Massive Lineup Marks Annual Toronto Fest
by Brian Brooks, Eugene Hernandez, and Wendy Mitchell
Running from September 4-13 in Canada, the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival will present more than 300 short films and features in its 28th year. The lineup is a challenging, but exciting, roster of movies on tap for this year’s event. Sixty percent of the films will be presented in a foreign language and two-thirds of the movies are directorial debuts. While the list will certainly take some time to digest, indieWIRE’s editors have quickly surveyed the lineup to present this lengthy overview of each of the festival’s 16 sections.
This year’s 18 gala presentations in Toronto span a range of countries — and tones — from Peter Webber’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring” (U.K./Luxembourg), about a 17th century Dutch housemaid (Scarlett Johannsson) employed by the artist Vermeer (Colin Firth), to the Australian comedy “Danny Deckchair,” about a cement truck driver (Rhys Ifans) who sails away by attaching helium balloons to his lawn chair (it will close the festival on September 13th). Among the films falling somewhere in between those ends of the spectrum are the prolific Michael Winterbottom’s “Code 46,” a futuristic drama starring Samantha Morton and Tim Robbins (Winterbottom’s “In This World” is playing in the Visions section); Robert Altman’s “The Company,” an ensemble drama with Neve Campbell portraying a ballet dancer in New York; Robert Benton’s “The Human Stain,” the Miramax adaptation of Philip Roth‘s novel starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman; Cannes awards-winner “Les Invasions Barbares” from French director Denys Arcand (which opens the fest on September 4th); Ridley Scott’s con-artist drama “Matchstick Men” with Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell; Carl Franklin’s “Out of Time” with Denzel Washington; as well as the latest works from high-profile directors such as Jane Campion (“In the Cut”); Richard Linklater (“School of Rock”); and Joel Schumacher (“Veronica Guerin”).
Among the world offerings at these star-studded red-carpet galas will be Marco Bellocchio’s “Good Morning, Night” (Italy); Anne Fontaine’s “Nathalie…” (France), which stars Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Béart, and Gérard Depardieu; Margarethe von Trotta’s “Rosenstrasse” (Germany/Netherlands); and John Irvin’s “The Boys from County Clare” (Ireland/U.K./Germany), starring singer Andrea Corr; Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s “Bon Voyage” (France), with Gérard Depardieu, Virginie Ledoyen, Isabelle Adjani, and Yvan Attal; Emile Gaudreault’s “Mambo Italiano” (Canada); and Deepa Mehta’s “The Republic of Love” (Canada/U.K.).
The festival’s Masters section includes nine films from some of cinema’s most highly regarded filmmakers. The 2003 Cannes Palme d’Or-winning film about a high school that falls victim to violence, “Elephant” by Gus Van Sant, will screen in the section. Director John Sayles (“Lone Star,” “Passion Fish”) will offer the North American premiere of “Casa de los Babys” starring Lili Taylor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marcia Gay Harden, and Mary Steenburgen. Also set is the world premiere of “Croupier” director Mike Hodges‘ thriller “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” starring Clive Owen, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and Charlotte Rampling, as well as 2003 Venice competition feature “A Talking Picture” by Manoel de Oliveira. Cannes 2001 grand jury prize-winner Michael Haneke (“The Piano Teacher”) will have the North American premiere of his latest, “Le Temps du Loup” (The Time of the Wolf) in Toronto. The film screened as part of the Cannes 2003 competition. And Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano, who won a 1997 Golden Lion in Venice for “Hana-bi” will bring “Zatoichi,” which is in competition in Venice this year, to the festival for its North American premiere.
