2001 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
September 11



WATCHING THE HORROR IN THE PRESS OFFICE

What can be said that won't be said over and over for years to come? This day will forever be marked by one of the most tragic moments in the history of North America. The news of Trade Center attack hit me this morning when I was doing some pre-screening prep. I had seen a documentary on the 1993 incident that specifically talked about the fact that the towers could withstand an airplane crash. I started my screening as a fellow viewer heard over the radio that the first tower had collapsed. It was somewhat disconcerting that the film discussed the fact that airports no longer have lockers because of fears regarding bombings.

After the screening, I headed over to a friend's suite in the Park Hyatt - there I saw that the second tower had just crumbled, and found out details about the pentagon also getting hit.

The film festival is a week of escape, of losing yourself in a fiction. The problem with our televisual introduction to these tragic images is that they seem to be merely adequate effects - blurry thanks to long lenses, without the visceral rumble we usually associate with such images. It was Independence Day without the aliens as the smoke followed people running away from collapsing buildings. It was a Tom Clancy thriller, as the continent's airports are shut, and the full effect of a massively organized attack that could accomplish four (at least) simultaneous hijaakings.

The festival is populated by a huge number of Manhattenites. It relies upon the air-transport system to get people in and out. The effect was mostly shock, dismay, the usual reaction to something of this magnitude.

Screenings originally kept going - I decided to check out a film (not like I could help anyone in New York directly). I personally am of the opinion that in the case of a terror act, the best thing to do is to keep life as normal as possible. Terror wins if you give into it. Easy to say, of course, in a city reasonably far away from the violence. However, hospitals were on alert here, and the last I heard some burn victims are being flown to local clinics.


PIERS SPEAKS TO ALL FESTIVAL GOERS

Following my second screening of the day, and my second Canadian film, we were informed that there would be a hold on all festival activity while organizers weighed the options of what to do. There is a TV in the press office, and that became a second home to many, as we watched coverage come in. I stayed until 4:30, when Festival head Piers Handling announced that the fest would take the day off, but start up again tomorrow morning.

Not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I hope the fest goes on, I hope life will continue and films will be enjoyed. I also hope that you spend a bit of time thinking about the people killed, about those that worked their asses off to help, many of whom have obviously perished.





Picture Claire
Directed by: Bruce McDonald

Bruce McDonald directs a mostly American cast in a staunch Toronto film. Juliette Lewis plays a Montreal biker-chick forced out of her home, fleeing to Toronto to a man she loves. The love story is wrapped within a heist structure, with cops and robbers exchanging screen time as Juliette inadvertently gets caught up in the mess.

McDonald makes much use of split-screens, an allusion perhaps to his mentor Norman Jewison's early films.

Gina Gershon is fun to watch, and Mickey Rourke has an effectively charming cameo as a low-life. The usual suspects of Canadian talent, led by Callum Keith Renny, round out the rest of the parts.

Not earth shattering, it's not even as edgy or quirky as his earlier films. This is clearly Bruce McDonald at his big screen, big budget best, and though it's far from a perfect film, it just might make at least some of the $10 million back. As long, that is, that the Americans don't frown when confronted with explicit mention of Spadina, College, and Yonge Streets.

Grade: B-



Treed Murray
Directed by: William Phillips

A concept film that actually works quite well. An affluent man walking through a park in Toronto is mugged. He fights back, but is then chased by a group of young punks. Climbing a tee for safety, he is then held under siege, as the punks wait for him to descend for retribution. What follows is some interesting dialogue, as the characters' motivations are uncovered, and details about their personalities are revealed.

It's the type of film that would work well as a play - chatty, psychological, character driven, set in essentially one location. However, what's interesting about this movie is that it really benefits from the outdoor location. It's intimate like a play without being claustrophobic - the outdoor setting avoids a sense of forced confinement, while the punk kids provide a sense of being closed-in. It's an interesting stylistic paradox, and it makes for an enjoyable film.

Grade: B-