Sunday, 14 September 2014

Film Festival

I spent the last week at TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, on a whim, viewing up to four films a day and wandering the streets in between. I made the trip on a bicycle straight from my flat in upper Manhattan, on which more in a later post. Most people find it hard to believe that I actually did that, and I must say I largely agree with them. The experience was in many ways unreal.

I gather that film festivals are populated by people from the industry itself with the rest of us popping in according to our tastes. The filmmakers are looking for distributors, the buyers for the next hot property, and the other hordes of technicians and journeymen drumming up their next gig or at least keeping connected to the people that might know where one is likely to turn up. There are red carpets, celebrity galas, premieres and a lot of bored gossip in the next day’s papers. Locals turn out to gawk.

Anyway, it had been 40 years or so since I visited Canada, and it’s worth a trip to see something recognizably North American that functions with a subtly different logic. People’s default reaction I discovered to be toward helpfulness and cordiality, and overt aggression is rare. I almost caused an auto accident behaving like a New York pedestrian, and the Torontonians yelled at each other over it, but not at me. Women react without wariness to a man asking them for directions; people wait for green lights and do not step into the street anticipating it. The equivalent Manhattanite would be halfway down the next block.

But I digress. One can only scratch the surface of the insane overload of films on offer, but I found three real gems and a number of pictures of interest, to wit:

In the Crosswind (Risttules)(Estonia). I’ve seen a lot of movies in my life but never anything quite like this. The technique is the novelty, which I recommend you know nothing about in advance. But it’s not a gimmick; the way novice director Martti Helde translates extracts from an Estonian deportee’s Siberian diaries is heart-stopping. Helde introduced his film; he looks about 16 and is actually all of 27. We will be hearing about him.

Labyrinth of Lies (Im Labyrinth des Sweigens)(Germany). A thriller about something that actually matters, this gripping picture tells the story of how a junior prosecutor forced open the Pandora’s box of the Holocaust at a time when Germans preferred not to know and Nazi criminals went about their business without the least fear. An unknown and challenging chapter of history is expertly unfolded as the protagonist realizes how ordinary and unremarkable the cogs of the Nazi death machine are—and how rarely anyone chooses moral heroism over collaboration.

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)(Argentina). Four revenge fantasies from recognizable Argentine situations and characters. Completely over the top and particularly hilarious if you’ve ever been there.

More film news tomorrow.

1 comment:

Taaj Jaharah said...

The small type about riding your bike there from NYC was the biggest feat of all. BRAVO!!