Thursday, August 20, 2009

TIFF 2009 Films

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has posted its entire film list. Here it is, at Darren's TIFF blog, 1st Thursday. As in previous years, I expect to spend a week at the festival, driving back in between to teach my classes.

The avant-garde program, Wavelengths, looks very strong, with new films by Ben Russell, Michael Snow, Jean-Luc Godard, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jean-Marie Straub, Ernie Gehr, Lisandro Alonso, Harun Farocki, Heinz Emigholz, Jim Jennings, and others.

In addition, I'm targeting the following films:

White Material (Claire Denis), Les Herbes Folles (Alain Resnais), Face (Tsai Ming-liang), Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu), Independencia (Raya Martin), Irene (Alain Cavalier), La Danse: Le Ballet de l’Opera de Paris (Frederick Wiseman), Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat), The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke), Hadewijch (Bruno Dumont), Like You Know It All (Hong Sang-soo), Lourdes (Jessica Hausner), The Time that Remains (Elia Suleiman), Between Two Worlds (Vimukthi Jayasundara), A Prophet (Jacques Audiard), Air Doll (Hirokazu Kore-eda), Antichrist (Lars von Trier), Bright Star (Jane Campion), The Window (Buddhadeb Dasgupta), Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar), Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé), Mother (Bong Joon-ho), Melody for a Street Organ (Kira Muratova), Le Père de mes Enfants (Mia Hansen-Løve), La Donation (Bernard Émond), Hotel Atlântico (Suzana Amaral), Vincere (Marco Bellocchio), L'Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot (Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea), Capitalism: A Love Story (Michael Moore), The Hole (Joe Dante), Vengeance (Johnnie To), Nymph (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang), To Die Like a Man (Joao Pedro Rodrigues), and A History of Israeli Cinema (Raphael Nadjari).

Any thoughts, suggestions or recommendations of films or filmmakers on the TIFF film-list? I'd be most eager to hear them. Thank you!


Blogger acquarello said...

I'm really interested in Yorgos Lanthimos's new film, Dogtooth His previous film Kinetta was a pretty interesting one about this motley crew who hole themselves up in a resort hotel to stage crime re-enactments. His style reminds me a little of Sharunas Bartas crossed with Philippe Grandrieux.

August 20, 2009 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

I Am Not Your Friend (György Pálfi, Hungary) would be on my list. His film Hukkle was superb.

August 20, 2009 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

Oh and Slovenian Girl (Damjan Kozole, Slovenia/Germany/Serbia/Croatia would be a rare treat. It's not easy to find Kozole films, but they are really sly and wonderful. Stereotip is a great favorite of mine.

August 20, 2009 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Walter Biggins said...

I'd be interested in the Bangkok omnibus film Sawasdee Bangkok, featuring four shorts (including one by the director of Tears of the Black Tiger). I wonder if Apichatpong Weerasethakul was invited to participate, if he declined, or what. Also, that Dialogues program of Joe Dante presenting Norman McLeod's It's A Gift should be fun.

August 20, 2009 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, I agree -- that's a particularly strong Wavelengths program. Of the films you list, I'm quite curious about the new Audiard; there's been some buzz about it in the press, and I very much liked his previous film.

August 20, 2009 2:36 PM  
Blogger Sachin said...

Girish, I would add the beautiful Malaysian film Karaoke to that list as well. The style and structure of the film reminded me of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's cinema, especially Tropical Malady.

Acquarello, Dogooth is certainly an interesting film, albeit a bit twisted :) I can't claim to like it nor can I dismiss it as there is plenty of relevant things Lanthimos is trying to show. The film reminded me a bit of von Trier and Ulrich Seidl. The fact that Dogtooth won in the Un Certain Regard category and coupled with the negative things written about the competition films certainly made this year's Cannes not one for the faint hearted.

August 20, 2009 7:34 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

I've really liked the kind of Rohmerian drift of Hong Sang-soo's LIKE YOU KNOW IT ALL. Would advise to avoid Von Trier's ANTICHRIST at all costs (it takes years out of every spectator's life; it feeds on it, actually).

August 21, 2009 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Jim Flannery said...

Not sure why it's not cross-listed to Wavelengths, but Phil Hoffman's new one All Fall Down sounds pretty great ... (description on his site)

August 21, 2009 3:00 AM  
Blogger acquarello said...

Sachin, your description of Dogtooth reminds me of Kent Jones's (I think) description of Gambling, Gods and LSD as an "unclassifiable whatsit". :) That was a good description for Kinetta too.

