Sunday, September 18, 2016

Toronto International Film Festival Announces 2016 Award Winners


The Toronto International Film Festival® announced its award winners at a ceremony at TIFF Bell Lightbox today, hosted by Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival. To watch the presentation, visit tiff.net/ceremony. The 41st Festival wraps up this evening.

The short film awards below were selected by a jury comprised of American filmmaker Abteen Bagheri (That B.E.A.T.), French filmmaker Eva Husson (Bang Gang), and Canadian filmmaker Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes for Young Ghouls).

SHORT CUTS AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM
The Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Alexandre Dostie’s Mutants. The jury remarked, “Mutants takes a summer in Quebec and infuses it with a ribald lyricism. Awkward moments of sexual awakening paired with self cannibalism and self immolation rise it above standard nostalgia. It was a film that took chances with both its subject matter and humour, and framing it through the eyes of children. Congratulations.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize.

TIFF and the art of self-promotion

BaBa Zula rocks TIFF
Story & photos by Allan Tong

Each September, the world's second-largest film festival (after Cannes) attracts armies of filmgoers, showbiz heavies and journos. A while back (I don't know when), some marketing folks began to open drop-in lounges to promote everything from eyeliner to self-published mafia memoirs. Meanwhile, state film commissions throw lavish parties to promote their nation's filmmaking industry while film producers orchestrate death-defying stunts. On King Street, which was closed to traffic during the first half of the fest, tea, chocolate and other vendors were giving away samples to long lines. They all aim to generate Tweets and blog space for themselves and their clients. Hey, there's a huge market at TIFF. Let's hang our shingle here. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

How to schmooze at TIFF

Story & photos by Allan Tong

It's day 8 at TIFF, the Americans have left and, while the galas and screenings continue strong, the parties are over. That's left me to reflect on schmoozing. 

What's schmoozing? That's the art of making small talk to impress someone at a festival party without overtly pitching them or blowing smoke up their ass. Newbies fail miserably at this, and one must learn the nuances through painful trial-and-error. However, to get a head start here are 10 tips:

1) Dress the part. I love the Jays, but I sure as hell wouldn't wear a Jose Bautista jersey to a TIFF party (the exceptions being Kevin Smith and Spike Lee who can wear any damn sports jerseys they want). Who want to look like a schlub or homeless? 

Men, wear a dress jacket at the very least. Tie optional. Jeans are okay as long they are clean and ironed. Dress shoes preferred, but you can get away with running shoes because it's considered anti-authoritarian.

The gathering of the Canadian film tribe: the CFC BBQ

Story and photos by Allan Tong

"You going to the barbecue?"

If you're a Canadian at TIFF, you inevitably hear that question, followed by, "Did you get an invite?"

Held in the first Sunday afternoon of the festival, "the barbecue" is a gathering of the Canadian film tribe as well as a fundraiser for the Canadian Film Centre. It takes place on the manicured lawns of the CFC far north of the Lightbox but near the millionaire mansions of the Bridal Path. Given its distance and isolation, the barbecue is hard to crash and coveted.

If you're lucky enough to get in, you nibble on burgers, hot dogs and pizza and sip wine and beer that sponsors generously donate. But the real point is to show your face, shake hands and catch up with other Canadian filmmakers from various disciplines. Exchanging business cards is an essential ritual.

Each year, CFC founder Norman Jewison delivers a speech and this year under a sweltering sky, the venerable film director, wearing his "NJ" baseball cap, asked for a moment of silence on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Telefilm and Birks salute women at TIFF

Story and photos by Allan Tong
Sandra Oh

Last night at the posh Shangri-La Hotel in downtown Toronto, Telefilm Canada and jewelerer Birks feted a dozen women in Canadian film at the Birks Diamond Tribute. They included actresses Amanda Crew (Silicon Valley),Caroline Dhavernas (Hannibal) Christine Horne (Hyena Road),Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy, Window Horses) and Jennifer Podemski (Fire Song); directors Tracey Deer (Mohawk Girls),Ann Marie Fleming (Window Horses), April Mullen (Below Her Mouth, 88), Léa Pool (Set Me Free) and Ann Shin (My Enemy, My Brother); and, for the first time, screenwriters Emma Donoghue (Room) and Marie Vien (La passion d'Augustine).

What distinguishes this list of honourees this year from last is racial diversity. In 2015, the honoured women were all white, a point not lost on some attendees. Perhaps to rectify this imbalance (particularly in the year of #OscarsSoWhite), Telefilm has included Asians (Oh, Shin and Fleming) and First Nations (Podemski, Deer) in a profound way. 

