This year the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) celebrated its 40th anniversary! Megan and Ardo look at how the festival has aged while contemplating regrets, past loves, and this year’s worthwhile movie moments.
TIFF is middle-aged. Do you think it’s showing its age or better than ever?
Ardo Omer: I haven’t been down at the festival as often as previous years but, from what I’ve seen, it’s gotten better. It’s a well oiled machine. The volunteers are friendly and knowledgeable. The selection of films are great which made choosing difficult. It was a fun environment.
Megan Purdy: TIFF is a festival that always seems to be expanding and adding new features. Last year it was an expanded street festival. This year it was the inclusion of TV screenings (none of which I attended). It may have turned 40 this year but it’s in no danger of a mid-life crisis—I think it’s as energetic as ever. A big part of that energy comes from the audience. Unlike a lot of big, international film festivals, TIFF puts a high priority on including the public alongside Hollywood movers and shakers, and giving everyone a great experience. It’s not just a venue for deals and pap photos and in-club snobbery: it’s a festival for all sorts of film lovers.
Ardo Omer: I agree. The audience makes the festival a lively and enjoyable event.
Let’s look back at past festivals. Are there any films that have stood out to you and/or made an impact?
Ardo Omer: GIRLHOOD. That was the highlight of my 2014 TIFF which happened to be the year I chose the most emotionally affecting films! It’s a French film that explores the experience of what it’s like to be a girl through sixteen-year-old Marieme and her new friends. It was beautiful, funny and a tearjerker. TIFF 2012’s Watchtower (Turkey) was a quiet film that I still think about today, and Perks of Being a Wallflower broke me into tears (happy but mostly sad).
Megan: Last year my top film was The Owners, a black comedy from Kazakhstan. I usually describe it as Wes Anderson without privilege. It’s a bleak comedy about property rights, unemployment, alcoholism, family, and post-empire blues and it’s amazing. It didn’t debut at TIFF but it did well there. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have picked up a North American distribution deal.
Honestly, I’ve seen so many great films at festivals over the years that it’s hard to pick out the most special. I’ve always been bad at top ten lists. With that said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a People’s Choice Winner. The award is a great predictor of eventual Oscar and box office success but I’ve got an incredible record of skipping these films every. year. The Wrestler? Skipped it. Slumdog Millionaire? Skipped. Silver Linings Playbook? Skipped with a vengeance.
Ardo: Yeah. I haven’t seen any of the People’s Choice Winners either. I tend to go with the foreign indies.
Megan: I’ve always felt like seeing films you KNOW are going to be Christmas tearjerkers at TIFF is pointless. Tom Hardy? Yeah, I’ll see his movie in a couple of weeks. Many of the indie and foreign films at TIFF won’t be playing at a theatre near you; in fact, some may disappear after the festival, having failed to secure distribution. To me, the great opportunity of TIFF is seeing films that you may never have another chance to see.
That and seeing great films with a great audience.
What were some of your favourite screenings?
Ardo: This year, I cut down on the number of films I’d see to two: Parisienne and A Tale of 3 Cities. My theme was “films directed by women of colour” and I settled on two I thought sounded interesting. Parisienne was an okay film, but I fell hard for A Tale of 3 Cities. It was visually stunning and told a funny yet gripping story that kept my attention for 130 minutes. Also: the story was based on Jackie Chan’s parents.
Megan: This year I saw eight films. I bought a Midnight Madness package and missed only three screenings: Green Room, Hardcore, and Southbound. I’ve always loved Midnight Madness and figured this year I’d go for broke and see if I could survive it. I’m sick as a dog but still living, so I’m counting it as a win.
What I did see: Baskin (Turkey), The Devil’s Candy (USA), SPL 2 (Hong Kong/Thailand), Yakuza Apocalypse (Japan), The Final Girls (USA), The Girl In the Photographs (USA), The Mind’s Eye (USA).
These were mostly good, with the exception of the tensionless Girl In the Photographs, a kind of anti-horror film. SPL 2, a Tony Jaa/Wu Jing team up was one part tight, martial arts mayhem, one part dreamy, moralizing meditation on destiny. Yakuza Apocalypse was easily the weirdest film I’ve seen in years, an endlessly delightful mashup of Yakuza martial arts dramas and a Godzilla-frog rampage. The film was described by director Takashi Miike as “stress relief,” a result of having had a star drop out at the last minute, which scuttled a major international production. They had a crew, a location, some equipment, and a lot of time. Why not make a frogapocalypse movie?
Every year distribution rights to smaller (and international) films are bought at TIFF and big Hollywood films are set up for Oscar runs. What are some films you think will do well next year?
Ardo: I’m not sure what the distribution situation is for the film but I think A Tale of 3 Cities could do well here in Canada in theatres. The subtitles could put some people off, but the pull of Jackie Chan would get butts into seats, I think. In terms of the Oscars, the Grolsch People’s Choice Award tends to predict the Best Picture winner and Lenny Abrahamson’s Room (based on the Emma Donoghue novel) won it this year . I missed the chance to see the runner up, Angry Indian Goddesses, and Spotlight was the second runner up.
The best part of TIFF, as someone who lives in Toronto, is accidentally walking by a premiere. I did that with Spotlight as hoards of people screamed Michael Keaton’s name.
So it was Michael Keaton for his film SPOTLIGHT
— Ware R. DeyDoe (@ArdoOmer) September 14, 2015
Megan: This year’s Midnight Madness People’s Choice winner, Hardcore, sold for 11 million two days after screening at TIFF. Not too shabby for a little Russian action flick. I think it will do well in international markets. The world’s first FPS action flick! How could it not?
I think that Room is going to great in North America. I didn’t have a chance to catch the film, but I’ve read the novel and seen the buzz. I also hope that Angry Indian Goddesses is a gigantic film because it looks incredible.
Ardo: It still hurts in my soul that I missed the screening for Angry Indian Goddesses. Hurts. In. My. Soul.
Megan: Same. It was one of my top picks going into the festival but somehow I just never got off my butt and bought a ticket? We suck, Ardo. I’m disappointed in us.
Well, there you have it. TIFF 2015 was a success and these two moviegoers are excited to attend the festival all over again next year. If you can make the journey to Toronto, we highly recommend the experience.