Original-Cin TIFF Picks: Friday, September 7

By Jim Slotek, Liam Lacey, Kim Hughes, and Karen Gordon

Day two… still pumped? We are! Check out these capsule previews…

 Sarah Greene in Rosie.

Sarah Greene in Rosie.

Edge of the Knife (Discovery)

Fri. Sept. 7, 9:45 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 2; Mon. Sept. 10, 2:15 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4; Thur. Sept. 13, 2:30 pm, Scotiabank 14.

Zacharias Kunuk, who directed the breakthrough Inuit drama, Atanarjuat – The Fast Runner in 2001, serves as an executive producer on this film, the first feature in the Haida language, based on a legend and set in the 19th century. A young boy idolizes his father’s best friend, Adiit’sii, whose behaviour leads to the boy’s accidental death.  Mad with remorse, Adiit’sii hides in the forest over the winter where he transforms into a half-human wild man, known as Gaagiid or Gaagixiid. When the group returns to their fishing ground the next summer, they hunt and capture their friend in an effort to exorcise his destructive spirit.  Co-directed by Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown in conjunction with the local Haida community, the film’s primary purpose is to preserve the Haida language and customs. For those of us outside that circle, Edge of the Knife is a kind of wonder. The recreated traditional costumes, the visual and aural rhythms and unstudied performances create a heightened aura that’s akin to the experience of classical Greek tragedy: simultaneously visceral and mythic. LL

Les Salopes (or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin) (Contemporary World Cinema)

Fri. Sept 7, 7 pm, Scotiabank Theatre; Sun. Sept. 9, 12 pm, Jackman Hall.

Bourgeois mom/researcher Marie-Claire (Brigitte Poupart) cheats on her husband with multiple partners. She then takes skin samples from those partners for her university research into dermal-sexual reaction. Is she being a thorough researcher, or simply shedding social convention? And when her 14-year-old daughter begins imitating her mother’s licentiousness, what then? Quebec director Renée Beaulieu’s provocative film (salope translates directly as “slut”) is a cold-eyed denunciation of sexual double standards with a dash of contrary #MeToo comment thrown in (over-zealous protest of sexual harassment seems to be criticized here as marking the death of seduction). The latter makes the film even more uncomfortable, and provides grist for heated discussion afterward. JS

Endzeit – Ever After (Discovery)

Fri. Sept. 7, 10 pm, Scotiabank Theatre; Sun. Sept. 9, 7:30 pm, Scotiabank Theatre; Fri. Sept. 14, 3:15 pm Scotiabank Theatre.

An utterly different, beautifully filmed take on the zombie genre, from German director Carolina Hellsgård, adapted from the apocalyptic comic by Olivia Vieweg (who also wrote the script), with women in every key role both in front of and behind the camera. Vivi (Gro Swantje Kohlhof |) and Eva (Maja Lehrer) live in Weimar, one of only two cities in Germany still unaffected by a cannibal virus. But life in this “safe zone” has become brutal and unacceptable, leading them to stow away on an automated train to Jena, the other sanctuary. Unfortunately, it breaks down, leaving them to wander the Thurinia forest and discover the extent to which nature itself is trying to evolve past its human infestation. With a key, scene-stealing cameo by Danish actor Trine Dyrholm (Nico, 1988) as The Gardener. JS

 A scene from Edge of the Knife.

A scene from Edge of the Knife.

Rosie (Contemporary World Cinema)

Fri. Sept 7, 9:45 pm, Scotiabank 13; Sat. Sept. 8. 4:15 pm; Scotiabank 14; Sat. Sept. 15, 9 am, Scotiabank 11.

Homelessness has never seemed more urgent and arbitrary (and physically exhausting) than in Rosie, author and screenwriter Roddy Doyle’s bleak portrait of an everyday Dublin family spiralling downward despite abiding by all of society’s rules. When Rosie, partner John Paul, and their children are evicted by a landlord who wishes to sell, they begin a fruitless search for affordable housing. Subsidized overnight hotel stays (when they can be secured) are more disruptive than stabilizing, with the family increasingly marginalized. Soon, they’re living out of their car. Leads Sarah Greene and Moe Dunford file searing, heart-breaking performances certain to resonate even with one percenters. KH

Nekrotronic (Midnight Madness)

Fri., Sept. 7, 11:59 pm, Ryerson Theatre; Sun. Sept. 9, 4 pm, Scotiabank Theatre.

