I have most definitely not "done" the Toronto Film Festival as well as I could, or should, have. I definitely should have prepared more in advance, because then I wouldn't have spent so much time simply trying to figure out what I would and wouldn't be able to make. I've managed to see a hell of a lot, but I haven't always been able to make the complete most of my time. Today, I wound up getting to only three films because after stayng up ridiculously late last night doing some work and writing, I found it impossible to wake-up this morning. When I finally did get going, I had missed the Israeli documentary I had been trying to see virtually the entire time I've been here: Ran Tal's Children of the Sun.
I did get to a trio of films, however, starting with the Indian The Voyeurs from director Buddhadeb Dasgupta and part of Toronto's "Masters" section. Starting with a good premise and reasonably interesting characters, the film devolves into a standard and almost corny "crime drama" involving terrorism and mistaken identity. The point is obviously to critique the police and government, so quick to jump to conclusions even if the evidence isn't truly there. But the film is far more interesting for its first two-thirds when exploring these young characters in Kolkata as they struggle with living, working and gender-interplay, including some very subtle ideas between love and sex, trust and deceit, and the city versus the country. It's quite unfortunate that The Voyeurs doesn't wind-up in as good a place as it begins.
Next came another highlights of the festival for me, Peter Askin's documentary Trumbo, a fascinating exploration of the life and career of Dalton Trumbo, one of the most celebrated blacklisted members of the "Hollywood 10." Askin utilizes a combination of archival footage and recent interviews as well as actor readings of excerpts from many of the writer's letters and works to great effect, painting a portrait of one of the most remarkable writers and artists of the 20th century, not to mention a true hero who never stopped fighting the system that so unfairly tried to throw him away. Here and there, some of the readings go on a bit too long and the film feels a bit more than its 96 minutes, but no matter: Trumbo is an important and, unfortunately, timely documentary that will hopefully have a long life theatrically as well as on TV and video.
Finally, I went to see the Irish film Kings. One of the film's reps announced before the screening that Kings had just been selected as Ireland's submission for Best Foreign Language Film at next year's Oscars. The movie was directed by Tom Collins, who also adapted the script from a play -- and you can tell. It's not a bad movie by any means, but the entire premise, story and character interactions seem like they would work much better -- at least with this script -- in a theatrical setting. Ultimately, the film tries to explore both the strength and fragility of friendship and the meaning of "home" in terms of a place in the world. The film presents six interesting characters, but each is -- as is the case in much theater -- too clear an archetype. These characters share a history and a place, but they are all together in this story so that they can each serve very specific and identifiable purposes with no crossover, leaving virtually no possibility unturned. This isn't necessarily a flaw, but it makes for less interesting viewing. The film is powerful and depressing, and asks some truly interesting questions, but how long any of it will actually sit with me is up for grabs, and if I was a betting man -- which I kind of am -- I wouldn't place too much on it sticking too long.
A full day tomorrow means an attempt to get to sleep now. And in just over 36 hours, I'll be flying home.