row following Killer Joe, Bernie, and Magic Mike. He’s been very good in all of ‘em so far, with Bernie being one of the most unfairly neglected movies of the year. Here he stars in Lee Daniels‘ highly-anticipated follow-up to the 2009 TIFF Audience Award winner, Precious. Zac Efron (also here with At Any Price) plays a journalist who goes back home to Florida in order to involve himself with a death row inmate. That’s about as far as I got in the synopsis of this 60′s-set drama, which I can’t wait to see, but want to see cold. Looks Oscary. Hope it’s more Dead Man Walking than Life of David Gale.
The Son Did It Italian director Daniele Cipri makes his long-awaited TIFF debut with this crime-drama detailing the mistaken killing by the Mafia of a young peasant family’s daughter. Remarkably–and I love stumbling across this kind of stuff–Cipri’s bio on the IMDB shows him being nominated wearing four different hats, from his writing and directing, to his editing and cinematography work on movies like Marco Bellocchio‘s Vincere and Dormant Beauty, which also premieres at TIFF this year.
The Suicide Shop I went and saw Patrice Leconte‘s haunting Monsieur Hire after Siskel & Ebert raved about it in 1990, and I was hooked after that. At his best, he explores the obsessions of his characters with a singular focus and fascination with them. The Hairdresser’s Husband (1992) was about a young boy who vowed he’d marry a hairdresser, and finally in middle-age, he does just that. That was one of the best films of the 90′s along with Hire and the wondrous black & white Girl on the Bridge (1999), with that unforgettable Vanessa Paradis performance. This marks his first foray into animation, with the bleak story of an even bleaker family who run a little shop specializing in euthanasia. I’m totally there. Every single Leconte film that has been brought to TIFF has been very good at the least and a masterpiece at best.
Therese Desqueyroux French director Claude Miller‘s (A Secret) posthumous last film stars Audrey Tautou in a study of what it might have been like to be a Catholic landowner’s wife in rural France in the 1920′s, except for the part where she poisons her husband with arsenic of course. Tautou plays a woman stifled by an arranged marriage and differing values that clash with her time in this adaptation of one of French author Francois Mauriac‘s most famous novels.
White Elephant French actor Jeremie Renier (L’Enfant, In Bruges) stars as a young priest who’s been brought on by an older Argentinian one played by Richardo Darin (earning amazing reviews for his current Chinese Takeaway) to work on a housing project in the slums of Buenos Aires. Writer-director Pablo Trapero was last at TIFF with the good crime-dram Carancho in 2010 and his new one earned very good reviews out of competition at Cannes.
Yellow Remarkably, this is Nick Cassavetes first return to TIFF since his first film, 1996′s Unhook the Stars. In that time he has tackled more indie-flavored fare with the gritty She’s So Lovely (1997) and helped to catapult Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams into bonafide stardom after 2004′s The Notebook. Those were good films while his more recent My Sister’s Keeper (2009) is my favorite. Yellow appears to mark a return back to a grittier feel with Sienna Miller as a young woman with drug and other problems. He’s always got a great cast all the way down the line and here is no exception, with the likes of Gena Rowlands, David Morse, Ray Liotta and Melanie Griffith.
You don’t go to a film in the Vanguard programme hoping that it’s going to be nice or charming, sweet or even entertaining. These films tend to be edgier, sexier, darker. When you walk out of a film in Vanguard, you want to talk about it and hash it over afterwards.
Some of these selections never find an easy path towards distribution. In recent years, movies in this programme that have found a way out of Toronto include Gareth Edwards‘ indie-sci-fi-romantic-horror-scare-story Monsters, the penetrating Japanese revenge thriller Confessions, the chilling Australian serial killer drama The Snowtown Murders, and Joachim Trier‘s addiction drama Oslo, August 31st.
Here’s a look at the 15 films showing in the Vanguard programme this year:
90 Minutes Eva Sorhaug brings her second feature to TIFF, and I think its Norwegian title 90 Minutter sounds way cooler than the boring English translation. Her first feature, Cold Lunch, went unseen by me, but I look forward to this domestic drama starring Aksel Hennie (Max Manus, Headhunters) who sort of looks like the lovechild of Steve Buscemi and Jason Statham, if you can imagine that.
Beijing Flickers Zhang Yuan came to TIFF in 1993 with his first feature, Beijing Bastards–unseen by me–a relationship drama about a rock musician and the pregnant girlfriend he let get away. The last time he was in Toronto was in 1997 with East Palace West Palace–saw it!–a fascinating study of homosexuality and how severely it is punished in China. Placed under house arrest because of his earlier, edgier films that confront his rigid society, Yuan deserves more attention in the west despite his more recent ventures into the mainstream with movies like the childhood drama Little Red Flowers. Hopefully his new one will be a huge success at TIFF, a drama following what the programme calls “the little people” in the underground of Beijing’s booming economy.
Berberian Sound Studio Peter Strickland‘s first feature, the Romanian-Hungarian co-production titled Katalin Varga appeared to hit every major film festival in a two-year run from 2009 to late 2010, except for TIFF. Drats, from what I gather from the IMDB about the little revenge drama that never got a North American release is that it looks promising. His sophomore effort’s been picked up, however, and it stars Toby Jones–he played Capote in that movie best remembered as “the other Capote movie”–as a mild-mannered sound engineer from the UK who is brought to Italy in the mid 70′s to mix what Quiet Earth‘s Simon Read calls “a gruesome horror film in the mold of Dario Argento‘s Suspiria“. The film premiered to wicked and wild buzz at the Edinburgh Film Festival and makes its North American premiere at TIFF. The premise as well as its trailer has me hyped for this one. This goes straight to the “can’t wait” list.
