Saturday, August 25, 2012

TIFF12: Part 2: Movies M-Z

Here is Part 2 of my preview of the most interesting films of #TIFF12! Continuing titles from M-Z. If you haven't been following, check out the first post below which offers a few summary thoughts as well on the overall collection. An asterisk means this will already be on my short(er) list. A † means that it is being considered for the Film, Prophecy and Culture class at U of T. (Though that is a work in progress also, and others not currently marked may end up being selected.)

Me and You (Bernardo Bertolucci)
Though he is most well known for master classics like The Last Emperor, I have always preferred Bertolucci's smaller films, like the nuanced and moving Beseiged. This film is about a sister and brother who reconcile the damage of family and discover their own identities.

Achipatpong Weerasethakul's Mekong Hotel
*Mekong Hotel (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Yes it's a mouthful, but once you have learned the name by heart, it actually trips off the tongue. And learn it you should, because this Thai director, whose entire career has been launched and upheld by TIFF and Cannes, has become perhaps the most lauded new filmmaker of his generation. Mekong Hotel has been programmed into Wavelengths - so understand what you're getting into. It is ostensibly about a hotel on the Mekong River but is also a meditation on cinema itself and several other themes. Wavelengths programmer Andréa Picard, who writes by far the best programme notes, adds "Mekong Hotel evinces a sense of yearning bathed in radiant, sunset shades." 

An iconic image from Seán Ó Cualáin's Men at Lunch
Men at Lunch (Seán Ó Cualáin)
Men at Lunch is an Irish film about an American photograph of European immigrant men perched atop a skyscraper. It figures a row of construction workers having what seems like a relaxing lunch under a tree but in fact on a single beam suspended in the air. Cualáin apparently tackles the iconic image, its anonymous photographer and the men on the beam, like a mystery novel - dispelling the myths and restoring a new truth about the photograph.  I am intrigued by it because the best documentaries I have ever seen, I first saw at TIFF. And many of them seemed like this one: quiet niche-interest films, that have gone on to become... well, Roger and Me.

Middle of Nowhere (Ava DuVernay)
In recent years we have seen an increase in films by or about African-American Women or about the experience of African-American women. Precious was the audience favourite at a recent TIFF and went on to greater recognition. Like Everyday and Few Hours of Spring, noted in the first post, the film deals with the repercusions of prison experience - its legacy not just to those imprisoned, but to the world around the prisoners. The film is about a woman's devotion to her imprisoned husband, despite what it costs her. Redemption awaits.

*Midnight's Children (Deepa Mehta)
You can't really go wrong with a film by this Indian-Canadian, who besides having brought us some of the best English language films in Canada of the last decade, like Water, also thinks very deeply about the themes and realities she is engaging, and often does so quite bravely. So it is no surprise to see her commanding the adaptation of Salman Rushdie's controversial book. The film combines a number of different visual styles to tell the story of 'magical' children born on the very moment of India's independence from Great Britain. A top seed.

Amy Acker and Jillian Morgese in Joss Whedon's
Much Ado About Nothing 
*Much Ado About Nothing
(Joss Whedon)
This is one of my favourite Shakespearean plays, and I know much of the text by heart. I am very curious to see how it works out in a modern context (not just a modern "setting", which countless theatrical productions have attempted). Years ago, Ethan Hawke starred in a very contemporary version of Hamlet that brought genuine insights from the application. This film was shot in 12 days in one house (and property) in Santa Monica. So it will be interesting to see if that brief window forced them to find and live the heart of the play.

Mumbai's King (Manjeet Singh)
One of the best innovations of the last few years in Festival programming has been the advent of the City to City programme which offers a rare opportunity to see films grouped around theme. (More of this would not be amiss.) This year's city in the spotlight is Mumbai and Mumbai's King offers a storyline and a vision that once again takes us into the heart of a street child (well, he has a home, but he lives and spends most of his time on the street). A feature debut.

Jem Cohen's Museum Hours
*Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
This one draws me, not only because it features Canadian musician Mary Margaret O'Hara, but because some of my own most significant life moments have happened in museums. This film promises us the art of the Kunsthistoriches (literally Art History) Museum in Vienna, a city I would love to know some day. About a guard and a woman tourist who form a friendship, it feels like a lovely escapist piece. 
Night Across the Street follows in the tradition of aging filmmakers who are offering increasingly esoteric visions (see Manoel de Oliveira and Kiarostami in the first post).  This one follows a man as he looks back on his life: real and imaginary characters from different epochs interact with each other in the playful and provocative style for which Rúiz has become renowned.

*No Place on Earth (Janet Tobias)
Tobias explores the region of caves in the Ukraine where Jewish Russians hid from the Nazis during World War II. The central figure in the narrative is not a survivor or a descendent of same, but a cave enthusiast, who was so moved by the discovery of signs of life that he spent nine years looking for and finding those who had lived there and were still alive, eventually leading them back to the scene in 2010. The programme notes tell us that 95% of the Jews in Ukraine perished - this is their living memorial.