Toronto’s Visions section debuted last year to showcase filmmakers who “push the boundaries of contemporary cinema.” This year’s line-up includes 14 features, 10 of which are world or North American premieres. Cannes 2003 competition film “Bright Future” (Akarui Mirai) will have its North American premiere as part of the section. The film by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is about an emotionally unstable young man who takes on the care of his friend’s poisonous jellyfish after murdering his boss. Fellow Cannes 2003 competition film “Brown Bunny” by Vincent Gallo (“Buffalo ’66”) will also make its North American debut at the festival. The film starring Gallo and Chloe Sevigny was quite an infamous entry in the Cannes competition, receiving harsh criticism from the likes of Roger Ebert and others, igniting a firestorm of words in the press including an alleged apology by Gallo for making the film, then a sharp retort by the director when he called the venerable U.S. critic “a fat pig.” The road-trip film includes a now-infamous graphic oral sex scene near its finale.
Other films in the section include the latest from director Oxide Pang, “The Tesseract,” which will make its world premiere. The highly visual film is about four strangers whose lives intersect in a run-down hotel in Bangkok, and then “unfold” in what is described by the fest as a “Rubik’s cube-like reality.” Pang, along with brother Danny, won the International Critics’ Award (FIPRESCI) during the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival for “Bangkok Dangerous.” The pan-Asian duo also had its feature, “The Eye” released earlier this year in the U.S. In other notable inclusions, U.K. director Michael Winterbottom’s (“24 Hour Party People”) Berlinale 2003 Golden Bear-winner “In This World” will have its North American premiere during the event. The film follows two Afghan cousins who travel from a refugee camp in Pakistan to England. “Twentynine Palms” by French director Bruno Dumont, who won the grand jury prize in the 1999 Cannes Film Festival for “Humanite,” will have its North American debut in Toronto. The emotionally charged feature explores the sexual relationship between two people, which eventually disintegrates because of their lack of verbal communication. Peter Greenaway, meanwhile, will screen two works, part of a film project that includes five mediums, in Visions. The two, both North American premieres, includes Cannes 2003 competition film, “The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1. The Moab Story,” which shadows 10-year-old Tulse Luper from his childhood in Wales to his adulthood in Moab and Antwerp, while Venice 2003 competition feature, “The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Episode 3. Antwerp” is the continuation of Luper’s life in pre-World War II Belgium. Also set for its Canadian premiere is artist-director Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster 3,” the center of a five-part series of visually entrancing imagery.
“21 Grams” leads an anticipated list of films in the Special Presentations section of the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. The Focus Features film is among the most anticipated of the fall in specialty circles as it is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s English-language follow-up to his lauded “Amores Perros.” The film, which will debut in Venice and close the New York Film Festival in October, stars Academy Award winner Benicio Del Toro, three-time Academy Award nominee Sean Penn, and award-winning actress Naomi Watts. Marco Tullio Giodana’s “The Best of Youth,” which was recently acquired by Miramax, will also screen. “Youth” is the six-hour epic story of an Italian family from the late 1960s through the present day, set against the crucial events in Italian history. Also in the section are Lars Von Trier’s latest, “Dogville” with Nicole Kidman, which will be released next year by Lions Gate, and Wayne Kramer’s “The Cooler,” which the company picked up at Sundance. Also anticipated is Jim Jarmusch’s latest, “Coffee & Cigarettes” which is said to feature Steve Buscemi, The White Stripes, actor Steve Coogan, and Iggy Pop.
Docs in the section include Errol Morris’ documentary “Fog of War,” about the controversial Robert S. McNamara, and Ron Mann’s “Go Further,” which looks at a small group of activists on a bus ride along the Pacific Coast Highway. Other films set for the section include actor David Thewlis’ “Cheeky,” which he wrote, directed and stars in; Richard Curtis’ “Love Actually,” which features an ensemble cast in a story of love in London; Guy Maddin’s “The Saddest Music in the World”; Tom McCarthy’s Sundance 2003 hit “The Station Agent”; Alejandro Agresti’s “Valentin” from Miramax; and Keith Gordon’s Sundance 2003 debut, “The Singing Detective.” Also included will be a screening of Erich von Stroheim’s classic “The Merry Widow.”
