UMA DA CUNHA | 1 SEPTEMBER, 2019
The Sky is Pink, Jallikattu, Bombay Rose...
Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), is all set for its 44th edition to take off on September 5. Adept at doing so over the years, TIFF will premiere recent Indian films that best encapsulate India’s diverse cinematic talent.
In 2019, the festival will unveil Shonali Bose’s high-profile, star-studded ‘The Sky Is Pink’, the love story of a couple spanning 25 years, told through the lens of their teenage daughter; Lijo Jose Pellissery’s sizzling ‘Jallikattu’ tracing rural skullduggery in Kerala; Geetanjali Rao’s ‘Bombay Rose’, her animation take on a flower seller’s quest for love in the chaotic city of Bombay; and Geethu Mohandas’ ‘Moothon’, a scathing social saga on submerged emotional ties within the underworld.
TIFF not only chooses the most vaunted films from across the world, but also places environmental headway on its agenda. Its most recent is to avoid using paper for their publicity. Imagine a festival without the usual kilos-heavy brochure and everyday piling of publicity material, stills and posters on each film.
After skimming through them, the staggering overload of paper one carries back every evening is thrown on the floors of a hotel room, except for a few key ones among them.
TIFF’s voluminous programme schedule will now feature for all on their individual mobiles. So if people are not cell-friendly as some fuddy-duddies can be even in our gadget-driven times, they won’t know what and where anything is happening during TIFF’s multi-laden amalgam of films, events, talks, meetings and press conferences. Not to mention its bevy of cocktail parties and social events promoting individual films and related antics.
An uneasy element, at as major a festival as TIFF — among the five top international film festivals in the world — is that many of its films are world premieres. There is no way of telling what each film holds as a measure of the ultimate in quality or personal appeal. We venture into darkened theatres as if making an entry into the unknown, in high anticipation tipped by an innate worry — whether our hopes will be nurtured or belied.
Often, a film festival that requires so much reading, walking, climbing stairs, waiting in queues, scurrying for a seat in an over-full theatre, nudging one and all, that itself can provide that one contrary but heavenly opportunity … to catch up on a quiet nap in dimmed light.
At times, a gentle snoring and the occasional snort can be heard as the movie plays on. There are, of course, those zealous trojans with their lighted pens taking notes; alert and alive, stalwarts that make the more weak and weary look for a way to stem their unstoppable zeal.
With all that, for film-lovers, TIFF provides many an irresistible temptation. The festival is held almost entirely within the parameters of one street and its close quarters. So accessing its cinemas is fairly easy — although the never ending queues, from dawn at times, to late nights and even through the night, can test one’s patience.
The Press are given that glorious opportunity to walk-in ahead of the queue. The TIFF cineastes are polite and patient and allow this privileged lot their rights. Not so in other festivals where resentful stares can grill one’s back as one walks past.
TIFF in recent years has been allowed by the city magistrates to be festive and film-friendly. Traffic on this road is forbidden for the first four days. Long tables and attached benches fill its stretch, with tempting restaurants and cafes studded alongside. With this, the normally corporate area is transformed into a fun zone to relax and make merry, chat, eat, drink, and just chill. While the movies are the main attraction, the city and its residents are proud of their film festival and do what they can to make it all the more enjoyable and inviting.
The timing of TIFF gives it a strong advantage. Held early September, TIFF has the opportunity to select those key films that could be hot contenders for the Oscars held some months later. TIFF has held world premieres of films that in fact have subsequently won Oscars. In the 40 years since TIFF initiated its People’s Choice awards, at least seven Academy Awards have been bestowed on them viz. ‘Chariots of Fire’(1981), ‘American Beauty’ (1999), ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (2008), ‘The King's Speech’ (2010), ‘Argo’ (2012), ‘12 Years a Slave’ (2013) and ‘Spotlight’ (2015).
Besides its fortuitous timing, it is more TIFF’s and Bailey’s assiduous probing and search that have given Indian cinema its pride of place at North America’s most prized festival. Since the new millennium, TIFF’s choice and emphasis on new Indian films has spot lit the country’s cinema.