Speaking of which, Peter Mettler's new film is at TIFF, although it sounds more like Jennifer Baichwal's Manufactured Landscapes than Johan van der Keuken's The Above the Well.

Mmm...there's a new Tian Zhuangzhuang too!

August 21, 2009 9:17 AM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

These films would also be on my list:
2.LES DERNIERS JOURS DU MONDE (Arnaud Larrieu + Jean-Marie Larrieu)
4.MY QUEEN KARO (Dorothee Van Den Berghe)

August 21, 2009 11:36 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

I hope our schedules allow us to visit during TIFF, Girish.

I just saw an advance screening of A Prophet, which was effortless, engaging viewing even at two hours and 40 minutes. The film allows you to watch a character literally create himself in front of your eyes without customary narrative backstory. The film reminded me of something James Quandt describing in his assessment of Apichatpong's Mysterioius Object At Noon: Through "its alloy with contrary registers or artifice, including the fantastic or phantasmal", the film achieves a heady blend of vitalized genre, art film, with a hint of a ghost story as well. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to interviewing the director.

August 21, 2009 7:59 PM  
Blogger Marc Raymond said...

The two Korean films, LIKE YOU KNOW IT ALL and MOTHER, are both quite good, especially the Hong film. I saw it twice in Korea. Not sure if it adds to Hong's output as much as the great NIGHT AND DAY, but still fascinating as always for those interested in his films.

August 22, 2009 7:46 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I've read some encouraging words on the Thai documentary Agrarian Utopia.

There is now an English subtitled DVD of Ploy, but it is reportedly very much edited, from Singapore.

August 25, 2009 12:58 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Ploy is available on DVD in France and Germany as well, though I can't confirm whether they come with subtitles or not.

August 25, 2009 5:19 PM  
Blogger Orinwarf said...

I sure hope Hong's Like You Know It All is treated better here in the States (and elsewhere) than Night and Day, where it is only now starting to trickle into a few theaters and still has no definitive home release planned.

I quite enjoyed Hukkle years ago when it played here, and often wondered whatever happened to the director.

August 26, 2009 4:29 PM  
Anonymous davis said...

Hukkle was indeed pretty interesting, but György Pálfi's followup, Taxidermia has been dividing audiences. I still haven't caught up with it.

August 26, 2009 9:45 PM  
Blogger ADRIAN said...

One must watch Raya Martin's Independencia.

August 27, 2009 6:05 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Girish - it looks as if a lot of real-time TIFF communication this year will be via Twitter. Do you tweet?

Still doing research, but the TIFF screenings by lesser-known filmmakers that I'm most excited about are the Jayasundara, Hansen-Love, Yedaya, Muratova, and Vallee. And the unknown quantities that look best to me are Every Day Is a Holiday, The Search, Adrift, Men on a Bridge, Huacho, A Brand New Life, La Pivellina, and Karaoke.

August 28, 2009 4:37 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you so much, everyone! I appreciate all the recommendations.

I just placed my orders for the tickets. Not including Wavelengths, I'm seeing the following films (assuming I don't get closed out of them):

L'Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot Like You Know It All (Hong)
Face (Tsai)
La Pivellina
Vision (von Trotta)
Independencia (Martin)
Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat)
The White Ribbon (Haneke)
La pere de mes enfants (Hansen-Love)
At the End of Daybreak (Ho)
White Material (Denis)
Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story
Life During Wartime (Solondz)
To Die Like a Man (Rodrigues)
Mother (Bong)
Lourdes (Hausner)
Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl (Oliveira)
She, A Chinese
My Queen Karo
The Time that Remains (Elia Suleiman)
J'ai tue ma mere
Police, Adjective
Between Two Worlds (Jayasundara)
Hadewjich (Dumont)
Enter The Void (Noe)

I might tweak just a little after I get to Toronto.

August 29, 2009 9:26 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Dan, I'm not on Twitter, but I've found your page (and those of Darren, Rob, Michael Sicinski) and will be peeking on your day-to-day communication. Thanks!

August 29, 2009 9:28 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael Guillen has a terrific interview with Nathaniel Dorsky.

