Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Shannyn Sossamon, Dominic Monaghan and Cory Hardrict in The Day Photo: Content Media
The 2011 Toronto International Film Festival announced 56 more movies added to its festival line-up this year with selections in the Vanguard, Midnight Madness, Documentaries, City to City and TIFF Kids programs. And to be honest, the line-up is filled with titles, most of which are absolutely new to me.
I have seen one of the films under the Vanguard banner, a selection of young and cutting edge features and I’ve heard of Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (watch the trailer to the right) was a hit at South by Southwest earlier this year and the documentary selections include familiar names such as Werner Herzog, Morgan Spurlock, Jonathan Demme, Alex Gibney and Wim Wenders, the latter of which is delivering a 3D documentary centered on the dance world of Pina Bausch and her company.
The Midnight Madness selection of horror and genre features includes films from The Blair With Project helmer Eduardo Sanchez and Bobcat Goldthwait and a a post-apocalyptic thriller starring Ashley Bell, Dominic Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon. However, beyond the immediately recognizable names I haven’t explored the selection well enough to note if anything strikes me immediately as something I need to see beyond the massive batch of films announced in the Galas and Special Presentations.
After a quick skim, I’d say Headshot sounds promising, the Spurlock doc could be amusing, the Herzog doc sounds fascinating and Gibney’s doc on a brute NHL hockey enforcer could be really interesting. Several of the Midnight Madness selections sound like they could be good such as The Day, Kill List, Livid, The Raid, Smuggler (un-subtitled teaser to the right) and You’re Next. Problem a lot of times with the second tier films is they are hard to see due to the overwhelming amount of higher profile features. That is, if I’m going to get the most bang for my buck. Business before pleasure right?
All that said, have a look at the selections below and let me know if anything pops out to you. The 2011 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8-18 and I will be covering it from the 8th through the 15th. You can keep an eye on all my coverage by bookmarking my Toronto Film Festival hub page where you will find all of my coverage, live updates while I’m on the ground in Toronto as well as all the latest reviews from the festival.
Carre Blanc (dir. Jean-Baptiste Leonetti) Philip and Mary, two teenagers whose parents were crushed by the system, are placed in an orphanage with frightening education methods. Twenty years later, they became husband and wife and have all the appearances of a wealthy couple. However, while Philip is a cog in the system, Mary goes into a depression that seems irreversible. Unable to have kids, they are on the verge of breaking. But Mary will do anything to show Philip that together they can love and survive in a frozen desert where men have become monsters. Starring Sami Bouajila, Julie Gayet, Jean-Pierre Andreani, Fejria Deliba and Valerie Bodson.
Generation P (dir. Victor Ginzburg) Set in 1990s Moscow, Generation P details the parallel rise of poet-turned-copywriter Babylen Tatarsky through both a new advertising business and the shadowy Cult of Ishtar, whose acolytes control the media. Starring Vladimir Yepifantsev, Michael Yefremov and Andrei Fomin.
Headshot (dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang) Tul, a straight-laced cop, is blackmailed by a powerful politician and framed for a crime he did not commit. Disillusioned and vengeful, he is soon recruited to become a hitman for a shadowy group aimed at eliminating those who are above the law. But one day, Tul is shot in the head during an assignment. He wakes up after a three-month coma to find that he sees everything upside down, literally. Tul begins to have second thoughts about his profession. But when he tries to quit, roles are reversed and the hunter becomes the hunted. Can Tul find redemption from the violence that continues to haunt him?
Love and Bruises (dir. Lou Ye) Hua, a young teacher from Beijing, is a recent arrival in Paris. Exiled in an unknown city, she wanders between her tiny apartment and the university, drifting between former lovers and recent French acquaintances. She meets Matthieu, a young worker who falls madly in love with her. Possessed by an insatiable desire for her body, he treats Hua like a dog. An intense affair begins, marked by Matthieu’s passionate embraces and harsh verbal abuse. When Hua decides to leave her lover, she discovers the strength of her addiction, and the vital role he has come to play in her life as a woman. Starring Tahar Rahim, Corinne Yam, Jalil Lespert, Sifan Shao, Vincent Rottiers.
