Toronto Film Festival Presents Searing Portraits of Today

By Coyle, Jake | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), September 6, 2018 | Go to article overview

Toronto Film Festival Presents Searing Portraits of Today


Coyle, Jake, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


NEW YORK - The Toronto International Film Festival is an overwhelming omnibus of moviegoing that every year, through an onslaught of Oscar contenders and cinematic feasts, reflects the world around us. But more than usual, this year's festival radiates with urgent topicality, both on screen and off.

Take Steve McQueen's "Widows, which will make its world premiere at Toronto. McQueen's follow-up to his Oscar-winning "12 Years a Slave has the trappings of a genre movie: It's about a group of recently widowed women who seek to pull off a heist their husbands had planned before dying in a police raid. But it electrically, expansively surveys fault lines of racial and gender biases across the vicious landscape of Chicago politics. For McQueen, it's a movie about today.

"To me, this film was important because it's about questions which are raised now. These are scenes that are going on now. Yes, it's within the genre of a heist film, but within that, I wanted to raise very important political questions, and that's what it was all about. Elections, voting. No one is to be trusted, McQueen says. "But at the same time, how do we as individuals navigate our way through this cesspool of politics and corruption? How can we be valiant? Small victories sometimes lead to bigger victories, but all we have right now is small victories.

The 43rd Toronto International Film Festival begins Thursday with the premiere of David Mackenzie's Robert the Bruce epic "Outlaw King, one of eight Netflix original films at the festival. In the 343 films to unspool over the next 10 days, there will be films that investigate democracy in the face of white supremacist terrorism (Paul Greengrass' "22 July), that pry into the intimate tragedies of police brutality (Barry Jenkins' "If Beale Street Could Talk, George Tillman Jr.'s "The Hate U Give) and that directly confront the Trump era (Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 11/9, Errol Morris' Steve Bannon documentary "American Dharma).

"If you look at the slate, I would say that cinema is alive and well and more engaged than ever with the world around it, says Cameron Bailey, the co-head of TIFF. "You're finding filmmakers who are really digging into contemporary life, the politics, the social conflicts that are happening all around us.

That engagement includes the festival, itself. Toronto will host a women's rally in the ongoing push to improve gender equality in the movie industry. It's also diversifying the TIFF press corps, inviting and paying the way for approximately 180 journalists from underrepresented groups: women, minority and LGBTQ critics.

Toronto, where for years Harvey Weinstein was a red-carpet regular and where Louis C.K. last year debuted his now much derided (and since buried) "I Love You, Daddy, is also making its code of conduct more visible. Films directed by women make up 36 percent of this year's lineup, TIFF's highest percentage.

"The film business changes when we make changes. …

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