By Jim Slotek, Liam Lacey, Kim Hughes, and Karen Gordon
Day one and we are ready! Each day, Original Cin writers preview films screening that are (mostly) worth a peek. Be sure to check back daily.
Our Lady of the Nile (Contemporary World Cinema)
Thu. Sept. 5, 6:45 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; Fri. Sept 6, 12:15 pm, Jackman Hall; Sat. Sept. 14, 8:30 pm, Scotiabank 8.
Afghanistan-born, French-based novelist and filmmaker Aki Atiq Rahimi offers a moving adaptation of Scholastique Mukasonga's bestselling youth novel, set in Rwanda in 1972 a couple of decades before the horrors of the Rwanda Civil War and mass slaughter of ethnic Tutsis. The title comes from the elite Catholic girls’ school where the drama is set, overseen by French nuns and a Rwandan priest. It’s a place where ordinary schoolgirl rivalries are amplified by simmering ethnic prejudices, fomented by mean Hutu girl Glorioso against the handful of Tutsi quota students. Rahimi mixes historical fact with poetic voiceover and scenes of magic realism, mostly triggered by a dotty French landowner, who is convinced the beautiful Tutsi girl, Veronica, is the descendant of the “black Pharaohs” of ancient Egypt. LL
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Gala Presentations)
Thurs. Sept. 5, VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre (6 pm) and at Roy Thomson Hall (8 pm); Fri. Sept. 6, 3:15 pm, Scotiabank 13; Sat. Sept. 14, 9:45 pm, Scotiabank 5.
The first Canadian documentary to open TIFF, Once Were Brothers is based on Robbie Robertson’s 2016 memoir, Testimony, and tells the story of The Band. Put together by rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins, who backed Bob Dylan on his historic 1966 tour, The Band established the eclectic musical genre known as Americana through a string of albums despite being four-fifths Canadian. It will be no surprise to anyone familiar with such songs as “The Weight” or “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” that Robertson is a compelling storyteller, and he’s helped here by Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Martin Scorsese, director of The Band’s farewell concert film, The Last Waltz and serving as an executive producer here. Toronto director Daniel Roher reveres his subject but doesn’t gloss over the dark accounts of addiction, death, and the estrangement between Robertson and the late Levon Helm, the charismatic soul of The Band, and Robertson’s muse. LL