Oslo, August 31 (dir. Joachim Trier) Anders wanders the city, meeting people he hasn’t seen in a while. Long into the night, the ghosts of past mistakes will wrestle with the chance of love, of a new life, with the hope to see some future by morning… From the director of the award-winning Reprise. Starring Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olaf Brenner, Ingrid Olava, Johanne Kjellevik Ledang.
Snowtown (dir. Justin Kurzel) [Read My Cannes Review Here] When 16-year-old Jamie is introduced to a charismatic man, a friendship begins. As the relationship grows so do Jamie’s suspicions, until he finds his world threatened by his loyalty for, and fear of, his newfound father-figure John Bunting, Australia’s most notorious serial killer. Starring Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris.
The Year of the Tiger (dir. Sebastian Lelio) Manuel is imprisoned in a jail in the south of Chile, which collapses on the night of the violent earthquake of February 27, 2010. Manuel escapes and becomes a fugitive, lost in the middle of the catastrophe. He returns to his home only to find out that it has been ravaged by a tsunami, which has also taken the lives of his wife and daughter. As Manuel travels through completely destroyed landscapes, he enters deeper and deeper into his own devastated areas. This strange freedom will bring him to face nature’s cruelty and take his own human existence to its limit. Starring Luis DubÃ³, Sergio HernÃ¡ndez, Viviana Herrera.
Pina (dir.Wim Wenders) German master filmmaker Wim Wenders shoots in 3D to capture the brilliantly inventive dance world of Pina Bausch and her company, Tanztheater Wuppertal. Excerpts from many of her most famous pieces are shot outside in the streets and parks of Wuppertal capturing the drama and power of her repertoire.
This is not a Film (dirs. Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) Sentenced to six years in prison and banned from writing and making films for 20 years by the Islamic Republic Court in Tehran, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi waited for the verdict of his court appeal for months. Through the depiction of a day in his life while he’s on house arrest, Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (a documentary filmmaker and former assistant director) offer audiences an overview of the current situation of Iranian cinema.
Arirang (dir. Kim Ki-Duk) While shooting a suicide scene for his last film, Dream, in 2008, filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk’s lead actress nearly perished and the incident triggered an emotional and creative breakdown for Kim. As an act of self-administered therapy, Arirang takes playful liberties with the documentary form as Kim traces his experiences and mindset during this period of crisis.
The Boy Who Was King (dir. Andrey Paounov) Director Andrey Paounov (The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories) explores the strange history of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha who became Bulgaria’s tsar at age 6, then was exiled during years of communism and returned to be elected Prime Minister.
Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope (dir.Morgan Spurlock) Have you ever imagined a place where Vulcans and vampires get along? Where wizards and wookies can be themselves? Welcome to Comic-Con San Diego. What started as a fringe comic book convention for 500 fans has grown into the pop culture event of the year that influences every form of entertainment, now attended by over 140,000. Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope explores this cultural phenomenon by following the lives of seven attendees as they descend upon the ultimate geek mecca. Includes interviews with Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Frank Miller and Matt Groening.
Dark Girls (dir. Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry) It seems beyond comprehension that a child would ask her mother to put bleach in the bathwater to lighten her skin. Yet this is a reality for many members of the African diaspora. For many black women – who, like all women, are often judged by their physical appearance – being dark-skinned becomes their defining characteristic. Actor/director Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry set out to examine why skin colour bias persists and how it affects the lives of women on the receiving end of it.
Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell (dir. Rithy Panh) Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge regime caused the death of some 1.8 million people, representing one-quarter of the population of Cambodia. Rithy Panh first explored the legacy of Cambodia’s genocide with S21, the Khmer Rouge Killing Machine. This captivating new documentary continues Panh’s investigation with a portrait of Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the man responsible for running the notorious S21 prison.