Aussie brothers Kiah (director-writer) and Tristan (writer) Roache-Turner created this splatter-heavy, self-congratulatory horror-comedy in the “whoa-dude” mode of Ghostbusters or Shaun of the Dead. The premise is that evil is oozing through the internet, via a Pokémon Go-style game where people capture snaps of demons. Other gizmos include 3-D demon printers and lots of blue and yellow flames shooting out of people’s mouths.  The biggest star here is Italian diva Monica Bellucci, who goes high camp as the chief demoness, with Australian actors Ben O'Toole and Epine Bob Savea as a pair of hapless waste disposal workers who hold the fate of the universe in their smelly hands. LL

Complicity (Discovery)

Fri. Sept. 7, 6 pm, Scotiabank Theatre; Sun. Sept. 9, 10 pm, Scotiabank Theatre; Sun. Sept. 16, 3:30 pm, Scotiabank Theatre.

This novelistic first feature, sensitively observed by Japan’s Kei Chikaura, focuses on a young Chinese illegal immigrant, Chen Liang (a soulful Yulai Lu), who takes on the false identity of another Chinese worker to intern with a master soba chef (Tatsuya Fuji, legendary star of In the Realm of the Senses) in a small northern Japanese town. While the story risks drifting toward Karate Kid territory (much emphasis on the harvesting of soba and preparation as a series of life-lessons), the more resonant theme is the young man’s struggle with his loss of identity and marginalization, caught between two worlds. Definitely worth a look. LL

Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz (TIFF Docs)

Fri. Sept. 7, 3:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox; Thursday, Sept. 13, 6:30 pm, Scotiabank Theatre.

TIFF veteran Barry Avrich need do little more than point, shoot and listen to the life of a 98-year-old legal crusader for humanity (though the film itself is enhanced by tremendous archival footage from the Schulberg Family Archive, producers Stuart and Budd Schulberg having filmed the 1948, military-commissioned doc Nuremberg). At the age of 27, Ferencz prosecuted 22 Nazis accused of murdering a million people between them. He subsequently made the International Criminal Court his life’s mission, and even, in his 80s, prosecuted its first case against an African warlord. Still vibrant and passionate as he approaches the century mark, he is an inspiring figure to get to know in a dark room, and a reminder that this is what heroes used to be. JS

Let Me Fall (Contemporary World Cinema)

Fri. Sept. 7, 3:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox; Thur. Sept. 13, 6:30 pm, Scotiabank Theatre.

Icelandic director Baldvin Z abandons all quirk with this straight-ahead tragedy about a teen girl named Magnea (Elín Sif Halldórsdóttir) who lets go of conventional life with both hands when she finds herself emotionally and physically attracted to a punk girl named Stella (Eyrún Björk Jakobsdóttir). Their shared world of drugs, sex and parties drags them both down but – as we find out from frequent 12-years-later jumps in time - only one of them stays there. Baldvin Z offers little in the way of why Magnea takes her path (boredom maybe?). But her arc from person to discarded object is gritty and believable. And the before-and-after format works effectively. JS

Sharkwater Extinction (Special Events)

Fri.  Sept 7th, 2 pm, Roy Thomson Hall.

Toronto environmentalist and filmmaker Rob Stewart died making his third film while diving off of the Florida coast. His parents assembled a team who put the film together, presumably as Stewart had envisioned it.  They’ve avoided sentimentality and let Stewart’s message about the urgent need to protect sharks — to ban finning and other devastating fishing practices — come through. What also comes through loud and clear is Stewart’s joyful, optimistic nature, and his belief that we can make positive change. KG.

LORO, (Masters)

Fri. Sept 7, 9 am, TIFF Bell Lightbox; Fri. Sept 14,  9:45 pm, Scotiabank Cinema.

Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino’s new film is superficially a political satire, mostly fictional, but based around the controversial former Italian Prime Minister and mogul Silvio Berlusconi, played brilliantly by Toni Servillo. This wild and crazy ride that examines the rot at the core of Berlusconi-era politics.. It’s also a character study asking how this man of immense ego, seemingly devoid of shame - he of the cocaine-fueled bunga-bunga parties with half naked young women - managed to convince working class people to put their faith in him. But there’s a darker core here. Sorrentino flashes back to the earthquake that devastated L’Aquila, in 2009 where more than 300 people died, largely due to shoddy construction standards. .The movie channels rage at politicians who allowed this to happen. An understanding of Italian politics is helpful. But then again, Berlusconi is not the only contemporary wealthy businessman turned politician with a salesman’s instincts, driven to satisfy his own interests. KG

Want more? Check out our TIFF Preview with films grouped by category...