*Out in the Dark (Michael Mayer)
A few years ago, I wrote on this blog about a fine first feature called Eyes Wide Open, by Haim Tabakman, about gay love among Orthodox Jewish men. Out in the Dark might be a kind of follow up, though this time the 'forbidden' dilemma is the Palestinian-Israeli one. I'm intrigued to see this, in part because it is one of the few films being offered this year from inside a Jewish perspective of Israel. Even if it is an American co-production. 

Atiq Rahimi's The Patience Stone
*The Patience Stone 
(Atiq Rahimi)
It is rare that you find a novelist who is also a filmmaker or vice-versa. Rahimi is equally at home in both media, and equally fine. The Patience Stone is essentially a monologue by an Iranian woman to her husband who is in a coma. We listen to her speak things she has not been able to before now, for reasons of community, custom and her own relationship. An unusual premise that promises a rich emotional life.

*Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas)
Carols Reygadas' deeply moving portrait of infidelity among Mexican Mennonites, Silent Light, continues to haunt me with its exquisite (though not for everyone) pacing and its magic realism redemptive ending. This film is apparently more experimental, and perhaps less delicate, I don't know. It explores "a family torn between tenderness and violence". Programmer Diana Sanchez (here stepping out of her normal domain to make an offering to Wavelengths) gives us many hints that the film will be challenging and difficult, but that Reygadas' capacity for extraordinary photography and emotionally rich events makes it one not to be missed.

Quartet (Dustin Hoffman)
Make no mistake: this will either be wonderful, or awful. Though it doesn't say so directly, the programme notes would indicate that the film takes its inspiration from the real-life Casa Verdi, in Milano, a place where senior musicians of all kinds can go to live. Because of its proximity to La Scala, it has been often most associated with retired opera singers. The location is not described in the notes but would seem to have shifted to England, if the casting is any indication, where a quartet of aging performers stake out their final territory and revisit lost relationships. This could be another Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, .... or not. If I end up in this screening, it will be because I am too curious about seeing Tom Courtenay, an actor whose early work I absolutely love and whom is hard to find otherwise these days. 

*Rhino Season (Bahman Ghobadi)
If you have ever seen Ghobadi's Time for Drunken Horses, then you will be excited by the prospect of another feature from this brave and visually innovative Kurdish visionary. Continuing a theme in this year's movies of family separations (see The Impossible, among others) and prison or post-prison stories (see Middle of Nowhere, Few Hours of Spring and Everyday), and based on a true story, it follows a man and woman who are arrested during the Iranian revolution and released at different times, the woman believing her husband to be dead. Poetry and magic realism are hinted at in the programme notes.

Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander in A Royal Affair
A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel)
Mads Mikkelsen again (see The Hunt), this time as a German doctor whose friendship with the King, and passion for the Queen allows him to help set in motion Enlightenment reforms in Denmark. Until his affair becomes his downfall. That's the story, but Arcel was the screenwriter for the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an adaptation some have preferred to its western counterpart. Among the many things to love about Danish cinema, is the strength of the screen and television writing. So there are many reasons to hope for the best here.

†*Satellite Boy (Catriona McKenzie)
The story of an Aboriginal boy who travels alone through Australia's bush country to prevent a mining company from taking over his grandfather's drive-in cinema, Satellite Boy has the kind of archetypal 'hero's journey' that audiences find most deeply compelling. Reminiscent again (see my post on Lore, by fellow Aussie Cate Shortland), of Rabbit-Proof Fence, it perhaps speaks to the enduring impact of the image of the child-as-pathfinder within Australian storytelling. So many films this year are told from the worldview of a child and all of them, including Satellite Boy, boast very compelling stories.

Short Cuts Canada Programme #4 (Ball, Jarvis, Lazebnik, Leblanc, McKenzie, Morsi, Redvers)
The Short Cuts Canada Programme is one of the jewels of the festival, that is always under-attended. There is wonderful work here, with much to reflect on. Of the six programmes, this one caught my attention most closely for its rich diversity of subject matter. Just copying the Programme short notes here for simplicity: "Ambitiously far-reaching in the scope of its subject and ideas, this programme goes from the modern rat race to a portrayal of family grief during the Gulf War, the aftermath of the 2011 Egyptian revolution to a sci-fi vision of survival."

*Ship of Theseus (Anand Gandhi)
What appeals to me about this first feature is its tripartite narrative, involving characters uniquely distinct from those that are most often seen these days in Indian cinema. The three lives that are observed are all people who are seekers, and also characters impacted by contemporary socio-political realities. One of the characters is a young female filmmaker who had lost her sight and is now regaining it, offering us a chance to see the visually rich world of Mumbai through new eyes. Much to be drawn to in both the story and filmmaking style.

†*Sirga (William Vega)
The story of a young girl who flees the murder of her family and destruction of her village to live with her uncle in a remote area of the Andes was already interesting, but this selection has made it into a strong position on my slate entirely because of the trailer and footage available on the linked page. The colour and composition and pacing of the film already feel hynotic. Follow the link and see what I mean.