Documentarian Shin feels she she has been "lucky" in getting her films made about Asian and black issues, but is about to make her first fictional film. "I hear it's tougher," she says. In particular, she feels it's hard to get Asian males on screen. "There's a bias."

Monday, September 12, 2016

Isabelle Huppert and the French shine at UniFrance, TIFF

Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne (directors, The Unknown Girl)
Story and photos by Allan Tong

Over the weekend, UniFrance celebrated France's directors, screenwriters and stars attending TIFF this year with their films. These include Paul Verhoeven's controversial Elle starring the legendary Isabelle Huppert, the Dardenne brothers' The Unknown Girl and renowned director, Agnes Varda who was in Toronto to receive an award named after the late, great film critic Roger Ebert.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Toronto International Film Festival announces Canadian selections, Talent Lab, Pitch This!, Rising Stars


POLITICS AND BOLD STORYTELLING HEADLINE CANADIAN LINEUP AT THETORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

The Toronto International Film Festival® announced an exciting lineup of Canadian features, packed with World Premieres from acclaimed filmmakers Deepa Mehta, Alanis Obomsawin, Bruce McDonald, and Brigitte Berman to promising new work from Kevan Funk, Anne Émond, Chloé Robichaud, Jamie Kastner, and Vincent Biron. North American Premieres include the latest from Xavier Dolan, Nathan Morlando, Kim Nguyen, Ann Marie Fleming, and Johnny Ma.

“We are thrilled to present a robust selection of projects from some of Canada’s best filmmakers,” said Steve Gravestock, Senior Programmer, TIFF. “From thought provoking documentaries and affecting dramas, to unconventional biographies and thrillers, to animated features, this year’s selections highlight the diversity and high-calibre work produced in Canada.”

“We are proud to shine a spotlight on both veteran filmmakers and emerging talent in this year’s slate,” said Magali Simard, Film Programmes Manager, TIFF. “Canadians continue to forge their own path on a global scale with their own distinct perspectives and methods of storytelling.”

Monday, August 1, 2016

Call for submissions: EURODOC Pitch, and One‐on‐One for Emerging Filmmakers


CALL FOR PROJECTS:
EURODOC PITCH and ONE‐ON‐ONE FOR EMERGING FILMMAKERS

Montreal, August 1, 2016 – Doc Circuit Montréal (DCM) is delighted to announce two exciting calls for projects: the EURODOC Pitch and the One‐on‐One for Emerging Filmmakers. Established québecois producers and emerging filmmakers are invited to submit their documentary projects by September 15th as part of these two pitching events.

EURODOC Pitch

We are now accepting submissions to the prized EURODOC Pitch! Five Quebec-based documentary producers will be selected for the opportunity to pitch live in the hopes of receiving a $4,000 grant and securing a much coveted slot for one of Europe’s leading training programs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Toronto International Film Festival announces first films for 41st edition


2016 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL UNVEILS ITS FIRST SLATE OF GALAS AND SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS
Featuring World Premieres from filmmakers including Oliver Stone, Mira Nair, Ewan McGregor, Konkona Sensharma, Lone Scherfig, Raja Amari, Jonathan Demme, Baltasar Kormákur, Amma Asante, Christopher Guest, Feng Xiaogang, Rob Reiner, J.A. Bayona, Arnaud des Pallières, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and many more

Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, announced the first round of titles premiering in the Gala and Special Presentations programmes of the 41st Toronto International Film Festival.

Of the 19 Galas and 49 Special Presentations announced, this initial lineup includes films from such celebrated directors as Werner Herzog, Denis Villeneuve, Jim Jarmusch, Mia Hansen-Løve, Rebecca Zlotowski, Tom Ford, François Ozon, Andrea Arnold, Maren Ade, Park Chan-wook, Kim Jee woon, Kenneth Lonergan, Antoine Fuqua, Damien Chazelle, Pablo Larraín, and Paul Verhoeven.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Film review: Cafe Society


Writer/Director: Woody Allen
Producers: Letty Aronson, Ron Chez, Helen Robin,  Adam B. Stern, Allan Teh, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Parker Posey, Corey Stoll
Comedy/drama
1 hour, 36 minutes

By now, audiences expect certain elements in a Woody Allen movie: a period piece from the 1930s, a love triangle, a nebbish Woody-Allen-like protagonist, perhaps a gangster, a discussion about morality and, of course, some sharp, funny lines sprinkled throughout.

Cafe Society, the auteur's latest, contains all these ingredients which adds up to an entertaining though flawed film that's parts comedy, romance and drama.

