Sunday, August 29, 2010

TIFF 10 Preview: Discovery, Visions & Vanguard

Every few years the festival attempts to get back down to the innovation and avant-garde promotion that was one of its founding principles. These programs do so well and bring so many new interesting talents to light that they quickly feel mainstream, and so a new program must be invented. Discovery was the first of these, then Visions, then Vanguard. It’s now almost impossible to see a real discernible difference in the three.

The Discovery programme, according to the press release, is for ‘up and coming’ and ‘new and emerging’ filmmakers, but these certainly populate the other categories as well. Of these, what caught my eye was Zhang Meng’s The Piano in a Factory, the story of a man’s attempt to win custody of his daughter by building her a piano; and Sarah Bouyain’s The Place In Between, a dual story of two European and African women seeking answers to questions of personal history, through voyages abroad. Sometimes trends emerge that seem interesting: Argentina is offering us two films about two women coming together to confront the past and/or stare down the future. Delfina Castagnino’s What I Most Want and Stefano Pasetto’s The Call both focus on road journeys, with The Call looking like an Argentinian Thelma and Louise. Argentina seems just generally noticeable in this programme, a trend that might be worth paying attention to.

The Visions and Vanguard programmes were announced in the same press release, just underscoring further their similar focus. Officially, Visions represent films that “push the boundaries and challenge mainstream filmmaking” while Vanguard is for those who are young and “irreverent, always on the cutting edge.” Difference? My case rests.

That said, there are some real treats here. Numbers in titles mark the notables: in Visions, k.364 A Journey By Train by British helmer Douglas Gordon, has possibly the shortest feature film description: “Two musicians return to a haunted landscape and play the concerto of their lives” (that’s it!) but it’s enough for me to be interested. Michael Nyman’s Moscow 11:19:31 is in fact a short film about how music intervenes when the ability to speak fails. Vincent Gallo’s Promises Written in Water is shot in black and white and is about the trials of devotion to a promise made. None of these sounds like they push the boundaries of mainstream cinema, but worth looking for nonetheless.

In Vanguard, things do sound indeed much more challenging and gritty, but the grit tends to the gorey, horror and/or psychosexual, meaning some of them might just as easily have been programmed into Midnight Madness. I will, however, try hard to see Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions which has been drawing attention. It is the story of a teacher’s attempt to have vengeance on two of her own students who are are responsible for the death of her daughter.

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