After a day delay to honour the death of Canadian Opera Company director Richard Bradshaw, TIFF announced its full 07 line-up Wednesday, including programmes that have not been previously announced, and innovative cross-over industry public festival events and forums. The list features expected crossover festival entries like Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of the Broadway play Sleuth, starring Jude Law and Michael Caine (which premieres in Venice) and a good dash of the unexpected, like Wayne Wang's two features on contemporary life for Chinese immigrants in America, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Princess of Nebraska.
Doc Talks has gone public. For all fans of that form, this will be a great opportunity to listen to the masters talk about development, production and financing. A normally industry only event, the decision to open it up responds to a clear initiative in the festival to bring the public and industry aspects of the event closer together. A wide range of guests will look to subjects like, covering war, adapting biographies and how to tackle large 'theme projects' like the BBC's Why Democracy series. For Canadians, there is a rare and wonderful opportunity to hear Michel Brault and Denys Arcand talk about Quebec cinema and the distinctive needs of docs and fiction films. Arcand's L'Age des Ténèbres will screen in this year's TIFF as well.
Mavericks is back, and taking a cue from Michael Moore's hit appearance last year, the events are going to tackle socio-political issues like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and HIV/AIDS by showcasing people who are working hard to make progress in those areas. Former President Jimmy Carter, himself the subject of a documentary called The Man From Plains, will join his wife Roslynn at Mavericks to speak about his Carter Center which aims to assist efforts at peace in the Middle East. The director of the doc is veteran Hollywood filmmaker Jonathan Demme, crossing over into the documentary realm. Not often you get to see a former President (or any President) talk about world peace instead of world war! Indian filmmaker Mira Nair will present and talk about four short films that look at differing perspectives and experiences of HIV/AIDS in India.
And speaking of Michael Moore, TIFF's favourite maverick is back with his movie Captain Mike Across America, which chronicles his attempts to help swing the US national election of 2004. If there was ever a resume that was developed by the Toronto Film Festival it is this one. Moore has debuted every single movie he's made at TIFF and holds huge regard for Canada in general. I remember eavesdropping on a conversation he was having once on the Park Plaza roof with a (friendly) man who wanted to convey an important opinion to Moore. Mike listened closely for much longer than many would, then thanked the man quietly for what he had said and excused himself to move on. It was classy in a quiet way, the side of the filmmaker that gets less exposure to the public but is probably closer to the truth of who he is.
Enough! Let's talk about movies! The Dialogues program, previously completely unannounced, shows great promise. Peter Bogdanovich is presenting restored versions of two films: Jean Renoir's classic La Grande Illusion and a long lost John Ford silent film Bucking Broadway. Ellen Burstyn will present the 1970s landmark film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore? which not only sparked a successful tv series but captured the early days of the feminist movement as it impacted on the average life of the average woman. Most exciting for me, Richard Attenborough, a filmmaker I am not normally drawn to, is presenting his own debut feature from the 60s, Oh What a Lovely War! This intensely satirical and fun musical about the British World War I experience features an incredible cast of British actors. (Picture at top of page.) Those who think of Maggie Smith only in terms of Harry Potter, should check out her showstopping number as a stripper seducing men into signing up. Like the films of Michel Brault, this film too was screened on my living room wall when I was a child and my father was preparing his film classes. For those interested, my essay about those evenings appears in today's Globe and Mail national edition.