Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

The Third Wife (2018) ****

Dir.: Ash Mayfair; Cast: Ngyuyen Phuong Tra My, Tran Nu Yen Khe, Thu Huong Maya, Le Vu Long, Nguyen Tranh Tam; Vietnam 2018, 83 min.

Ash Mayfair (aka Nguyen Phuongh Anh) left Vietnam at the age of thirteen to study film at RADA in London and New York. Her debut is a surprisingly mature and meticulous drama that focuses on the many-layered exploitation of the women in a feudal household in late 19th century Vietnam.

May (12 year-old Ngyuen Phuong, no relation to the the filmmaker), is married at the age of fourteen to feudal lord Hung (Long), and has to share their home with his first two wives Ha (Yen Khe) and Xuan (Huong Maya). May soon becomes pregnant and competes with Ha and Xuan to bear a son to the master. Sadly she fails and gives birth to a daughter, Ha saving her life with an impromptu caesarean carried out with a kitchen knife. Gradually May is drawn to Xuan while Hung’s son (Tanh Tam) rebels against his father and his dominating regime: he refuses to touch his child bride Tuyet during their wedding night – dishonouring her in the eyes of her family. The young girl hangs herself on a tree, overlooking the river. Gradually, May becomes accustomed to the male dominated household and closes ranks with Ha and Xuan. In spite of her youth, she is already resigned to a life with no real choices. Lien, one of Ha daughter’s, cuts off her long hair in protest – but her gesture is only symbolic.

DoP Chananun Chotrumgroj’s camerawork is sublime, impressionism dominates, particularly Monet’s paintings spring to mind in a soft haze of pink, yellow and blue; every frame a jewel box, a new adventure. The mournful piano music scored by Ton That An heightens the melancholic narrative; the souls of the women are slowly drowning in beauty. But even though The Third Wife won prizes all over the globe (Toronto, San Sebastian, Minsk, Chicago and Cairo), there is something missing. Compared with most other newcomers, Mayfair seems already to be the finished article: the main message of her feature is resignation and suffering, there is no rebellion. Somehow one does expect a little wildness from a first film – but The Third Wife, has very little spirit in its perfection. It is comfortably executed, like a minor etude, playing out without sharp edges let alone barbed wire. AS

SAN SEBASTIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2018

   

Blindspot (2018) **** Toronto Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Tuva Novotny; Cast: Pia Tjelta, Oddgeir Thune, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Nora Mathea Æien, Ellen Heyersdahl, Per Frisch; Norway 2018, 102 min.

Tuva Novotny’s impressive and unflinching debut documents every parent’s worst nightmare. Shot in two long takes, we witness the suicide attempt of the teenage schoolgirl Thea, and the reactions of her family, as they try to cope with something they cannot understand. The most used phrase returning again and again, is “that Tea was happy”.But when an unexpected catastrophe happens, everything about their life is called into question.

Maria (Pia Tjelta), Anders (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), and their two children — Tea (Nora Mathea Øien) and son Bjorn enjoy a settling and happy life in Oslo. We during an average day playing handball at school, and walking home with her friend Anna (Heyersdale) and greeting her (step)mother Maria (Tjelta) and her little brother Bjorn in their third floor apartment, where she makes herself a sandwich, before writing a short note in her diary. She then jumps out of window. 

The second part features Maria – the camera focuses on her grief after finding her unconscious daughter in front of the apartment block. Her father Hasse (Frisch) comes to help her, calling an ambulance which takes her to hospital and the trauma team. The arrival of her biological father Anders (Christiansen) makes everything even more fraught as he is aggressive, insisting on seeing his daughter. We learn from him that Thea’s birth mother Line killed herself and was found by her daughter and father. Martin brings bad news, 

The experience of bereavement by parental suicide of children and young teenagers is not well understood, as evidenced by the lack of empirically supported interventions for this underserved sector of the population. All we know is that “there are extra layers of bereavement” for this group. The process of healing is not much helped by the fact that children have an “omnipotent” perspective and feel responsible for the death of the parent. Children under eighteen who suffer parental bereavement are three times more likely to commit suicide as children with living parents. And, for reasons not understood, girls are three times more likely to have traumatic reactions to parental suicide than boys.

DoP Jonas Alarik treats the narrative like a documentary, there is nothing superfluous in his images, particularly the close-ups are impressive, as well as Maria’s ride in the ambulance, when she is trying to understand how his could have happen to her “happy” daughter. Anders might have given a little clue, reporting at the hospital that Thea told him when she was younger “Daddy, when I die. I turn into a lovely flower you can pick and put on to the window sill”. A heart braking study of grief, flawlessly executed by Nowotny.

TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | 7 SEPTEMBER 2018

 

 

SAF (2018) **** Toronto Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Ali Vatansever; Cast: Saadet Isil Aksoy, Erol Afsin; Turkey/ Romania/Germany 2018, 101 min.

Ali Vatansever’s SAF is a paean to a lesser known part of Istanbul, where the denizens of the Fikirtepe district are hounded out of their homes to make way for luxury apartment blocks. Kamil’s story is symbolic of the uprooting and exploitation of ordinary working people who then resort to racism when they are unable to fight or even identify their real enemies. SAF also reminds us that racism is rife in every corner of the world where the old guard must now accommodate the newcomers.

