Tuesday, July 23, 2013

TIFF13: First Look!

Adele Exarcapoulos and Léa Seydoux in
Blue is the Warmest Colour Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2
Some time in June I tweeted @TIFF_NET to ask about when we could expect the first wave of programming for this year's festival. I heard back "late July". I think every year on this blog I comment on how much later it gets. But enough said. Today the first titles were released: all of Galas and most of Special Presentations. Prep for TIFF 13 is officially underway!

Actors have become directors. (Keanu Reeves, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ralph Fiennes have films they directed set to debut at TIFF13.) Canadians are making American films. And genre filmmaking is back in force (more on that in another post). Whether these trends will continue in the weeks to come is unknown. In many ways today's announcements are just the very tip of the iceberg content yet to come.

Just before the fest held its presser today, Cameron Bailey tweeted that they were 'honored' to be premiering Steve McQueen's Twelve Years a Slave, the true story of a free black man from the Northern United States kidnapped and sold into slavery during the years that precede the American Civil War. Race and history are two major themes of the first fruits of the global filmmaking crop of the past year. From The Fifth Estate, the Bill Conlon opening night film which tells the WikiLeaks story, to Justin Chadwick's, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, to Amma Asante's Belle, about a biracial daughter of a British Navy Admiral, filmmakers want to reimagine our history for us, and reveal the hidden stories behind the true stories of more recent times. They are not only the tales of injustice and imprisonment, these films of race and culture seem focused on how extraordinary individuals coped with the realities of his or her age. 

Agnieszka Holland's Burning Bush
The explosive Palme D'Or winner Blue is the Warmest Color, Adele: Chapters 1 & 2 by Abdellatif Kechiche is on the slate. This exploration of the first love of a young French woman gathered notoriety for its sexually explicit scenes when it debuted at Cannes in May, and seems set to cause ongoing controversy, though a closer reading of the best critics points to a very solid and moving film. A particular thrill for me is a new film from Polish helmer Agnieszka Holland, Burning Bush, focused on Czech protester Jan Polach in the late 1960s. It has lately been too long between her films: someone who has helped to shape the voice of Eastern Europe in the cinema of the last thirty years. Speaking of Poland, Pawel Pawlokowski's film Ida, about a young Polish nun's discovery that she is Jewish, goes onto the high seed film list. Another filmmaker whose movies are few and far between, his last effort Woman in the Fifth, at TIFF11, was disappointing. I am hopeful this new one will be closer in style and power to Resort and My Summer of Love, which first introduced Pawlikowski to the festival circuit. Andrzej Wajda, the great mentor of Holland, brings a biopic of Lech Walesa to this year's fest, Walesa, Man of Hope. Fantastic fare already from Eastern Europe.

It was hard to read "USA", after the film titles of the latest works of Atom Egoyan (Devil's Knot), Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) and Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), despite that it is a sign of their increasing success. Egoyan's film is about the West Memphis Three and stars Colin Firth (who seems to have been busy, appearing also in the much anticipated The Railway Man by Jonathan Teplitzky). Villeneuve's script is based on a project from The Black List, a script depot accessed by both filmmakers and screenwriters as a way of discovering projects. The story is a familiar one: a man whose daughter has disappeared takes up his own pursuit of her safety when police release the most likely suspect. Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club follows "the true story of accidental AIDS activist Ron Woodruff, whose cross-border smuggling network brought much-needed treatments into the hands of HIV and AIDS patients neglected by the medical establishment." It is not just that these Canadians are making films in the US, they're making such American films in the US! I am sure they will be great, but I hope so much they return home to Canada with whatever they're doing next!

Don McKellar's The Grand Seduction
Of the Canadians making films at home, Don McKellar's The Grand Seduction, set in Tickle Head, Newfoundland, stars Gordon Pinsent and is about a doctor whose visit and stay in the small harbour village will help determine whether a large income-generating petrochemical plant will be installed. Reminiscent of the 80s cult hit Local Hero, it is an English adaptation (why?) of the Québecois film La Grande Seduction

Asghar Farhadi's first film since A Separation, Le Passé (The Past) starring Bérénice Bejo (The Artist), is a high seed, as are new films by Lukas Moodyson (We are the Best!), Caroline Link (Exit Marakkech) and Stephen Frears (Philomena), who is bringing to TIFF a star vehicle for Judi Dench that already has Oscar written all over it.

Much more to come!

No comments: