37th Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Four
September 9th, 2012 – by Ian Evans
Day four of TIFF 2012 has arrived and we started our day at the gala premiere of Free Angela & All Political Prisoners. This documentary, directed by Shola Lynch, traces the life of professor and political activist Angela Davis, who was once imprisoned as a co-conspirator in the Marin County courthouse incident in 1970, when a judge and others were taken hostage using guns registered under her name. At one time on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, Davis was eventually acquitted after spending 18 months in jail. The film has some high-profile backers, including Jay-Z, and two of them, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, were on hand with their children to lend their support to the film’s premiere.
It was then off to the Elgin for the premiere of Ben Lewin’s The Sessions. John Hawkes plays Mark O’Brien, a man paralyzed from the neck down due to polio. Mark wants to lose his virginity and after consulting his priest, played by the always wonderful William H. Macy, he hires a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to help him take this step in his life. The film, which already received buzz earlier this year at Sundance, was attractive to Macy because it dealt with the topic of sex in a candid, refreshingly honest and human way. Hunt also told reporters that she thought it was a script that was new, joking that she hadn’t already seen half a dozen movies about sex surrogates. Hawkes also loved the script, and said that Lewin, himself a polio survivor, was a dear man and a great writer, so there was no other choice but do do the best for him and the material.
Still at the Elgin (a.k.a. the VISA Screening Room during TIFF) we awaited the arrival of Hugh Laurie and the rest of the cast of Mr. Pip. In the film, Laurie plays a teacher during the 1990s civil war in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, who reopens a school and helps inspire the students by reading Great Expectations to them. Director Andrew Adamson best known for the first two Shrek films and the first two Chronicles of Narnia flicks, works on a smaller scale to tell a far more human story. The inspiring readings done by Laurie’s character are set against the brutality of a recent conflict that many filmgoers may not have heard of. This is the real purpose of film festivals in my mind. The big gala films, with the planeload of stars flown in for the media circus use the festival machine rather than benefit from it. A smaller film like Mr. Pip is helped by TIFF to generate word of mouth both with the audience and the assembled press.
From the Elgin, it was off to Ryerson for the premiere of Writers, the first film from writer-director Josh Boone. In the film, Greg Kinnear plays a blocked writer who’s proud and resentful that his daughter (Lily Collins) is getting her first novel published. To add to the dysfunction, Kinnear’s character continues to spy on his ex-wife, played by Jennifer Connelly. Collins, daughter of Genesis frontman Phil Collins, told reporters that having Kinnear play their father should be a rite of passage for young actors as he’s paternal in the best sense of the word.
From the Elgin, we head back down to King Street and the Princess of Wales Theatre for the premiere of The Impossible. Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona and starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, the film tells the story of one family’s harrowing experience during the 2004 South Pacific tsunami. McGregor told reporters that his biggest concern was keeping it real. He said that it’s easy to turn a camera on a story and make it a cinematic event, but he felt their purpose was to tell the story of this one family that went through a catastrophe that killed over 250,000 people. Co-star Naomi Watts agreed and said that the suffering was still close to the surface for the family, who were in attendance at tonight’s premiere.
Neil Jordan’s a regular at TIFF and this year he walked the carpet at Ryerson for his new film Byzantium. Joined by cast members Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan and Caleb Landry Jones, Jordan presented the film about a pair of female vampires who wreak havoc on a seaside British community. Jordan, who previously brought us Interview with a Vampire, sinks his teeth (sorry) into the genre again, but please don’t go confusing this film with Twilight. __Byzantium __ has more edge than the current brand of teen lust and pointed teeth franchises.
Day four wraps with Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price and takes us back to the PoW for its premiere. Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron play father and son. Efron wants to race, but when his father’s farming operation comes under investigation those dreams are derailed. Efron, moving away from his teen heart-throb roles, was attracted to his character and saw a resemblance between them as they were both small-town boys who dreamed of getting out.
And with that, day four of the 2012 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival wraps for us. Time for a few Zzzz’s and then on to day five!