This film festival hasn’t felt like a film festival yet. I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t seen or heard or read anything about the start of TIFF10, and by the time we attended our first screening yesterday morning, all the excitement that comes with the first two nights of screenings had worn off. It felt to me like we were joining something late, rather than really being a part of it.
What did feel kind of nice was being back in the VISA Screening Room at the Elgin Theatre. It was our first ‘home’ at TIFF when we started attending, but lately it’s become more and more off-limits to simple movie-goers (and not celeb watchers) like us and the Ryerson has become the new core of our TIFF experience. Yesterday we were able to sneak in because the screening of Trust (tiff | imdb) took place at 11AM; the gala screening had taken place the night before. Even so, David Schwimmer showed up to introduce his second film, and at least gave us a preview of how difficult it would be.
I don’t want to give away much, but if you read the synopsis on either of those links or watch the trailer you’ll get the gist: that a 14-year girl is lured by a sexual predator online and…well, bad things happen. Schwimmer donates a lot of his time and money to a rape crisis centre in L.A., and heard the stories of victims and their families, and a lot of that showed up on the screen. The emotional responses of the girl (played disturbingly well by Liana Liberato) and her father (Clive Owen) seemed more believable to me than anything I’d expect to get from a Hollywood movie.
There was also a subplot: the ubiquitous sexualization of teens. Clive Owen plays an ad exec who did a big campaign, and threw a big party, for a barely-disguised American Apparel. Middle-aged executives talk about what they’d do to 19-year-old waitresses if they weren’t married. The mall is plastered with pictures, appearing barely in-frame, of girls in lingerie. Schwimmer nearly beats us over the head with this, but manages to keep it on-track.
I also can’t describe how important it was that the star really was a 14-year-old girl when this was shot. Again, this is probably not what would have happened had this been a typical Hollywood film. Typically a better-known actress in her early or mid-twenties would be cast, and the audience would never have felt that visceral reaction one has to a child being in danger. They would never have accepted that her emotional response would be naive and childlike. We would know she’s a young adult, and expect her to react accordingly. Tragically, in the end, this commitment to realism may be what keeps the film from a wide release, or even US distribution. As of this writing there’s no American distributor.