Female Glaze

in 44th Toronto International Film Festival

by Ruben Peralta Rigaud

Female’s voices figure prominently among Canadian projects showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, with nearly half of them directed by women.

The variety of ideas has been impressive from romantic films, to immigration, addiction and psychological studies about murderers.

Black Conflux, an atmospheric, psychological drama by Nicole Dorsey presents an unconventional story that explores issues of isolation, alienation and toxic masculinity.

Ella Ballentine plays a talented but challenging teenager, determined to avoid being like her convicted mother. Her world clashes with a pariah played by Ryan McDonald, who has problematic thoughts towards the women around him. Two characters, who are strangers in their own way, living in their heads, trying to figure out who they are, going through their day-to-day lives and crossing each other without knowing what will happen, both struggling with what they are becoming and it is narrated in a convincing way. The film, set in 1987, is described by Dorsey as “what happens when you challenge the patriarchy.”

The debut feature of Canadian filmmaker Heather Young, Murmur is a poised portrait of a woman struggling to regain her life after being convicted of drunk driving. Separated from her daughter and alone, Donna gravitates to vulnerable creatures in an animal shelter where she is ordered to perform community service.

Young, 37, wrote, directed and edited her $200,000 drama with financial assistance from Telefilm, the Arts Council of Canada and provincial tax credits.

Maria Paz González’s Lina From Lima is a provocation in marrying the musical genre with a very Latin narrative language. After all, Lina (Magaly Soler) needs to work within a system that leaves her little to be happy: her housing situation is serious, her relationship with her son is strained by distance, even her attempts at intimacy, though sensual and satisfying, are linked with sadness. But instead of letting such themes crack the mood of the film, documentary filmmaker Maria Paz González, who directs her first fiction film here, bets on entertainment and a narrative full of color, music and colorful characters. It’s always nice to see the mix of genres within Latin cinema.

In The Rest of Us, all women are going through their own private struggles: Cami is a children’s book illustrator who is behind on a deadline and mostly due to lack of inspiration; Aster is dropping out of college and dating a guy who is also dating his best friend; Rachel is overwhelmed by the disaster that Craig, who was married to Cami, left behind after his unexpected death; and Tallulah is having trouble understanding the idea that her father is gone forever.

All this becomes more interesting when this group of women, of various personalities and temperaments, age, decide to live together and try to adapt to a healthy lifestyle, but director Aisling Chin-Lee wisely offers us this colorful fan, a film that is light but entertaining. A commercial but at the same time very honest vision of the relations between these women and of how they must adapt to unfriendly environments and come to practice honesty between themselves and with themselves.

Last but not least, we note the extraordinary ability of these female directors to risk long jumps in terms of presenting unusual characters in unusual environments. The Toronto Film Festival gives them the opportunity and we as spectators are very happy that we can witness, year after year, the rise of women filmmakers, and more importantly, honest visions about different topics.

Ruben Rigaud
Edited by Rita Di Santo