It Takes an Army
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(August 30, 2019 -Toronto, ON) If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an army to launch a film festival. This is about more than the staff and volunteers at TIFF, or any other film festival for that matter.
But sticking to TIFF 2019 as an example, when you take into account the dozen or so people involved in making a short film and the hundreds involved in making a feature film and multiply that by the number of films submitted (7,926), you begin to get an inkling of how much time, effort and money goes into the making of a major film festival.
But this is also about the bits and pieces that make up a festival. One of the statistics we like out of TIFF is if you sat down and watched every film on the schedule you’d get to stand up again about 20 days later. A total of 28,264 minutes of film. One of those films is the documentary Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema, which is told through clips from 183 female directors. It runs 840 minutes all by itself. That’s 14 hours, but who’s counting? Thankfully it will screen in sections. Part 1 runs 180 minutes and screens at the TIFF BellLightbox on Saturday September 7 at 9:00pm. The shortest film, by the way, runs 2 minutes.
Festivals are great places for first time or student filmmakers to step on the first rung of the ladder that might lead to success. Imagine being able to say to your old high school friends that your first short film has been accepted at TIFF or VIFF or at the Atlantic Film Festival or wherever. The guy who thought up the Canadian Film Centre (CFC), Norman Jewison knew exactly what he was doing. The CFC has been turning out writers and directors for years and this year some of them are getting their break at TIFF.
Measure is the title of one of the films nurtured into being at the CFC. Directed by Karen Chapman, it was produced through the Cineplex Film Program and will screen in the Short Cuts program. Two features, Easy Land and Tammy’s Always Dying (pictured above), were developed as original feature concepts at the CFC, and will have their world premieres in the Discovery and Contemporary World Cinema programs respectively.
Three NFB shorts will make their world premieres at TIFF: The Physics of Sorrow, a mesmerizing new animated work from Academy Award nominee Theodore Ushev (Blind Vaysha, 2016), inspired by the novel by Georgi Gospodinov; Now Is the Time, Christopher Auchter’s journey through history to explore the event that would signal the rebirth of the Haida spirit; as well as Highway to Heaven: A Mosaic in One Mile, is Sandra Ignagni’s poetic look at an utterly unique place of multi-faith worship on Canada’s Pacific Coast. Richmond B.C.’s No. 5 Road, also known as the “Highway to Heaven,” hosts a multitude of faiths. Side by side are numerous houses of worship, including Buddhist temples, a Sikh gurdwara, Hindu and Swami temples, Shia and Sunni mosques, Christian churches, and Jewish, Islamic and Christian schools. Ignagni merges beautiful, carefully framed images with a symphonic soundscape that illuminates the intimate lives of the faithful. An evocative documentary that is both a meditation on multiculturalism and a subtle critique of the tensions that underlie cultural diversity in Canada today.
Sticking with shorts, in TIFF’s Shorts Programme 1, a mix of great international films, look for films by Montréal’s Emilie Mannering, Brandon Cronenberg and the previously mentioned Karen Chapman. Her film, Measure is about a nine-year-old boy who gets suspended from school and embarks on a journey through the streets of Toronto. Mannering’s short drama is titled Jarvik and is about a teenager who longs to just be a teenager but must spend the last days of summer helping her family cope with a recent loss as well as her younger brother’s health crisis. Brandon Cronenberg’s title is long for a short, Please Speak Continuously And Describe Your Experiences As They Come To You. It runs 10 minutes and is a psychiatric patient with a brain implant that allows her to relive her dreams. She discovers that her reality is being encroached upon in unappetizing and surreal ways. TIFF’s writers describe it as a “psychedelically retro thriller.”
So, when you’re in line, waiting, waiting, waiting, wondering if you’ll get a good seat, worried if you and your friend/partner/significant other may have to sit apart, stop worrying. Think of the hundreds of millions of dollars, the uncountable hours or days or months or years of time that has gone into the making of the festival, consider the thousands of hours in editing suites alone just to make the films watchable and ask yourself…what could possibly go wrong?
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.