This will be my second trip to SFIFF, and I’m really excited about my lineup. I’ll get a second shot at a few TIFF favorites (Colossal Youth and Private Fears in Public Places), I’ll get to see a couple that I missed the first time around (Daratt, Opera Jawa, and The Island), and, of course, there will be several new discoveries. I’m especially excited about Forever, the latest from Heddy Honigmann, who will be in town to receive the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award.
The Toronto International Film Festival is exactly the right length. After seeing thirty or forty film programs in nine-and-a-half days, I’m always ready for it to end. I hate that it’ll be another year before I get to walk down Yonge Street again, discuss movies over sushi with friends again, and discover so many great new films again, but, for the time being at least, I’m glad to be home.
Perhaps it’s simply the inevitable result of paring down my schedule from 44 films in 2005 (only 35 of which I actually saw) to “only” 33 this year, but my sense while researching and planning over the past weeks was that TIFF’s lineup is stronger, top to bottom, this time around than in previous years.
Late last night I received a confirmation email from the Toronto International Film Festival box office, notifying me that I would be seeing all thirty of my first choice films. Given that so many of my friends are still awaiting similar confirmation, mine appears to have been one of the first orders processed — just lucky in the lottery draw this year, I guess.
After three days, 14 films, a brilliant Sufjan Stevens concert, several fantastic meals, and too little sleep, I’ve abandoned my ambitions of blogging a brief capsule review of everything I see. There’s too little time, and I don’t want my TIFF experience to be hampered by blog guilt. Instead, here are some brief comments — first impressions and unsupported opinions, mostly.
The plan is to spend the next few hours poring through the catalog, obsessing over the schedule, and checking titles off of my spreadsheet — yes, I created a spreadsheet — all in hopes of creating the most efficient and dud-free lineup of films possible. I then overnight my ticket requests back to Toronto and hope for the best.
San Francisco, in case this hasn’t been said often enough, is a great city, and I spent most of my time there doing all of the touristy things one is obligated to do during a first visit — riding cable cars, walking through Muir Woods, taking pictures of the Golden Gate bridge, browsing through record and book shops, and eating to the point of exhaustion.
The real highlight, though, has been discovering Toronto, which, especially this week, is possibly the most international city in North America. I’m introverted by nature but have really enjoyed striking up conversations with strangers in line and in the theaters. So many interesting lives intersecting here.
Sembene introduced his film by reminding his mostly white, mostly Western audience that Africa — the entire continent, its nations, its governments, and its people — is experiencing a period of unprecedented transition. There was no moralizing or condemnation in his tone, not even a suggestion of the catastrophic crises and genocides that fill the back pages of our newspapers. Africa is in transition, he told us, and this film is about that transition.
Omarova’s debut takes its title from a nickname given to the main character. Schizo (Olzhas Nusuppaev) is 15 years old and a bit slow; his classmates abuse him and exploit his gullibility. He is soon hired by his mother’s thug boyfriend (Eduard Tabyschev) to recruit unemployed laborers for illegal boxing matches.
I’ve put in my ticket requests for the Toronto Film Festival. By choosing to fly in on the 11th and out on the 18th, I’ll be missing two of my most highly anticipated films, Robert Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest, which will be introduced by Chantal Akerman and which I’ve always wanted to see on the big screen, and Godard’s latest, Notre Musique.