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Toronto 2007.3: Exodus. I’m Not There.

Toronto 2007.3: Exodus. I'm Not There.

We’re back in Austin after six days in Toronto for the busy and enjoyable film festival. This year’s TIFF seemed to pick up just as we were leaving town, with some in the industry wondering if it would be a redo of Sundance 2007 in terms of market activity (a.k.a. most of the acquisitions would happen in the second half). Sure enough, in the last 72 hours: In Bloom sold to Magnolia, Diary of the Dead sold to The Weinstein Company, Nothing Is Private sold to Warner Independent Pictures, and The Visitor sold to Overture. Who knows if this will continue into the final weekend.

As usual, TIFF was an amazingly essential experience for us. Great films, great people, lots of connecting, and the occasional party. At SXSW, we’ll spend the next few months watching the dust settle out of Toronto before we know which films will make their way to SXSW 2008. But, rest assured, Jarod and Lya and I certainly saw plenty to keep our eyes on. As for regrets, Toronto is always frustrating when I have to miss some exciting new works by legendary filmmakers. I wanted to see Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There all week, but had to miss it when the press/industry screening began 30 minutes late, throwing the schedule off. Instead, I finally caught a wonderful new film by Lee Isaac Chung called Munyurangabo. It’s an atmospheric and fascinating look at two Rwandan teen-age friends on a journey. I missed it at Cannes, and was not leaving Canada without catching it. I’m happy I did. It blew me away.

And, file under: “someone buy the remake rights,” Ho-Cheung Pang’s Exodus. There’s a fantastic premise here, and I still think the first and last 20 minutes of this film are among the best I saw all week in Toronto. Yet, the second act of the film is weighed heavily down by a meandering melodramatic subplot. It starts by delivering the genre flick goods (the premise involves women in Hong Kong conspiring to kill all the men), and then loses its way, only to return to the film we wanted all along. But by then, it’s over. Maybe the current version works, if you cut out 10 minutes or so… but man, does this movie come so close to perfect. Okay, here are some last pictures I took during the final few days in Toronto:

(A powerful and emotional evening was had by all for the premiere of Austin doc filmmaker Ellen Spiro’s new film, with former TV host Phil Donahue, Body of War. During the Q&A, here is Donahue with the film’s subject, Iraqi veteran Thomas Young in his wheelchair flanked by his mom, Spiro, and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. Vedder composed a few amazing new songs for the film, and performed two during the Q&A.)

(Parisian filmmaker Michelange Quay was a fixture at many events during TIFF, as he attended for his new film Eat For This Is My Body. Here’s Quay at the annual Unifrance lunch.)

(Lee Myung-se, the director of Korean TIFF selection M, speaks to attendees of Asian Film Night, with his translator.)

(Two of my favorite programmers on the festival circuit: TIFF Midnight Madness curator Colin Geddes, left, and Sundance/Cinevegas programmer Trevor Groth enjoy themselves at the Asian Film Night reception.)

(IFC Films hosted a great dinner at Toronto hotspot Le Select, on Monday night. It was in honor of their slate at TIFF, which included Gus Van Sant’s mesmerizing Paranoid Park and Harmony Korine’s hypnotically funny Mister Lonely. The photogs snapped pics early on, so I joined in. Here’s Van Sant eyeing my camera as he chats with actress Jena Malone and actor Gael Garcia Bernal enjoys himself in the background.)

(Planet Africa hosted a great party for John Sayles’ latest feature, Honeydripper. Local bluesman Gary Clark Jr. belts out some blues tunes for the packed audience.)

(The Sarasota Film Festival had their annual TIFF bash at Ultra. Here’s Sarasota director of programming Tom Hall, right, raising a glass with Austin Film Society staffer Bryan Poyser.)

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