By Anne Brodie
Not long now till TIFF 20, pandemic edition, the 45th Annual Toronto International Film Festival Sept.10-19. It will be vastly different but with the creative use of digital resources and socially distanced in theatre screenings, as well as digital, it will still feel like Toronto and the world’s unique celebration of film.
David Byrne’s American Utopia kicks things off with music and song and dance. Byrne created a hit Broadway musical based on songs from his 2018 album and classics “This Must Be the Place” and “Everybody’s Coming to My House,” and a cover of Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout.” Byrne shines a light on headline issues- police brutality, voter turnout, climate change, immigration, but from a position of optimism and hope. Screenings during TIFF and after are Sept. 10 at 8:00 pm – Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView – World Premiere, 9 p.m. West Island Open Air Cinema at Ontario Place, also 9:15 RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place, Sept. 11 at 6:00 pm – a Bell TV Customer Exclusive, Wed, Sept. 16 at 6:00 pm Online at Bell Digital Cinema, then Oct. 17 on HBO, streaming on HBO Max and to air later on Crave.
Here are your #TIFF20 crib notes:
Program Guide https://web-content-tff.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/TIFF_2020_guide.pdf
TIFF’s famous Special Events https://www.tiff.net/films?programme=special-events&list
A Halle Berry Live Celebration at Lightbox https://am.ticketmaster.com/tiff2/shopping-cart#/
Conversations with stars and filmmakers https://www.tiff.net/films?series=in-conversation-with&list
What to watch and where https://web-content-tff.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/TIFF_2020_guide.pdf
Plan your fest with this handy dandy fill-in schedule https://tiff.net/films
And help TIFF into the future with a donation
On March 13, Louisville, Kentucky police shot their way into Breonna Taylor’s home, one firing blind, and killed her. The 26-year-old had been sleeping in her bed as her boyfriend watched TV, hers was the latest in a long line of police murders of innocent Black people in the US. The case goes under the microscope in FX and Hulu’s The New York Times Presents the Killing of Breonna Taylor, the deeply disturbing facts in what led to the tragedy, those left behind, and the aftermath, local and international. Producer-director Yoruba Richen interviews her mother, friends, politicians, activists, and city officials to find out what a hash police made of things. They unloaded 20 – 25 rounds on the tiny, well-liked Taylor and took her boyfriend into custody. Breonna’s body lay in her apartment for five hours while her desperate mother looked for answers, but the police never returned her calls. The FBI investigated and reported that Taylor’s civil rights were violated by the “no-knock warrant” which allowed police to legally kick down her door after midnight without announcing themselves. And they were not wearing bodycams. One of the three officers with a record of bad acts went AWOL for two hours. The other two officers are still on the job because it can’t be determined who shot Breonna. This is necessary and enlightening viewing, to illuminate how police and new city policy were to blame, and a bright and beautiful life was taken.
Disney+ is the place to see the new iteration of Mulan the story of the Chinese female warrior who went to war disguised as a man, to save her father’ds life. It stars Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong, Jason Scott Lee, and a cast of internationally renowned actors. The fable of the girl with “too much chi” begins when as a child, Mulan displays incredible physical prowess; her family warns her to tone it down, or she will bring shame to them and no one will marry “a witch”. When her lame father is conscripted for war against Bori Khan (lee) and the Moors, she secretly steps in for him and joins the Imperial Army. Her disguise works, and she proves to be an invaluable warrior. It’s a far-ranging cultural and quasi-historical tale of honour, discipline, family, and the spirit of the individual. The richly detailed art design and landscapes of China and Auckland provide a solid canvas for the complexities and importance of its themes. Loved seeing actor Tzi Ma, a veteran of 128 roles, including The Farewell, Meditation Park, Veep, and endless US primetime series, as Mulan’s father.
