An Overview of the Toronto International Film Festival...So Far
The 43rd Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) commenced on Thursday, and although the festival will not conclude until September 16, it is appropriate to take a moment to reflect on what has occured at TIFF so far.
The festival opened at 9 a.m. Thursday morning with a screening of Asako I & II (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi, 2018). While the title may not be as well known as the Bradley Cooper-helmed A Star is Born, which is also being screened at the festival, Asako I & II is an important player in the current landscape of Japanese film. In the 1990s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Takeshi Kitano, and Naomi Kawase were forces to be reckoned with among the festival circuit and swooped up prizes. Since then, younger Japanese directors have been less successful in gaining the title of auteur worldwide, instead being limited to the “cult favorite” status. Hamaguchi, whose film was nominated for the Palme d’Or (the highest honor at the Cannes Film Festival), seems to be shattering this trend. His film’s presence at TIFF is in the company of a film starring Lady Gaga and David Gordon Green’s Halloween, which very well may be the most anticipated horror event of the year.
On Friday, Beautiful Boy had its world premiere at the festival. The film, which tells the story of the effects of addiction on a family, is the first English-language film from Belgian director Felix van Groeningen, and it is expected to be a major Oscar contender. As of September 9, seven out of the sixteen listed experts on Gold Derby, a website dedicated to watching award races, predict that the film will receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. As of the same date, the film holds a 79% “fresh” rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, from a collection of fourteen reviews. If reactions stay positive, it could encourage Groeningen to produce more films for an American audience, and thus diversify Hollywood with a more international presence.
Late Sunday morning, TIFF saw the premiere of a joint production between the United States and India, entitled The Sweet Requiem (Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam). The film centers on Tibetans who were exiled from their homes in 1950 and subsequently fled to India when Tibet was annexed by China. The film’s inclusion is bold, and can even be called a political statement from the festival. In 2010, Sarin and Sonam’s film The Sun Behind the Clouds, also about the exile, was added to the Palm Springs International Film Festival. In protest, and because Tibet was still a sensitive issue for China at the time, the China Film Group pulled The City of Life and Death (Lu Chuan, 2009) from the festival. By screening The Sweet Requiem, those in authority at TIFF are showing that they value this story and its importance more than they fear the possibility of losing access to Chinese films.
Film festivals such as this one are often observed by cinephiles because they help give insight on what films to look out for in the upcoming awards season, but the international aspect of them allows films that may otherwise get very little of the limelight to bask in the attention, if only for 10 days.