The Toronto International Film Festival has added more awards to its not-so-prestigious ceremony. With only the Cadillac People’s Choice Award (film chosen by the audience as the best of the festival via voting cards), the FIPRESCI prizes (one given for two separate programs – Special Presentations and Discovery – voted on by a few international critics), the Discovery award (I’m not 100% sure who gives this out, but I believe it’s voted on the same way as the Cadillac People’s Choice Award, but only for the Discovery programme) and a few exclusively Canadian awards (ie. Best Canadian Feature; Best First Canadian Feature, etc…) as awards, I (as many others) must have felt that for such a large film festival that they needed more awards to garner more credibility. This, of course, started after the People Choice winner of last year won the Best Picture at the Academy Awards last year (Slumdog Millionaire for those who stumbled upon my blog without any movie knowledge). So now they’ve added two more award categories – it’s the same as the Cadillac People’s Choice Award in the way it’s voted on, but exclusively for the Midnight Madness and Documentary films (separate awards, of course). This adds much more interest as the most fanatic programme is certainly Midnight Madness, so to see what the general Midnight Madness fan votes as best will be a very pleasant award. As for the documentary award, this will add much more authenticity and I suppose prestige to the festival. It comes off as an enlightened award and an intelligent move by the programmers – it’ll certainly give a bit more depth to the post-festival festivities. So I’m all for this – hopefully I’ll be able to vote on both with a fair and just grasp on both programmes this year.
Onto the genre I skipped yesterday – documentary. Primarily located in the Reel-to-Reel programme, I’ve not yet seen one of these films in my two years of attending the festival. This should change this year – or at least I hope so.
Lets Get Down and Dirty:
The Art of the Steal – (Don Argott, USA) This documentary is about Albert Barnes’ collection of Post-Impressionist paintings – the large and expensive selection he had that vanished and later became the subject of many debates over who controlled the rights to the riches. This sound like an exciting and interesting real-life caper/legal battle that I wouldn’t mind seeing. Certainly one of the more interesting documentary synopsis’ I’ve heard all year. (An 8/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Bassidji – (Mehran Tamadon, Iran) This is an account of filmmaker Mehran Tamadon’s attempt to learn the thought-process and reasonings behind extremist supporters of the Islamic Republic. It could be a very interesting tale that explores both the positives and negatives of the large group of men and women. However, most documentaries of this nature tend to be one-sided and bothersome. I’ll play it by ear and if I hear that it’s refreshing, I’ll give it a go on a second run. (A 6/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Cleanflix – (Andrew James / Joshua Ligairi, USA) An account of a sector of the Mormon religion in Utah demanding clean versions of R-rated films and the reaction of video-store owners that try and comply with their prompts and demands. It could be very interesting and lightly coated with humor, plus any film about film usually grabs my attention very easily. I’ll try and rent this later on, but I don’t see myself in a seat it its world premiere. (A 6/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Collapse – (Chris Smith, USA) OK, OK, OK… so here’s another film documenting the what-ifs and assumptions of our world in the future and how badly we’ll dismantle ourselves with a poor economy and even poorer environmental habits. I read and watch a lot of television that repeats the same perspective, and while most of it is important, rarely is there anything said that is impacting or stands out in my mind. The people, of course – not the message because that’s burned into my brain. Another film I’ll play by ear, but I doubt I will watch this. (A 4/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Colony – (Carter Gunn / Ross McDonnell, Ireland) “Ack! No! Not the bees!” – an infamous quote from 2006’s The Wicker Man. Well, in this documentary, the filmmakers try to grasp the knowledge of several beekeepers in America trying to find out the cause of the disappearance of millions of bees. Yeah, it sounds like the opening of The Happening, but don’t let the similarities impair your judgment on whether or not to see this interesting, if nothing, documentary. I might see this – especially since it’s supposedly shot with a beautiful lens. Could be a great one! (A 7/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Good Hair – (Jeff Stilson, USA) This sounds like a humorous and light documentary, but it certainly won’t be one I see unless I hear some raves. It’s Chris Rock’s documentary about black people and their hair. So it’ll probably be – at the very least – a fun parody of his own culture, which sounds very delightful to me. I could see it – I’m always down for a good laugh – but I probably won’t. I think it’s important to add that this is apart of the more prestigious Special Presentations programme at the festival. (A 6/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Google Baby – (Zippi Brand Frank, Israel) This film is the opposite of what I want to see in a documentary. It sounds sparse in personal interest, vacant of personal reflection and above all, boring. A film about surrogate mothers who breed children for those who cannot in the middle-east is an admirable profession (might be if they don’t charge much), but that isn’t at all for me. (A 2/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
