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TIFF 48 Is Here

TIFF 48 Is Here, image, news,

TIFF 48 Is Here
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent

(September 8, 2023 – Toronto, ON) The first day of TIFF was met with a few gremlins in the gears. An initial screening began late, which was closely followed by the shut-down of one theatre with a projector that refused to cooperate. But not to worry—the hiccups were all in press and industry screenings. Public screenings, as far as I know, went without error.

But whatever wounds were inflicted by the initial delay were quickly healed by Cameron Bailey’s welcoming voice in the land acknowledgment followed by this year’s TIFF graphics—a colourful kaleidoscope of images that would be right at home as an opening for a kid’s show on an educational network.

Director M.H. Murray’s debut feature film, I Don’t Know Who You Are premiered. (a second screening, tonight, September 8, 10 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox.). Mark Clennon (pictured below) plays Benjamin, a musician, reeling from a recent breakup. Benjamin is getting back into his music plus he’s met a promising romantic prospect. But after an awkward date—maybe even disastrous—Benjamin is sexually assaulted by a stranger. The rest of the film is Benjamin attempting to secure cash to pay for the PEP medication to ensure he is not HIV infected. There is a time limit of 48 hours.

I Don’t Know Who You Are, movie, image,

The film has the distant flavour of the 1968 film, The Swimmer—a movie based on John Cheever’s short story of a man (played by Burt Lancaster) who swims his way home through suburbia from backyard pool to backyard pool. Only in Murry’s film, the swimming pools are replaced with wine glasses. (Benjamin’s a bit of a drinker). Clennon’s performance might remind some viewers of David Thewlis’s commanding performance in Naked (1993), or even Oscar Issac’s journey in Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).

But where the film falters is where it heralds the benefit of PEP (which is no doubt true) to the point of sounding like a PSA.

It’s Day 2 and don’t talk to me about a celebrity-free festival when Nickelback is in the house. Well, if not actually in the house, then onstage in the closed-off King Street weekend-long TIFF party. But probably in the house at the first screening of Hate to Love: Nickelback, from director Leigh Brooks. Film unseen, but I’m going to trust Brooks can pull this off given that his career began operating a camera on music videos.

Hate to Love: Nickelback screened today at 2:00 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall and will again at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, September 9 at Scotiabank Theatre 12.

Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, movie, image, documentary,

Today is the first full day at the Festival, and if you’re not careful where you step, you’re liable to trip and stumble on a Canadian movie. Your pick from Seagrass, The Dead Don’t Hurt, Hey Vicktor!, Summer Qamp, Swan Song, The Queen of My Dreams, Fitting In, Woman of the Hour, and Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe and Hate to Love: Nickelback.

Seagrass, movie, poster,Seagrass, gets its first public screening today at 5:45 pm at Scotiabank 3. It’s the directorial debut of Meredith Hama-Brown and it’s a stand-out piece of cinema. The title references the weedy swads of grass pushed ashore when the tide ebbs in and then left behind when it leaves. Take what meaning you will from that imagery, but it seems an apt definition of how first-generation immigrants might feel if they are already part of the cultural fabric yet still made to feel stranded and out of place. The story focuses on a Canadian family; Steve, the husband (Luke Roberts) is white, and Judith, the wife (Ally Maki) is of Japanese descent. There is trouble in paradise both literally and figuratively. With their relationship on rocky shores, Judith and Steve attend a holistic, therapeutic couple’s retreat—with kids in tow. While Judith and Steve attend group therapy, pounding pillows and finding their inner angst, their preteen girls attempt to entertain themselves. But for a third-act twist, Hama-Brown follows a routine path of what we could reasonably expect to be a portrait of a marriage in disintegration. To the film’s credit, things are never as simple as they may seem.

Summer Qamp, is an inspiring and affirming documentary about a summer camp for LGTBQ2S+ youth and children. The camp is set in rural Alberta which might surprise some (it surprises me, and it’s a curiosity not lost on the campers). Summer Qamp gets its premiere tomorrow, Saturday, September 9 at 12:15 pm at the Scotiabank 13 and Sunday, September 10 at Scotiabank 12.

Swan Song at TIFF, movie, image,

Screening today, but as yet unseen, is Swan Song, featuring Karen Kain and the National Ballet of Canada, The Queen of My Dreams, Fitting In, and the documentary Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe.

Click through to watch the trailers and learn more about these films.
Images used in this article courtesy of The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Northernstars logo imageThom 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.