Blondie Swedish helmer Jesper Ganslandt‘s third trip to Toronto is a family drama following three estranged adult sisters after his coming-of-ager Falkenberg Farewell (2006) and the thriller The Ape (2009). He’s looking to finally break out in the North American market and graduate from the festival circuit with this Bergmanesque outing.
Here Comes the Devil Spanish writer-director Adrian Garcia Bogliano has flown under the radar, becoming a midnight favorite on the horror fest circuit with previous titles such as Cold Sweat and The Accursed. His new Mexican-U.S. co-production sees him coming to Toronto for the first time with his thriller about two children that go missing in a set of caves around Tijuana, and the disquieting energy about them after they reappear.
I Declare War The lone Canadian feature in this programme has a neat little trailer in a story of neighborhood boys and the little war games they play with each other. Toronto writer-director Jason Lapeyre is set to make a splash this year with this, his first feature to appear at TIFF, while he simultaneously tours two other features as well–a thriller titled Cold Blooded, which just took the audience prize at Fantasia; the other a doc filmed at Toronto General Hospital last year. There’s a good chance that by the end of TIFF he will have been one of its major discoveries; a new Canadian talent arriving on the scene with three aces up his sleeve already.
iLL Manors Ben Drew–a.k.a. UK rap & hip-hop artist Plan B–makes his feature writing-directing debut with this hyperlink crime-drama set in the violent Forrest Gate hood of East London, where he grew up. The pic weaves together six different storylines, which is incidentally the same number of threads in that other hyperlink movie at the fest in Cloud Atlas. Small world. Opening over the summer to warm reviews in the UK, the pic’s soundtrack–also by Drew–has already hit #1 on the charts there. This follows a successful stint as an actor for him, appearing as one of the thugs in the Michael Caine Gran Torino-esque pic Harry Brown from three years ago. Lookin’ good.
Motorway Director Soi Cheang brings his kinetic Hong Kong car chase actioner to Toronto, his second trip here after 2009′s assassin thriller Accident. Johnnie To is back as producer once more, and the movie should find itself with a specialized run outside of the festival circuit in North America over the coming year. Nice early reviews so far for the pic upon it’s Asian release this summer.
Painless I like the premise of this thriller, which weaves together two stories: set in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, a group of children who are insensitive to pain find themselves in an asylum attempting to be rehabilitated through torture. Meanwhile, in the present, a brilliant neurosurgeon who needs a bone marrow transplant ventures out to find his biological parents and, wouldn’t you know it, stumbles upon the dark story of the past. Painless represents the first feature by writer-director Juan Carlos Medina, who co-scripts here with Luiso Berdejo of [Rec] fame.
Peaches Does Herself Canadian electro-post-punk-new-wavey musician and performance artist Peaches–bestie and former roommate of Feist; collaborator on Christina Aguilera‘s Bionic LP–directs her first feature, described by TIFF as a “wild, transsexual rock opera”, featuring songs from her catalogue like “Fuck the Pain Away” and ”Lovertits”. Peaches will also be premiering a new installation as well as offering us a performance. This will be one of the more unique experiences we’ve ever seen at TIFF. Straight to the “can’t wait” list.
Pusher Spanish-born writer-director Luis Prieto comes to TIFF for the first time with the English-language remake of Nicolas Winding Refn‘s (Drive) cult fave, with Refn aboard as executive producer. Richard Coyle (Tus in Prince of Persia) stars as a drug dealer whose life goes to hell over the course of one miserable week. Prieto is not a stranger to Toronto, having won the World Short Film Festival prize for best live-action short in 2002 with Bamboleho. Pusher premiered earlier this summer at the Edinburgh Film Festival to very warm reviews.
Room 237 I learn from the reviews of this Sundance hit that the full title as it appears onscreen is Room 237: Being an Inquiry Into The Shining in 9 Parts. And that’s what you need to know about Rodney Ascher‘s feature doc debut, as 5 subjects in the field of music, playwriting, cinema, journalism and conspiracy theorizing break down the obsessive nature of fans to art in the abundant amount of information that may or may not exist in Stanley Kubrick‘s 1980 thriller, relating to numerology, the Holocaust, and the Moon landing. Yup, you know it, this one’s going straight to the “can’t wait”.
Sightseers Ben Wheatley returns to TIFF after the authentic, blood-soaked Midnight Madness flick Kill List that premiered last year. Opening to strong reviews in the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes and with a very funny clip of this online, Sightseers follows a late thirtysomething couple on a dream RV holiday in this dark comedy that takes more than one turn into sudden violence.
Thale Based on a creature called a “huldra” that belongs to Norwegian folklore, a strange and naked woman with a cow tail is found by two forensic clean-up men deep in a forest. Premiering at SXSW in Austin last March to very warm reviews, Aleksander Nordaas makes his first trip to Toronto with this most intriguing of premises, not to mention those amazing early images and a tagline that reads: “In a cellar, dark and deep, I lay my dearest down to sleep; A secret they would like to keep.”
The We and the I And last but not least, Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) comes back to TIFF for the first time since his Dave Chapelle’s Block Party premiered as a Special Presentation in 2006. This mostly interior drama is set almost entirely on a bus featuring a group of teens on their last day of school before summer break. Sort of has an inner-cityBreakfast Club-on-public-transit kind of feel from the trailer.