Perspective Canada highlights Canadian filmmakers and content in the festival, although other Canadian films screen in other sidebars as well. This year’s line-up features 17 full-length films (of which 13 are world Premieres) as well as 38 shorts. Films set to screen in Perspective Canada include the world premiere of Anita McGee’s “The Bread Maker,” about a bread factory worker who writes romance novels by night but finds her current book in a state of flux after she falls for a local weatherman. Feature documentary “The Corporation” by Mark Achbar (“Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media”) and Jennifer Abbott (“A Cow at My Table”) investigates how a corporation is a “person” in the eyes of the law. A Nobel-prize winning economist is among the 42 interview subjects in the film including CEOs from corporations from varying fields. Also set to screen is the verite-style exploration of an eccentric man’s quest for fame amidst self-discovery in “Flyerman.” Jeff Stephenson, who has served as a juror for the Genie and Gemini Awards, Canada’s highest entertainment honors and Gemini nominated director of photography, Jason Tan, directed the film. And perhaps apropos to the setting is the directorial debut of producer Peter O’Brian’s “Hollywood North.” The satire starring Alan Bates, Matthew Modine, Jennifer Tilly, Deborah Unger, and John Neville is set in 1979 during a runaway film production that’s padded with Canadian tax shelters. “Hollywood North” will world premiere in the festival taking place in Canada’s largest city and media capital.
A huge survey of international cinema fills the appropriately named Contemporary World Cinema section. The department will offer 78 films from 43 countries. Samira Makhmalbaf’s “At Five In the Afternoon” will screen from Iran, as will Abolfazi Jalili’s “Abjad,” which will have its North American premiere from the same country, also included are Jafar Panahi’s “Crimson Gold,” and Babak Payami’s “Silence Between Two Thoughts.” Among the French entries this year are Julie Bertuccelli’s “Depuis Qu’otar Est Parti,” Damien Odoul’s “Errance,” Benoit Cohen’s “Nos Enfants Cheris,” Gilles Marchand’s “Qui A Tue Bambi?,” and Jean Paul Civeyrac’s “Toutes Ces Belles Promesses.” World premieres in the section will include Gonzalo Justiniano’s “B-Happy” from Chile, Stephen Fry’s “Bright Young Things” from Chile, Mikael Hafstrom’s “Evil” from Sweden/Denmark, Gerardo Herrero’s “The Galindez File,” a Spanish/British/Italian/Cuban/French production, Dito Tsintsadze’s “Gun-Shy” from Germany, Cesc Gay’s “In The City” from Spain, Hugo Rodriguez’ “Nicotina” Mexico/Argentia/Spain, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s “Ramblers” from Japan, Bronwen Hughes’ “Stander,” a Canadian/German/South African production, Jan Schutte’s German/Dutch “Supertex,” David Moreton’s “Testosterone,” and James Cox’ “Wonderland.” Nir Bergman’s “Broken Wings” from Israel is in the lineup, along with Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” from Norway, Jan Hrebejk’s “Pupendo” from the Czech Republic, Khyentse Norbu’s “Travellers and Magicians” from Bhutan, and Francisco J. Lombardi’s “What the Eye Doesn’t See” from Peru.
In the always popular Discovery section, which in 2002 housed award winner “Whale Rider” by Niki Caro and Peter Mullan’s “The Magdalene Sisters,” this year’s selections will be 23 films from 16 countries. Greg Marcks’ “11:14” from the United States weaves together a series of events that all occur at the same time on one evening, while Aaron Woodley’s “Rhinoceros Eyes,” also from the U.S., is the story of a prop house employee, played by Michael Pitt. Adam Goldberg will unveil his second feature, “I Love Your Work,” with a cast that includes Giovanni Ribisi, Franka Potente, Joshua Jackson, Christina Ricci, Jason Lee, Vince Vaughn, and Elvis Costello. Other U.S. Features include Jane Weinstock’s “Easy,” Ryan Eslinger’s “Madness and Genius,” and editor Curtiss Clayton’s “Rick,” which is based on the plot of “Rigoletto” but is set in the contemporary, cut-throat, corporate world. Among the international premieres are Sarah Gavron’s “This Little Life” from the U.K., Xu Jinglei’s “My Father and I” from China, and “The Green Butchers” by noted Danish writer Anders Thomas Jensen. Among the North American premieres are Mainsh Jha’s “A Nation Without Women” and Rodrigo Bellot’s “Sexual Dependency,” which won the FIPRESCI award in Locarno.