August 30, 2009 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what people think about John Greyson pulling his film from the Toronto festival and about the festival program on Tel Aviv that prompted his decision. It's hard to imagine what they were thinking when the dreamed this one up and how they can put a good spin on it all (but they'll be helped by the fact that most media are so beholden to them that they won't even touch the story, or will with kid gloves). Festival publicity pretty well parrots Israeli propaganda about Tel Aviv being such a fun city, but neither points out that the city has no Arab population. None. I can't think of a better practical example of apartheid in our day. As Greyson points out, it's like celebrating Montgomery Alabama in the midst of the civil rights campaign and the violence against Blacks. There will be those who say that a film festival is not the place for this kind of political debate, but this is tantamount to saying that propaganda of various sorts (corporate, Israeli, what have you) should pass through the festival hype machine and into the media and our minds unquestioned as some sort of benign, indisputable fact, or apolitical cultural manifestation, when it is neither. It is propaganda, and the festival, for whatever reason, has willingly lent itself as a tribune for it. Small protests seem like the least we can do in the face of this propaganda steamroller.

August 31, 2009 8:37 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

It caused me to take a second look at The History of Israeli Cinema, that's for sure, which--incidentally--I appreciated much more on a second runthrough.

August 31, 2009 11:47 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

...oh, and thanks for the shout out, Girish, though it wasn't actually an interview; it was a public address that I crafted as one of my "On...." series. But glad you liked his comments!

August 31, 2009 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The story broke last week but there isn't a word about it on the "TIFF hub" of the website of the Globe and Mail, Toronto's leading newspaper. Quite astonishing the media's determination to do nothing but glitz stories around this event.

August 31, 2009 1:57 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Anonymous et al., there's a good review of Greyson's film at Michael Sicinski's place. [Scroll all the way down]

August 31, 2009 4:50 PM  
Blogger girish said...

And Michael Guillen has a post on it here.

August 31, 2009 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not know that films made by individuals about relationships are tantamount to propaganda, or that people shouldn't be able to manage their own opinions about the films.

One should not forget that films like Elia Suleiman's The Time That Remains are playing at the festival. Or that Tel Aviv has been known as the "City to City" choice for a long, long time - why did Greyson choose to drop out only now? Oh, and an article about it was posted in the Globe and Mail, too bad you couldn't catch it.

September 01, 2009 1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article in the Globe and Mail is not visible on its "TIFF hub", as I said. Why John Greyson only dropped out now is something I can't answer. Perhaps it is because, although the choice of Tel Aviv has been known for some time, the propaganda aspect Greyson cites - only official Israeli films, high-powered Israeli delegation, Israel claiming that the program is a propaganda coup scored by its "Brand Israel" marketing arm - has only come to light recently. All attempts to paint Greyson as a publicity hound have fallen flat, because apparently the man is sincere and forthright and has no need of publicity (I don't know him). Finally, I believe that filmmakers are only given official confirmation that their film is in the festival a few weeks beforehand, so dropping out before then as you suggest you should have would be impossible.

As for the rest of your comment, I'm not sure what it's about, other than vague innuendo and tired clichés. It's certainly not about the real issues, as Greyson does a good job of identifying them. The issue is not the content of individual films. Perhaps there are one or two mildly critical of Israeli policy. The issues, rather, or some of them, are: one, the independence of festival programming; two, the similarity between festival publicity and Israeli propaganda; and three, the appropriateness of "celebrating" Tel Aviv as a peaceful, fun and modern city today.

Regarding one, the festival claims the program is independent but everything, from the way film festivals operate to the Israelis' own claims, seems to belie that. They were surely pitched an idea, complete with lots of money to pay for airfare and parties and publicity. If they had wanted to do Rio de Janeiro but the Brazilain government wasn't willing to foot the bill, Rio wouldn't have happened. It's a series designed to attract money from third parties. And this first edition is an Israeli propaganda event, pure and simple. The individual films you refer to are secondary. Everybody knows that what counts in a film festival is the hype that spills beyond the festival, not the 50 people who actually see the film. Usually this hype is strictly filmic in nature - "I've heard about that film, it got a lot of buzz at the festival, I have to see it when it opens" (meaning the film critics and society columnists went to the festival party and made approving noises about the film afterwards). In this case the hype was political: "Gee, and I always thought Israel was a war-torn country, but it seems Tel Aviv is a pretty cool place." Is this hype the job of a film festival?

Regarding two, tying in with the above, the festival promotional material could have been written by the Israeli tourist board. No mention of war, or the fact that Tel Aviv is an apartheid city (and Israel an apartheid country) with no Arab population - although Palestinian villages on the site were bulldozed sixty years ago when the area was being cleansed.

