Original-Cin TIFF Picks: Saturday, September 8

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

Phew, it’s really starting to pick up, huh? Ah well, beats selling shoes for a living. Presenting day three…

Moe Dunford in The Dig

Moe Dunford in The Dig

The Dig (Discovery)

Sat. Sept. 8, 9:15 pm, Scotiabank 3; Mon. Sept. 10, 4 pm. Scotiabank 11; Sun. Sept. 16, 6:15 pm, Scotiabank 8.

With just a handful of characters, Irish directors Andy Tohill and Ryan Tohill summon a full chorus in this dark, slow-boil thriller about small-town bonds. After serving 15 years for the murder of local woman Neve, Callahan returns home to find her broken-hearted father obsessively digging for the never-recovered remains. Callahan can’t remember the murder or where the body might be buried; he was drunk that night. Meantime, the local lawman is hell-bent on revenge, and Neve’s sister Roberta seems curiously detached even as Callahan joins her dad in the grim and filthy search for the body. Moe Dunford (thrice appearing at TIFF this year) is phenomenal as the shattered ex-con struggling to reconcile past and present... and to remember the night of the murder. The Dig also boasts a genuinely stunning twist. KH

Fahrenheit 11/9

Saturday, Sept. 8, Scotiabank Theatre, 5:45 pm.

While Donald Trump and Michael Moore may  be mirror enemies, wearing trucker hats to signal their solidarity to blue-collar workers, at least one of them, Moore, seems to be evolving and adjusting.  His new film is a scatter-shot but expertly-edited collection of scenes from the Trump era: They include archival montages of the president’s racist history and indecent relationship with his daughter, to a recounting of the man-made Flint poisoned water crisis, to a West Virginia teacher’s strike, to the Parkland, Florida students’ anti-gun movement. Occasionally, Moore’s claims arouse doubts (his faith in America’s liberalism) or are simply mistaken (no, the derogatory term “redneck” did not originally come from miners wearing union-supporting scarves). Apart from a few splashes of caustic levity, including a hair-raising archival footage of Hitler, voice-dubbed to recite Trump’s speeches, Moore doesn’t waste much time stoking fresh outrage at  the behavior of the president. Though Moore previously backed Hilary Clinton, he now writes off the Democrat centrists, including former President Obama. At the film’s end, he gets out of the way to allow a different voice to speak, that of teen-aged Parkland shooting survivor, Emma Gonzalez, who offers her her eulogy to her seventeen dead classmates, one of the richest examples of political oratory in the current century. L.L.

Tito and the Birds (Discovery)

Saturday, Sept. 8, 3:15 p.m. Scotiabank Theatre, Saturday, Sept 15, 12:45 p.m. TIFF Bell LIghtbox

In its beautiful, simplistic style, enhanced oil paintings and drawings, this Brazilian fable colourfully evokes last year’s Loving Vincent, but with a social message in an age of media-driven panic. Tito is a 10-year-old boy with a mission to recreate his long-lost inventor father’s machine that translates the language of birds. The mission becomes more urgent when people begin succumbing (often while watching TV news) to a “fear virus” that turns them into inert blobs. The birds have an answer, a corporate villain has an agenda, and Tito’s friends desperately must help him before they succumb too. Directed by Gustavo Steinberg, Gabriel Bitar and André Catoto, this is satire-light for children and adults that builds nicely to its fantastical conclusion. (JS)

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is brilliant as real-life writer Manto.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is brilliant as real-life writer Manto.

Manto (Special Presentations)

Sat. Sept 8, 3:45 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1; Mon. Sept. 10, 11:30 am, Scotiabank 3; Sat. Sept. 15, 12:15 pm, Scotiabank 4.

As a chronicler of life in India and Pakistan from the late 1930s to the 1950s, short-story writer and journalist Saadat Hasan Manto repeatedly ran afoul of censors with his concise tales of human weakness and abuse. Several of these stories are re-enacted in Manto (from actress-filmmaker Nadita Das), woven together with the biography of the caustic, self-destructive writer, played by an excellent Nawazuddin Siddiqui (The Lunch Box).  Manto, a nominal Muslim, wrote screenplays for the glamorous fledgling Bollywood industry in the forties but, after the India-Pakistan Partition, he reluctantly moved to the shabbiness of Lahore, Pakistan, where he struggles, turns to drink and is forced to defend himself in court eloquently against obscenity charges. Though sometimes excessively wordy and incident-packed, Manto serves as a credible, useful introduction to a major 20th-century author. Watch first, read later. LL

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