Clement Metayer and Lola Créton in Something in the Air
*Something In the Air (Olivier Assayas)
If you are someone who was moved by the Occupy protests of last year, and who wonders at the energy of those who continue to struggle for change in that movement, you will have much to draw you into Assayas' latest feature, which looks at a similar time in the post-1968 French political world of student revolution. French actress Lola Créton, one of the most compelling things about Mia Hansen-Løve's Goodbye First Love from TIFF11, plays the love interest of a young man caught up in Parisian idealism and activism and the film follows them as they flee Paris to continue work elsewhere. Assayas showed a real affinity for the rhythm and meaning of a rural life in juxtaposition to urban realities in the beautiful L'heure d'été. Hoping for more of the same here.

Song for Marion (Paul Andrew Williams)
British actors "of a certain age" are enjoying a real renaissance of demand for their gifts right now in British cinema. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel brought together many of them, and this year's Quartet (noted above) brings more. Here, also, is a story of an aging couple, and how the gift of love for music is passed from one to the other, in this case Vanessa Redgrave to Terence Stamp, as one of them becomes ill. I cannot help but think that this film must have been inspired in some way by the nuanced and moving Swedish film, Song for Martin, by Swedish master Bille August, about a composer and a violinist who come together late in life. That story focussed on the man's illness, but the real life acting couple (Viveka Seldahl and Sven Wollter) were themselves living out Seldahl's illness during the shooting. It is as if this film is a kind of remake and meditation on that film and the film's behind-scenes events, but I won't know for sure til I see it. The similarity in titles seems enough to confirm suspicion. 

James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold in Still
†*Still (Michael McGowan)
In the first post, I wrote about Michael Haneke's Amour, and mentioned there the similarities between it and this Canadian English language film from McGowan. There are many clips from the film available on the linked page here - watch them. The meditative style and use of voiceover are intriguing and it is sooo rare to see Geneviève Bujold anymore in Canadian cinema. This is a gift we are being given, in many ways, I can tell from the generosity of the availability of those clips, and what the clips show. A high seed for me.

Ingrid Bergman in the great Rossellini classic, Stromboli
†*Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini)
This is a dream-come-true for me. I have long wanted to see this Rossellini masterpiece, but to see it projected is just irresistible. About a refugee who marries a fisherman, it offers themes of spirituality, grace and mysticism, while maintaining a gritty, neo-realist look at contemporary life in post-war Italy. The movement to restore the oeuvre of this maestro has borne amazing fruits in past years of the festival. Somewhere in this blog I describe watching the restored Rome: Open City. Film restoration is extremely moving for the viewer -- you cherish every frame. There is only one screening, and it's free, so don't miss this opportunity.

Therese Desqueyroux (Claude Miller)
Last year I was very impressed with performances I saw by newcomer Anaïs Demoustier in Woman in the Fifth and Belles. Here, she can be found in Claude Miller's last film (continuing a theme of master filmmakers in their final works) supporting Audrey Tautou, whose career has not seemed to live up to the promise of Amelie, until now. An adaptation of a French classic by Francois Mauriac.

†*Three Kids (Jonas D'Adesky), preceded by Peripeteia (short) (John Akomfrah)
The earthquake in Haiti in 2010 is the backdrop for Three Kids, all boys, who flee their orphanage-styled home for the streets of Port-au-Prince, as the disaster is taking place. The film takes an interesting form, as part-documentary, part-fiction film, in which the real-life children play themselves in an "observational and improvisational approach" that sounds interesting. Pereipeteia, the short that is also playing in this programme, is inspired by the image of two black figures in a 16th-century Dürer work.

Wang Bing's Three Sisters
Three Sisters (Wang Bing)
The combination of documentary form, and the Wavelengths programme, draws my special attention to this entry by Chinese filmmaker Wang. An apparently meditative and poetic look at how three girls aged four to ten participate in the economic livelihood of a peasant family living in extreme poverty, set against a stunning visual mountainous landscape, it's 153 minutes, but don't let that stop you. Even taking in half an hour of it - if your pass type allows it - could give a lasting impression.

*To the Wonder (Terrence Malick)
And wondrous it is indeed, to have another film from Malick so soon after The Tree of Life, which last year became one of the most extraordinarily loved films of my life. Mystical, esoteric, challenging the conventions of cinematic form at every turn, rigorously challenging in ideological pursuits, and deeply embedded in journey of faith, I would walk miles to see anything made by Malick. A top-five seed.

Bernard Émond's Tout ce que tu possèdes
†*Tous ce que tu possèdes (Bernard Émond)
On the schedules as All that You Possess, it represents the first film of Émond's since his beautiful trilogy on faith, hope and the love that is in 'caritas', or 'charity'. Telling the story of a professor of Polish literature who reawakens long dormant relationships within his family, it promises a redemptive and lyrical emotional line. From a gifted filmmaker. A high seed.

*Viola (Matías Piniero) preceded by Birds (Gabriel Abrantes)
Another film which is experimenting with a contemporary spin on Shakespeare (see Much Ado About Nothing, above), this Argentinian feature engages Twelfth Night, both literally and in the context of a Shakespearean highlights production within the film, focussing mainly on the gender-bending character of Viola. The film is preceded by a 17 minute adaptation of the Aristophanes classic set in contemporary Haiti.

Virgin Margarida (Licínio Azevedo)
The country of Mozambique is being represented here in a feature from Brazilian documentary filmmaker Azevedo who lives there, about the 're-education camps' for women in Mozambique in the late 20th century after independence. An incredibly rare opportunity to hear this story from this particular perspective - - and when will you next see a film from Mozambique?

