So I wasn’t able to really dig into the more than 350 films at the Toronto International Film Festival in the same way as some of my colleagues (a few who were seeing 5-6 a day), but I can finally take off my iW Managing Editor hat and quickly note on some of the gems I saw at the festival:
Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver”
I technically saw this at a press screening before Toronto, but hey it was still playing there! As you’ve probably heard, Penelope Cruz shines in this film and deserves all the praise in the role of a woman who finds her herself suddenly liberated by her oppressive husband after an unsettling incident. It is my favorite of his recent films, “Bad Education,” “Talk To Her,” “All About My Mother” as Almdovar continues his winning streak, reminiscent of Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest,” “Vertigo,” “Psycho,” “The Birds” phase where he was incapable of making a bad film.
Werner Herzog’s “Rescue Dawn”
I wrote about “Rescue Dawn” already, and can’t wait to see how Herzog fans react to the film’s strange ending.
Ken Loach’s “The Wind That Shakes The Barley”
Like “Rescue Dawn,” Loach’s film is difficult to watch without thinking about the situation in Iraq. Cillian Murphy stars as a young man preparing to be a doctor in London who joins the I.R.A. to fight British oppression after World War I. A very masterful film with an ending painful with irony.
John Cameron’s Mitchell’s “Shortbus”
The film that is about “fucking” is actually about people’s feelings and relationships as several New Yorkers try to make sense of their messy love lives (and sex lives) in JCM’s followup to “Hedwig.”
Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein’s “The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair”
Tucker and Epperlein’s doc tells the story of an Iraqi’s journalist’s arrest (based on faulty intelligence) and detention at Abu Ghraib for planning to kill Tony Blair. I liked the fast pace and the way that comic book style illustrations are used to tell this riveting story of injustice in a land where the liberators become oppressors.
James Longley’s “Sari’s Mother”
From the director of “Iraq in Fragments” is a tragic short film about a mother in Iraq struggling to find proper healthcare for her AIDS infected son. Like his previous documentary, “Iraq in Fragments,” Longley’s amazing camerawork and narrative style coverage draws the viewer into the drama of the moment.
AJ Schnack’s “Kurt Cobain About A Son”
This unconventional documentary has no concert footage, Nirvana songs, and few pictures of Kurt Cobain. Instead, the viewer is offered Kurt Cobain’s voice (via numerous audiotaped interviews in 1992-93) and rich imagery of Washington State in areas that affected Cobain’s life.
Michael Apted’s “Amazing Grace”
“Amazing Grace” offers the inspirational story of a politician’s struggle to end the slave trade while the pressures of the sugar industry, which rely on the free labor, oppose him. Apted noted how that during the time the sugar industry had the same domination over Britain’s policies as the oil industry does now over America. Some things never change.