Film Scouts Diaries

2016 Toronto International Film Festival (41st Edition) Diaries
Films I Saw at TIFF 2016 - C-I

by Henri Béhar

Christine, directed by Antonio Campos (USA, Special Presentations)

Based on the true story of a local TV journalist who blew her brains out live on the air, and what lead her to it. Perhaps not the most likeable of characters, but Rebecca Hall's uncompromising performance is haunting.

Fire At Sea, directed by Gianfranco Rosi (Italy/France, Masters)

"Lampedusa" (that tiny island South of Sicily), "refugee crisis", "migrants" that arrive (when they do) by boatloads - they are all constantly there in the headlines of your favourite daily. Yet this documentary is far from investigative journalism. Quite the opposite, actually: it is the non-judgmental observation of events as they occur, both on the locals' side and on the migrants' sides. Quietly devastating.

Fixer, The, directed by Adrian Sitaru (Romania/France, Contemporary World Cinema)

A "small" film (but huge cautionary moral tale) that follows a Romanian translator and problem-solver working as a trainee for a high-profile French news network. When two local teenage prostitutes are kidnapped to France and one manages to escape and return, the French "top" field journalists rush to cover the story -- perhaps the fixer's big break? Intelligently written, this film is shot in that simple, fluid, almost minimalistic style that has come to characterize the Romanian "new wave". Different country, but there is something there of the Dardenne brothers.

Frantz, directed by François Ozon (France / Germany, Special Presentations)

Subtly written, discretely directed and elegantly shot (mostly in black and white), Ozon's post-World War 1 tale of love, remembrance, guilt and grief was inspired by an almost-unknown film directed by - are you ready for this? - Ernst Lubitsch.

I Am Not Madame Bovary, directed by Feng Xiaogang (China, Special Presentations)

A socio-political comedy from, yes, China. But so well written, directed and acted it makes its point in a delightfully, gleefully mischievous fashion as an angry, but determined woman wages a decade-long battle all the way to (the equivalent of) China's Supreme Court to obtain a divorce on her own, and very specific, terms. Satirized in the process: Chinese über-bureaucracy and men's fear of women, particularly when they are that single minded. This film got the top prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

I Am Not Your Negro, directed by Raoul Peck (USA/France/Belgium/Switzerland, TIFF Docs)

An essay on race based on James Baldwin's final - and unfinished - work in which, by examining the lives and deaths of his friends Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and (perhaps lesser kown) Medgar Evers, Baldwin aimed to bridge the gap between - at least to reflect on - the history of race in America and its future. In this brilliantly edited opus, sliding seamlessly from past to, ahem, more recent events, by using only the author's words (spoken by Samuel L. Jackson at his most...dare we say "demure"?), Haitian-born Raoul Peck may have, if not perhaps completed Baldwin's book, at the very least furthered his mission.

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