Original-Cin TIFF 2019 Picks: Wednesday, September 11

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

What do you mean you’re “movie’d out?”

The Elder One (Special Presentations)

Wed. Sept. 11, 6:15 pm Wintergarden Theatre; Thur. Sept. 12, 3 pm, Scotiabank 1; Fri. Sept. 13, 9:30 pm, Scotiabank 4.

Ambitious to a fault, director Geetu Mohndas’s film tells an Oliver Twist-like story, with a few gender-bending turns Dickens could not have conceived of. The story follows an orphaned adolescent named Mulla (Santana Dipu) on a journey from an island home into the squalidly colourful Mumbai criminal underground of street gangs, prostitution, addiction and child slavery, in the hopes of finding a long-lost older brother. The middle section — a long flashback involving a gay love story, a tragedy — is the most coherent before the film goes back to the present day, ending in a pell-mell action sequence that belongs to another film. LL

The Elder One.

The Elder One.

True History of the Kelly Gang (Gala)

Wed. Sept. 11, 9:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall; Thur. Sept. 12, 9 pm, VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales; Fri. Sept. 13, 6 pm, Scotiabank 12.

Based on Peter Carey’s novel about the 19th Australian outback Ned Kelly, the film speculates what drove Kelly and his gang of petty criminals to a final murderous crime spree. Director Justin Kurzel presents Kelly as a vulnerable kid, who — indoctrinated by his tough-as-nails, anti-establishment mother, her string of outlaw boyfriends, and corrupt law enforcement — was doomed to fail. Kurzel subtly mixes eras, at times making Kelly feel like one of the lost boys, at others, more modern, like a punk rocker. It’s an energetic mix, for better and for worse. KG

This Is Not a Movie.

This Is Not a Movie.

This Is Not a Movie (TIFF Docs)

Wed., Sept. 11, 8:30 pm, Scotiabank 13.

This doc about the legendary foreign correspondent Robert Fisk opens with the bombed-out skeleton of a city during the Iran-Iraq War, and cuts to a virtually identical scene 35 years later in the city of Homs, Syria. It’s a sad commentary on how little has changed in the Middle East, and appropriate imagery to sandwich his career. The Brit journalist is enterprising and a pro, but he has been accused of being “embedded” with the Arab side (he’s lived in Lebanon most of his adult life), particularly as regards his coverage of Israel. But the film, by Canadian Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze) follows him as he defies such accusations, tracking munitions sales from Eastern Europe to Saudi Arabia that ended up in the hands of ISIS, and uncovering a “chemical attack” that wasn’t. What emerges is a picture of a man who’s seen too much death, and a journalist whose work ethic stands out in the “fake news” era. JS

The Vigil (Midnight Madness)

Wed. Sept. 11, 9:30 pm, Scotiabank 4; Sun. Sept. 15, 4:30 pm, Scotiabank 3.

Stupid horror film? When characters say something like: ‘Let’s split up! You take the attic and I’ll take the basement.” Electrifying horror film? When the relatively mundane — albeit potentially creepy — morphs into something sinister and conceivable. Flat-broke and depressed Yakov (Dave Davis essentially flying solo) is offered a cool $400 for five hours work sitting vigil over a recently deceased man in Brooklyn's Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood. Despite the home’s aggressive gloom and a hostile widow, he signs up but as the night progresses, it becomes clear there are spirits in the ether beyond just Yakov and the old lady. Writer/director Keith Thomas’ feature debut, which teases out Jewish lore and contemporary history, is chilling, fleet, and a solid reminder that thrillers don’t have to be gory to be scary as shit. KH



Ema (Contemporary World Cinema)

Wed. Sept 11, 9:30 pm, Scotiabank 1; Sun. Sept 15, 9 pm, Scotiabank 1.

Wildly impressionistic though occasionally baffling, Ema is perhaps not the expected follow-up to 2016’s acclaimed Jackie. Yet Chilean director Pablo Larraín is fearless. The film follows the title character and her husband, she a modern dancer (and proponent of free love), he the choreographer of her company. When their adoption of a Colombian boy goes awry and he is surrendered, the pair — well, mostly Ema — carousel through lovers, deceptions, dance sequences and, startlingly, pyromania, in an effort to correct their seemingly aberrant lifestyle overcorrection. Larraín and cinematographer Sergio Armstrong create an indelible, surrealistic mood, letting the cameras linger over the beguiling faces of lead Mariana Di Girolamo and a subdued Gael García Bernal. KH