Regarding three, common sense and a little basic sensitivity to human suffering tell us, once again as Greyson points out, that this is just not an appropriate "celebration." He uses an analogy with Montgomery Alabama, but that's not quite right, because Montgomery was never cleansed of its "undesirable" population. Occupied Europe circa 1943, its undesirables shipped elsewhere, would be closer to the mark - and a deeply ironic mark it is when you think about it. As another Canadian, Naomi Klein (author of "No Logo") recently said while speaking in Israel, is the lesson of that time to be: "Never again to the Jewish people?" or "Never again to anyone?" It's not a film festival's job to answer that question, although it can pose it. Instead, it poses no questions and simply rolls out the red carpet for Israeli propaganda.

September 01, 2009 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last thing I want to do is hijack this thread, which, in a way, represents how, in my estimation, overblown the whole thing is.

In my honest opinion, what you say about the festival feels conspiratorial. It seems to me that this has more to do with commercial interest than anything political (or propagating propaganda, as you would say); these are very commercially viable films and Tel Aviv is a very commercially viable topic; there is a huge Audience in Toronto for these films.

If C2C focused on a city in China, and let's say contained a film by Jia Zhangke, would there be protests then, because of China's human rights issues? Would a series of films, including one by Jia, be considered to be propaganda? I would wager that to be ludicrous. I don't mean to say that any of the filmmakers presented are as artistically successful as Jia (even though I doubt it, I can't say as I have not seen the films), but even if they are far more politically critical, they are still labeled as "Propaganda." Secondly, if I recall correctly, China was greatly proud of Jia for "Still Life" being in the competition at Venice and winning the Golden Lion. Still Life doesn't exactly paint that gov't in a good light (and as we all know, Jia worked underground for a few years). With the Israeli more western gov't, one that has much greater rights, it's only logical that they would be proud that their films are receiving coverage. This has nothing to do with propaganda or some menacing behind-the-door conspiracy.

I'm happy to hear that a film festival isn't about the films, but I don't know what that means for the festival's true crime: Rivette's newest is nowhere to be found.

September 01, 2009 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

A stirring polemical exchnage between 'Anonymous' and 'Anonymous' !! What's with all the anonymity, gals/guys? It is not the Way of the Shambuan. If the argument is worth having (and in this case it is), it's worth putting your names to.

[Surreally, the 'word verification' for this post is: INEDITO !!]

September 01, 2009 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Anonymous II, I decree that the reason I chose this path was merely in response to Anonymous I. I did not expect the argument to continue much further so it wasn't something I really deliberated.

I hope this doesn't represent a microcosm of sorts....

September 01, 2009 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course it's conspiratorial. Not so much about the festival, which is happy to cater to any rich and powerful group, as about the "Brand Israel" people, who feel, rightly so, that they have scored a major propaganda coup at very low cost. They have just rented a very prestigious showcase for their propaganda (meaning not just the films but all the hype) and are quite clear in their minds about what they have done. But anyone who thinks major film festivals, and this one in particular, simply program what they think are good films, has never seen the inside workings of one. Money, power, influence, prestige. The Toronto festival is quite open about this. The long-time director, for example, has spent the past twenty years courting fickle Hollywood stars and producers to raise his event's status from a "festival of festivals" - a grab-bag of films seen in European festivals earlier in the year - to perhaps the most powerful festival on the planet (certainly when it comes to launching Hollywood's products in North America) - without even a competition section! And he publicly warns funding agencies and the like that this achievement is fragile, that the nabobs in Hollywood are fickle, that constant dilgence is needed, and that a festival can see its fortunes reversed in a very short period of time. This is why, after the perceived disaster of hiring an outsider to run the event twenty-five years ago, to be replaced from within by the current director, the festival board has agreed with his assessment that, like royalty and the mafia, future festival directors whould be dauphins groomed from within.

September 01, 2009 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do see the Tel Aviv event as part of this. On the one hand I suspect they didn't foresee any problems and were just doing business as usual: supposedly innovative programming concept, willing third-party funders, etc. It's not rocket science. Nor do I think they are consciously or willingly propagating Israeli propaganda - although of course the publicty material was vetted by the Israelis, you can bet on that, but the festival sees that as business as usual too. In a sense what they may not have realized is how they have crossed a line from being subservient to studio hype machines to being subservient to unseemly foreign-country propaganda arms. Such a program, rather, or more accurately the choice of city to launch it, is yet another pointed signal to all and sundry - Hollywood, public funders, local businesses, local activists who view film as a social art and think festivals should play a mild role as forums for social debate - that this festival is all about business. It is a safe investment and has nerves of steel when it comes to staring down dissent. (It has to do very little of this however because very few people in the Canadian film community - directors, critics - feel they can afford to cross them.) Such considerations are far from academic as they fundraise amongst the country's coporate elite for the remaining $40 million (or more) on their very own 41-storey condo tower. (Like Hollywood, they realized that real estate is everything.)

