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Toronto Film Festival Dailies


The  44th  Toronto  International  Film  Festival  runs  September  5–15,  2019 in Canada's most vibrant and exciting metropolis, it has become one of the most important film events on the festival calendar.

Showcasing more than 300 films and hosting industryites from around the world, Toronto can "make or break" films looking for international distribution and a chance at Oscar gold. From glitzy red carpet premieres to challenging art films to cutting edge new media, the Festival offers something for every taste.

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A Festival of Discoveries

 

 

Sunday, September 14-------For the first time in the past few years, the Toronto International Film Festival will be best remembered for its discoveries, rather than the bigger-budget entries that graced the Galas. Many of those films were critical and industry disappointments (including The Burning Plain, The Third Man, Miracle of St. Anna, The Brothers Bloom, Pride And Glory, The Duchess and several others). Of course, they delivered the necessary stardust that has now become de rigeur for this uptown event.

However, the snippets of news coverage on the major entertainment news magazines leads you to believe that Toronto is primarily the haunt of such demi-gods and goddesse as Brad Pitt, Ed Harris, Antonio Banderas, Viggo Mortensen, Anne Hathaway and the like.....of course it is a treat that they do, in fact, show up.

But this year, the radar was definitely out for the "next new thing", a necessary stimulus in a distribution scene that is unstable and unyielding, to say the least. Well, luckily the good folks at IndieWire, that inestimable resource, sent out a survey to top film critics and industry bigwigs, to get their assessments of what were the standout at this year's festival.

Well, this group got it right, in my opinion, in their picks. The films highlighted were among my fondest and most delicious Festival memories. These are the films that certainly deserve a bigger audience and a definite theatrical berth....but will these humanistic, empathetic gems find a champion to overcome their commercial frailties?

The film that topped the IndieWire poll was Still Walking, a contemplative masterpiece by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda. This is simple, elegant filmmaking....no distracting special effects or amphetamine-style editing. Kore-Eda believes that there is nothing more telling and more poignant than the human face. He uses these and other mis-en-scene techniques to tell the story of a family coming together on the anniversary of their son's death. More is said in the silence than in the dialogue, and its spell continues to haunt me.

Other films that came close to securing the Number One position were two standout American indies. The Wrestler, the latest film from wunderkind Darren Aronofsky, has been building steam since its showcase at the Venice International Film Festival. Lead Mickey Rourke is poised to be the "comeback story of the year" and his portrayal is definitely bound for award nods. But I think this is a film that doesn't benefit from too much glare. In many ways, it is a very straightforward style of storytelling that Aronofsky has employed. Enough to enjoy the film as a kind of "Rocky For Our Times" and appreciate the stellar acting by Rourke and co-star Marisa Tomei.

Goodbye Solo, which won the Venice FIPRESCI prize from the international film critics association, is the kind of film that you remember where and with whom you first saw it. Another family drama with unknown actors, the film takes a bit of time to get engrossed in. But once you become seduced by the performance of Souleymane Sy Savane as the African-born taxi cab driver, you become part of the delicate yet probling seam of the story. The cab driver picks up an older passenger, who is consumed with sadness and a terrible family secret. The relationship between these two outsiders makes a real reach for cinema humanism and a great script and subtle direction make this a glowing, ultimately optimistic film, and the best work by far by . Iranian-born but New York-based director Ramin Bahrani.

Other films that rounded out the Top Ten included Claire Denis' latest, 35 Rhums; Olivier Assayas's Summer Hours, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt LockerSo Yong Kim's Treeless Mountain; Slumdog Millionaire,directed by Danny Boyle; Rachel Getting Married directed by Jonathan Demme; Hunger, directed by Steve McQueen. Agnes Varda's Les Plages d'Agnes was chosen as the best documentary at the festival. The above films represent some of the finest storytelling of the year, and while not part of the cinema mainstream, all deserving of building a specialized audience in the US and internationally.

Other films well worth mentioning include Me And Orson Welles, a well-made and very entertaining film from indie maverick Richard Linklater; the musical documentaries Soul Power and Every Little Step; Waltz With Bashir, the Israeli animation epic, that could go all the way; Il Divo, a fascinating portrait of political power and corruption in Italy; Valentino: The Last Emperor, an intimate portrait of a great artist and total diva; Patrick Age 1.5, a slightly melodramatic but still powerful Swedish story of gay adoption; Le Silence de Lorna, another meditative story from the Belgian auteur duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne; UK director Michael Winterbottom's effecting if slightly overdone Genova; the power-of-positive-thinking animation film $9.99 directed by Israeli director Talia Rosenthal; Good, a good but not great historical morality tale with an intimate performance by Viggo Mortensen; the political passion of the "honor killing" drama The Stoning of Soraya M., and, last but not least, the elegaic master strokes by one of Canada (and the world's) great treasures, Atom Egoyan, for the film Adoration.

After seeing so many films in a very contained period of time, one feels almost as if you have just met dozens of new people, who somehow feel they will be profound influences on your own life. That they just exist on the screen does not make them any less real to me. I wonder about what happened to them once the film was over, and where there are in this moment of time?

In other words, the sheer humanism of so many of the films listed above, moved me in a way that only cinema can touch. In that sense, I found the Festival extremely hopeful. And hope, even more than film, is a commodity that we are in desperate need of in the months ahead.

Thanks for the memories and the discoveries, Toronto........ 

Sandy Mandelberger, Toronto FF Dailies Editor

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The Dailies from Toronto

Contributing editors: Bruno Chatelin 

Laurie Gordon Animaze International Film Festival Le Miaff!
Leopoldo Soto Huatulco Food and Film Festival Director
Gary Lucas Guitar hero Performing artist live score to classic and horror film
Mike Rabehl Programmer and Buyer Cinequest Film Festival San Jose Tiwtter: @cqmike
Vanessa McMahon  

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