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Toronto Film Festival Dailies


The  44th  Toronto  International  Film  Festival  runs  September  5–15,  2019 in Canada's most vibrant and exciting metropolis, it has become one of the most important film events on the festival calendar.

Showcasing more than 300 films and hosting industryites from around the world, Toronto can "make or break" films looking for international distribution and a chance at Oscar gold. From glitzy red carpet premieres to challenging art films to cutting edge new media, the Festival offers something for every taste.

Past Coverage 2014 2015 - Coverage 2016 in French   English


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The Fog Of The Iraq War

REDACTEDREDACTED 

Friday, September 7--------September is a month of decision for the US policy in Iraq. Next week, General Petraeus, the head army honcho supervising the "surge" of additional troops on the ground in Iraq, will make his long awaited report to the US Congress about the state of the War. As has been noted in newspapers and on television programs both in the US and around the world, the patience of the American people is at its breaking point, and politicians from both the opposition and President Bush's own party are starting to demand a removal of troops in the coming months. While this debate rages in the halls of Congress and around Washington DC, it is also raging in the screening rooms of the Toronto International Film Festival, with a series of films that look at the ramifications, in terms of morale, monies, lives and loss of reputation and human dignity, that this ill conceived folly has already cost the United States. The films are meant to stimulate debate and shake the American public out of its lethargy (or its sense of helplessness) as the Presidential campaign for the White House heats up as well.

In RENDITION, director Gavin Hood shines a light on the US policy of rendition......sending captured prisoners to other countries, where prison conditions and limitations on acceptable limits of punishment and torture are, shall we say, more lenient. This policy, which has actually been in existence since the Cold War, allows the US intelligence community to literally put the screws to its captured prisoners without dirtying its hands or generating negative publicity. How this convoluted sense of reasoning absolves US officials of the horrors of torture  is a mind-boggling juggling of moral relativitism.....are we not accomplices to the actual horrors if we not only are aware of them, but are active partners to them? In this engrossing film, which opens on October 19th via New Line Cinema, Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon plays a woman investigating the disappearance of her husband, an Egyptian-born terrorist suspect. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a CIA analyst who witnesses the man's interrogation and has a crisis of conscience that leads him to violate the code of secrecy. With the star names and the commercial thriller aspects, this film should reach a wide public with a visceral indictment of this secretive policy.

Two films capture the horrors of on-the-ground combat in Iraq, where the enemy does not wear a uniform and there is no clear battle line. In REDACTED, director Brian de Palma uses documentary style technique to offer a you-are-there account of the hell hole of fighting enemy insurgents. Shot in DV, and purposefully hand held and often out of focus, the film weaves together the stories of soldiers and journalists surviving from moment to moment in hostile territory. The film, which had its world premiere last week at the Venice Film Festival, has been acclaimed as a return to form for the feisty de Palma. The visceral style of the filmmaking is nothing that this director known for his high visual style has done before. One can literally feel the heat, the flies, the noise, the atmosphere of death and destruction that have left Iraq a shambles. Whether the fiml, which is being released by Magnolia Pictures in November and screens next month at the New York Film Festival, reaches beyond the "choir of the converted" remains to be seen. But for those willing to take the journey, this is a troubling yet essential (if fiction) account of the day-to-day struggle to stay alive in the world's most violent piece of real estate.

Another film that uses documentary technique in a fictional story is made by one of documentary film's most innovative alumni. Nick Broomfield (AILEEN WOURNOS,  KURT AND COURTNEY) knows how to use the intimacy of documentary filmmaking to create a deeply resonance in a work of fiction (he did this very successfully with last year's GHOSTS). In BATTLE FOR HADITHA, which has its world premiere here in Toronto, he brings a highly realistic, verite-like rendering of an incident that took place in the village of haditha, a hotbed of Sunni insurgency. In November 2005, after an explosion killed one US marine, his fellow soldiers went on a revenge killiing spree, ultimately massacring 24 Iraqi men, women and children (the soldiers were eventually charged with murder).  Broomfield sets out to recreate the incident from the perspective of the soldiers and the innocent civilians, doubling the tragic elements of both the perpetrators and victims of violence. This is strong stuff and will be a major challenge in the distribution arena. However, the film's power draws from the obvious truth that ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances are capable of extraordinary violence.

In the film IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, which opens theatrically in late September via Warner Independent Pictures, the tragedy of war moves from the battlefield to the home front. This is the highly anticipated follow-up film to CRASH for Oscar-winning writer/director Paul Haggis (a Canadian native), which made a strong impact at its world premiere screening at the Venice Film Festival last week. In this highly emotional film, Tommy Lee Jones plays a retired army veteran searching for his son, who went AWOL after returning from Iraq. Charlize Theron plays a police investigator who gets involved and who witnesses the effects of the war on returning veterans and their families . In the great tradition of such Vietnam War classics as COMING HOME, this subject may be where filmmakers can really get it right.......in showcasing how the fabric of lives are torn and perhaps healed in the aftermath of physical and psychological torment. As a film that captures the zeitgeist of contemporary morality and the split in the American public between sought-for security and deep shame for its complicity in torture and unnecessary death, this will be one of the most talked about films of the season, with Tommy Lee Jones already being touted as a Best Actor Oscar nominee.

Sandy Mandelberger, Toronto FF Dailies Editor

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The Dailies from Toronto

Contributing editors: Bruno Chatelin 

Laurie Gordon Animaze International Film Festival Le Miaff!
Leopoldo Soto Huatulco Food and Film Festival Director
Gary Lucas Guitar hero Performing artist live score to classic and horror film
Mike Rabehl Programmer and Buyer Cinequest Film Festival San Jose Tiwtter: @cqmike
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