TIFF #48 – Day 9
By Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent
(September 15, 2023 – Toronto, ON) To be a working critic at a film festival is a privilege. To express it as anything else would be ungrateful. I attribute that sentiment to a tweet film critic Richard Crouse posted a few years back, something to the effect that “whoever complains about the number of films they’ve seen, the crowds they’ve fought, the line-ups they waited in, how tired they are, or how poorly they’ve been eating, will immediately be unfollowed.”
Crouse had worded it better but the point (as I understand it) is, if you make your living by going to the movies, then you have no complaint.
It’s been my privilege for many years. And an even greater privilege to cover Canadian cinema.
I can’t confidently state that the Canadian films are stronger in TIFF2023 than any other year, but I can confidently state that the Canadian films in TIFF2023 are strong. And there is more to come.
A film mentioned in an earlier column, is Summer Qamp from director Jen Markowitz. For reasons that remain my own, I re-watch Summer Qamp; let’s just say, the opportunity arose, and I grabbed it. Markowitz’s film is filled with so much affection and affirmation that the camp would do well to hand out registration forms with every ticket.
The camp is for kids who are in transition, or have transitioned, and all other factions falling beneath the LGBTQ2S umbrella. The camp is in rural Alberta, a hub, as one subject mentions, for Christian beliefs and conservative values (or was it the other way around?). But Summer Qamp is not about the friction between locals and campers. The movie’s about the campers. There’s not even a lot of staff appearing on camera to interfere with the experience.
What Summer Qamp does well, is give voice—a strong, self-assured, yet vulnerable voice—to the subjects. Markowitz captures these youth in the act of being themselves; smart, witty, authentic, articulate, and not the crushed wounded souls some of us might imagine.
Sadly, I come to you with this information late. Summer Qamp is no longer at the festival. It is now up to the airwaves as to where and when you can see this gem of a documentary.
Swan Song, an inside look at Karen Kain’s rehearsal leading up to the 2022 production of Swan Lake, is getting rave notices from critics and festival goers.
Films that are screening today:
RU, 11:30 am, Scotia 12
Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, 11:40 am, Scotia 14
Hate to Love: Nickelback, 11:40 am, Scotia 12
In Flames, 12:20 pm, Scotia 13
Swan Song, 1 pm, Scotia 1
I Am Sirat, 4:15 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
Telling Our Story, 7:35 pm, Scotia 11
Black Life: Untold Stories, Scotia 6
The Dead Don’t Hurt, 8:45 pm, Scotia 3
Short Cuts 2023 Programme 5, 9:15 pm, Scotia 13
The Nature of Love, 9:15 pm, Scotia 10
Backspot, 9:45, Scotia 14
Images courtesy of TIFF.
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.