Gerhard Richter Painting (dir. Corinna Belz) Gerhard Richter, one of the internationally most significant contemporary artists of our times, granted filmmaker Corinna Belz access to his studio in the spring and summer of 2009 where he was working on a series of large abstract paintings. In quiet, highly concentrated images, the film gives us a fly-on-the-wall perspective of a very personal, tension-filled process of artistic creation. In her intelligent and perceptive film, Corinna Belz brings us closer to the complex processes of artistic creation. Gerhard Richter Painting is the penetrating portrait of an artist at work – and a fascinating film about the art of seeing.
Girl Model (dirs. Ashley Sabin and David Redmon) Despite a lack of obvious similarities between Siberia and Tokyo, a thriving model industry connects these distant regions. Girl Model follows Ashley, a deeply ambivalent model scout who scours the Siberian countryside looking for fresh faces to send to the Japanese market, and one of her discoveries, Nadya, a 13-year-old plucked from the Siberian countryside and dropped into the center of Tokyo with promises of a profitable career. After Ashley’s initial discovery of Nadya, the two rarely meet again, but their stories are inextricably bound.
I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful (dir.Jonathan Demme) Carolyn Parker was the last to leave her neighbourhood when a mandatory evacuation order was decreed as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans in the summer of 2005, and was the first resident to return to her now flood-devastated community. Mrs. Parker takes us deep inside her personal biography as a child born in the 1940s, raised in segregated New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, who became a teenager joining the front lines in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and later became one of the most outspoken voices in the fight for every New Orleanian’s right to return home after the devastation of the floods that followed Katrina.
In My Mother’s Arms (dirs. Atia Al Daradji and Mohamed Al Daradji) Husham works tirelessly to build the hopes, dreams and prospects of the 32 damaged children of war under his care at a small orphanage in Baghdad’s most dangerous district. When the landlord gives Husham and the boys just two weeks to vacate the premises, a desperate search for lodging ensues.
Into the Abyss (dir.Werner Herzog) Exploring a triple homicide case in Texas, Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Grizzly Man) probes the psyches of those involved, including the 28-year-old death row inmate scheduled to die within eight days of appearing on-screen. Herzog’s inquiries unveil layers of humanity against an American Gothic landscape. As he’s so often done before, the director makes an enlightening trip out of ominous territory.
Last Call at the Oasis (dir. Jessica Yu) We’re running out of water, and contaminating what’s left. How long before the well runs dry? In unravelling this interconnected global crisis, Last Call at the Oasis focuses on the country with the largest water footprint – the United States – and explores why the threat hasn’t hit home. Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu draws upon the research of scientists and enlists diverse voices ranging from the real Erin Brockovich, exemplifying feisty resistance, to actor Jack Black, supplying welcome comic relief.
The Last Dogs of Winter (dir. Costa Botes) Canadian Eskimo Dogs or Quimmiq were once indispensible to human life in the arctic. Today, the breed faces extinction. Since 1976, Brian Ladoon has stuck to a promise to maintain a viable breeding colony of the animals, battling chronic underfunding, wandering polar bears, officialdom and shocking weather to keep his word.
The Last Gladiators (dir.Alex Gibney) Chris “Knuckles” Nilan can chart his hockey career by his scars. He earned those stripes as one the NHL’s fiercest enforcers, throwing punches to defend his teammates. While playing for the Montreal Canadiens in the mid-1980s, his fights racked up penalty minutes, but received roaring approval from fans and helped win the Stanley Cup. When injuries forced Knuckles to retire in 1992, he faced a new battle: how do you stop being a gladiator and re-enter normal society? Academy AwardÂ® winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) explores the rough and tumble world of hockey.
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (dirs. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky) Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory chronicles the 18-year odyssey of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, three teens incarcerated for a horrifying crime they claim they did not commit. In the latest installment of the acclaimed documentary film series about the “West Memphis Three,” facts are reexamined, new evidence is revealed, and new suspects are scrutinized. The film is a riveting look at American justice.
