The 2010 Toronto International Film Festival is just over five weeks away. I've attended 47 film festivals since the start of 2006, but none as prestigious or breathtaking in scope as this one. I saw over 105 films there from 2006-2009, and many of my Top Picks from all festivals over the past few years (of over 500 in total) came from the Toronto lineup.
This year's event runs from September 9-19 and is considered the top film festival in the Western Hemisphere, second in the world only to Cannes. Many films have their World or North American premieres there. Almost every major Academy Award-winning film of the past few years debuted at this festival. The number of films is expected to total over 275.
The original plan was to announce films every Tuesday. But the road to completing the TIFF lineup and announcements has taken a detour. There have been unexpected bumps along the way as films haven't been "locked down," that is, the festival cannot officially announce some titles yet. For this reason, the Midnight Madness lineup was not revealed on Tuesday, August 3 as scheduled. Instead, TIFF decided to put out a press release today with other sections.
Today's list includes 25 documentaries
. This lineup (there will be more to come) is made up of 21 titles in the Real to Reel program, along with one Gala, two docs in the Masters Section, and one Sprockets Family Zone selection. "I'm thrilled that we've been able to program a documentary line-up with so many acclaimed filmmakers this year," said TIFF programmer Thom Powers. "From Oscar winners and nominees to Emmy award-winners, these talented filmmakers have created works that will be debated and discussed for months to come. They reinvigorate our thinking about subjects like the war in Afghanistan, the banking crisis, and the future of energy."
Also just unveiled is the Wavelengths
program of avant-garde filmmaking. "There?s much to celebrate and highlight as Wavelengths reaches its decade of existence," said TIFF Cinematheque and Wavelengths programmer Andr?a Picard. "The works in this year?s programme reveal present-day day concerns like gentrification, the need to protect our natural resources, a complex global political terrain, as well as a harkening back to the origins of cinema concurrent with video?s emergence as an aesthetic medium of its own."
Previously announced titles include Score: A Hockey Musical
, the Official Opening Night Film
, along with over 50 Galas and Special Presentations
. The next set of films will be posted on Tuesday, August 10th. Barring any more glitches, Canadian titles will be announced including one Midnight Madness selection. The other nine films in the genre lineup will be unveiled the following weekend. More Galas and Special Presentations will be announced on Tuesday, August 17 with the full lineup and schedule of invited guests revealed on Tuesday, August 24. This will be my fifth year covering TIFF and as the festival approaches I'll be posting previews of some of the films I'm most looking forward to seeing.
Ticket packages are now available for purchase by cash, debit, or Visa online at tiff.net/thefestival
, by phone at 416-968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM (Monday through Friday, 10 AM to 7 PM), or in person at the TIFF Box Office at 2 Carlton Street, West Mezzanine (Monday to Friday: 10 AM to 7 PM. The Wavelengths Package can be purchased separately, and includes one ticket to each of the six screenings.
Here are the films announced today (descriptions provided by the festival):
The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town
-- Thom Zimny, USA
The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town takes us into the studio with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for the recording of their fourth album. Grammy and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny has collaborated with Springsteen on this documentary, gaining access to never before seen footage shot between 1976-1978, capturing home rehearsals and recording sessions that allow us to see Springsteen?s creative process at work.
-- J?rgen Leth, Denmark
Danish master J?rgen Leth travels the globe in this sensual, provocative and sometimes autobiographical essay film about a man searching ? searching the world for the nature of the erotic.
Nostalgia for the Light
-- Patricio Guzm?n, France/Germany/Chile
North American Premiere
In Chile's Atacama Desert, astronomers peer deep into the cosmos in search for answers concerning the origins of life. Nearby, a group of women sift through the sand searching for body parts of loved ones, dumped unceremoniously by Pinochet?s regime. Master filmmaker Patricio Guzm?n contemplates the paradox of their quests.
Real to Reel
-- Linda Hoaglund, Japan/USA
ANPO depicts resistance to U.S. military bases in Japan through an electrifying collage of paintings and photographs, as well as animated, narrative and documentary films by Japan?s foremost contemporary artists.
-- Janus Metz, Denmark
North American Premiere
Winner of Cannes Critics Week, Armadillo is a harrowing portrayal of the current conflict in Afghanistan. The film follows a contingent of Danish troops into the chaos of combat in a way that stirs debate over the rules of engagement.