[Spoiler alert] Jesse Eisenberg plays Bobby, a naive Jewish kid from Brooklyn who hits up his bigshot uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a Hollywood agent, for a job. Unwittingly, Bobby falls for Phil's younger secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) who is secretly Phil's mistress. When Phil leaves his wife for Vonnie, Bobby's world crashes down and he returns to Brooklyn to work for his gangster brother, Ben (Carey Stoll) and runs his high-society nightclub. Years pass, Bobby marries another woman and becomes a father. He grows tougher, harder, wiser. One day, Vonnie and Uncle Phil visit Bobby's New York nightclub and that nearly rekindles his L.A. romance with Vonnie. By the end of the film, we're left with a big What if? What if Vonnie had chosen Bobby instead of Phil?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

David Bowie is back...on the big screen


review by Allan Tong

Six months after cancer claimed the iconic British musician, David Bowie returns to Canada on select Cineplex screens on July 21, 24 and 31. No, it's not The Man Who Fell to Earth or Labyrinth, but a documentary about Bowie's superb retrospective mounted by London's V&A Museum that traveled to cities from Toronto and Melbourne in 2013-5. Both the show and the film are called David Bowie is and both are indispensable to fans of rock music, pop culture and The Thin White Duke.

If you caught the exhibition, then the film is a 94-minute souvenir that perfectly recaptures the show. If you missed it, then the next best thing is to catch this documentary. David Bowie is is part museum guide, part documentary and part biography. It is an unusual creature in that the curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, speak directly to the camera as in a TV special while periodically Bowie fans gush on camera about their idol as they would in a TV commercial.

However, David Bowie is redeems itself by detailing key moments in Bowie's life by deftly using the exhibitions rare photos, films, costumes, Bowie's audio interviews and his handwritten lyrics. The curators give us a tour of several exhibits, starting with photos of the teenage Bowie and his early band, The Kon-rads, looking confident and "imagining himself as a star already" rising from grim postwar England. We glimpse Bowie in a rare film performing mime under the key influence of teacher Lindsay Kemp, who would teach Bowie to adopt characters later in his music career. "It was much easier to be somebody else," Bowie says in voice-over.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Academy Invites a record 683 New Members

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is extending invitations to join the organization to 683 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures. Those who accept the invitations will be the only additions to the Academy’s membership in 2016.

18 individuals (noted by an asterisk) have been invited to join the Academy by multiple branches. These individuals must select one branch upon accepting membership.

New members will be welcomed into the Academy at an invitation-only reception in the fall.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

ICFF review: All Roads Lead to Rome


 Italian screen legend, Claudia Cardinale, delivers a sharp, sardonic performance in All Roads Lead To Rome (Tutte le strade portano a Roma), but even she can't save this romantic comedy which screens tonight in Toronto at the ICFF (Italian Contemporary Film Festival).

Cardinale plays 80-year-old Carmen who secretly plans to wed her one true love in Rome against the wishes of her son, Luca (Raul Bova). However, the focus lies on Maggie (Sarah Jessica Parker), a cheery, but daffy divorced mum who tries to re-connect with her rebellious (obnoxious, really) teenage daughter, Summer (Rosie Day) with a trip to a gorgeous Tuscan village that she frequented as a youth. Maggie runs into her old flame, Luca, and Summer wants to return to her sleazy boyfriend in New York who's battling drug charges.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

They Called Me Jeeg astonishes at ICFF


by Allan Tong

The best film of this year's Italian Contemporary Film Festival is They Called Me Jeeg (Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot).

To label Jeeg as Italy's first superhero action film is incomplete. It's also a dark comedy with a twisted romance. Enzo (Claudio Santamaria) is a small-time crook who falls into radioactive waste during a cop chase. He's a lonely wanker who eats endless pudding and has no friends. During a botched drug deal which slays a fellow criminal, Enzo discovers these super physical powers that let him survive a fall off a high building and to shove refrigerators across rooms with his bare arms.

Enzo literally robs an ATM by ripping it out of the wall and steals using his newfound powers. That ends when gang leader Zingaro (Luca Marinelli) comes looking for his drugs and cash, and he strong-arms Alessia (Ilenia Pastorelli), the mad daughter of Enzo's fellow criminal. Enzo winds up protecting--and falling in love--with the poor, deluded Alessia who believes Enzo is the hero of a Japanese anime called Steel Jeeg Robot. She's been lost in her own world ever since her mother died years ago and/or her father started molesting her.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Funnyman Zalone opens the ICFF in Toronto

story by Allan Tong
photos by Sally Warburton


"Thank you for the orgasm," declared Italian funnyman, Checco Zalone.