TIFF 2019: A Drone’s Eye View On World Movies.

in 44th Toronto International Film Festival

by Rita di Santo

The Toronto International Film Festival is not like any other festival. Not only because of its size – 336 movies from all over the world, spread across 8 venues – but stars are not ring-fenced by an army of security staff, as in Cannes and Venice. Instead, 3000 of smiling volunteers wearing orange T-shirts welcome audience, journalists and industry people alike, fostering a sense of equality and building a comfortable, cheerful atmosphere.

Cameron Bailey is the artistic director and co-director of the TIFF19 (together with Joanna Vincente). Bailey – born in London, from a Barbadian, and raised in Canada – believes that culture in Canada has been made by migrants, and this idea is at the heart of this year’s festival programme.

Sept 5-15, it’s an exciting line-up of films that run the gamut, offering something for all tastes, films that make you think and even those for when you want to do anything but think. It welcomes and engages with the changes happening in our culture rather than run from them.

In the marasmus, there were films like Ford v Ferrari, a high-speed biographical drama with Matt Damon and Christian Bale, and Radioactive, starring Rosamund Pike about scientist Marie Curie, and Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez based on a New York magazine article about former strippers who get even, and films like American Woman, The Painted Bird, No. 7 Cherry Lane, Martin Eden, The Other Lamb and Parasite, one of the most fascinating international and ethnically diverse films.

This year the festival organized the programme around unique categories like: Art and Creativity, Conflict, Global Perspectives, Identity, Social Justice and Woman in Film. As Bailey said, “We go beyond our identities and our tastes change day-to-day, sometimes we want to cry, sometimes we want to laugh”. 

TIFF has become an essential stop for awards-season hopefuls. Oscar-winning films such as Argo, The Shape of Water, and Moonlight, have all used this gathering to generate buzz for their campaign. However, this still an important place to find a great diversities of world cinema.

The FIPRESCI jury awards two prizes. One to a movie selected from 26 First Features and World Premieres in the Discovery programme. And this year’s winner was Heather Young’s Murmur. It tells of an aging woman ordered to perform community service who adopts pets to fill the void in her life.  Its impressive, minimalist, and precise storytelling – both in its structure and its use of static camerawork and framing – and for its empathetic and powerful simplicity in deconstructing the effects of an addictive personality.

In the Special Presentations programme FIPRESCI’s award – for a movie among 17 World Premiere without North American Distribution –went to Coky Giedroyc for How to Build a Girl. A rock’n’roll rom-com, a witty and heartfelt story of an irrepressible teen-aged girl from a working-class family who breaks into the snooty boy’s club of English rock criticism, loses her soul and then gains it back again.

Last reflection on this unique festival with its gigantic dimensions make me wonder what Truffaut would say of it, as once he said, “too much cinema kills cinema”. How much is “too much”? So far, Toronto Film Festival has not made me a “bulimic spectator”. I just feel thrilled and delighted that contemporary world cinema is so huge, diverse, entertaining, and artistic. TIFF gives you a drone’s eye view, and it is possible to have a clear grasp, of its power and good health.

Rita Di Santo
© FIPRESCI 2019