Among the 24 docs in the Real to Reel category are the world premiere of Thom Anderson’s ” Los Angeles Plays Itself,” in which the filmmaker explores the history of the city as told through fictional films. The festival offers another look at Los Angeles with “The Mayor of the Sunset Strip,” a new doc from George Hickenlooper. The project profiles legendary L.A. radio DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, who debuted such bands as The Ramones, Blondie, The Sex Pistols, Nirvana, and Coldplay on his popular “Rodney on the ROQ” show on station KROQ. Lars Von Trier will debut a doc project, directed with Jorgen Leth, entitled “The Five Obstructions,” which captures von Trier’s challenge to Leth to remake his own short film, “The Perfect Human,” five times. Other selections include Jonathan Demme’s profile of militant Haitian journalist and activist Jean Dominique, “The Agronomist,” and Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” about the temporary coup that deposed Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Chris Smith and Sarah Price, the team behind the popular doc “American Movie,” will debut “The Yes Men,” a look at a group of culture-jammers who are noted for their “elaborate feats of deception.” Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl (“Dog Days”) will have the North American premiere of “Jesus, You Know,” a look at six people and their relationships with Jesus.
In the festival’s Planet Africa section, 16 films will screen, from U.S. works including James Spooner’s “Afropunk: The ‘Rock N Roll Nigger’ Experience” and Mario Van Peebles’ “How to Get the Man’s Foot Outta Your Ass” to works from the African continent including Norman Maake’s “Soldiers of the Rock” (South Africa), Didier Ouenangare’s “Le Silence De La Foret” (Cameroon/Gabon/Central African Republic), and S. Pierre Yameogo’s “Moi et Mon Blanc” (Burkina Faso).
In the midnight madness section, which last year created buzz and a Lions Gate deal for Eli Roth’s “Cabin Fever,” nine films were selected. The section boasts works from Japanese directors Takashi Miike (“Gozu”) and Takashi Shimizu (“The Grudge”), Thai director Prachya Pinkaew (“Ong-Bak Muay: Thai Warrior”), and South Korea’s Jang Jun-hwan (“Save the Green Planet”), plus Vincenzo Natali’s “Cypher” starring Jeremy Northam and Lucy Liu; the music doc “End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones” from directors Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields; Alexandre Aja’s “Haute Tension” from France; Peter and Michael Spierig’s Australian zombie film “Undead”; and Len Wiseman’s “Underworld,” which stars Scott Speedman and Kate Beckinsale. In avant-garde sidebar Wavelengths, there will be a number of works from the late Stan Brakhage, including his 2003 “Chinese Series” and “Work in Progress,” the last unedited camera rolls from the avant-garde pioneer. The section will also screen several works from Jennifer Reeves, Pat O’Neill, Barry Gerson, and Robert Beavers, among others. In the Vida De Novo section devoted to new Brazilian films, seven Brazilian works will screen, among them the festival fave doc “Bus 174” by Jose Padilha, Hector Babenco’s “Carandiru” about a penitentiary in Sao Paolo, and latest from famed director Carlos Diegues, “God is Brazilian.”
Festival production spaces this year will be housed at the Delta Chelsea Hotel and The Sutton Place in downtown Toronto. The move reflects a continuing shift from the Yorkville area that began last year when the event moved the Rogers Industry Centre from the Park Hyatt to the Sutton. The festival Press Office as well as press conferences and Programming will be based at the Delta Chelsea, while the Industry Centre will again be anchored at the Sutton. No other changes are on tap. Partner hotels for 2003 are the Delta Chelsea Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Metropolitan Hotel, The Sutton Place Hotel, and Windsor Arms.