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by Alex Ramon

26 Sep 2016

The ErlPrince, the Opening Night film of Gdynia Film Festival 2016

It’s fair to say that last year’s Gdynia Film Festival—the 40th edition of Poland’s most prestigious showcase for its national cinema—was a festival like no other. This was for reasons both good (notably, a superb selection of films including works as diverse as Jerzy Skolimowski’s sublime city symphony 11 Minutes, Kuba Czekaj’s mind-blowing candy-coloured puberty portrait Baby Bump, Kinga Dębska’s touching and hilarious These Daughters of Mine, and Małgorzata Szumowska’s wryly austere Body/Ciało, which scooped the main prize) and for reasons truly horrendous: namely, the death of the 42-year-old director Marcin Wrona, which occurred on the penultimate evening of the event.

The emotions were still raw when I posted my final dispatch, and I would only add to that post that many of us who were at Gdynia in 2015 ended up feeling changed by the whole experience, which combined the great joy of seeing so much challenging and inspiring work with shared shock and grief at a talented filmmaker’s passing.

by Stephen Mayne

16 Sep 2016

Woody Harrelson in LBJ (2016)

All good things must come to an end. After 26 films over the past week, my time in Toronto is over. Generally, thunderstorm apart, the weather has been lovely, the films good, and the TIFF volunteers spectacularly helpful and efficient. On the plus side, it will be nice to get back to a diet that doesn’t consist of grabbing junk food in-between screenings, and I should probably see a bit more of the outdoors again.

Before we close, there are three final films to discuss. First up, in a quiet screen, we have LBJ. Rob Reiner’s biopic puts an initially unrecognizable Woody Harrelson into the shoes of Lyndon Baines Johnson, America’s 36th President, the man sandwiched between JFK and Nixon. Using a certain day in Dallas in 1963 ,and a certain motorcade as a base, LBJ ranges back and forth in time to show Johnson the Senator, Johnson the Vice President, and eventually Johnson the Commander-in-Chief.

by Stephen Mayne

13 Sep 2016

Tom Wilkinson in Denial (2016)

Part of the challenge of festivals is attempting to work out which films will pack in pass holders and which ones can be breezed into with a minute to spare. Day 5 at the Toronto International Film Festival had a bit of everything on that front, and a very high standard across three films that all dipped back into the 20th century.

First up was Denial, playing in the morning in the biggest screen. It was hardly a packed house, but those that did show got very solid entertainment. It’s the story of the trial that finally broke any remaining credibility disgraced British historian and Holocaust denier David Irving had. He brought the action, as well. After calling him out in her book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1994), American historian Deborah Lipstadt found herself taken to court in London for libel. If she were to lose, the claims of Irving and those like him could have gained acceptability.

by Stephen Mayne

12 Sep 2016

Lene Cecilia Sparrok in Sami Blood (2016)

At film festivals the normal calendar fast fades into irrelevancy. Days of the week matter little compared to the screening schedule.

The same is not true for the rest of the world outside the film bubble, as I found at the subway. Completely unaware it was Sunday, I arrived early in the morning to find the station locked. This put the first film of the day in doubt. Thankfully someone did eventually open the doors and a train turned up 25 minutes later. It meant a close-run thing, but a little bit of sprinting meant I only missed the first ten minutes of Sami Blood.

by Stephen Mayne

12 Sep 2016

Lewis MacDougall in A Monster Calls (2016)

If there’s a theme emerging from TIFF so far: monsters. At least films featuring monsters seem to be the ones I’m going for. What that says about my psychological state I will leave for someone better qualified to pass judgement. As with prior coverage, the monsters come in different shapes. The first one, leftover from day 2, looks like a tree and sounds a bit like Liam Neeson.

A Monster Calls brings Patrick Ness’ work to the big screen. His young-adult novel of the same name features fantastical stories that exist to help a lost boy deal with grief. When the film, from The Orphanage director J. A. Bayona, reveals its true intent, there were plenty of sniffles around the screening room. Even the trailer has brought on tears for those revisiting later.

//Mixed media

Oz Is Not Down Under As Everyone Thinks It Is

// Re:Print

"Frank L. Baum's Oz isn't in the land of Aussies, as one might think, but in a far more magical setting.

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