Plagued, as last year, with a very busy early September, we once again selected only three screenings for TIFF this year. I miss the years of 10+, or even 5, but can’t imagine squeezing in so many these days.
We had an atypical start, going to see the first four episodes of a new Amazon series called Homecoming (imdb | tiffr) at the Ryerson. It’s based on a podcast series, so you know…just gimme ALL the mediums. It stars Julia Roberts and is directed by Sam Esmail, who won my undivided attention with Mr. Robot. They got us hooked by only showing us the first four episodes, then bringing the cast out to talk about it. Julia Roberts was there (and obviously generated a bunch of freakouts, including some dude wearing a tshirt she recognized, who then got on stage and hugged her?!), her old My Best Friend’s Wedding co-star Dermot Mulroney, hometown boy Stephan James, and to the audience’s great delight, Sissy Spacek. Not the best Q&A afterward, but a solid if unconventional start to the fest.
Saturday we had an odd hankering for Japanese, and so booked a table at Katana On Bay (formerly Blowfish). We needn’t have booked; it was dead in there. We still enjoyed our meal (see below) and a whole pile of Old Fashioneds, French 75s, and other cocktails though.
- tuna tartare w/ negi, cucumber, chilli peppers, dill, sesame oil, scallion oil
- butterfish sashimi
- yellowfin sashimi
- spicy tuna makimono w/ sesame seed & hot garlic kewpie-tossed rock shrimp tempura
- jalapeño hamachi makimono w/ avocado, tempura bits, cilantro, golden tobiko & spicy garlic aioli
- wagyu gyoza in a tonkotsu butter miso broth, garnished with crispy scallion & spicy hoisin
- sea-salted edamame
After dinner we walked over to the Elgin theatre to see the premiere of Through Black Spruce (imdb | tiffr) in the Winter Garden. First of all, we didn’t know until after we booked that they had reserved seating at certain theatres this year, so we ended up in an orchestra box, way off to the side with bad sound mixing and a glaring exit door light that made it pretty hard to enjoy. Second, somehow neither Lindsay nor I knew that this was based on a Joseph Boyden novel (though maybe we should have; it won the Giller) which made it a bit controversial. Producer Tina Keeper and others involved with the making of the film addressed the controversy somewhat, but the applause for Boyden was a bit tepid. Director Don McKellar introduced the entire cast (at length) before starting the screening, delaying things about 45 minutes. The movie itself was okay, but not compelling or terribly insightful. At this point the source material felt dated, or maybe outmatched, given the more recent attention to MMIWG. I think Norm Wilner said it best in his review for NOW:
“I don’t believe McKellar’s film is condescending to, or exploitative of, its Indigenous characters, but neither is it strong enough to survive the storm that’s coming.”
Our final film was the second screening of Girl (imdb | tiffr), which came into TIFF with a ton of buzz. Deservedly so, too — for a first-time actor and a first-time feature director, this was remarkable work. It was beautiful and tragic and sweet and gut-wrenching and important, as film should be. Luckily the director and two stars were still in Toronto and joined us for the Q&A, which was actually quite good, despite some translation challenges. We talked about it all the way home, as well as laying in bed. I woke up thinking about it. Clearly the class of our TIFF18 field.
Cover image from tiff.net