Apparently, TIFF co-director and CEO Piers Handling isn’t too excited about the state of post-9/11 cinema

Apparently, TIFF co-director and CEO Piers Handling isn’t too excited about the state of post-9/11 cinema

TIFF Co-Director and CEO Piers Handling (Image: Josh Jensen)

We’re pretty sure most of the city is having a good time taking in the hype and hoopla surrounding the 10-day celebrity bonanza that is the Toronto International Film Festival. But apparently, TIFF co-director and CEO Piers Handling isn’t nearly as excited about the state of global cinema as the city is about the film festival. In an intriguing—and surprising—column in the Toronto Star late last week, Handling muses about whether or not the events of 9/11 will have a lasting impact on movies, film and cinema, and what that impact might be.

From Handling’s piece:

And so to the post-9/11 world. Uncertainty rules. Confusion is the name of the game. Definition seems indeterminate. Polarization is increasing. Artists are searching for something, but the results have been found wanting. No new movement has appeared. Exciting trends are a distant mirage. Even the democratic possibilities offered by the digital revolution, a camera in everyone’s hands, has not produced a discernible difference.

Some trends can be observed. America is retreating into itself. The business is becoming more conservative. There is less risk-taking. The boutique ‘classics’ divisions of the studios have mostly been shuttered. Foreign films are disappearing from U.S. screens in disturbing numbers. Safety of the known has replaced curiosity of the other…

Our attention span has shortened. It is harder for a film to set an agenda these days. When it does happens, it comes from sledgehammer films, such as Avatar, mega-budget behemoths delivered with all the bells-and-whistles of the new technologies.

We have to say we find Handling’s account of the state of cinema today to be bewilderingly dismal, especially since he didn’t provide anything in the way of a disclaimer about the quality of the films at TIFF right now. It strikes us as somewhat odd that one of the festival directors would choose TIFF’s opening days—the time when the biggest stars in business are stepping onto the red carpets and cinephiles are still anxiously clutching their tickets to their first screenings—to have a go at art in the post-9/11 world (in a sense, raining on his own parade).

We suspect Handling didn’t intend to sound pessimistic—and, frankly, we commend him for taking such a strong, counterintuitive and interesting stance—but we wonder who would read that editorial and then want to fix their short attentions spans on the apparently unfocused, derivative, insular films at TIFF.

Global events shake world of cinema [Toronto Star]