-- Frederick Wiseman, USA
North American Premiere
Documentary master Frederick Wiseman explores the world of a boxing gym in Austin, Texas, dwelling on the discipline of training as people from all walks of life aspire to reach their personal best.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
-- Werner Herzog, USA
Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of southern France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind in their astonishing natural setting. He puts 3-D technology to a profound use, taking us back in time over 30,000 years.
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
-- Alex Gibney, USA
Investigating the sex scandal that forced New York?s Governor to resign, Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney gains revelatory interviews from Spitzer, his most frequent escort and his Wall Street enemies that bring new perspective on his downfall.
-- Ondi Timoner, USA
Award-winning filmmaker Ondi Timoner trains her camera on Bjorn Lomborg, the controversial author of ?The Skeptical Environmentalist,? who takes on the issue of climate change, challenging the status quo, and pointing toward new science and technology that might hold the solutions for our future.
The Game of Death
-- Christophe Nick & Thomas Bornot, France
North American Premiere
This documentary examines the idea of the limits of obedience and punishment. Based on an experiment conducted in the sixties, the setting is a modern television game show where we see how far people will go to inflict pain on a contestant who stands to win one million dollars.
-- Naomi Kawase, Japan
A serene observation of women giving birth at the clinic of Dr. Tadashi Yoshimura who has spent 40 years on the path of natural childbirth, Genpin is Naomi Kawase's special meditation on life and on the unshakable bond between mother and child.
-- Jose Luis Guerin, Spain
North American Premiere
????Filmmaker Jose Luis Guerin documents his experience during a year of travelling as a guest of film festivals to present his previous film. What emerges is a wonderfully humane and sincere portrayal of the people that he meets when he goes off the beaten track in some of the world's major cities.
-- Charles Ferguson, USA
North American Premiere
An in-depth exploration of what caused the financial crisis from the Oscar-nominated director of No End in Sight, highlighting failures in business, government and academia.
Machete Maidens Unleashed!
-- Mark Hartley, Australia
From cult cinema documentary director Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood) comes this account of the wild and unruly world of genre filmmaking in the Philippines when the country was a back-lot for a bevy of B-movie mavericks and cinema visionaries.
Mother of Rock: Lillian Roxon
-- Paul Clarke, Australia
Witness to New York's infamous punk scene, Lillian Roxon chronicled the movement during the 1960s and 70s. Roxon mingled with the likes of John and Yoko, the Velvet Underground and Janis Joplin and was one of the first on the scene to champion the work of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors.
-- Kim Longinotto, UK
Acclaimed director Kim Longinotto is often drawn to tough women. Now she follows Sampat Pal Devi, the leader of the ?Pink Gang,? who brings her own brand of justice to the streets of Uttar Pradesh, India, combating violence against women.
-- Risteard ? Domhnaill, Ireland
Irish farmers and fisherman rise up in protest when Shell tries to build a pipeline for natural gas through their county. The local confrontation reflects an international concern for how energy companies affect the environment and communities.
-- Shlomi Eldar, Israel
With the help of a prominent Israeli journalist, Precious Life chronicles the struggle of an Israeli pediatrician and a Palestinian mother to get treatment for her baby, who suffers from an incurable genetic disease. Each must face their most profound biases as they inch towards a possible friendship in an impossible reality.
The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical
-- Sarah McCarthy, United Kingdom
North American Premiere
For one emotional night, a group of children living in a slum in Mumbai, India, get a chance to experience a different world as they perform The Sound of Music with a classical orchestra, fostering hopes that it could change their lives.
-- Errol Morris, USA
The director of The Thin Blue Line and the Academy Award?-winning The Fog of War tells the story of a former Miss Wyoming whose quest for one true love led her across the globe and onto the pages of tabloid newspapers.
Tears of Gaza
-- Vibeke L?kkeberg, Norway
A powerful and emotionally devastating record of the impact the 2008-2009 bombings of Gaza had on the civilian population.
When My Child is Born
-- Guo Jing & Ke Dingding, China
When a child is born, nothing is ever going to be the same. A journey into the everyday life of young university teachers and researchers up against an unexpected pregnancy, as well as a brilliant document on the challenges of being an academic suspended between modernization and tradition, love, career and family ties in ever-mutating contemporary China.
-- Laura Israel, USA
After wind turbines are proposed for installation in upstate New York, the community?s excitement turns to suspicion over what the project entails. This eye-opening story exposes the dark side of wind energy development and the potential for financial scams.
