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TIFF 2006.5: About a Festival

TIFF 2006.5: About a Festival

The 2006 Toronto International Film Festival will continue to roll through the weekend, but I’ve returned home. At the airport with Jarod and I Tuesday afternoon, were other Texas-bound folks like Magnolia’s Bill Banowsky and Summercamp! director Brad Beesley. Sundance head programmer John Cooper was waiting in the cafe… we were all ready to get back home. But, many people are staying behind, and I suggest seeking out their expert coverage.

Speaking of expert coverage, or a lack thereof, readers of the blog may notice that I’ve scaled back on entries and also photos this year. It all boils down to necessity. I’ve found that my time at film festivals has gotten crazier and busier as the years go by, leaving less time to blog. Don’t worry, I’ll still blog my heart out, but this Toronto trip made me realize that the days of festivals past (with dozens of pics, entries, etc.) is over… for now. Also, I broke my digital camera in the U.K., making it much harder to snap random pics. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll still get some pics on here, no matter what. Wait till you see what I’ve got in store for this weekend.

On Monday, I got a chance to see two of my most anticipated titles: A.J. Schnack’s Kurt Cobain About A Son, and Liz Mermin’s Office Tigers. With A.J.’s film, I’ve felt a connection to it ever since it first came to my attention. This was actually Sundance 2006, while at the Canadian Film party. A.J. and I were outside smoking cigarettes when he asked if I could identify Jared Moshe, as they were supposed to meet that night in person. I spotted Jared and brought them together. I wasn’t sure why they were meeting, but within weeks Jared left his post at the Film Sales Company to join Sidetrack Films, which produced the doc. Ever since, I’ve been following the status. Then, at Cannes this year, Jared had mentioned that he was eyeing Toronto for the premiere. Suddenly, two days later, I was hanging out with Toronto doc programmer Thom Powers at the Grand Hotel when I said, “have you heard about this Kurt Cobain doc?” And, no, he hadn’t. As if kismet was ours, Jared Moshe rolled up to the Grand following a screening and I introduced the two.

(Big Huge Disclaimer: I’m not for a single second suggesting I had anything to do with anything, just that it was kinda neat to watch as all the elements came together for what transpired at Toronto. A.J.’s movie is in Toronto because it’s great, and would have been in no matter what.) At the Los Angeles Film Festival, A.J. was on the doc jury and Jared was in town. They were hustling to get the latest cut off to Thom for consideration. And, it worked, the film got in. And, on Monday, I was able to finally see it at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The audience was probably 50% people who knew A.J. or Jared, or both. So, we all held our breath and hoped for the best. And, I have to say, I was relieved to be really moved and entranced by the film. Kurt Cobain About A Son takes audio interviews compiled by author Michael Azerrad from chats over a year with Cobain. With this audio as the bed, A.J. weaves a series of beautiful images to correspond with what becomes a biographical look at the artist and man, Kurt Cobain. Cobain shares stories of growing up with a jerk of a father and a pothead mother. He recalls the bullying of high school, and the freedom he got from musical influences like Scratch Acid and the Butthole Surfers. Throughout all of this, the audience is watching artful images of modern-day Washington state and juxtapositions of what Kurt’s universe may have looked like at the time.

Cobain cringes at the future of Nirvana, takes solace in the healing power of heroin, and passionately wants to care for his wife & daughter. But, as many know, he took his own life only months after these interviews. The resulting film is unlike any music-related documentary you’ve ever seen. In many ways, it’s unlike any documentary that’s being made these days. For that, A.J. is sure to find some challenges, but as pure cinema and history, it’s a revelation.

After that, I finally got to see Liz Mermin’s Office Tigers, the amusing documentary look at an American company called “Office Tiger” setting up shop in India to create call centers and business support for Western corporations. It’s very unlike last year’s Toronto doc, John & Jane, which was much more atmospheric and dense. Mermin’s film is more conventional, but also more entertaining, doc look at this industry. And, thanks to the amazing character that is the company’s boss, it’s an often very funny film. This guy is the real Ricky Gervais, running around the office as awkward and embarrassing as the characters of The Office sitcoms. He could almost command his own documentary.

Following the screening, I went to Danforth Bowl for a bowling tournament co-hosted by the fine folks at Cinematical and popular Web columnist David Poland. In between chatting up my fellow bloggers, I also got to spend some time with Michael Tucker, director of The Prisoner Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair. The whole time, Tucker’s phone was buzzing off the hook, as a distribution deal was in the works. It was fun to watch it all go down from his perspective. It was a bit different from watching the Mandy Lane buyers hanging out after that screening (the Weinstein Company ultimately bought that film for its Dimension label). Michael Tucker and I left the bowling party for the HDNet Films party, in honor of Toronto selections Fay Grim, Diggers, and S&Man. All the while, Michael’s phone is still buzzing as his reps Josh Braun and Dana O’Keefe hammer out the deal. Expect an announcement soon. And many more to come.

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