How To Fold a Flag – (Michael Tucker / Petra Epperlien, USA) Alright, so this has caught my eye and caught it… hard(?). It’s a look at the different paths that several Iraq veterans take after they served their duty – one is a cage fighter in Louisiana and another is headed for political office in Buffalo. It seems like it’ll be all about the hardships of life and the different mentalities of soldiers after service – which is, in and of itself, appealing to me. I hope to see this one. (An 7/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
L’enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot (Serge Bromberg / Ruxandra Medrea, France) Now, although I haven’t seen a Clouzot film yet (I will try to pack in a few before I see this film) this concept is beyond fascinating. The filmmakers uncover Clouzot’s unfinished film L’enfer and mix in footage of the feature with their story of uncovering it. It’ll be a visually seductive and have a simplistic dynamic to it – or, I hope so. I’m seeing this. (A 9/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers – (Judith Ehrlich / Rick Goldsmith, USA) After last years Frost/Nixon, I suppose that making this film was the right move – people have a re-ignited interest for the Nixon scandal and this film is entirely about it. A story about Daniel Ellsberg and his leaked documents about how the Vietnam War was a lie and how it was the snowball in the avalanche that was the Nixon scandal. Interesting topic – could be just as interesting a film. I’ll check my schedule to see if it fits in, but if it doesn’t I won’t regret missing it. (A 6/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Presumed Guilty – (Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith, Mexico) A documentary about the dirty judicial system in Mexico, these two filmmakers shoot footage to help exonerate a wrongly convicted man – showing the sad politics in the process. Could be good, but I’ll probably skip it because it doesn’t sound much like my thing. (A 6/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags – (Marc Levin, USA) This film is about the garment district in New York and how it went from a small, prosperous industry to becoming an overwhelming success, back to its recent financial decline. I hear snippets about these issues on the television and more financial talk really isn’t for me at the moment. (A 4/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Snowblind – (Vikram Jayanti, USA/UK) This sound like a remarkable story and the photographs provided by TIFF for it look incredible. The story is that of a young, blind woman who competed in the Iditarod dog sled race recently – the 1,100 mile race in Alaska. It looks like an extremely beautiful film, but perhaps too sentimental on the documentary side. I might catch it – hopefully I’m wrong in thinking it’ll be “just another one of ‘those’ movies”. (An 8/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
The Topp Twins – (Leanne Pooley, New Zealand) Released in New Zealand on April 9th, The Topp Twins is the tale about a pair of twins: a comedy duo that is driven by their shared lesbianism and love of music. I looked over the trailer not a moment ago and it seems to be more of a soapy recount of their three decades in semi-obscurity and their struggles rather than just a day in the life of them and their humor. Not for me really. (A 3/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Turtle: The Incredible Journey – (Nick Stringer, United Kingdom) The first Sprockets film announced (Sprockets = family films) for the festival. A tale about a logger-heard turtle and the way that he affects the deep blue ocean. I’m not really for ‘Animal Planet’ esque features, so I’ll be skipping this… but I’m sure it’ll be adorable and a soothing feature. (A 4/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
Videocracy – (Erik Gandini, Sweden) A look at Italy’s prime minister and his reality TV show empire full of bikini-clad women and how it affected his nation. I don’t really get what this documentary will be all about (other than the Italian prime minister), but I don’t care enough to find out. Sounds very trite. (A 4/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights – (Emmett Malloy, USA) Back-to-back years where Jack Black has presented a documentary at TIFF (last years being It Might Get Loud). A story about The White Stripes and their cross-Canada tour where they touch down in both small and large venues. It sounds like a road trip flick with The White Stripes, but following bands in a documentary tends to be a boring trip. Well, not boring, but not worthwhile. Could be great though – it is a Vanguard feature. (A 6/10 on my personal Anticipation Meter)
So that’s it for the documentary portion of the festival. Odds are I’ll see the Clouzot feature and perhaps I’ll be able to check out The Art of Steel and Snowblind as well. Nothing much happening on the documentary front, it seems, which is unfortunate because I really wanted to sink my teeth into a few features from here. Oh well, maybe next year!