The issues you raise with China are real and interesting. Forced labour, summary executions, forced organ extractions, religious persecution, involvement with despicable regimes abroad (African tyrants etc.): it's a long list that makes this a very unpalatable regime. How does someone working on Chinese film deal with all this? And yet the case at hand, the outright purchase of a festival showcase by the Israeli government, seems to go beyond general concerns about the bedfellows art and politics. In any event it does touch the issue of programming independence, as I stated earlier, and this is fundamental to the integrity of the festival. Deciding to do a Chinese series because there are interesting films being made their is one thing; receiving a visit from the Israeli propaganda delegation and accepting their gifts is another.

Finally, we're not hijacking anything, by the way. The thread was moribund for several days before I posted my comments. People can read them or not as they see fit. You and I may disagree, but what's disappointing is that no one else so far has an opinion on this issue or seems to think it worthwhile to have one. Has it come to that? Are we all that blasé and cynical? Certainly no other filmmaker of the 300 or so has followed John Greyson's "cue." Maybe he and I are just wrong, and this is not an issue worthy of anyone's attention?

On the topic of anonymity, Adrian, few people here are truly non-anonymous. If I called myself "George", would that change anything? Many people know you are Adrian X, but perhaps not a casual reader. I don't know who "Maya", is, but someone in the know probably does. I'm not concerned about it though. But are you suggesting we all put our full names to everything? Don't you think - I'm sorry to sound so blunt, I don't mean to be, these are sincere questions with no hostility intended - that remarks such as mine might need to be anonyhmous, if we consider the possibility that I am involved in the Canadian film community and thus have every reason to fear the festival's well-known wrath?

September 01, 2009 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

OK, your points are taken, Anon !

September 01, 2009 6:48 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

I have often asked myself who I am too. No answer yet. Work in progress.

September 02, 2009 1:23 AM  
Blogger Maya said...


September 02, 2009 12:11 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Anonymouses, thank you for this discussion!

Michael, thanks, it's actually tomorrow...!

September 02, 2009 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It turns out John Greyson and I are not the only two people on the planet concerned about this after all. Ken Loach, Jane Fonda . . .

September 02, 2009 7:36 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

What almost interests me more than anything in the Globe & Mail piece is the paper's need to disable comments. That's telling. I've been receiving hazardously absurd and marginally offensive screeds myself over at The Evening Class.

I look forward to tomorrow's announcement.

September 02, 2009 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just reading an article posted on Indiewire last weekend on this story and discovered the nub of the festival's defense. One, the spotlight on Tel Aviv is celebrating diversity. Two, there are critical films in the series, and, "unlike John Greyson," the festival believes the contents of individual films matters.

On one, this is PR spin. Like much of what politicians and bankers tell us, the opposite is the truth, the festival must surely know this by now, but they propagate this simply because it is what people want to hear and to the unsuspecting reader sounds plausible. What city today is not diverse? Tel Aviv, for one. There is no diversity in Tel Aviv, at least of the kind the festival is alluding to. The Arab population has all been driven out.

On two, the festival wants us to focus on individual films - look, here's one that's critical - without asking ourselves or the festival how the films came to be included in their event and what the cumulative effect of the spotlight is - an Israeli public relations coup that legitimizes Israeli policies (see 1 above...). It's not just about individual films and individuals "making up their own minds," any more than democracy is voting every four years for one of two parties or freedom to choose is a dozen brands of laundry detergent in the supermarket. The festival doesn't want us to see the big picture, so falls back on the "let individuals decide what they think about individual films" argument. I've heard that argument before in other contexts. I think we can do better.

September 03, 2009 6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The letter:

September 03, 2009 11:09 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Happy birthday, girish! I keep hoping that one year I can find a pot of gold and join the Toronto delegation, but not this year.

September 03, 2009 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

No mention of Guy Maddin's Night Mayor?

September 08, 2009 6:59 PM  
Blogger garydrew01 said...

TIFF is a great company when it comes to dvd's, most especially when dealing with instructional dvd’s. I have no any commendations about it. Your doing great!

September 11, 2009 1:12 AM  
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