Walker by Tsai Ming Liang
Walker (Tsai Ming Lang), preceded by The Capsule (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
Anyone who has followed this blog before, knows that the Wavelengths programme is one of my favourites. This year they are branching into features - a terrific development. There are no programme notes yet for these films (though they may be there by the time you are pursuing this). Nonetheless, the pictures are utterly provocative and compelling for Walker, from the always-interesting Lang. And with its meditation on fashion, set in an 18th century mansion on the island of Hydra, what's not to like about the promise of The Capsule?

Walls of Dakar (Cissé/Guéye)
No, not that Cissé. But this is another one worth noting. These two Senegalese filmmakers document the peaceful uprising of artists against an oppressive government intent on silencing them, through an explosion of brilliant and critical street art that appeared on the walls and spaces of the capital city of Dakar. The film is accompanied by a screening of the short Joe Ouakam about a celebrated Senegalese musician by another performer Wasis Diop.

Nathaniel Dorsky's August and After in the Wavelengths #3 programme
Wavelengths Programme #3
(Goel/Horedia, Tito/Tito, Woodman, vom Gröller, Grenier, Hamlyn, Dorsky)
You can't go wrong with any Wavelengths programme because they are so gorgeously curated, but I have randomly pulled out this one. A giant in the history and development of experimental cinema, Nathaniel Dorsky is back again at TIFF, this time with August and After, a meditation on the deaths of also-giant, George Kuchar (Hold Me While I'm Naked) and actress Carla Liss. This elegy exists at the end of a programme that also includes a rare opportunity to see videos by photographer Francesca Woodman. There is only one screening of this whole programme, and it directly conflicts with one of our U of T classes at the moment. Accompanied by new videos by Nicky Hamlyn and others, this is a terrific programme.  

When Day Breaks (Goran Paskaljevic)
Continuing a theme of holocaust or WWII dramas, this film takes up the life of a retiring Serbian professor who discovers through an accident of found-objects that he wasn't who he thought he was. The Jewish identity he uncovers becomes a journey about much more than just his own personal history, as he revisits events he thought he had previously understood. An interesting perspective on post-holocaust legacy.

Annemarie Jacir's When I Saw You
†*When I Saw You 
(Annemarie Jacir)
I have a number of reasons to be very excited about Annemarie Jacir's second feature film about life in a refugee camp in Jordan in 1967. Her first film, Salt of this Sea, won the prestigious FIPRESCI prize at Cannes when it was shown there. Although I have not seen it, I am already impressed by the depth of the storytelling visible in the programme notes for this film, and from seeing clips of Jacir's previous work. 

†*White Elephant (Pablo Trapero)
A number of films this year are set in Buenos Aires, whether the filmmakers come from there or not. Trapero is a genuine porteno who turns his lens (sympathetically) on contemporary Catholic missionaries seeking to bring better life to one of the city's worst slums, which exists alongside a gentrified residential area. Their desire to protect what they have created is threatened by drug lords and slum lords and their own increasingly different approaches. Starring French actor Jérémie Renier, who is taking a break from the bad-boy characters of films by the Dardennes and others. As my colleague Brian Walsh wrote me about this one, "church, slums, gentrification, drug lords - it's got it all"!

World Not Ours (Mahdi Fleifel)
Like Zaytoun (below), this documentary explores the world of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, this time in the present-day, and through the lens of a friendship between Fleifel and someone living in the camp Ain El Helweh with whom he has remained close, from a day when the filmmaker lived there also. The mutual preoccupation with soccer and politics provides a lens for viewing how their worlds have changed and stayed the same.

†*Zaytoun (Eran Riklis)
This list began (in the previous post) and now it ends in the Middle East, this time in the hands of a pro-Palestinian Israeli filmmaker, in a story about an Israeli fighter pilot who must rely on a handful of Palestinian children for his safety, when he is shot down over Lebanon. The dream of the young ringleader, to plant a salvaged olive tree, back in his own home village, speaks to an enduring theme in this year's of TIFF of reclaiming one's own roots, wherever they may be.

In the coming days, the shortlist, and late additions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TIFF 12! The Preview List, Part 1

Note: Movies are previewed alphabetically further down this post.

There were times, in what has been a summer from hell, that I truly didn't think I was going to be able to attend TIFF12. So what would be the point of blogging on it? Laid low by a concussion on the 4th of July, it has taken me the entire time since to recover, and I'm not quite there, even so. But at least now I believe I can be. It's been a challenging journey of personal and spiritual learnings - but that's for another blog!

