After all, it's just a ride….

Toronto Film Festival 2013 – The Aftermath

tiff213How many do you reckon I managed? Well, for my first run at the menagerie going international I’ve stormed no less than 16 films at the festival, not bad considering two of these were four-hour documentaries so we could count them as two movies each, but they’re not so I’m not. In terms of spread as usual my itinerary  kinda aligned with my general film preferences – roughly 25% documentaries from the leading practitioners of the field, 25% horror and genre atrocities, 20% oriental sourced cult movie madness, and the remainder the auteur led American fare, both Hollywood and indie in origin. General impressions is of a superbly run world-class operation, with a phenomenally diverse array of material from all over the world, and from what little I saw a useful side strand of debates, Q&A’s, industry seminars and all the associated networking, arguing and debate that you’d expect when a group of rabid fans and industry types get together in a confined space. I’ll peppering this post with some of my favourite screenings and associated material, some of this I’ve already posted ad nauseam but this is my final word on the matter so bear with me OK?

The public queues looked pretty awful but I’m not sure how you alleviate that given the festivals popularity, in any case at least they are not the frustratingly inept LFF who for the third of fourth year running have completely fucked up their members ticket launch and the public ticket lottery once again – how can that happen again, and again, and again? In terms of technology the 4K, surround sound auditoriums were stunning, enhancing films such as Under The Skin and Gravity  given their cinematic nature in both sight and sound, they were both some of the most engrossing & brilliant cinematic experiences I’ve had in the past few years.

Now a long running dispute has rumbling on about cinema etiquette, and I’m sure I don’t need to rehash my capital punishment endorsing view of people who talk, text or fuck around with their precious phones during screenings, and I have to say other than an amusing incident during a packed screening of Night Moves – someone in the front row was messing about with their phone until a fellow colleague yelled out ‘FRONT ROW, TURN OFF YOUR FUCKING PHONE’ about 20 minutes into the film which was immediately complied with – at every one of the screenings I was at their were no problems or inconsiderate behavior, public screenings however may be a different matter. Then again I may have been fortunate with my press colleagues as this hilarious incident has now entered film culture lore, I was more impressed by the critic sitting next to me at my Cold Eyes screening who was writing his review on his laptop, with the screen pulled down to his knuckles so as to not emit any light, writing ‘blind’ just by touch typing. The only thing that slightly annoyed me was the steady stream evacuation of certain viewers around a half hour into some of the screenings, a practice which was due I assume to distributor types checking out product to see if it’s the sort of material their companies handle, the kind of film they might pick up for distribution in their markets, rather than actually going to see the film as a ‘film’ if you catch my drift – it can be quite distracting with a constant parade of bodies floating around in your peripheral vision.

A lot of the chatter was of the predictable ‘oh the festival is so corporate, the studios have muscled in’ variety, of course I can’t remark on past climates given  that this is my virgin visit  but given the 300 films in contention I thought the variety was staggering, including the big budget Oscar bait to be sure, but also the likes of Moebius which is just about the most offensive uncommercial film you could possibly hope to make (I liked it for an hour but then it began to seriously drag and its unique no-dialogue schtick exhausted my patience) will never ever get picked up for North American distribution and will maybe play in a handful of European arthouses as part of some offbeat ‘challenging’ season. There is something to be said for a buzz of a place when you’re having a spot of dinner on Kings Street and hear a distant roar of the crowd a hundred metres away because  Scarlett Johannson has just exited her limo for the premiere of Don John, whether you’re a star spotter or not you can’t deny the ‘event’ status that such attention brings to bear, sometimes you have to remember that the name of the game is show and business.

For a peek behind that gilded golden curtain wandering into the press events was quite an experience, to quickly set the scene there is a special exhibition space sealed off in the Lighthouse, where the press and camera-people are arrayed facing the raised lectern, and before the above the line talent takes their seats they have to run a side gauntlet of photographers with camera flashes strobing away in an epileptic frenzy, with the paparazzi yelling ‘LOOK OVER HERE’ and “HEY, HEY, OVER HERE SANDRA’ – it’s all a bit like being in Coppola’s Somewhere  although the razzmatazz diminishes after a couple of sessions. It was also amusing to me that we journalists may bemoan the ubiquity of star culture, of the all-pervasive emphasis on the attractive models and stars who front the films, but curiously never direct any questions to the screenwriters or producers on those panels, with maybe 20% of queries for the director, 80% for the A talent.

The city itself is remarkably chilled out for a major international metropolis, it always seemed so empty compared to the pandemonium of London, with a hipster vibe equal of Melbourne or Brighton which isn’t unusual given that I was staying in the hippie enclave of Kennsington / Chinatown, a 15 minute walk to downtown where all the fun was. I had a look around the Royal Ontario museum which was cool (it has a great dinosaur section) but I skipped the CNN tower as the natives informed me it was stupidly expensive for what the experience was, so I thought I’d give it a miss. Apart from that, it was movies all the way, and I loved how just wandering around with a press tag hanging around your neck was essentially carte blanche for anyone to approach you and engage in film related conversation, giving the enterprise a real ‘event’ and permeating vibe – can’t say I’ve ever felt that in London given how scattered and diffused the LFF is.

Commercially speaking this has been worth its weight in gold, I have about 300 emails from PR companies, distributors and associated industry types from across North American, Europe and beyond, so if I ever do decide to take this hobby a little more seriously I’ve already secured the beginnings of a healthy contact list, and I’m already receiving communiques about other new projects and events. So that’s that, a successful expedition in every sense of the word, so how do we improve on this for 2014? Well I’ve got one word baby – Cannes – so let’s continue with the training eh?



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