TIFF 2022 – Day Three
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent
(September 10, 2022 – Toronto, ON) A lot of support and excitement at the premieres of two Canadian films from first-time filmmakers. Director Joseph Amenta presents their film, Soft (previously listed as Pussy) and V.T. Nayani arrives with her film, This Place. Both films, Soft, and This Place explore the experience of being young, BIPOC, and Queer.
Soft is a coming-of-age story focussing on three young Toronto friends, Julien (Matteus Lot), Tony (Zion Matheson), and Otis (Harlow Joy) who—as former Now Magazine critic Norm Wilner points out during the film’s Q&A—know who they are but still don’t how the world works. Amenta allows his young performers to explore their characters and discover how they relate to each other, and their struggle to find their place in the world.
Controversy has already swept down on Amenta’s Soft not because of content, unless an opening title card can be considered content. Soft was originally called Pussy—it’s how the film was presented on the festival schedule and still appears on screen like a force that refuses to leave. When asked about the name change, Amenta doesn’t bother to conceal his frustrations, pointing out that ‘pussy’ is the most used word in the movie and that in the context of the film, it means nothing more than a childish (Amenta used the word ‘derogatory’) put down.
The audience sides with Amenta. And though I agree that Pussy is a better title than Soft, ownership of the word is essential. And Amenta doesn’t help his case by admitting that the word Pussy is used in a derogatory way. I’m not convinced that Amenta’s explanation dispels any concerns.
But by any title, Soft is a moving depiction of kids on the cusp of discovery.
Soft is available digitally Tuesday, September 13, through digital TIFF Bell Lightbox beginning at 10 a.m. It gets a second In Person screening on Wednesday, September 14, at 3:30 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox, and a third In Person screening happens on Saturday, September 17, at 4 p.m. at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
This Place (pictured at the top) is a queer love story set in Toronto. Two young women, one Iranian/Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and the other Tamil, begin a relationship despite the complexities of cultural differences and family histories. Priya Guns plays Malai, a promising student encouraged to continue her post-graduate studies but fears the financial burden it would put on her brother, who supports them.
Devery Jacobs plays Kawenniióhstha, a student who just arrived in Toronto from Montreal to study creative writing.
Before the screening, director V.T. Nayani took to the stage and reminded the non-BIPOC and non-Queer people in the audience that they should consider it an honour to be invited to hear the stories of struggle, pain, and healing from the Queer and BIPOC community. This Place can be viewed digitally through digital TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10 a.m. (Canada Only).
Canadian films screening tomorrow, September 10 at the festival include:
The Young Arsonist screens at 2:15 p.m. at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
752 is Not a Number screening at 3:15 Scotiabank Theatre Toronto
The Swearing Jar screens at 9:30 p.m. 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.