Arts Review, The Arts

TIFF Report #3: Are The Stars Out Tonight?

TIFF Report #3: Are The Stars Out Tonight? featured image

The incessant ringing in my ears is not from a headache. It’s merely the sound of dozens of emails landing in my in-box announcing everything from a South African heist thriller to a Brazilian Western to a doc on an American right wing bogus charity in the Congo. Yep, they’re all appearing at TIFF.

TIFF 2013 starts on Thursday and the din will grow from offices and a few select cinemas to the whole downtown area of Toronto. It’s estimated that over 100 parties will occur over the ten days of the festival ranging from the opening night festivities at Maple Leaf Square at York Street and Bremner Boulevard where 3500 people will be frolicking to an “artsy tech-savvy” extravaganza to more serious, quiet affairs where big deals—possibly involving Asian money—will take place. Loads of stars will be on hand from British actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Radcliffe to American directors Ron Howard and Errol Morris to—well, you name a country and a film, and there will undoubtedly be someone representing both.

That tech-savvy party celebrates the Opening Night Gala The Fifth Estate, a very stylish look at the meteoric career of WikiLeaks guru Julian Assange, who became famous worldwide for releasing scads of classified material on America’s illegal activities in Iraq and Afghanistan given to him by Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. I can’t review the film—in fact, I won’t review any of the Gala films now—since most are embargoed until they get commercial releases later this fall. Suffice it to say that The Fifth Estate is the smartest and hippest Opener at TIFF in years and it does star the festival’s “it boy,” Benedict Cumberbatch. (Quick digression for fans of the two best British TV shows—no, not Downton Abbey—Sherlock and Dr. Who. There’s a lovely moment in The Fifth Estate when Cumberbatch, who is as wonderfully elusive and intelligent as Assange as he is the embodiment of the modern Sherlock Holmes exchanges quips about secrecy with Peter Capadli, an editor of the Guardian in the film—but who will soon achieve cult status as the new Dr. Who.)

Many Galas this year are based on true stories. Along with the rise of interest in documentaries, one wonders whether there’s a trend among cinemagoers to follow real life tales. It certainly feels like a contrast to the summer blockbuster and Christmas fare, which seems to be all about superheroes and fairy tales recycled for the ADHD age. The Gala programme includes: Kill Your Darlings, Rush and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Maybe it’s time to resurrect that hoary cliché about truth being stranger than fiction because these tales are certainly extraordinary.

Kill Your Darlings is a film I’ve been hoping would be made for decades. It’s about the notorious gay related murder of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr. Who, you’re thinking, are they? Both were friends of the soon-to-be-famous writers William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and formed part of the incipient Beat Generation in Manhattan during World War 2. Just like last year’s On the Road, this film may not appeal to everybody but it certainly has my attention. And the general public will likely want to see Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg. Harry Potter as a gay Jewish poet? Say it ain’t so, Dan.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom dramatizes the early life of the legendary South African leader when he was a young, hot revolutionary, willing to lay down his life to fight apartheid. The film brings us back to the Fifties and early Sixties when Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie were freedom fighters in the ANC (African National Congress.) Idris Elba plays Mandela—and anyone who watched the great TV series The Wire knows that he is a superb actor.

Finally, Rush is one of TIFF’s most glamorous galas. It’s directed by Oscar winner Ron Howard and stars Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda, the two greatest Formula One sports car racers of the late Seventies. With a script by another prize winner Peter Morgan (The Queen), amazing racing footage and virtuoso performances, you know this TIFF film will be touted for Oscars.

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