Mads Mikkelsen in Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt
This year I am co-instructing (with Brian Walsh) a course at the University of Toronto called Film, Culture and Prophecy, a wonderful opportunity to bring together my heretofore separated loves, so writing up the films is also now a professional priority. With our new class in mind, and for all who have asked me if I'm doing this blog again this year, here is my take on the most interesting of the full slate of films being screened this year at TIFF.


from Inch'Allah by Québecoise filmmaker Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
Shift+Control+Delete. This wonderful image from Quebecoise director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette's Inch'Allah captures world angst, as we move more firmly into the second decade of this new millennium. Anyone who is proficient with keyboard shortcuts knows that Control+Shift+Delete is a way to purge the recent history from your browser. By inverting the words, the graffiti artists in the picture have asked us to think about purging the history of the West Bank, to 'shift' 'control' of power from those who have it, to those who don't, and thereby 'delete' the wall. It sends a pro-Palestinian message, and so does this year's festival, with a half dozen films devoted entirely to the Arab experience that is uniquely Palestinian, and others indirectly invested in the conflict. Is TIFF responding to the bashing it took when it dared to spotlight Tel Aviv cinema two years ago? Perhaps. And if it were doing so only for that reason, I would be sad. I defended then, from an artistic perspective, the right of the Festival to celebrate Israeli cinema and I would do so again. But this year, the Arab Palestinian experience is being explored by filmmakers in a variety of compelling ways.

Still, by Michael McGowan
Family. Home. History. Great literature. The Middle East. Forgotten cinema. Time travel. Cyberbullying. Searching for lost friends and relatives. Experimental visual styles. In reading over the programme notes, there is a kind of mosaic impression that is given of the imaginative preoccupations of the world's filmmakers. (Or the preoccupations of the TIFF programmers!) Movies are increasingly returning to the most primal of human needs: the health and wellbeing of family and community; belonging to particular lands and territories and how we carry our homes around on our backs wherever we go; the histories in our blood and genes from previous generations and which we are constantly working to resolve for our contemporary lives. All of these ideas are complexly woven into this year's feast of storytelling, alongside a deeply held desire to be rendering visual experience more provocatively and imaginatively -- and digitally -- than ever.

Laurence Anyways,  by Québecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan
As Canadians, we can be particularly proud of the continuing surge of refined elegance and sophisticated craftsmanship coming from Québec, currently one of the finest 'nations' of cinema in the world. And English Canadian film is emulating it more and more, becoming increasingly reflective and poetic, if those featured in this year's TIFF are an indication. Northern Europe is emerging as a cultural watershed of complex emotional exploration in character work - pursuing stories of personal journeying more than traversing geography. We are extremely preoccupied (no matter where we live) with events in the Middle East in recent years and particularly its toll on human lives both in that region, and in other parts of the world.

If I could think of one enduring emotional action for this year's collection, it would be searching. Filmmakers are searching for relationships of past or present or future meaning, ways to connect the dots back to the deepest part of ourselves which, it seems, we are frightened of being annihilated forever. Heavy stuff? yes, absolutely. But there is also humour in the mix, irreverence, and a desire to find joy (as in Frances Ha), amid life's complexities. Surprise: it's a map of human nature!

Barbara Sukowa in Margarethe von Trotta's biopic Hannah Arendt
Until yesterday, I was concerned that some of the season's heaviest festival hitters were not going to make it to TIFF. So relieved, therefore, to see Haneke's Amour and Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills (see descriptions below) at the top of the Masters list announced Tuesday. I have organized films here alphabetically, and linked them to the festival site. (If you are in the Film, Culture and Prophecy class at U of T, there is a † symbol next to those being considered for our six class screenings. However, wait for my next post which covers films from M-Z. You might want to start at the bottom of that list, where some of our leading favourites alphabetically just strangely line up. For everyone else, if you don't want to have to wade through this long list, an asterisk indicates films destined for the shorter list, even now.)

Love is All You Need, by Susanne Bier
Please note that as always this is a subjective list. Films that are certain to be festival favourites and future popular classics, like Looper, are not here, because I am just not able to watch the level of violence and dissociation from reality that comes with them, despite how worthy they are artistically. As I get older, this becomes more true, and even a point of ethical reference. As British film producer (Chariots of Fire) and former Columbia studio chief David Puttnam once said in my AFI film class, "creating a world that is not a world you would choose to live in, even for half an hour, is actually an annihilist act". I am not sure I would state it so dramatically (or at least without a caveat for artistic freedom), but the spirit of this holds true.

Here then are my pick of the approximately 80 most interesting-looking films. In this post I take on the films from A-L. In the next post, find M-Z.

7 Boxes (Juan Carlos Maneglia, Tana Schembori)
The Festival press releases are touting the fact that there are more individual countries represented in this year's TIFF than ever before. As such it becomes a kind of cultural Olympics, without the competition. Maneglia and Schembori are Paraguayan, a cinema that none of us have any real knowledge or appreciation of - but perhaps they will start it, with this simple-concept film about a wheelbarrow-carting boy who is one day paid to take seven boxes eight blocks. Not as easy as it sounds, apparently! Especially when the boxes become the target of suspicion and desire in the webbed network of Asunción's market.

After the Battle (Yousry Nasrallah)
Though this list is alphabetical, in some ways it is fitting that it nearly starts with this great Egyptian director's take on the Arab Spring. Set in Tahrir Square and bravely asking us to care for all sides of the dilemma, it captures the spirit of witnessing to world change, which TIFF12 unquestionably is documenting. And most importantly, it is an Egyptian perspective on it.