!Women Art Revolution ? A Secret History
-- Lynn Hershman Leeson, USA
Filmed over four decades, this inspiring cultural history tracks the struggles and breakthroughs of women artists from Judy Chicago to Guerilla Girls to Miranda July and more, packed with rare archival footage and overflowing with bold art.
Sprockets Family Zone
-- J. Clay Tweel, USA
Join a group of dedicated teen magicians as they amaze audiences by performing seemingly impossible feats while they pursue their dream of becoming the Teen World Champion Magician.
Wavelengths 1: Soul of the City
As the pace of the contemporary urban experience grows faster and the world becomes increasingly fractured, artists are documenting the vestiges and layers revealed in flux; global updates on the city symphony.
Tomonari Nishikawa?s Tokyo-Ebisu (Japan) is a 16mm in-camera patchwork constructed from multiple viewpoints from the platforms of Tokyo?s busiest railway line, Yamanote, and a masking technique which exposes 1/30th of a frame 30 times in order to capture an image of spectral apparitions. The Soul of Things (U.S.A) from Dominic Angerame presents luscious chiaroscuro images of the construction and destruction of modern structures exposing their inner soul. From Thom Andersen, director of Los Angeles Plays Itself, Get Out of the Car (U.S.A.) is a city symphony exploring Los Angeles' gentrification through a thoughtful montage of fa?ades and a playful excursus through its musical history. Callum Cooper?s Victoria, George, Edward & Thatcher (United Kingdom) is an ecstatic, taxonomic montage-animation of images of London row-houses shot with an iPhone. With sonic dislocation and frame by frame animation, Eriko Sonoda's Landscape, semi-surround (Japan) revels in the afterglow of memory. Through a slideshow of abandoned homes and an apocalyptic tale inspired by a massacre in Gaza in the summer of 2006, Basma Al-Sharif?s Everywhere Was the Same (Palestine/Egypt) recounts a city mired and mutilated. Oliver Husain?s Leona Alone (Canada) aesthetically intervenes in a historic Toronto neighbourhood cum suburb, offering gentrification a more wistful look.
Wavelengths 2: Plein-Air
As with painting, natural light and colour are inexhaustible sources of inspiration for film and video artists, whose plein-air shooting radically transforms our scenic views, offering a stirring ephemerality and, in some cases, a poignant intimacy.
In Vincent Grenier?s Burning Bush (Canada/U.S.A.), a virtuosic use of video sets a burning bush alight with crimson colour and spiritual flight. Kaleidoscopic colour, parenting and art-making coalesce in John Price?s domestic life frieze Home Movie (домашнее кино) (Canada), an extended portrait of his children captured with an old Russian 35mm camera and a variety of expired film stock. Ouverture (Canada/France) by Christopher Becks is a serene, yet kinetic in-camera meditation on an old barn in Normandy. Philipp Fleischmann?s Cinematographie (Austria) reinvents the filmstrip by way of an astonishing 360 degree camera obscura construction, which allows for a continuous image to emerge like a scroll. Recently blown-up to 16mm from its original super 8mm, Helga Fanderl?s intimate triptych, Portrait, Tea Time, Red Curtain (Portrait, Teetrinken, Roter Vorhang) (Germany) is a tender depiction of a love affair.. Anne Truitt, Working (U.S.A.) is a portrait of the Minimalist painter and sculptor elegantly observed by Jem Cohen. Madison Brookshire?s Color Films 1 & 2 (U.S.A.) close the programme with winsome wavelength compositions of light.
Wavelengths 3: Ruhr
Exchanging his 16mm Bolex for a high-definition video camera, and straying from his native soil, James Benning heads to Germany with Ruhr (Germany/U.S.A.). Using his medium much like a painter would, Benning creates a monumental and surprising portrait of the Ruhr Valley, the largest urban agglomeration in Germany known for its heavy industry. Split into two parts, with six long takes in the first section and one masterful hour-long take in the second, Benning turns his mathematician?s eye toward the area?s industrial sublime, reinvigorating our viewing experience along the way.