Netflix‘ brilliant i’m thinking of ending things is Charlie Kaufman at the top of his game. Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons are phenomenal in difficult, deeply fluid roles as a couple driving through blinding snow to get to his parents’ farm. She regrets going because she wants to break it off with him, but it’s too late. Throughout the night, trapped in the dimly lit claustrophobic, boxy house, she’ll repeat “I have to get home”, building palpable anxiety. Toni Collette and David Thewlis are the parents; they’re as odd as their home – they seem to be trapped in a disorganised time /space continuum in which cognition comes and goes. The younger couple recites poetry to describe some part of themselves as they try not to look too closely at reality. Symbolism, philosophical debate, and strong literary themes – and Broadway musicals – are the language they use. She remarks on the snowy rural landscape whizzing by, “its beautiful here in a heartbroken way” before reciting a long poem from memory, a poem she later finds in his room. It’s dense and beautiful and creepy, as though you can feel the characters going mad, like Gena Rowlands in Woman Under the Influence. Peculiar incidents with the girls at the ice cream hut put an exclamation point on the journey. Kaufman’s done it again; this is a marvel. It’s not for everyone but it is precise and haunting, a disconcerting treasure that will perplex and enthrall. Debuts Sept. 4th
Do you remember when Cardin was emblazoned across just about every item in existence? Did it cheapen the Paris haute couture designer’s reputation? House of Cardin from husbands P. David Ebersole & Todd Hughes traces Pierre Cardin’s impoverished roots in Italy, his escape from Mussolini to Paris, training at Dior as a teen, creating his own house, and reinventing fashion. He largely ignored the female form in favour of graphic A-lines that allowed women comfort and eye-popping style. Cardin outfitted The Beatles at the height of their celebrity, and Elizabeth Taylor, Dionne Warwick, Naomi Campbell, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Philippe Starck, Alice Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, and Sharon Stone. He rubs elbows with heads of state and socialites. But he scandalised the design world by launching a ready to wear line, followed by furniture, eyewear, and everyday items too mundane for an Haute Couture designer. Cardin owns Paris’ famed Maxim’s restaurant, the Marquis De Sade’ castle in Lacoste, France and now he’s planning to build a modern superstructure on the Venice Canal. Too much? VOD.
So how about traveling Through Greenland with Game of Thrones hunk Nikolaj Coster-Waldau? Yes, you can! The actor explores the Arctic country from its tip to its toes, from the northernmost hotel in the world, the far north village where his indigenous actor wife Nukaka grew up, a strategic US Army base halfway between Washington and Moscow, with its guard towers and missile silos, a harsh reminder of the Cold War. Greenland experienced an uptick in tourism before the pandemic and here’s a terrific intimate look-see. Coster-Waldau meets a man who has devoted his life to photographing the Black Hole – if it exists – indigenous rappers, he hunts a lot, learns the ancient practice of Inuit tattooing, meets the locals, and visits Dundas, where ancient people first crossed from Canada into Europe. And that’s just for starters. On Topic now.
On Monday, PBS and pov.org have POV’s Portraits and Dreams, a documentary from Appalachian photographer Wendy Ewald and her team as she revisits a project she created in 1985 equipping poor, rural Kentucky children with cameras and interviewing them about their families and lives. Ewald wanted them to be “artists with agency and creative control”, to give them power. Ewald returns to connect with those children, now grown and with families of their own. They unanimously agree that her gift changed their lives and helped them become successful in a place that often holds back its own.
Los Angeles home organising superstars Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin have joined forces with Reese Witherspoon who not only produces but has them organise her impressive collection of gowns and costumes. Get Organized with The Home Edit provides systems for celebrities Rachel Zoe, Khloe Kardashian, Eva Longoria, Marietta “Retta” Sirleaf, Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka, Jordana Brewster, and Kane & Katelyn Brown and non-celebrities. Among their assignments, creating a “parking lot” for Khloe’s 1.5-year-old daughter True’s tiny perfect replicas of fancy cars. The ladies and their team pull off wonders, but one reflects on having so much stuff that you need to hire people to find and put it away for you. Plenty of perfectionism but it’s a heck of a cool guilty pleasure. Netflix Sept. 9.
The Golden Girls are back! Praise be to Amazon Prime Video which marks the series’ 35th anniversary offering the entire seven seasons! as of September 14. 180 episodes of the iconic, witty, emotional, sarky, and ground-breaking show that changed the way we think about the elderly and offered a new way for singles to live. Four widows/divorcees living together in Florida, find the fun in life while challenging the status quo! It was a megahit then and now we can relive it or love it for the first time. Betty White, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty will rock your world as of September 14.