Keira Knightley in Joe Wright's Anna Karenina
*Anna Karenina (Joe Wright)
Keira Knightley continues her collaboration with Joe Wright (Atonement) and her lately revealed gift for performance in literary adaptations, with this project which the trailer hints will be visually very innovative. Adapted from the famous novel by Leo Tolstoy.

Argo (Ben Affleck)
The absurd (but apparently true) plan to bring American hostages out from under the revolution in 1979 Iran, by posing them as a Hollywood film crew, seems contrived, but the trailer indicates it may offer humour alongside the appropriate gravitas. It also has a Canadian origin.

All that You Possess (Bernard Émond)
(See "Tout ce que Tu Possèdes" in the next post coming)

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emanuelle Riva in Michael Haneke's Amour
*Amour (Michael Haneke)
There are two films this year that look at aging love and memory, Michael McGowan's Still (see next post coming), and Amour. Winner of the Palme D'Or this year at Cannes, it features three exquisite French actors: Trintignant, Riva and Isabelle Huppert. See this one, but also see McGowan's Still and reflect on the differences. That one too, stars two veteran Canadian actors.

Arthur Newman (Dante Ariola)
I confess that nothing at all about the plot of this film appeals to me - absolutely nothing. But I may find myself in a screening purely for the love of both Colin Firth and Emily Blunt.

The Attack (Ziad Doueiri)
One in a number of films that focus on Palestine, this one probes the double themes of family and suicide-bombing in a way that may have promising depth.

Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills
*Beyond the Hills (Cristian Mungiu)
I can still remember the feeling of disbelief and discomfort I had watching 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu's critical hit of early in the last decade. But it was a profound observation on the demands of friendship. We can now look forward to another film of the same kind of social commentary within a subtle and refined vision. Beyond the Hill is once again about girlfriends: one who has joined a convent community and the other who is trying to take her from it.

Blancanieves (Pablo Berger)
This Spanish homage to the silent era, as it was formed by the great masters of Northern Europe like Carl Theodore Dreyer and Fritz Lang, follows on the success of last year's The Artist, fused with fairy tales ('Blancanieves' is Snow White in Spanish). Adapting the famous story to the 1920s, it follows a young girl who dreams of being a bullfighter. In the pattern of films that could be paired in preoccupations, it might provide a silent partner to Comrade Kim Goes Flying (see below).

Boy Eating the Bird's Food (Ektoras Lygizos)
Dimitri Eipides is one of only two programmers at TIFF (the other is Andréa Picard) whom I will trust and follow into any world. (He is also the only other programmer who writes as well as Picard.) This story could be called The Hunger Games Goes to Athens, as it follows a young man through the streets of that capital as he forages for food, with only a pet bird for companionship, occasionally singing Bach. These are not notes that would normally compel me, and it's a first feature, but Eipides is rarely wrong.

Caught in the Web (Chen Kaige)
The subtle and thoughtful Chen Kaige takes on cyber-bullying in this drama about a woman who is made unwantedly famous when a mistake on a bad day is turned into an internet sensation. From the man who brought us Farewell My Concubine and Killing Me Softly.

Clandestine Childhood (Benjamin Avila)
I am always drawn to stories told from the point of a view of a child but I've often thought only Iranian filmmakers know how to do it and stay genuinely true to the child-view. Not so in this Argentinian film about a child forced into an assumed identity, if the trailer is any indication.

Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer)
I am a huge fan of Tykwer, whose Heaven is one of my most-admired films. I appreciate his capacity for diversity of film style and expression, even within his own corpus of films. Cloud Atlas, based on the novel by David Mitchell, seems likely to present yet another style, even if the omnibus storyline nature of the film makes me nervous (because omnibus storylines rarely work - very very few people can write them well).

*Cloud Capped Star (Ritwik Ghatak)
Besides the addition of feature films to Wavelengths, the festival is restoring its once-called Open Vault series, offering forgotten art-classics in the new Cinemathèque programme, also bringing that great year-round TIFF resource into the film festival. This offering comes from the Indian cinema of the 1960s, one of its most provocative and compelling eras. When will this opportunity ever come again?

Company You Keep (Robert Redford)
Frankly, I haven't liked the directed films of Redford since A River Runs Through It and the massive star-studded cast in this one has me worried it will spread thin. But the story of revealed identities, and the hero as a radical activist, feels like a bit of a new spin on a familiar fable. For me this is not a high priority, but one to check out if scheduling allows.

Han Jong-sim in Comrade Kim Goes Flying
*Comrade Kim Goes Flying (Anja Daelemans, Nicholas Bonner, Gwang Hun)
The nuttiness of a female coal-miner wanting to be a circus acrobat and finding love along the way, is just one of the oddly compelling things about this project. But as unlikely and incredible as the story, is the story behind the story: the fact that it could happen in North Korea, with collaborative funding from Western associates who have shown caring for the region in their previous work. Lots of reasons to show support for this film - but it may also be a public festival favourite.

*The Deep (Baltasar Kormákur)
Thanks, Sofia, for drawing my attention back to this entry, so that I could include it in this list. In that strange festival reality of films becoming strangely paired, thematically, in their preoccupations, this film about a stranded fishing boat in frigid waters that yields one unlikely survivor might be a Nordic partner to A Hijacking (see first post) about a Danish vessel overtaken by pirates. They are completely different and yet they both look at the special endurance of seamen. Kormákur's 101 Reykjavik put him on the map as the country's most compelling cineaste, and with its sweeping vistas of turbulent seas and raging coastlands, The Deep looks poised to follow.

