My first 24 hours at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival have been a steadily busy and enjoyable time. Jarod and I grabbed some quick dinner, and then headed over to the club Lobby, for IFC Films’ party honoring The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Ken Loach’s Cannes-winning new film is really great, and I’m so stoked that it has found North American distribution. Star Cillian Murphy was in the house, holding court in the VIP section. Rather than the official Opening Night Party, it seemed like most of the Americans were at Lobby, and it was packed as a result. Shortly thereafter, a group of us wound up at the roof of the Park Hyatt to end the night. Sadly, several American industry folks ventured off to see Borat at midnight (smug alert: have I ever mentioned that I saw it at Cannes?), but we learned soon enough that the projector broke down 20 minutes into the screening and never regained power. It’s really too bad, for everyone involved. But, as we all agreed, these things happen. And I’m sure by the end of the weekend it will be a faded memory.
As Friday began, Jarod and I headed to the annual THINKFilm breakfast at the Windsor Arms. A refreshing way to always kick off the first full day of TIFF, the breakfast concluded with the premiere of THINKFilm’s trailer for Bob Saget’s documentary spoof, Farce of the Penguins (narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and featuring an all-star voice cast of comedians). After the breakfast, Jarod and I split up to catch some screenings. On my end, I went to the Varsity to see Jens Lien’s The Bothersome Man, a Norwegian entry that I missed at Cannes. I happened to dig the film quite a bit, though it’s certainly so offbeat that I dunno how wide an audience it could reach. It’s the cryptic and absurd tale of a man named Andreas, as he starts his life in a new city after arriving on his own from a place unknown and reasons unknown. The film is oddly surreal in many ways, but I found the tone and performances really strong. While Andreas managaes his way around his new job and environment, no one else in the film seems aware of how bizarre the surroundings are. He’s a stranger in a strange land, and it’s a land where wounds are magically healed and suicide attempts are met with overnight cures. One of the film’s most darkly amusing scenes features a subway suicide gone horribly wrong. Is this place Purgatory? Hell? Or, something else?
Afterwards, I had planned to see the new Hirokazu Kore-eda film, Hana, but was slightly discouraged by what I heard from some folks who’d already seen it. Instead, I tagged-along for the world premiere of Michael Tucker’s documentary, The Prisoner Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair. This buzzed-about new film from the director of Gunner Palace is the captivating examination of an Iraqi man named Yunis, who was captured by U.S. troops and held prisoner in various camps, including Abu Ghraib. It’s a compelling look at what happens to prisoners of the new war, and it’s told with some very interesting pop elements, like comic-book illustrations and a unique use of subtitles. The film is currently only an hour long, but it was revealed today that the film will likely add a few more minutes to make it a more theatrical length. What will they add? It turns out that one of the American soldiers has been trying to track down Yunis for a while and he turned up at today’s premiere to join the Q&A. So, the filmmakers will go back and get some footage with this American, as he shares his POV of the whole ordeal. Like I said, compelling stuff.
Okay, off for now, as we need to prep for a party SXSW is co-hosting tonight: a celebration for Bradley Beesley and Sarah Price’s TIFF selection (and SXSW premiere), Summercamp!