Paul Williams Still Alive (dir. Stephen Kessler) A documentary filmmaker tracks down Grammy and Oscar award-winning actor/singer/songwriter Paul Williams in an attempt to find out what happened to his fallen idol. Paul Williams was one of the biggest stars of the 1970s. He was everywhere – on The Tonight Show 50 times and appeared on variety shows, sitcoms, game shows and movies from The Love Boat to Phantom of the Paradise. But in the 1980s, he just disappeared. This movie is about what happened when filmmaker Stephen Kessler finds him.
Samsara (dir. Ron Fricke) Samsara is a Tibetan word that means “the ever turning wheel of life,” a concept both intimate and vast, the perfect subject for filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson whose previous collaborations include Chronos and Baraka. Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation that spans the globe on a journey of the soul. Through powerful images pristinely photographed in 70mm and a dynamic music score, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of the nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.
Sarah Palin – You Betcha! (dirs.Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill) Nick Broomfield’s quest for the real Sarah Palin involves battling the icy snows of Alaska in mid-winter to speak to the school friends, family, and Republican colleagues that in previous days gave their heart, soul and belief to the charismatic, charming, intoxicating ex-hockey mom. But it’s not all plain sailing. People are frightened to talk; Wasilla makes Twin Peaks look like a walk in the park. It’s a devout evangelical community – 76 churches with a population of only 6 thousand, and the Crystal meth capital of Alaska. Broomfield brings his celebrated wit and determination to cracking her story.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey (dir. Mark Cousins) Filmed on four continents over six years, this epic 15-hour documentary tells the story of innovation in the movies based on the acclaimed book of the same title by Mark Cousins. Featuring exclusive interviews with legendary filmmakers like Stanley Donen and Abbas Kiarostami, The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a passionate, cinematic journey across 11 decades of cinema, and a thousand films.
The Tall Man (dir. Tony Krawitz) This is the story of Palm Island, the Australian tropical Paradise where one morning Cameron Doomadgee swore at a policeman and forty-five minutes later lay dead in a watch-house cell. It’s also the story of that policeman, the tall enigmatic Christopher Hurley who prior to Doomadgee’s death had been decorated for his work with aboriginal communities. Based on Chloe Hooper’s award winning book, The Tall Man explores one of Australia’s most sensational cases of culture clash and the haunting moral puzzle at its core.
Undefeated (dirs. Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin) In 2004, football coach Bill Courtney took on the daunting job of coaching at Manassas High School in inner-city Memphis, where players are more likely to wind up in jail than in college. The Manassas Tigers were perennial whipping boys of the league, bereft of victories, funds, and morale. Courtney recruited a group of freshmen to turn things around, and in their first season they got creamed. But with each passing year they won more games and more respect. At the start of the season in 2009, Courtney set a goal: to win the first play-off game in the school’s 110-year history.
Urbanized (dir. Gary Hustwit) Director Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified) completes his design film trilogy with Urbanized. Exploring the design of cities with the world’s foremost architects, policymakers and engaged citizens, Urbanized frames a global discussion about how the design of our cities affects our lives.
Whores’ Glory (dir. Michael Glawogger) Whores’ Glory is a cinematic triptych on prostitution: three countries, three languages, three religions. In Thailand, women wait for clients behind glass panes, staring at reflections of themselves. In Bangladesh, men go to a ghetto of love to satisfy their unfulfilled desires on indentured girls. And in Mexico, women mix hard drugs with sex labour to avoid facing their own reality. In worlds where the most intimate act has become a commodity, these women have physically and emotionally experienced everything that can happen between a man and a woman. For this they have always received money, but it has not made their lives rich in anything but stories.
The Day (dir. Douglas Aarniokoski) In a post-apocalyptic future, an open war against humanity rages. Five survivors wander along rural back-roads, lost, starving and on the run. With dwindling food stocks and ammunition, an attempt at seeking shelter turns into a battleground where they must fight or die. Starring Ashley Bell, Dominic Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon.
God Bless America (dir.Bobcat Goldthwait) Loveless, jobless and possibly terminally ill, Frank has had enough of the downward spiral of America. With nothing left to lose, Frank takes his gun and decides to off the stupidest, cruellest and most repellent members of society with an unusual accomplice: 16-year-old Roxy, who shares his sense of rage and disenfranchisement. From stand-up comedian and director Bobcat Goldthwait comes a scathing and hilarious attack on all that is sacred in the United States of America.
