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September 11, 2003 2:00 AM
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The Latest from Toronto, A Deal For "Rosenstrasse," Pranks from "The Yes Men" and More

The Latest from Toronto, A Deal For "Rosenstrasse," Pranks from "The Yes Men" and More

by Eugene Hernandez









Hanging in Toronto, from left to right, the people behind the festival doc, "The Yes Men," co-director Sarah Price, Patrick L., co-director and editor Dan Ollman, co-director Chris Smith, and "Yes Men" Mike Bonnano and Andy Bichlbaum. Photo by Brian Brooks (shot on the Kodak LS443)

Samuel Goldwyn Films has closed a deal for North American rights for Margarethe von Trotta's "Rosenstrasse," the company confirmed yesterday. The film, described as a "history of a group of Jewish husbands married to Aryan wives who were initially spared during World War II." The film is based on actual events. It explores the women's protests of Jewish persecution on Rosenstrasse Street.

"This is a powerful film, beautifully directed by von Trotta.," said Goldwyn president Meyer Gottlieb in a prepared statement. "Audiences will be moved by it and I'm proud to be its distributor." The company will release the picture next year.

The film joins Golwdyn's roster of Toronto festival titles, including the comedy "Mambo Italiano" and the award-winning Australian drama "Japanese Story," starring Toni Collette.

Taking Corporations to Task

A number of films in this year's festival are exploring corporations and global trade issues. While we've already written about Mark Achbar, Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott's terrific doc "The Corporation" (in a profile of the film earlier this week) and Curtiss Clayton's "Rick," another film that has stirred sentiments is Chris Smith, Sarah Price and Dan Ollman's "The Yes Men." (Smith and Price are best known for their collaboration on "American Movie")

In the spirit of "Jackass" (or maybe "Punk'd") on MTV, the film follows a group of culture jammers, one person affectionately referred to them as "cultural terrorists," who typically impersonate such established organizations as the WTO to present their own take on those organizations views.

Maintaining an earnest countenance, and always with clever planning, the group hoodwinks unsuspecting conference-goers and even students in their quest to undermine the work of groups like the World Trade Organization. In one action, the Yes Men unveil the WTO and McDonalds' answer to world hunger, a burger re-purposed from human waste, while in another a supposed WTO representative announces the group's disbanding. Like one of the aforementioned MTV shows the doc doesn't offer viewers a deeper exploration of the lives of the people profiled, but like "Jackass," when it's funny, it's really really funny.

Sayles on Screenwriting

Writer and director John Sayles, in Toronto with his latest film "Casa De Los Babys," settled in for a conversation about his work, and his latest film during a session at the Rogers Industry Centre at the Sutton Place hotel. At one point in the conversation the prolific writer, who's work includes "Men With Guns," "Limbo," "Sunshine State," and "Lone Star," not to mention a number of projects that he has doctored for Hollywood, talked about his writing process.

Sayles explained that he typically writes a draft of a screenplay in about two weeks, focusing exclusively on the task for that period, hoping to write up to 15 pages a day at times. The structure of the screenplay often takes much more time to develop than the scenes themselves though, Sayles explained. That is, unless he is adapting a book or a magazine article. Along with the script, Sayles told the crowd that he also pens 1 - 3 page bios for each character with a speaking part, and some times bios for those who don't speak. Sayles doesn't rehearse but offers the bios to the actors and encourages them to contact him directly with questions or for guidance. The filmmaker said that he is prepping his next project and also trying to get another screenplay finished.

Sayles latest, which he describes as the story of "a group of North American women who go to a South American country to adopt children," stars Lily Taylor, Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Steenburgen, Rita Moreno, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Susan Lynch. "There are so many movies about groups of men," Sayles offered, citing sports films or war movies, "There are very few about groups of women, I was very interested in how that dynamic is different." The IFC Film was budgeted at about $1 million and is due to be released this month.

Remembering

We couldn't let this day pass without taking time to acknowledge the significance of the anniversary that we mark today. Some of us at indieWIRE were in Toronto on September 11, 2001 and like those here at the Toronto International Film Festival on that day, we remember the sensitivity that festival organizers showed in response to the tragic and shocking events. Being New Yorkers we also want to express our ongoing support for friends and colleagues back home today. Taking a moment to stop and think about that morning two years ago, as many will today, it's clear that we still deeply feel the sadness of that day.

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