TIFF 2012: Second Report From the MFF Programming Team

Athina Rachel Tsangari, producer of DOGTOOTH (MFF 2010) and director of ATTENBERG (MFF 2012), presents her new short film THE CAPSULE.

Each Toronto International Film Festival offers not just a vast number of titles, but such a staggering variety in tone, genre, budget, and country of origin, that it’s very possible for each audience member to have a strikingly different experience. While MFF’s programming team will have covered approximately 80-100 different new feature films when all’s said and done, that number represents about one third of everything offered at TIFF; it would be literally impossible for any one festival-goer to see more than a sixth of the films screening at TIFF.

As the festival reaches its midpoint, a lot of the audience buzz surrounds high-profile forthcoming films such as the era-hopping, literature-rooted epic CLOUD ATLAS and Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER. Our interest in TIFF is a bit different.

While we certainly take in some films whose release schedule is imminent and known (see AMOUR, below), our primary concern is smaller films from less established international voices whose films may not yet have a U.S. distributor, yet alone a release plan. These are the films that are most likely to hit us with a genuine sense of discovery. Pragmatically speaking, these are also films that may still be fresh and emerging in the marketplace come Maryland Film Festival 2013.

To put it another way, for every Haneke or Winterbottom on our TIFF itinerary, we dive in with two or three tickets that are unknown quantities, eager for that next discovery—and as eager as the rest of you to catch THE MASTER in 70mm when we get back to Baltimore.

Here are a few more films that have stood out to our programmers as TIFF 2012 passes its midpoint:

(Center) Director Michael Haneke answers a question during the Q&A for his exceptional film, AMOUR.

AMOUR — Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the latest from Michael Haneke (Funny Games, The White Ribbon) is an elegant, heart-wrenching account of an elderly couple living out their final days in their Paris apartment. Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist, Three Colors: Red) and Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima, Mon Amour) give stunning performances, accompanied by an excellent-as-ever Isabelle Huppert as their increasingly concerned daughter. Haneke’s films are never easy to watch, and despite the relatively restrained subject matter this one is no exception—but if you’re ready for a tough film with a gentle core, AMOUR should not be missed. All indicators are this will (deservedly) be one of the big foreign films of the forthcoming season.  Close MFF followers, BTW, may notice many narrative and thematic similarities to a small, excellent Icelandic film we screened within MFF 2012, Rúnar Rúnarsson‘s VOLCANO.

WATCHTOWER — This Turkish drama boasts a unique setting, as a loner eager to escape his past takes a position as a watchman in a mountainous wooded area, his only contact with the outside world is the CB radio on which he’s to report any fires or other disturbances. Down the mountain, a young woman works as a rest-stop cook, harboring a very personal secret. Pelin Esmer has endowed her characters with rich back-stories and multifaceted personalities slowly unveiled, delivering just the kind of international gem that one might never come across without festivals like TIFF.

3 (aka TRES)—Pablo Stoll Ward also delivers such a gem with this rich character drama from Uruguay by way of Mike Leigh. A soccer-crazed dentist attempts to reconnect with his estranged ex through their mutual care of their teenaged daughter – a smart, hip teenager who’s becoming a bit of a wild child—but his ex may have moved on.  It’s a small epic, if you will, made up of dozens of little moments that feel incredibly large and real.

SPRING BREAKERS — As with all his prior work, the latest from young provocateur Harmony Korine (writer of KIDS and director of love-em-or-hate-em titles such as GUMMO and TRASH HUMPERS) isn’t for everyone. And even if he’s seemingly working with more polish and some name actors here, he’s still pushing buttons that some will find irritating, obnoxious, and/or offensive. But we generally enjoy having those buttons pushed, and found a lot to love here. This film has an unforgettable performance from James Franco as a particularly perverse Florida drug dealer, and Korine’s film would pair well with Herzog’s equally lurid, over-the-top, and self-satirizing Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

Left – Director Michael Winterbottom presents his film EVERYDAY at TIFF 2012.

EVERYDAY – Prolific British director Michael Winterbottom‘s impressive new drama chronicles a young family’s struggles during a five-year period in which the father is sentenced to prison. The film was itself shot over a five-year period to allow the actors (particularly the adolescents) to age naturally and in time with the story, while becoming closer on and off screen. This technique ultimately lends a greater sense of realism to the work, resulting in a deeply moving film.

ALL THAT MATTERS IS PAST – (L to R) Director Sara Johnsen, Actor Kristoffer Joner, and Cinematographer John Andreas Andersen.

ALL THAT MATTERS IS PAST – A tense psychological thriller/dark family drama from one of Norway’s most celebrated young filmmakers, Sara Johnsen, that explores a lifelong jealousy between two brothers over a girl who has remained the object of their affection since childhood.

Stay tuned here and on the MFF Twitter, as our programmers continue to report back from TIFF ’12!

MFF Programming Director Eric Allen Hatch and Programming Administrator Scott Braid


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