Friday, September 18, 2009

random notes

Well, the reviews are taking more reflection this year! And I have seen less films than I normally would - all of which is fine. But as I continue to work on my review/essays - which seem to be as much personal journeyings as reviews - a few random notes.

Around about this time, I am able to predict what the People's Choice Award will be. Since that will likely be announced tomorrow, and since they've added two categories, I will anticipate what I think it will be. Last year, I guessed Slumdog Millionaire correctly early on. My guesses are based on Press & Industry buzz and some reportage on public screenings. In the Midnight Madness category, it would be difficult to see anything winning over Jennifer's Body - but if so, maybe Bitch Slap. The TIFF inside blogger taps JB and Daybreakers. In the doc category, I sure noticed that the Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon doc (which I wanted to see and didn't) was getting a lot of traffic in the Press Video library. But I would bet more likely on the Colony, the beekeeping doc, or a more uplifting piece like Google Baby and/or Sunshine Boy. In the main category, I don't know how the star turnout for Precious can possibly not upstage everything else in the way of public appeal, though the movie itself is emotionally tough going. Festival goers don't generally shy away from that, however, if Eastern Promises, Slumdog and Hotel Rwanda are anything to go by. Generally, features which will be in mainstream release don't win this award. (Though those films do go on to mainstream release!) Hard call, but I'm sticking with Oprah.

In other notes, I found the whole Tel Aviv movies controversy this week immensely depressing. Having read all the pros and cons, all the protests of all kinds in all directions, I am mostly just sad that a cinema which is finally coming into its own (Israeli cinema), lost an opportunity to be observed in its own unique voice and contribution because of political realities. I find myself wondering why there aren't more Native Americans protesting the presence of Canadian and American films in the festival, since by showcasing same, TiFF is supporting the cultural oppression of North American aboriginal societies. (I'm quite serious, a case could be made for this.) Or why the Tamils of Toronto did not rise up against the screening of three Sri Lankan films in this year's festival.

The screening of movies in discourse with each other is how a public forms its own opinions and educates itself. It is not the moral obligation of the Toronto film festival to present contrasting sides of an issue but to show well-made films which allow dialogue to exist which can allow for a rich exchange of meaning. If the festival had chosen Ramallah as the city to focus on, there would have been no controversy - and is that truly fair to the situation? Though I am not Jewish, I am a student of the Abrahamic faiths, and while I hated this year's Israeli invasion of Palestine, I could never clearly identify a morally superior outcome in this struggle. It's a brutal, no-win situation. Why can't we talk about that? instead of worrying about what the presence of these films "says". Removing films and signing petitions are political gestures as strident as whatever the festival has done by creating this programme. I have tried, and fail to see how there has been a political agenda on the part of the festival by creating the City to City programme and choosing Tel Aviv to kick it off. The festival has been a vanguard showcase of films which do NOT speak positively of Israel, like last year's Waltz With Bashir. Lebanon, hardly a pro-Israeli film, was also screened this year. An art festival should reflect the tensions of the world and not live in them.

So Shana Tova to my Jewish friends. And may this year bring peace in Palestine.

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