by Jennifer Valencia
It is that time of year again. As I finish writing TIFF is only hours away and I am so very excited about this year’s festival. For one reason, this year I get to see the festival from whole new perspective. This year I am a spectator and I am looking forward to seeing this festival that I love so much as a person in the seat watching the film for pleasure and not worrying about how it looks or sounds. I will also be reviewing a few of the films for the festival for this site and that part is super exciting. This brings me to the reason I’m writing, I want to impart to you my list top films to see from two of my favourite programmes at TIFF, TIFF Docs and Midnight Madness.
This program is truly one of my favorites at the festival because throughout all my years being involved with the festival and going to screenings it is the one programme that continually has provided films that push boundaries, not only with the array of stories the festival has brought forward over the years but with the genra itself. Showing us how the genra can change and how documentary stories and subjects can be shown in different ways. Among all the movies I will be seeing this year I hope to make it to a couple of the docs from this programme. Here are my top five picks for this years festival:
This documentary takes us behind the closed doors of Studio Ghibli, the renowned Japanese film studio that has given us classics such as Spirited Away (2001), Princess Mononoke (1997), and Ponyo (2008). It offers us unprecedented access to the work and process of producer Toshio Suszuki and celebrated filmmakers Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. I have always been awed by the animation Studio Ghibli constantly manages to put out. The beauty and craftsmen ship of their work goes beyond mere animation. They are masters in their own right. It is intriguing to me to see their process and what makes them tick.
From the filmmaker who brought us Food Inc. (2008), Merchants of Doubt investigates the work of professional skeptics who are hired by corporations, think tanks, and other special interest groups to raise doubt and delay public and government action on climate change. When it is becoming incresingly more clear that climate change is indeed a factor in our society that we must address it is important to know where and why the skeptics exist. What is their purpose and how are they harming us? We have reached a point where we as a society we need to decide the fate of our planet. This is a much watch.
The Years of Fierro is the story of the oldest Mexican prisoner on death row in the United States, Cesar Fierro. He has been awaiting death by lethal injection for thirty years for a murder that, according to the evidence, he did not commit. The film follows the lives of Fierro and his loved ones who have been effected by his years on death row. From the child he was not able to raise and the brother who has never fully recovered from his brothers pending fate. The capital punishment and death row has always been a subject that interested me because it such conundrum. No matter how you put it is never a black and white, it is all kinds of grey. Wether you are for or against capital punishment it is issue that is important to touch on because it says so much about our beliefs as I indivuals and as a society. There are so many people on death row and there is reason to believe that some of them are innocent. This film will call into question the system, the death penalty itself, and those effected by it, especially the innocent and their loved ones.
A collaboration between exiled Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mahammed and Kurdish activist Wiam Simav Bedirxam, this film brings video footage from thousands of sources to create a chronical of the ordeal Syrian’s live through everyday. It forces the viewer to see the day to day struggle of the civilians living amungst war, shattering any indifference we may have by becoming first hand witnesses of war.
The Look of Silence is the unexpected follow up to The Act of Killing (2012). In this film we get a look at the1960 mass murders in Indonesia depicted in the previous film from the point of view of the victims this time. The film focuses on Adi, the the younger brother of one of the murder victums, as he confronts his brother’s killers after seeing them in The Act of Killing. After seeing the first film, it’s surreal take on the horrific acts of that time and the way Joshua Oppenheimer courageously puts the perceptive of the killers as the main focus, I am intrigued how he will tackle this other perspective. Will it be as shocking and haunting as the first film?
This is by far my favourite programme in the entire festival. It was the very first programme in which I saw my very first film at TIFF. I remember it was Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence (2004). It was at Ryerson Theater before the renovation and it had the old wooden chairs. They were not the most comfortable of seats but it was possibly one of the best times I had ever had at a screening. It was my first TIFF experience and I was hooked. I always have a great time at MM screenings and even if the film is rotten I still manage to have a hoot! Here are my picks for this year:
If you go crazy for Dario Argento and Mario Brava you will want to see this film. Rey Ciso, a once revered master film editor, looses four fingers in his right hand and is thus reduced to editing in the sweat shops of Italian cinema of the 1970’s with a wooden prosthetic. This film promises to provide all the thrills, blood, gore, and sex the MM movies goers look forward to.
Part of the reason this is on my list is because director Mark Hartley sure knows how to do a chronicle film. His exploration of the Australian explotation film of the 1970’s and 80’s in Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008) was such an intriguing, exciting, and I endearing look at a film genre that most would not think to make a documentary about. I am excited to see how Harltey chronicles the rise and fall of the action explotation films of the power house that was Cannon Films in the 1980’s in his new film. If Electic Boogaloo is anything like Not Quite Like Hollywood
be prepared for a fun, exciting and endearing look at the sordid underbelly of the ever popular explotation film.
After the the low budget hit A Horrible Way To Die (2010) and the cleverness of You’re Next (2011) I want to see what director Adam Wingard has next up his sleeve in The Guest. A mysterious and charming visitor arrives at the home of a bereaved family claiming to be the best friend of their dead son. If we have learned anything from Wingard’s first two films this charming guest will probably not be what he seems and there will be sure to be carnage and isn’t that what MM is all about?
How can one not be excited for the return of MM People’s Choice winning director Sion Sono? Why Don’t You Play In Hell (2013) last year was equal parts silly, bloody, and fun. Back with Tokyo Tribe Sono has set the stage for an equally memorable film as last year with this yakuza epic. Set in a futuristic Tokyo, where gangs of delinquent youth rule the streets, the city is divided into hoods and the crossing of territorial lines leads to rumbles of all kind of preportions. Scored by a hip-hop soundtrack it is sure to be an upbeat and colourful experience breathing new life into the street-fight film.
Kevin Smith brings us a thriller that is truly Canadina with his new film Tusk. The film follows Wallace, the co-host of a podcast, who’s finds himself north of the forty-ninth parallel on the hunt for a good story for his show. Wallace, nor the audience themelves, are prepared for who and what he finds there. His voyage North and his encounter there leads him to quick decent into madness. It is hard to imagine what happens next but when it does happen you just go along for the ride.
Those are my picks and I am sticking to them. Go out there and go see some films. It is set to be an exciting and fun year. Don’t miss out. I know I won’t!