The Incident (dir. Alexandre Courtes) George, Max and Ricky are in a rock band and waiting for their big breakthrough. Between small gigs and rehearsals they work in the kitchen of a high-security asylum for good pay at minimum risk – they have no physical contact with the inmates. One night just before dinnertime, a big storm shuts down the security system, the doors open and the lunatics break loose. Help is on its way and should soon arrive… they just have to survive until it does.
Kill List (dir. Ben Wheatley) Eight months after a disastrous job in Kiev left him physically and mentally scarred, ex-soldier-turned-contract-killer Jay is pressured by his partner Gal into taking a new assignment. As they track their prey, they descend into a disturbing world that is darker and more depraved than anything they experienced on the battlefield.
Livid (dirs. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo) The directors of 2007’s Midnight Madness hit A L’Interieur (Inside) return with a twisted gothic nightmare. A young woman and her friends break into a decrepit mansion looking for treasure, only to unlock a dark secret of unspeakable horror ready to dish out bloody punishment for their greed.
Lovely Molly (dir. Eduardo Sanchez) When newlywed Molly Reynolds returns to her long-abandoned family home, frightful reminders of a nightmarish childhood begin seeping into her new life. She soon begins an inexorable descent into evil that blurs the lines between psychosis and possession. From the director of The Blair Witch Project.
The Raid (dir. Gareth Evans) Deep in the heart of Jakarta’s slums lies an impenetrable safe house for the world’s most dangerous killers and gangsters. Until now, the run-down apartment block has been considered untouchable to even the bravest of police. Cloaked under the cover of pre-dawn darkness and silence, an elite swat team is tasked with raiding the safe house in order to take down the notorious drug lord that runs it. But when a chance encounter with a spotter blows their cover and news of their assault reaches the drug lord, the building’s lights are cut and all the exits blocked. Stranded on the sixth floor with no way out, the unit must fight their way through the city’s worst to survive their mission. Starring Indonesian martial arts sensation Iko Uwais.
Sleepless (dir. Night Frederic Jardin) When Vincent, a double-dealing cop, steals a big bag of cocaine from some drug dealers they counter by kidnapping and threatening to kill his son if the bag isn’t returned – fast. The swap is to go down at their headquarters in a big nightclub on the outskirts of Paris, but Vincent gets caught in a spiral of deception and betrayal and must fight his way through packed dance floors and dark corridors of the labyrinth-like club.
Smuggler (dir. Katsuhito Ishii) After his dreams of becoming an actor go nowhere, 25-year-old Kinuta does nothing but gamble every day. Broke, framed and now neck-deep in debt, he is recruited as a smuggler – an underground mover of everything from dead bodies to illegal goods – but one cargo triggers the rage of a psychotic gangster hellbent on revenge. By acclaimed cult director Katsuhito Ishii of Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl and Funky Forest fame.
You’re Next (dir. Adam Wingard) From the director-writer team that brought TIFF audiences A Horrible Way To Die in 2010 comes a new experiment in tension. A family comes under a terrifying and sadistic attack during a reunion getaway. Barricaded in their secluded country home, they have to fight off a barrage of axes, crossbows and machetes from both inside and outside the house. Unfortunately for the killers, one of the victims proves to have a talent for fighting back.
City to City
Caprichosos de San Telmo (dir. Alison Murray)
The Cat (dir. Vanishes Carlos Sorin)
Crane World (dir. Pablo Trapero)
Fatherland (dir. Nicolas Prividera)
Invasion (dir. Hugo Santiago)
A Mysterious World (dir. Rodrigo Moreno)
Pompeya (dir. Tamae Garateguy)
The Stones (dir. Roman Cardenas)
The Student (dir. Santiago Mitre)
Vaquero (dir. Juan Minujin)
First Position (dir. Bess Kargman)
The Flying Machine (dirs. Martin Clapp, Geoff Lindsey and Dorota Kobiela)