We first meet Kamil (Afsin) at the gates of a building site. He’s a decent bloke trying to defend a Syrian émigré against his Turkish colleagues who call him a “filthy Arab who wants to take our jobs away”. The truth is Syrian workers are paid less than the native Turks, who call them scabs. Kamil finally gets a job on another building project, replacing the Syrian bulldozer driver Ammar, laid off due to a shoulder injury. At home, Kamil’s wife Remziye (Aksoy) is saving her paltry wages so she can afford to have a baby. Remziye works for a wealthy Turkish family in one of the newbuild luxury blocks. But Remziye also starts bending the rules upsetting her husband when he discovers her taking more than their fair share from the communal vegetable garden. “It does not matter that the others do it”, he tells her.

But his troubles at work are only just beginning: Kamil doesn’t have a licence to operate the bulldozer (unlike Ammar) and the licence fee – more or less a bribe to the bureaucratic authorities – is pretty steep. Fatih won’t lend him the money but the two strike a deal to try and get rid of Ammar. But after the plan goes wrong, Kamil disappears. The final scenes are played out through Remziye’s perspective.

Vatansever’s detached style never resorts to melodrama or sentimentality in showing how innocent people are often helplessly caught up in rapid social change, Their racism is ugly but is just a deflection of their own fears. Kamil tries his best to stay neutral, but in the end he is so overwhelmed by a family demanding he bends the rules for their own advantage.  SAF is carried forward by the sheer brilliance of Saadet Isil Aksoy whose Remziye acts in an enlightened and humanitarian way when the chips are down. DoP Vladimir Panduru shows the ugliness of poverty but also the lyrical poetry that lies between the tracks. With echoes of Barnet and Pudovkin’s early films. SAF is as impressive as it’s low key, Aksoy’s presence giving it a magical touch. Ali Vatansever demonstrates how less can be so much more. AS          

TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL 2018                    

 

     

Retrospekt (2018) **** Toronto Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Esther Rots; Cast: Circe Lethem, Martijn van der Veen, Lien Wildermersch, Teun Luijkx; Netherlands/Belgium 2018, 101 min.

Esther Rots’ follow-up to Can Go Through Skin is a portrait of psychological self-destruction told through three time-lines keeping the audience enthralled but also questioning the role of its plausible characters.

Mette (Lethem) is a busy working mother who runs a domestic violence support centre while coping with the latest addition to her  family, a daughter Michelle. Her marriage is under strain with her husband Simon (van der Veen) often away on business. Aware that Lee (Wildermersch) is also having trouble with her violent boyfriend Frank, she invites the young woman to help in the centre and stay with her during one of Simon’s long absences. Needless to say, Frank finds out where Lee is hiding and when Simon returns on the same night, confrontation in unavoidable and tragic consequences ensue leaving Mette wheel-chair bound but paradoxically bringing her closer to her estranged father – who is also in a wheelchair and suffering from dementia. The pair chatting to each other in their wheelchairs, is one of the highly symbolic scenes of this affecting indie features from the Dutch writer and director.

DoP Lennart Hillege deftly manages two different styles: from hyper-realism to women-in-peril scenes where the traumatise Mette, tries to get her mind around what really happened. The continuously changing time-frames help to crate an atmosphere, where the truth –  Rashamon-style –  becomes more and buried in an ecliptic avalanche questioning our initial perceptions of the protagonists during the course of the narrative. With its score of Brecht-like songs by composer Dan Gesin, Retrospekt is a haunting and enigmatic character study. AS

TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL 2018

Toronto 2012

The 2012 Toronto International Film Festival often helps to raise the profile of small independent films and gives wider exposure to higher-profile projects that may be in the running to compete for Oscars.

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This year the Indies did well winning some critical acclaim in the festival’s main prize sections:

  • Blackberry Peoples’ Award:
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • First runner-up: Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’
  • Second runner-up: Eran Riklis’ ‘Zaytoun’
  • Documentary: Bartholomew Cubbins’ ‘Artifact’
  • Second runner-up: Rob Stewart’s ‘Revolution’
  • Midnight Madness: Martin McDonagh’s ‘Seven Psychopaths’
  • First runner-up: Barry Levinson’s ‘The Bay’
  • The prize of the international critics (Fipresci prize)
  • Francois Ozon for ‘Dans la maison’ in the Special Presentations category
  • Mikael Marcimain for ‘Call Girl’ in the Discovery Program, which spotlights feature films by new and emerging directors
  • The city of Toronto and Canada goose award for best Canadian feature film
  • Xavier Dolan’s ‘Laurence Anyways’
  • The Skyy Vodka Award for best Canadian first feature film
  • A tie between Brandon Cronenberg’s ‘Antiviral’ and Jason Buxton’s ‘Blackbird’

We looked at a selection of films that seemed to be creating buzz at this year’s festival, read our reviews:

La Sirga (The Towrope) 2012  William Vega’s second feature, from Colombia

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7 Cajas (7 Boxes) 2012  Paraguayan directors Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori’s first feature

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Satellite Boy (2012 Australian director Catriona McKenzie’s fourth feature.

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