Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Toronto International Film Festival: Fewer Political Movies, More Literary Adaptations

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Toronto International Film Festival: Fewer Political Movies, More Literary Adaptations

Article excerpt

The Toronto International Film Festival, in its 37th year, is the largest public film festival in the world. And what a public it is. Audiences here, often massed in waiting lines snaking around the block, are movie infatuated. At the recently concluded Venice Film Festival, Terrence Malicks wayward new film To the Wonder was loudly booed, but here no such cacophony can be heard. Moviegoing is a holy ritual (except for all that texting).

Besides, if you dont like one movie theres always another. About 300, actually, from more than 60 countries. I saw 20 in six days, not to mention attending receptions, interviews, and press conferences. Toronto provides a big picture window into the big fall Hollywood season as well as worthies from around the world that are still hunting for distribution (and, alas, may never find it).

There is also, of course, the usual circuslike atmosphere that pervades the festival during its first long weekend, when the major Hollywood players roll into town with their wares and convert streets into limo lanes and fancy hotel entrances into autograph outposts. Fans have been complaining that the barricades separating them from the stars Johnny Depp, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Dustin Hoffman, Marion Cotillard, ad infinitum have been set farther back this year. Bribes of up to $1,000 to skip the line have reportedly been offered to burly security guards.

The stars, meanwhile, had to content themselves with swag lounges that were relatively scaled back unless you were an A-lister and could score a Tiffany bracelet. More likely you could get your nails polished and your shoes shined.

Trade talk abounded in Toronto. There is a growing recognition that the Asian film industry is on its way to becoming the most dynamic and fastest growing in the world. Also, after a rather bleak period following the global financial meltdown, financing for independent movies seems once again to be on the upswing. Given the bloated unadventurousness of most studio movies, this is good news.

One big change at this years festival was the comparative scarcity of politically themed movies, especially in the documentary realm. This was the festival, after all, where films like Fahrenheit 9/11, The Hurt Locker, In the Valley of Elah, and many others received big send-offs.

Perhaps this is because filmmakers are worn out trying to save the world and are content instead to save a small piece of it.

Amy Bergs documentary West of Memphis, for example, is about the consequences of a slapdash murder trial in which three Arkansas teenagers, who are almost certainly innocent of murdering three young boys, were railroaded into extensive prison terms. (By copping a plea, all are now released, though not exonerated.) Depp, along with Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, are champions of the accused and were on hand at the festival.

Similar to West of Memphis in some ways is the documentary The Central Park Five, directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns (his daughter), and David McMahon (her husband), which is about five black and Latino teenagers (one of whom appeared in Toronto) who were falsely convicted in 1989 of brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in New Yorks Central Park.

The film is a study in citywide mob-mentality hysteria at the expense of reason. But if political films were on the downswing this year, that old standby, the literary adaptation, ranging from traditional to extra-crispy, was ascendant. The most straightforward in the bunch was Mike Newells Great Expectations, featuring Ralph Fiennes as grimy escaped convict Magwitch and Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham. …

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