42nd Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Seven

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 by Ian Evans

Things at Roy Thomson Hall got off to a start tonight with the premiere of Kings, Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s English-language directorial debut. It tells the story of a reclusive man (Daniel Craig) who helps a woman (Halle Berry) and her children during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Ergüven’s first film, Mustangs, earned a nomination at the 88th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. She worked with mostly inexperienced actors then and now finds herself working with two very high-profile actors. She said it was great professionally, but really the process wasn’t that much different as both films dealt with societal issues.

Speaking to those issues, Berry said that the film depicts a time in American history when racial tensions exploded and she felt that the system did not deal with it properly then. Fast forward to the present day and recent events show that not much has changed. On a brighter note, she did indicate that though the progress has at times seemed glacial, there has been progress and sometimes a lasting evolution takes time.

One of the most important premieres for Canadians closed out the night: Long Time Running. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, the documentary follows the 2016 final tour of Canadian rock icons The Tragically Hip after lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Band members Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois, and Rob Baker were at the screening,though sadly Downie was not able to attend.

Co-director Nicholas de Pencier described the doc as a love letter to Canada’s band. Jennifer Baichwal described the doc’s frantic schedule. The pair had been asked to do the film five days before the band’s first date in Victoria and dropped everything to do it. Friends of the band, the pair knew it would be difficult to step back from the experience when they needed to, but they went ahead, hoping that they’ve conveyed the emotion and importance of that final tour.

I also got to screen another musical doc earlier in the day. Lili Fini Zanuck’s Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars digs deep into the life of the virtuoso bluesman who played with several bands like The Yardbirds and Cream, guested with The Beatles and launched a successful solo career. The film could just be a celebration of that career, but it dives into the issues with his dysfunctional family life, his romantic obsession with the wife of best friend George Harrison, the excessive use of drugs and alcohol that nearly killed him and the tragic accidental death of his young son. It may be cliched to say music was the only constant love in his life, but even that relationship was put in danger by his excesses.