Mathew Englander (mathew5000) wrote,
Mathew Englander

TIFF 2015 final report

I enjoyed the films seen in the second half of TIFF much more, in general, than those I reported on in my previous post.

Overall at TIFF this year I went to 29 screenings comprising 17 shorts, 3 TV episodes, and 26 features. (That includes one walkout.) I don't have time to write about everything; below are some comments on my favourites from what I saw in the last five days of TIFF (Sept. 16 to 20).

A Copy of My Mind (dir. Joko Anwar). I just loved this understated Indonesian film, where the first hour or so is just a slice of life of a young woman in Jakarta, working at a salon, buying monster-movie DVDs, getting a boyfriend, and so forth, and then it pivots as she accidentally gets involved in a high-level political conspiracy. Of course this general theme has done before, in for example North by Northwest, Polanski's Frantic, or even the underrated Kim Basinger thriller Cellular, but Anwar's film is nevertheless full of surprises. He takes the time to introduce his characters and the setting, before the intrigue begins, so even though it might sound implausible, everything in the film occurs organically. Shot largely handheld (with some scenes apparently even shot clandestinely on an iPhone), Jakarta looks gritty, even ugly, with occasional moments of cinematographic beauty.

11 Minutes (dir. Jerzy Skolimowski). A clever and dynamic film, 11 Minutes shows eight or so different stories taking place in Warsaw, all within the same 11-minute period. I love movies like this, that have a nonlinear timeline and give the audience a bit of a puzzle. While watching 11 Minutes, I was reminded of Mystery Train and Vantage Point, although 11 Minutes has a unique rhythm and unpredictable plot(s). This is a movie I want to re-watch and diagram, just to see the brilliance of the film's construction. The director's Q&A following the screening was also interesting and entertaining; I don't know whether the video is on YouTube but here's a photo on Instagram.

The Wave (dir. Roar Uthaug). It's great to see a small European country outdo Hollywood in a quintessentially Hollywood genre. The Norwegian movie The Wave abides by all the conventions of the disaster-movie genre but has the wit and top-notch acting typical of Norwegian cinema in the 21st century. It's sad that so many great, accessible Norwegian films never play in North America beyond film festivals; In Order of Disappearance and especially I Belong are two of my favourite films this decade, and yet hardly anyone on this continent has heard of them. I fear that the same thing will happen to The Wave; even though it is a huge blockbuster in the domestic Norwegian market and may do well elsewhere in Europe, North Americans who like foreign-language films don't normally watch disaster movies, and vice-versa. I would strongly recommend The Wave to anyone who likes cinema.

Magallanes (dir. Salvador del Solar). This is my favourite movie seen at TIFF this year, because it kept surprising. The main character, Magallanes, was in the Peruvian army in the 1980s during a brutal crackdown on Shining Path, in the Ayacucho Region. Now, he drives a taxi in Lima and, to bring in some extra money, takes care of the now-senile "Colonel", his superior from the army days. One day a woman from the past enters his cab, and he desperately tries to avoid being recognized. Although the film has no flashbacks, its theme is the lingering effects of past actions, and the futility of regret without reparations. At times the movie looks like it will turn into a crime comedy, but it always maintains the suspense and emotional tension. The two leads, Damián Alcázar and Magaly Solier, are spectacular. I don't think I've ever seen any of their previous work, either of them. A thoroughly poignant film.

P.S. Jerusalem (dir. Danae Elon). This year TIFF showed more documentary features than usual; many of them looked interesting but in the end I saw only two (the other being Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers). In P.S. Jerusalem, the filmmaker records her return to Jerusalem (where she was born and raised) from New York City (where she had been living for many years). For much of the film, the camera is pointed at her eldest child Tristan, who is enrolled in the city's only school where Jewish and Palestinian children are taught together, in a bilingual environment. We also see the filmmaker's other children, and her husband, as well as her late father in footage recorded a few years previously. As for Danae Elon herself, we hear her voice but her face is never in front of the camera. One of the two most memorable documentaries I've seen this year.

Aside from what I've mentioned in these two blog posts, there are several other films I saw at TIFF that I would recommend. Maybe after VIFF (which begins tonight) I'll post a complete list of what I saw.
Tags: film, film festival, films, foreign films, movies, tiff, toronto international film festival

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