Archive for October, 2006

The celluloid weapon: still loaded

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Much of the programming at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was devoted to productions concerned with the ills of society. It reminded me of the title of a book by David Manning White and Richard Averson: The Celluloid Weapon. published in 1972. The authors dealt with social comment in the American film, surprisingly high in retrospect.

With the many technical advantages in cinema, “celluloid” is today a mere metaphor for film, but to me it still has the right ring. And in these times with so many ideologies threatening our freedoms it’s good to find that the weaponry of polemic still thrives in the medium.

Consider this: horror films with environmental or ethical subject matter; films about the consequences of violence against politicians; documentaries on social ills and how to change them, features concerned with complex human relations, satires with living persons as targets.

I saw a total of 26 films, most of which demonstrated a validity for their having been produced, I’m pleased to say, and saw only one that deserved the label “turkey.”

A great Canadian documentary to make us all think

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

At the beginning of Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes, her camera travels the floor of a massive Chinese factory — more than a kilometer in length — as workers at assembly lines labour away prouctivedly. Then the camera freeze frames into a perfectly composed photo, the work of Canadian photogapher Edward Burtynsky, subject of this rivetting feature length documentary.


Burtynsky shows what man has wrought.

Manufactuired Landscapes won the Toronto-City award at this year’s TIFF, and is a timely reminder of world wide changes that all of us must think about. (more…)

Sarah Sarah Polley’s first feature ranks with finest Canadian films

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Away from Her, the eagerly awaited first feature by Sarah Polley is one of those rare films that move you, not to tears but to a higher level of understanding of the nature of love.

Sarah Polley’s career has been literally amazing. First a child actor carrying her chosen profession into teens and adulthood and then writing and directing short films.

Now at age 27, she does herself and Canadian films proud with Away From Her, adapted from an Alice Munro story and directs with the unerring touch of a veteran. (more…)

Volume 6 No. 10, October 2006

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

King turns to Tough Love in a Toronto ’hood

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Dean of Canadian documentarians Allan King who in recent years has brought Dying at Grace and Memory to TIFF screenings now turns his cinema verité camera on he troubled Malvern area of Toronto.


Brian Henry in Tough Love


Bookending History

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

From the fateful year of 1968 to the imagined date of 2007, two films seen at TIFF frame what has become the American Nightmare.

They are Bobby, scheduled for general release in November and Death of an American President which was snapped up for distribution at the festival.

Estevez scores with film about Kennedy killing


Bobby’s star studded cast

In between these bookends of time, the one real, the other imagined, the world has felt the impact of American geopolitics and remains menaced by the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Bobby points clearly to the might-have-been had Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s rise not been stopped short by an assasin’s bullet. (more…)

Even horror becomes socially conscious

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Black Sheep from New Zealand , Severance from the UK and Last Winter, a joint US /Iceland production were three well-made horror films giving comeuppance to, respectively, genetic engineers, arms merchants and environmentally conscienceless oil companies.

The first is a comedic chiller that outdoes all the so-called “scary” movies from Hollywood with its antipodean breeziness. (more…)

Journals keeps us waiting too long

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Three years back, Atanarjuat — the Fast Runner literally blew me away with its powerful story based on a 1,000 year old legend. The Journals of Knud Rasmussen is from another time as the celebrated Danish explorer and two colleagues visit and mingle with the Inuit people in the 1920s. Alas, although worthy in its motive, Journals is no match for its predecessor.

Atanarjuat directors Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn have taken their story line from two of Rasmussen’s journals. Much of the time is devoted to conversations with members of an Inuit clan that take place in igloos and tents. I personally felt these long sequences claustrophobic.


It is only in the second half of the film that its message becomes clear. Forced by hunger to seek the company of others, the clan treks to a remote village where to get food they must give up old beliefs in favour of Christianity. The clan’s chief and his daughter are left to make the decision and the long-awaited moment becomes truly memorable and a grim reminder of all the ill consequences missonary zeal has brought to native peoples the world over.

End note

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

With still several reviews to go, I feel that to preserve my pledge to publish on the first of every month, I must now terminate this issue, due to computer problems experienced over the past few days, and carry the remainder in he next issue. Expect news of some good ones and that lone turkey
Ben Viccari

The Last Word

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Permit me to be personal. This is about cinema — and me — and why I take such delight in attending festivals like TIFF.

The first film I remember seeing was outdoors during the September festival of Saints Cosma and Damiano in a southern Italian village of the same name.

I was four years old and on a visit to my father’s birthplace. All I remember of the silent film, projected onto a vast white screen was seeing a carnival in full swing. A man in full evening dress, wearing a pig’s head from whose mouth an enormous cigar protruded, was in the centre of a throng of revellers. (more…)