The End of Time (Peter Mettler)
The deeply considered and beautifully poetic work of this Canadian master (and how great it is to see him included in "Masters") is underserved in reputation. I think it is arguable that Mettler had an impact on more famous Canadian filmmakers, as directors, producers and writers now well-known all served as editors and technicians on his early films. I have always been affected by Mettler's sophisticated intellectual and philosophical themes, even if I have sometimes been baffled by them also. But his movies are always gorgeous to watch. This film is an experimental meditaton on human conceptions of time.

English Vinglish (Gauri Shindi)
There is a lot of early buzz around this film about an Indian woman who sets out to learn English and solve her life problems at the same time. A first feature from Shindi, it features one of the greatest stars of Hindi cinema, Sridevi, and apparently a cameo from Amitabh Bachchan.

Shirley Henderson in Michael Winterbottom's Everyday
*Everyday (Michael Winterbottom)
My first introduction to Michael Winterbottom was at the '94 TIFF, when an edited down compilation of his four-part Irish tv series Family was first presented to an international audience. I still remember it vividly: how deftly its complex relationships were presented, without compromising the integrity of characters even difficult to like. He has never lost that capacity - and his movies have always been marked with a kind of signature bravery in their willingness to witness to some of the darkest aspects of human nature without creating villains. Family is again the subject of Everyday, but this time it is also a part-documentary on the British prison system, following a real-life family over five years, while their father remains behind bars and using a mix of professional actors and their real-life counterparts. A top-seed.

†*Few Hours of Spring (Stéphane Brizé)
The alphabet lines up for us, by accident, another pair of films that might be seen in response to each other - in this case on the theme of 'prison'. I don't know much about this film, but I'm intrigued by its storyline of a man whose new freedom from prison and chance for new life is met by a request for euthanasia from his mother. Also supports a wonderful cast of fine French actors, including Helene Vincent. Piers Handling, who knows French cinema better than anyone, tells us this is "one of the year's true revelations", so we should pay attention.

Rama Burstein's Fill the Void
*Fill the Void (Rama Burshtein)
An ancient Israelite custom (witnessed biblically) is evoked in this story of an Orthodox Jewish woman who is being asked to marry her dead sister's husband, in order to keep family close together. This is one of the few offerings from Israel this year (which is odd, given the rise in recent years of Israeli cinema) that focuses on day to day life. It is rare that we have a chance to see a woman's take on Orthodox customs. For all these reasons, a film to mark.

*Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
I think of Noah Baumbach (Squid and the Whale) as a very very good writer, but not necessarily a great director . However, Greta Gerwig and the upbeat, redemptive storyline, are drawing me in. And Cameron Bailey is promising us that this time Baumbach is showing "a new openness and generosity to the characters". Okay. Worth a look.

Fly With the Crane (Li Ruijun)
My instinct is that this second feature from Li, about a man who accepts the idea of his own death, but is struggling with accepting cremation, could be a critical sleeper of the festival, if a bit unappealing to average folks.

*Gebo and the Shadow (Manoel de Oliveira)
Oh Manoel, Manoel. Now the oldest working filmmaker in the world (he's 104 years old and that's not a joke), it has been remarkable to watch how increasingly esoteric his films have become in his late late life (meaning in his 90s and 00s of life). He is a giant of cinema, and the only living filmmaker whose career began in the silent era. His early films, like Aniki-Bobo, made in the midst of World War II, are wonderful, but you almost hope he lives to be 150 because his movies of the last years have become only more and more interesting.  With an amazing cast, including Jeanne Moreau and Claudia Cardinale, the Portuguese master has now made what is described in the notes as a quiet chamber film about family. Will it be his last film? Likely not!

The Girl from the South (José Luis Garcia)
This documentary about an Argentinian filmmaker's search for a Korean activist he knew 20 years ago, seems an unlikely marriage of cultures, but that is also part of its appeal.

*Hannah Arendt (Margarethe von Trotta)
von Trotta's latest is a personal top-five seed. A biopic from one of the most important women directors that ever lived, about a fantastically interesting subject (the great philosopher) portrayed by one of Europe's greatest actresses, Barbara Sukowa, supported by the always-wonderful Janet McTeer playing legendary American writer, Mary McCarthy. Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait. (See pic above)

Pilou Asbæk in Tobias Lindholm's A Hijacking
*A Hijacking (Tobias Lindholm)
In the fourth episode of Season Two of the hit Danish tv series Borgen (which I am fatally addicted to), the Prime Minister is asked to comment on the hijacking of a Danish cargo ship by Somali pirates. Given that the series is co-created by Lindholm, and stars two of the actors also featured in A Hijacking (the compelling Pilou Asbæk and Søren Malling), the chances are great that the plot of this film stemmed from that episode. Add that Danish cinema is the jewel in the crown of European film, and A Hijacking becomes another top-seed.

