My Own Private Festival

I’ve read that nobody has the same Toronto Film Festival experience. With 352 feature and short films, plus panels, retrospectives, parties and stargazing, I can see why. When I read news reports about the fest, they are always filled with what celeb will be gracing our dear city, what Oscar hopeful will make its debut here and what movie has the elusive, sought-after “buzz.”

My festival is filled with obscure foreign directors, little known actors and Canadian films that may never darken a local theatre. That doesn’t make my choices any better, just different – which is what I love about the festival. It caters to many tastes. And if I see a famous actor or the flick with all the buzz, who am I to turn up my nose? So here’s where Gill and I will be during TIFF, and how we made our picks.

In this Canadian “zombedy” the dead have risen and are now our pets and friends, kept in check by a “domestication collar.” And you thought film fests were all high-brow.

Citizen Duane
Another Canadian film, this one about a boy running for mayor against the town’s ruling class. Sounds a bit like Rushmore. This is our only second choice pick after not getting into the Michael Moore talk and preview of Sicko. There is a chance I won’t get to Citizen Duane either, as I may be able to get into CityTV’s big party, The Festival Schmooze. We’ll see.

The Fall
From Tarsem, director of The Cell, which despite starring J. Lo was one of the most visually stunning films I saw that year. I can’t speak to the story, but it should look fantastic.

I picked Death of a President before I had heard anything about it, only to find it is one of the most controversial films screening this year. It is a documentary set a few years in the future, looking back at the assassination of George W. Bush and the aftermath of his death. There is already a huge debate raging over the film. I’ll reserve judgment until I have seen it.


A documentary about sharks and a plea for their conservation. We like sharks – it’s as simple as that.

This is Canadian director Philippe Falardeau’s second feature, following La Moitie Gauche du Frigo, which we saw in 2000. It follows a Belgian searching for his roots in Quebec and should be a wonderfully dry comedy.

Everything's Gone Green
Our fourth homegrown feature (Go Canada!), this one sports a screenplay by the prolific Douglas Coupland. The description of go-go Vancouver reads like a lost chapter of his last novel, jPod.

This Is EnglandA film by my favourite festival discovery, Shane Meadows, who I have followed every year he has attended since I volunteered back in the mists of time. (See previous entries, ad nauseum.) This one follows a young boy falling under the influence of a neo-Nazi, skinhead goon. That Meadows, always full of laughs.

Dixie Chicks - Shut Up and Sing
Consider this a companion piece to D.OA.P – a documentary following a band who’s career survived an assassination attempt for daring to criticize Bush. Plus, Gill is nuts for the Chicks.

A Stone's Throw
A fifth Canadian feature, which I just realized while writing this, Stone’s Throw explores the impact of industry on a town and a family in Nova Scotia.

The Fountain
I broke my rule of not picking anything coming out in the next couple of months to see Darren Aronofsky’s long-awaited follow-up to Requiem For a Dream. Our most celeb-packed flick (Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn), it screens at the Visa Screening Room at the Elgin Theatre, which is notorious for not allowing a director Q&A following the film. Here’s hoping they have reversed that ridiculous policy.

Invisible Waves
Three years ago we stumbled upon the magic realism of Thai films and I was hooked. Last Life in the Universe ended up being my favourite film that year and the director is back with a “neo-noir entwined with the bareness of a yakuza film.” I’m sure it will be multitudes more surreal. He is teamed once again with cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who made Kar Wai Wong's In the Mood for Love look so sumptuous.

Kabul Express
We have a rule about attending Iranian films – they tend to be ponderous, tedious affairs and Afghanistan filmmakers appear to be following their example. So I was pleased to find this Three Kings-esque road movie, about the absurdities of war, which was shot by an Indian director.

Red Road
A thriller about a surveillance-camera operator who stalks an ex-convict, Red Road is another one of those buzz-worthy films we happened to stumble upon. Soon after adding the movie to our picks we heard from a number of people who recommended it, including our friend James Rocchi who saw the film at Cannes. (I just thought it would be fun to write that.)

Our last film of the festival is an update of the Scottish Play, updated to Australia’s underworld. I liked Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, so I’m hoping for a similar take.

That’s it. Anyone else out there attending? What are you seeing?


  1. Fun stuff...I'm looking forward what's your favorite.

    --RC of

  2. I can't wait to hear how things go. Vancouver doesn't usually have the same selection of films but the preview guide suggested a few that I was interested in.

    I'm hoping the show "The Fall". I agree with you completely. Although "The Cell" wasn't was visually stunning and I'd love to see what else this guy has to offer. I'll have to see if this is one of our offerings. I usually stay away from the soon to hit theatres fare too but I'm going to try to break my rule to see "The Fountain". Hopefully I'll manage to pick up tickets to this. I think it'll be a busy one...