41st Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Three

September 10th, 2016 by Ian Evans

It’s Saturday and what is usually a relaxing weekend day for most is anything but for those participating in the Festival’s third day. I had a chance to screen The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé!: A Trip Across Latin America, but first let’s take a look at some of the film that premiered on Saturday.

Roy Thomson Hall played host to three galas: A Monster Calls, Queen of Katwe, and Planetarium.

A Monster Calls is director J. A. Bayona’s adaptation of the award-winning children’s book by Patrick Ness about a lonely boy (Lewis MacDougall) who’s dealing with a dying mother (Felicity Jones). He must deal with a cold grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and a bully at school, but finds some comfort from nightly visits by a tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) that tells him stories that help him cope.

Disney’s Queen of Katwe, from director Mira Nair, stars newcomer Madina Nalwanga in the true story of a young girl in rural Uganda who sets out to become an international chess champion after working with a missionary (David Oyelowo) who is teaching chess as a way to help the self-confidence of the local students. Though her mother (Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o) is worried that her daughter might suffer from heartbreak in the competitions, the young player is buoyed by her talents and sees her skill as a way to help her family to a better life. Not only did Nyong’o walk the red carpet with her co-stars, she also turned heads when it was revealed that she was wearing $624,000 US worth of Tiffany jewels.

Rebecca Zlotowski’s Planetarium then closed off the night at RTH. The film follows two sisters (Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp) who tour 1930’s Europe as supernatural mediums and team up with a filmmaker as war clouds began to gather again over the continent. Depp and Portman (who is also at TIFF with the biopic Jackie) braved the rain to greet fans gathered outside the gala.

The Princess of Wales Theatre was home to three premieres today: Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, Lion, and The Bleeder.

Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey is the first documentary from acclaimed director Terrence Malick. The film has a simple task of explaining the history of the universe. Malick is a visionary director and with this project he has two visions. The version of the film that has been brought to both Venice and Toronto is a 90 minute film featuring soulful, whimsical narration by Cate Blanchett, while he is also releasing a 45 minute IMAX version narrated in a more straightforward manner by Brad Pitt.

Garth Davis’ Lion tells the true story of Saroo Brierley, who at the age of five became separated from his brother at a train station. Ending up a thousand miles away in Calcutta, he ends up in an orphanage and gets adopted by an Australian couple who take him back to Tasmania. When Saroo is an adult (Dev Patel), he seeks out his family using clues and images he gets from Google Earth. The film also stars Nicole Kidman, David Wenham and Rooney Mara, as well as a delightful newcomer, five-year-old Sunny Pawar. The film had quite an emotional impact on the TIFF audience so make sure to pack some tissues when it’s released.

Another film based on a true story, The Bleeder, closed the night at the POW. Directed by Philippe Falardeau, it tells the story of Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber), a boxer who was dubbed “The Bayonne Bleeder” because of his ability to take a beating in the ring without getting knocked down. The film looks at his personal life — with a close look at his second and third wives (played by Elisabeth Moss and Naomi Watts) — and his relationship with a young Sylvester Stallone (Morgan Spector) who used Wepner as a partial inspiration for Rocky.

The VISA Screening Room played host to Sang-il Lee’s Rage which stars Ken Watanabe in an thriller about the perils of trust. Earlier in the day, Watanabe attended a press conference for the film and said he was challenged by his character. “All the roles I’ve been given have been straightforward, and righteous and strong characters,” he told reporters. “My role as a father who has a long history with his daughter that never went well leaves me as a passive man, everything is reversed. I was challenged in playing this role. That’s what attracted me to this film. I wanted to see if there was in me personally that aspect of my character, and I wanted to find out.”

Ryerson was home to a mixed bag of films on Saturday. Mascots reteamed Christopher Guest with his merry band of mockumentarians like Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Ed Begley Jr. and Fred Willard in a film about the Gold Fluffy Award, which deals with professional sports mascots. The film will be heading to Netflix on October 13th.

Mascots was followed by Barry, a biopic about a young Barack Obama directed by Vikram Gandhi. It takes a look at the future president’s early years in college when he felt like an outsider in two racial worlds. As the U.S. heads towards what could be a very interesting election, it’s not surprising that we’re beginning to look back at the man who has led the free world through the last eight years.

The Limehouse Golem was up next. Directed by Juan Carlos Medina — and based on the bestseller by Peter Ackroyd — the film stars Bill Nighy as an inspector on the hunt for a serial killer in 1880’s London.

Ryerson’s night ended with Greg McLean’s The Belko Experiment, in which a group of office workers find themselves in a game of kill or be killed. The very black comedy comes from the mind of screenwriter James Gunn, who also penned Guardians of the Galaxy.

I entered the screening of Paul Dugdale’s The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé!: A Trip Across Latin America with anticipation, as I’m a huge Stones fan. The doc follows the band as they tour through several Latin American countries in 2016 culminating in an historical free concert in Cuba. Several of the places had not seen the Stones in decades as various authoritarian governments of the past had banned the British bad boys and other forms of rock and roll. Says Keith Richards, “The minute you ban something, you’re going to create a movement.” In some cases, fans in some countries have an almost religious devotion to the group and its music, like the “Rolingas” in Argentina. The music in the film is great — c’mon it’s the Stones — but each stop is also given some context as the various band members meet up with local media, artists and old friends.

And now on to Sunday…