UMA DA CUNHA | 17 SEPTEMBER, 2015
Toronto Turns A Feisty 40
Forty years ago, the Toronto International Film festival started as a Festival of Festivals (garnering the best from festivals held worldwide). It was the inspired brainchild of three intrepid movie buffs - Bill Marshall, Henk Van der Kolk and Dusty Kohl.
Today, TIFF is the world’s most talked about festival, bar Cannes, boasting a diehard 500,000 attendees. The festival washrooms attest to this fact. It is packed with ardent devotees carrying eye drops to better their vision. One with reddened eyes told me worshipfully that she had seen six films that day.
Looking at the 40-year mile-stone, Festival Director Cameron’s laconic comment is one of unbridled confidence. He said, "Yes, it could be middle age, but it can also be that time when you're fully aware of who you are …”.
2015 Toronto certainly knows where it is as a world leader in cinema. In full celebratory mood it has lined up as many as 399 films from 71 countries.
Surprisingly, unlike most opening films, the star-studded “Demolition” directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, won all round approbation even from critics.
A pantheon of stars, big and small, walk the carpets and corridors of festival theatres every day. Hollywood, in particular is prominent in Toronto, since its status as the last top-notch festival of the year makes it the sure fire indicator of films that qualify for the coming Oscars.
Midway through the festival, the Oscar hopefuls seem numerous in comparison to previous years. So far tipped are “Freeheld” starring 2014 Oscar players Julianne Moore (whose Academy Award-winning performance in “Still Alice” premiered and was sold at last year’s TIFF), Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain; Stephen Frears’ Lance Armstrong biopic “The Program” with Ben Foster; “The Lady In The Van” with Maggie Smith; and Jay Roach’s “Trumbo” biopic on the famous screenwriter and Hollywood blacklist victim Dalton Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston. All are world premieres at TIFF. There is also Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” with a transgender role from Eddie Redmayne (who last year won the Oscar for “The Theory Of Everything”).
There are reassuring trends as well this year. Many of the filmmakers are women, with some presenting their debut work. Many of the films are about coping with ageing, such as the remarkable British film “45 Years” directed by Andrew Haigh starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtney as an elderly couple who weather a sudden challenge which threatens their relationship. Maggie Smith calling out loud for an Oscar in the film “The Lady in the Van” where she plays an elderly woman who chooses to live on the streets and Atom Egoyan’s brooding “Remember” starring Christopher Plummer as a 90-year-old who escapes from his nursing home on a revenge mission that harks back to the Nazi regime.
Toronto’s wide-ranging content has themes that are dark and disturbing but some have the leavening touch of a quirky earthy humour, like the opening film “Demolition”, Deepa Mehta’s “Beeba Boys” on gangster wars in Vancouver, and the remarkable Australian film, “The Dressmaker” with Kate Winslet giving a robust, winsome performance as a woman returning to the dingy village of her childhood to unravel the truth about her cursed existence .