Best of the Fest – TIFF 2022
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent
(September 17, 2022 – Toronto, ON) And so TIFF22 ends not with a whimper but a cough. Covid? That’s the rumour, but you didn’t hear it from me. I know a few colleagues had to tap out before the final reel. But I’m OK—thank you for asking—and hanging on until the end. They’ll have to roll me up with the red carpet to get rid of me.Rolling up the red carpet is pretty much the scene along King Street. From outside the Royal Alexander theatre, where the midnight madness crowd gathers and stretches the several blocks, it takes to reach Spadina, workers carry off sections of scaffolding. TIFF banners are removed like flags from an army that lost the battle. The barriers and road blockades gave a safe passage for stars to wave at fans and look beautiful to the camera without getting mussed up by the crowd. The (mostly) friendly faces I’ve come to recognize in lines and press screenings have left the building, save for a few stragglers (myself being one of them) who are starting to show signs of fatigue.
But was TIFF22— a festival reboot after having gone digital that past two years—a success? Yes, judging from the quality and diverse voices of the Canadian entries.
There were 31 Canadian films at TIFF22. Did I see them all? Hell no. Not in ten days. But if the Gods of Distribution are on the ball, there will be plenty of time to catch up before TIFF23 starts the process again.
If you’ve been following NorthernStars.ca from the beginning—and if you haven’t, why not?—you’re already ahead of the curve in knowing which Canadian films achieved festival prominence. But what would be a festival wrap without a recap of its Canadian highlights?
Women Talking has everyone talking. And though there will be those eager to point out that Women Talking is not officially Canadian—a lot of American talent and dollars went into the film—there are too many Canadian contributions to ignore. Director Sarah Polley reaches the pinnacle of festival accolades gaining a God-like status that would be recognized on any planet that worships film. Polley’s film is based on Miriam Toews’s novel about a sect of Mennonite women discussing taking a stand (or not) against the abuse and sexual attacks they, and now their children, have endured at the hands of the men in the community. I suspect Women Talking to get some recognition at tomorrow’s TIFF award announcements, and I doubt the accolades will end there. Women Talking screens tonight at 6 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Director Nisha Pahuja’s powerful NFB-produced documentary To Kill a Tiger stands out. The documentary follows an unassuming Indian rice farmer from a small Indian village who goes against his village’s archaic beliefs, traditions, and customs to stand with his 13-year-old daughter against the young men accused of raping her. The film is as exciting as a scripted thriller, but the danger to the film’s subject, his family, and the filmmakers is genuine. To Kill a Tiger screens today at 12:45 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Viking from director Stéphane Lafleur is a festival find that excels not on marquee names but on the reputation gathered through the festival. This is a strong story told with a dry wit and deadpan humour. People lined up for rush tickets when the film reached its final screening. I had an extra access for the final screening of Viking. I gave the ticket to a young man first in line for rush tickets (not to be confused with Rush tickets). The absolute look of joy on his face said a lot.
I confess to being apprehensive about The Colour of Ink and I Like Movies despite, or maybe because, both are written by and directed by colleagues.
I knew Brian D. Johnson’s film would be good but didn’t expect how beautiful it would look. But with Nicholas de Pencier as director of photography, how could it be anything else? The movie is filled with great people sharing their love of art, print, and—yes—colour and ink. The Colour of Ink screens at 6:30 pm tonight at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
And director Chandler Levak—who I don’t know but is a colleague nonetheless—delighted me and hundreds of festival goers with I Like Movies. The title and knowing that Levak is a film critic filled me with apprehensions. I was worried about a movie that was too inside baseball—one of those nostalgic looks at our love of film. But (like The Colour of Ink) Levak’s movie is much more than its title. There is little to no navel-gazing happening in I Love Movies. The film is a funny and kind story of an unlikeable outsider (who I happened to like) who forms an unexpected friendship with his older, more thoughtful, and emotional superior boss at a local video store. Levak resists romanticizing toxic behaviour while allowing her character—played wonderfully in what I hope is a break-out performance for Isaiah Lehtinen—to be awful and yet still able to win the audience’s favour. Insight is the friend of all good directors, and Levak has more than her share.
I am always thrilled to see a Sean Garrity film at the festival. The End of Sex, despite its horror movie title, is a playful comedy filled with comic surprises (and cameos) and gives up the chance to see two Canadian stars, Jonas Chernik and Emily Hampshire, get naughty.
Although I did not see director Clement Virgo’s Brother at the festival, the buzz for his film was loud and prominent. Based on author David Chariandy’s novel, Virgo’s film is being called ‘powerful,’ and Brian Tallerico from RogerEbert.com lists Virgo as a director with a ‘confident and lyrical voice.’
Soft screens this afternoon at 4 pm at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
This Place screens tonight at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
Looking ahead to Sunday, September 18:
Ever Deadly screens at 1 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox
Riceboy Sleeps screens at 1:30 pm at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
Thom Ernst is a Toronto based film critic and writer and an active member of the (TFCA) Toronto Film Critics’ Association. His work has appeared in various publications including Playback Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. He is known to CBC Radio listeners for his lively contributions to Fresh Air, Metro Morning, and CBC Syndication as well as appearing on-air for CTV News Channel and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He was host, interviewer and producer of televisions’ longest running movie program Saturday Night at the Movies. Currently he can be heard interviewing Canadian filmmakers on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival podcast, Rewind, Fast-Forward.