Wavelengths 4: Pastourelle
Nathaniel Dorsky is one of the most gifted 16mm filmmakers of our time and was recently voted ?The Best Experimental filmmaker of the Decade? by a poll conducted by Film Comment magazine. Suffused with longing, Dorksy?s three latest films, Compline, Aubade and Pastourelle (U.S.A.) demonstrate a devotional cinema wherein the plasticity of the medium is met by the artist?s consummate expression. Arresting in its twilight beauty and filled with beguiling apparitions, Compline is the final film Dorsky was able to shoot on Kodachrome, his preferred and longtime-used film stock. Aubade, which is a poem evoking daybreak, signals a new beginning, with his shooting on colour negative. Glimpses of Paris ? the abstraction of its flickering neon signs, the elegance of its views - appear in both Aubade and Pastourelle, the latter presented here as a World Premiere. The programme concludes with T. Marie?s wondrous digital triptych, Water Lillies (U.S.A.), which evokes Monet?s famous late Impressionist series by meticulously employing the inherent aesthetisizing properties of pixels, working with time and luminosity.
Wavelengths 5: Blue Mantle
The ocean has always been a mythic source of life, as much as it has a legendary call to death.
In the mysterious and melancholic Atlantiques (Senegal/France), winner of the International Film Festival Rotterdam?s Tiger Award for Best Short Film) by Mati Diop, a young man speaking in hushed tones describes his high-seas odyssey to friends huddled around a campfire in Dakar. Faint illuminations cast through an ornate gateway to a train platform in an abandoned station from Buffalo?s glory days create hazy, elegiac stained-glass effects, or the blurred vision of escape and disappearance in Eve Heller?s One (Austria); the first roll of film she ever shot, recently revisited and blown-up to 35mm. Resuscitated archival footage of a tragic event is met with contemporary prophecy in Kevin Jerome Everson?s enigmatic 753 McPherson Ave. (U.S.A.). Rebecca Meyers? blue mantle (U.S.A.) is an ode to the ocean, intercutting between the mesmeric sea with its glistening, beckoning waters and various representations of the deep. Meyers crafts an ambitious treatise buoyed by the breadth of its cast. The apocalyptic sublime of J. M. W. Turner?s 1840 masterpiece The Slave Ship, with its fiery conflagration and strewn debris amid wild waters, is the source for T. Marie?s time-based pixel painting-film Slaveship (U.S.A.). A languorous, searing abstraction with a hot palette updates the classic scene in reference to today?s skewed social hierarchy and the selling of human life. Hell Roaring Creek (U.S.A.) is the latest film by experimental anthropologist Lucien Castaign-Taylor, co-director of Sweetgrass. A static camera records the coming of day as a shepherd leads his flock of sheep across the titular stream in a prismatic, painterly pastoral.
Wavelengths 6: Coming Attractions
Early cinema confronted the spectator like no other art, beckoning a reciprocal engagement and curiosity as both spectacle and document. This programme pairs contemporary experimental works with those from a hundred years ago when cinema itself was a grand experiment.
Celebrated Italian artist Paolo Gioli returns to a tabula rasa with his handmade cameras allowing him to exploit and fashion film?s reproductive means. The exhilarating Photo Finish Figures (Il Finish delle figure) (Italy) relays a sense of the contemporary, sensory ?photo-finished? experience using a 35mm stills camera and various masking devices. Ken Jacobs? The Day was a Scorcher (U.S.A.) sees the Jacobs clan vacationing in Italy in stroboscopic postcards pulsing amid Roman ruins. Then to Torino in 1909, for turn-of-the-century postcards in which a bunch of bambini-in-a-barrel pucker up for the camera, blowing kisses, some through tears of terror, all?italiana in Concorso di bellezza fra bambino a Torino. In Friedl vom Gr?ller?s Delphine de Oliveira (Austria), a placid young woman is filmed in a Parisian courtyard. Her belle laide looks convey paradoxical and untold mysteries, while a mise-en-abyme furthers the peculiar attraction. Jonas Mekas in Kodachrome Days (U.S.A.) is another timepiece comprised of family photos resuscitated through digital technology, whose pulse harkens back to proto-cinematic devices, giving Mekas an air of a trickster like Segundo de Chom?n?s Le Roi des dollars from 1905. (France). Peter Tscherkassky's Coming Attractions (Austria) is a sly, sartorial comedy masterfully mining the relationship between early cinema and the avant-garde, by way of fifties era advertising. With references to M?li?s, Lumi?res, Cocteau, L?ger, Chomette, the film playfully explores cinema's subliminal possibilities using an impressive arsenal of techniques like solarization, optical printing and multiple exposures. Completing the evening?s attractions is a selection from EYE Film Institute Netherlands? Bits and Pieces project (Netherlands), which restores and compiles ?anonymous, unidentified or otherwise interesting fragments?, saving them from oblivion for our viewing pleasure. The archival prints will be presented with live piano accompaniment by William O?Meara.