TIFF: That's A (Belated) Wrap

In three days we went to Lebanon, Myanmar, Japan, South Africa and southern Ontario, saw two documentaries, two horrors, two films with animation at their heart and heard from the directors of each of them. It's why we will always have tickets for the Toronto International Film Festival.

First up was Waltz with Bashir, a documentary of one soldier trying to reconstruct his memories of Israel's 1982 incursion into Lebanon and the subsequent massacre at two refugee camps. It was unlike doc that I'd ever seen. Instead of putting his subjects in front of the camera, Ari Folman illustrated their uncertain recollections and nightmares. It played almost like a drama and laid bare the impact of war on those whose job is to just follow orders, a phrase Jewish people have heard before.

Unfortunately our other documentary, Sea Point Days, failed where Bashir succeeded. Director François Verster also tried to tell his story of a formerly segregated beach front in Cape Town, South Africa without the usual talking heads. In place of commentary he showed endless shots of the people playing in the pools, walking on the beach, random birds... and on and on. There was an interesting story about the changes that are still taking place in South Africa, but it was buried in over an hour plus of pointless footage.

It was a mixed reaction for Vinyan, a film that began looking at the desperation of a couple searching for any sign there son may be alive following the 2004 tsunami, but midway through became a horror film populated by entrail-eating, feral children. We were with them for awhile, but once they started stumbling through the jungle our interest in their plight had diminished so much that the madness that followed had little impact.

Into that oh-so-happy mix came Detroit Metal City, blazing with with enough cartoonish metal mayhem to lighten up those darkened theatres. Currently sitting in the Top 5 at the Japanese box office after four weeks, DMC follows the hopes and dreams of a timid, geeky J-pop wannabe who instead finds himself fronting for a notorious death metal band whose fans think he is a demon from Hell. It's goofy and sweet and yet still goes heavy with the axe work (Gene Simmons plays death-metal king Jack IL Dark). It has a touch of Amélie and the show Reaper. Light-hearted, fun and so very Japanese.

Last, but far from least, stumbled the word-infected zombies of Pontypool, a wonderfully claustrophobic, psychological horror that I wrote about earlier. It was great fun but it was the moments leading up that made it a perfect festival experience. After 15 minutes past the start time, director Bruce McDonald came up to the front and started telling tall tales about he cost of filming and than spun out a tale about lead actor Stephen McHattie's hat being digitally inserted when he noticed a friend in the audience. "Oh, that mean's the film has arrived," said McDonald, explaining that they had just finished that day.

Funny stuff and just the kind of stuff that only happens at a film festival and I can't wait until next year, even if it is getting a little elitist.

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