Home Again (Sudz Sutherland)
What interests me about this one is the idea of having a homeland that no longer feels like home when forced to return there (in this case, Jamaica). I'm also intrigued by the appearance of CCH Pounder who always raises the quality of ensemble acting in any project she's involved with.

*The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg)
Another top-five seed since I first saw the trailer on the Cannes site. Love Vinterberg. Mad about Mads Mikkelsen. (And he won the acting award for this performance this year at Cannes). With a screenplay by Vinterberg and (see A Hijacking, above) Tobias Lindholm, what's not to love? Sort of the Danish version of The Children's Hour, about a child whose accusation ruins a man's life, it might fall prey to a predictable emotional line, but in the hands of these Danes, I know it will be strong.

Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michell)
I'm not sure about this one, but some of my greatest guilty-pleasure movie watching is thanks to Roger Michell (Notting Hill). With Bill Murray playing FDR and Laura Linney, his about-to-be mistress, this would seem like much fun. I just wish the trailer whet my appetite more than it does. Since it is also being released soon, this one will likely slide down the roster if there's any competition in the screening slot. Still, worth the long list.

Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts in The Impossible
The Impossible
(Juan Antonio Bayona)
I'm not normally a disaster-movie kinda gal, but this tale about a couple who become separated from their children during the 2004 tsunami in South Asia has going for it Bayona at the helm, not to mention Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. If you speak Spanish, a somewhat pretentious trailer is readily available on youtube.

*Inch'Allah (Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette)
This offering is produced by the same people who brought us Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar, the two best films from Québec in the last two years. About a Québecois doctor living in the West Bank, it could almost be the flip side of the story in Ruba Nadda's Cairo Time, following the husband, instead of the wife. Though not her first feature, Barbeau-Lavalette could make an important debut at this festival with this film.

*Inescapable (Ruba Nadda)
And speaking of Ruba Nadda's Cairo Time, this film is her follow-up feature, once again showcasing Alexander Siddiq. Nadda's finely controlled craftsmanship and sense of emotional line in the first film, will hopefully serve her well in this story, about a man who returns to Syria to try to find a missing daughter.

In the Fog (Sergei Loznitsa)
What was the last Belarusisan film you saw? This WWII story about a partisan who is accused of treachery has had tremendous buzz out of Cannes. Watch the trailer on the linked page for a feeling of its style and pace, however, which I personally find completely compelling but is not likely to appeal to North Americans as much. It ain't Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards.

Just the Wind (Bence Filegauf)
Why has it taken so long to have a film about the much-persecuted Romani (sometimes called Gypsys) in Europe? Why isn't their plight of greater world attention and interest? Maybe it will be, after Filegauf's film, about a family trying to escape a killing spree in 2008 (based on real events) - is shown at TIFF.

Krivina (Igor Drljaca)
People searching for loved ones lost somehow through war or disaster, is very much a dominant theme of this year's TIFF. (See Inescapable, The Impossible and The Girl from the South in this list alone.) This film is about a Toronto Bosnian man who returns home to search for a friend. Again, watch the trailer for style and pace. A first feature from a filmmaker who has been winning awards the world over for his shorts.

*A Late Quartet (Yaron Zilberman)
Hard as it is for me to imagine Christopher Walken as a cellist, I am drawn to this film. Perhaps because I grew up knowing Canada's Orford String Quartet and understand something of the rich complexity of the life of chamber musicians. Add Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener and I'm there.

*Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan)
French-Canadian cinema is at an all-time zenith of beauty and careful craftsmanship. Nathalie Baye stars in the next feature of this rising Québecois director in a story about a man who comes to realize he is transgendered. If it has any of the subtle power of J'ai tué ma mère, we are in for something special. (See picture at top.)

Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
Like Manoel de Oliveira discussed above, Kiarostami is another master whose later life work has been among his most provocative and unconventional. Last year's Certified Copy played with perceptions of reality, within the world of human intimacy. But this film, is just a complete departure. Although making movies in Iran is not possible these days without fleeing to neighbouring countries (a subject I wrote about extensively in last year's festival, particuarly focusing on Jafar Panahi), no one could have really imagined that Kiarostami would end up in Japan. Sure, there is a story within it about a call girl and an elderly professor, but the film will really be about truth and deception and how inextricable they can become.

Lore, by Cate Shortland
*Lore (Cate Shortland)
Another WWII drama, this one is told from the point of view of the home front in Germany, where a family of children are abandoned when their SS father and mother are taken by the Allies. With overtones of Rabbit-Proof Fence (another Aussie film), they then make a 900 kilometre walk to safe haven with family, and encounter along the way the horrible results of having been patriotic to the wrong side. I am working on a writing project that touches on these environments and eras so that's the reason for the top-seed, but Shortland has always been one to watch.

*Love is All You Need (Susanne Bier)
From the creator of last year's Oscar winning In a Better World and the astonishing After the Wedding and one of my all-time favourite filmmakers. I admit to being a bit nervous: Bier is returning to comedy for the first time since Den Eneste Ene (The Only One) and the film stars Pierce Brosnan, not someone I would easily match with her style. But I'm relieved to see that she is still relying on Danish wunderkind writer Anders Thomas Jensen and editor Pernille Bech Christiensen, so all should be well.

Okay, watch for part 2 (M-Z) in the coming days!