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Brangelina Descends on TIFF

Brangelina Descends on TIFF

Well, yesterday was the day, as the hordes of press and general well-wishers descended on the scorching crucible that is Nathan Phillips Square to hear TIFF announce its final programming details. But let’s be honest. As is clear from the front covers of our venerable newspapers this morning, all anyone really wanted was to know whether Brangelina and J. Lo would be there. And yes, of course they’re coming. And the city lets out a collective sigh of relief. Yes, we say to ourselves, our festival is that important.

The rest of the list of stars (so expertly rapped off by festival co-director Piers Handling) set to appear looks a little like this: Sir Anthony Hopkins, Christian Bale, Tom Hanks, Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, Rachel Bilson, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Gabriel Byrne, Ed Harris, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Pierce Brosnan, Penelope Cruz, Rachel Weisz, Reese Witherspoon, Tim Robbins, Vince Vaughan and Sacha Baron-Cohen (the real King of the festival, let’s face it). Oh, and Bobcat (now Bob) Goldthwait (with his directorial debut). And Yoko Ono.

Now, for the films. The big announcements from yesterday were the addition of gala presentations of Ridley Scott’s A Good Year and Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering. Also announced was the fact that closing film honours will go to Michael Apted’s Amazing Grace, a portrait of 18th British Parliamentarian and slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce. For the list of the other galas, check out the TIFF Gala Schedule.

TIFF also added 11 titles to its Special Presentation line-up, among them Ann Hui’s The Postmodern Life of My Aunt, Mira Nair’s The Namesake, Korean cinema superstar Hong Sang-soo’s Woman on the Beach, Todd Field’s Little Children and Paris, Je T’Aime, a work where 20 of the world’s most original directors (everyone from the Coen Brothers and Gus Van Sant to Olivier Assayas and Wes Craven) have composed brief love stories in different districts of Paris.

The most interesting announcements, however, were those concerning the festival’s Mavericks Program. This year, Mavericks will feature three evenings of discussion with some of the world’s most cutting edge directors. First up, is An Evening with Michael Moore, where everyone’s favourite cuddly, misanthropic master of agitprop will discuss the path his career has taken since the controversial release of Fahrenheit 9/11. During the course of the night, Moore will screen bits and bites of two upcoming films: the soon-to-be-released Sicko, an examination of the American health care system, and The Great ’04 Slacker Uprising, a “record of [Moore] travels during the 204 election.” Apparently, this film “captures the birth of a new political generation.” Doubtful, but I’m intrigued. Either way, for those who’ve been wondering what ever happened to Michael Moore, here’s your answer.

Another Mavericks program features a discussion between controversial filmmaker John Waters (Pink Flamingoes, Hairspray) and soon-to-be-even-more-controversial director John Cameron Mitchell. A huge hit at Cannes, Mitchell’s Shortbus is an intelligent, heart-warming, ejaculate-heavy look at how people use sex to search for inner peace. Along the way, it features more than a few things your average standards body is likely to find, um, interesting. Its North American Premiere at TIFF is likely to elicit more than a few discussions about the depiction of unsimulated sex in cinema. While Waters is doubtful to offer a different take on the role of skin and boundary breaking, this evening is worth a visit, especially from those who just don’t get what Mitchell’s film is trying to do.

The final Mavericks program is called The Making of a Bollywood Blockbuster. Here, the cast and director of Gala Presentation Never Say Goodbye (including actors Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherji and Amitabh Bachchan) will discuss the increasing global popularity of Bollywood, as well as providing an insider’s look at India’s film industry.

Finally, the festival also announced yesterday that, as part of its Dialogues program, where the world’s most important and intriguing directors present films that inspired them or marked a significant point in their careers, Bruce Weber, Albert Maysles, Perry Hanzell, Costa Gavras and Christine Vachon will all be appearing. Of particular note here is the fact that Gavras will be presenting Mathieu Kassovitz’s black-and-white urban thriller, La Haine, a film that takes of special importance in light of recent events in Paris.

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If all the pomp and pomposity of TIFF ain’t your cup of tea, a perfect cinematic antidote is the community-oriented, consciousness-raising Streets to Screens Festival launch this Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Presented by the ever-engaged and interesting Toronto Public Space Committee, the festival features home-grown independent films that examine notions of collective identity and the varying relationships citizens have with public space.

The Streets to Screens’ launch takes place in Kensington Market’s Bellevue Park, where the TPSC will hold a free (that’s right, no $12 ticket or $8 popcorn here) screening of seven family-friendly classic shorts from the NFB vault, all examining (in their own way) people and their spaces. The films on display include the Academy Award-winning Norman McLaren Cold War allegory, Neighbours/Voisins (1952) and Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis’ When the Day Breaks, which won the 1999 Palme D’Or for Best Short Film.

Neighbours is the story of two men who come to blows over the possession of a flower. It is a stunning example of McLaren’s “pixilation” style of animating human movement, a technique that earned him praise as the “Picasso of modern film.” When the Day Breaks is equally innovative and ultimately more moving. The directors originally shot the action with actors on digital video, then transferred footage to VHS, printed the desired frames, photocopied them onto paper and drew snouts and beaks where human nose had been (read what Tilby and Forbis have to say about the process ). The film’s story, about the colliding lives of two strangers: Mr. Pig and Mr. Chicken, explores the connections that define our seemingly capsulated urban lives.

True to the TPSC’s ideals, all films will be projected from the Sumkidz Schoolbus, an eco-friendly bus that uses waste vegetable oil to power its engine and solar panels to power its digital projector and sound system.

When the films are over, the party repairs to Supermarketon Augusta, where DJs Earl Grey and King-Stun will spin soulful grooves and the TPSC will preview the fall season’s Streets to Screens films. The cover at Supermarket is a suggested donation of $3, which makes the entire event an incredible deal. Come, bring some blankets, bliss out with some immensely friendly people, watch some nice films outside and then dance. Ideal, no?

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The film community is still reeling from the untimely death of LIFT Executive Director Roberto Ariganello. Ariganello, 45, was a tireless, dedicated supporter and creator of independent film, as well as an inspiring human being. He will be missed dearly. A memorial takes place tonight, August 23, at 7 p.m. at Cinecycle (129 Spadina Ave.). Roberto’s films will be screened, and there will be an opportunity for friends and supporters to exchange stories and provide tributes. Refreshments will be served at nearby YYZ Gallery.

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