Arts Review, Movies
“Tis the season of film festivals. Every spring, a plethora of film events emerge, presenting unique works that may not be ready for prime time Cineplex releases but are certainly worthy of being screened. In movie-mad Toronto, niche audiences can have their day—or weekend or week—relishing in works made in Ireland (Toronto Irish Film Festival) or on visual art (Reel Artists) or on humanity’s dignity and freedom (Human Rights Watch Film Festival).
This weekend, three film festivals are beginning: TIFF Kids, Cinefranco and the Images Festival.
This intrepid reviewer will attempt to give you a sense of what’s happening at the latter two festivals but can’t resist recommending a wonderful feature doc about children playing classical music in Paraguay on instruments literally created from material left in a massive heap of garbage. Landfill Harmonic is playing on April 11 and 12. For more info on the TIFF Kids International Film Festival, check: http://tiff.net/festivals/tiffkidsfestival15
Ok. What about films for adults? Cinefranco: Francophone International Film Festival is running from April 10-19 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema and no, they aren’t screening documentaries. (Don’t worry: Hot Docs will be making its appearance on April 23—all over downtown). Cinefranco is one of the most solid festivals in town, a tribute to its founder, Executive and Artistic director Marcelle Lean. Mme. Lean continues to programme genuinely entertaining films that are released in France, usually Quebec and certainly in other parts of the Francophonie. With Cinefranco, you know that the films screened are strong narratives intended for a general audience.
One of this year’s highlights is Autrui, the latest feature by veteran Quebecoise director and former leading actress Micheline Lanctot. An icon in Quebec, Lanctot usually handles major topics and this film is no exception: it deals with homelessness, old age and the difficulties of having an integrated existence, whether young or old. Lanctot will be at the festival, a nice plus for Cinefranco audiences.
Another top Cinefranco film is Geronimo, the latest film by Roma/Algerian/French director Tony Gatlif. Most famous for the Roma (gypsy) documentary Latcho Drom, Gatlif is in familiar terrain depicting the developing fight between two gangs over a young woman’s decision to abandon a forced marriage and take up with her Roma lover. Also of interest to film aficionados is In the Name of my Daughter, a complex family thriller directed by Andre Techiné and starring Catherine Deneuve. For more information on the festival go to: www.cinefranco.com
While you always know what you’re getting with Cinefranco, that’s hardly the case with the Images Festival, which is mainly screening films at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall but also partners with a number of art galleries including YYZ, ASpace and Prefix. Fair warning: I’m one of the founders of Images and greatly enjoy how the festival has evolved over the years. Before reading my recommendations, feel free to check: www.imagesfestival.com
Images combines art installations, talks, music and performances with film and video screenings. It deliberately challenges you, which can be a great thing. Screenings are generally a mix of shorts, placed together into abstract themes. A programme called “Field Notes” includes a short documentary on Mumbai social clubs, a poetic piece using archival footage of Portuguese boats in a stormy sea, an avant-garde look at the legends of Trinidad and Tobago and an evocation of ‘60s America using footage of goings-on in a quarry in Massachusetts. Somehow, it all coheres.
A must-see for lovers of American independent cinema is Wanda, the only feature drama by Barbara Loden, Elia Kazan’s wife. It’s a tale about a disaffected woman, who can’t relate to herself or others; the film is moody, existential and quite tough. Another gem is Samuel Beckett’s brilliant monologue “Not I” featuring the legendary performer Billie Whitelaw. It’s part of a trilogy of pieces on the human body at the Scrap Metal gallery; the other artists are Luis Jacob and Chris Curreri.
With titles like “How Many Performance Artists Does It Take to change a Light Bulb,” no one can accuse the Images Festivals organizers of lacking a sense of humour or of not being self-aware. I can’t help but urge people to try out Images—it won’t hurt and, like all art, it can become a wonderfully addictive habit.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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