I will be the first to admit that I love TIFF. It combines my love of films with my misguided belief that Toronto is in fact, the centre of the universe. And for the ten glorious days of the festival, this isn’t just an illusion in my own head.
During TIFF, Toronto basically is the only place worth being. I also believe that it is TIFF’s duty to support and promote Canadian film, which is why it’s nice that they have an entire press conference devoted to unveiling their Canadian titles for the year. Or at least that’s what they advertise.
The reality is the TIFF Canadian Press Conference is little more than an excuse for TIFF excutives to get up in a room full of journalists and industry personnel and talk about how great they are for 40 minutes. I know it’s the festival’s 40th anniversary and they deserve to gloat a little, but while I agree that TIFF is great (see above), the Canadian films announced today deserved more pomp and circumstance than the advanced (as in pre-conference) press release this morning.
On the plus side, today they announced that Patricia Rozema’s latest film Into the Forest (starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood) will have its world premiere at the festival. Rozema herself was on hand to speak about, what else, how wonderful TIFF is.
Gushing aside, Rozema is always wonderfully articulate and her short speech was a pleasure. Unfortunately, there was no Into the Forest clip shown here, but I was lucky enough to see a bit of the film last fall and hear her talk about the film during a lecture at York University, and I will say it should immediately go to the top of everyone’s must-see list for the festival. Kudos to TIFF for highlighting the work of one of our country’s most important filmmakers.
The press conference also gave me a chance to chat briefly with filmmaker Sherren Lee, whose short film Benjamin will have its world premiere at the festival and is part of a strong female presence in the Canadian Short Cuts programme (both in front of and behind the camera).
Lee finished her film in June, and she’s very excited to be premiering her film at TIFF. The film was produced as part of the short dramatic program at the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and was just finished in June. It’s about two gay couples—one male, one female—who come together to have babies and have two successful pregnancies. When one woman suffers a miscarriage, the two women ask the men to keep the remaining child.
Lee says she “really wanted to tell a story about love, and not about adversity, and not about the things we can do to each other when we’re down and in a difficult situation.” Benjamin marks the “biggest thing [she’s] done” and she feels lucky to be working in Canada, where so much government support exists to help filmmakers “do what they want to do.” She’s currently working on her first feature, entitled Verses, and it’s a romantic drama about musicians. (She says, “It will be full of drama and love. Love makes the world go round!”)
There was a lot of love going around at the conference today as well. Love for TIFF first and foremost, of course, but also love for Toronto and Canada in general. It would have been nice, however, to have seen some of the love in clips and film announcements, as opposed to simply some talk about how great our filmmakers are, with a couple of shout-outs to select few.