Posts

Toronto International Film Festival - 2019

Image
One of the trends in filmmaking I have noticed over the past two or three years is the increasing use of drones. Their price has been dropping so dramatically that a production with even a shoe-string budget can afford to employ one. And for the most part, better directors are able to resist the temptation to introduce superfluous swooping shots which drones make so easy. Indeed, one of their most simple but effective uses is to obtain a static shot from a vantage point that would otherwise be impossible.

But this relates to a larger phenomenon, and that is the increasing number of high-quality documentaries emerging due, in part, to the technical advances in filmmaking equipment: digital cameras, low-power lighting and compact sound equipment all arrived well before the recent introduction of drones. All this lighter and cheaper equipment means that a documentary filmmaker, typically working with a small budget, not only can produce high-quality footage at a lower cost, but can do i…

Toronto International Film Festival - 2018

Image
Big news at the festival this year was of course the retirement of Piers Handling. A part of the Festival team for a whopping 37 of its 42 years, and serving 25 years as Director and CEO, more than anyone Piers can be credited for nurturing and shepherding the Festival into the internationally-respected organisation it is today.

Coming on the heels of the death of Festival founder Bill Marshall last year, Piers’ departure is cause for reflection. Whether it will also mean an inflection in the trajectory of the organisation, is open to conjecture. But falling so closely together, the two events poignantly mark the end of an era.

In a way, it seems hard to imagine where else or how much higher TIFF could go– having grown, under Piers’ direction, from a 10-day event to a year-round program housed in a sumptuous purpose-built venue. Indeed, if there is anything like the TIFF Bell Lightbox and the activity within it, anywhere else in the world, I have yet to hear of it.

So T…

Toronto International Film Festival, 2017

Image
On the very first day of this year, William Marshall, one of the founders of the original Toronto Festival of Festivals and arguably the most influential, passed on. The TIFF organisation commemorated him with a brief clip preceding each screening, and a dutiful page in the catalogue. It was fitting to pay tribute to a man who had done so much to contribute to Toronto’s cultural life– and that of the world. But I can’t help but think Bill might have been glad he wasn’t around this September when the 42nd annual extravaganza (as such it has become) hit the theatres.

To be fair, TIFF seems to be heeding the complaint of some critics (e.g. this article) that it has become just too large for genuinely worthwhile films to be noticed, as they reduced the number of films screened this year by another 20%. But the total still amounts to some 250 full-length films, and over 50 in several short-film programmes.

And one wonders about what is happening in the office. While the classy graphics of…

Toronto International Film Festival, 2016

Image
First a few musings– the actual reviews begin further down.

After 30-odd years of attending the Toronto International Film Festival (initially the Festival of Festivals) there is a recognisable pattern to the days, and a routine I naturally fall into. Like all rituals, it is comfortingly familiar to start out each year, acknowledging each touchstone as I pass.


The registration venue at the Hyatt Regency, just up the street from the TIFF Bell Lightbox headquarters, has been the ritual gateway for some years now, and I usually get there early enough that there is little or no queue. Immediately after registration, I fish the lanyard out of the official TIFF shoulder bag, clip on my newly-minted pass, then look for the first available garbage can to chuck all the promotional give-aways into. This year as I am doing that, another guy comes up to do the same thing, and we comment back and forth about the waste. He says he is a long-distance runner, and that this is nothing co…