Girls on Film is a weekly column that tackles anything and everything pertaining to women and cinema. It can be found here every Thursday night, and be sure to follow the Girls on Film Twitter Feed for additional femme-con.
I love TIFF (otherwise known as the Toronto International Film Festival). Sure, my feelings are partially impacted by the great Canadian host city. Though locals are used to Rachel McAdams biking by or David Cronenberg getting some beer, it’s a bit magical to watch the city transform into a Hollywood North with flashing cameras and celebrity passers-by who aren’t Canadian; to walk down the road and see eagerly anticipated titles first, not to mention beautiful foreign films that might never get distribution. Best of all, it’s a great home for female filmmakers.
TIFF isn’t Cannes (which once again invoked ire this year when it failed to include even one female director in the competition for the Palme D’Or). Last year, Toronto’s premiere festival boasted 50 feature films by women – some absolutely breathtaking features that included the likes of Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, and Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister – films that were some of the best of the fest.
This year is even better:
TIFF 2012 boasts 56 feature films from female directors.
Forty-eight of those are directed solely by women, with no male co-credit. This number rises to over 80 once short films and cinematic art is added in. TIFF even includes a “female director” tag on their website for easy searching. Once again, these female filmmakers aren’t merely participating; they’re offering some of the best films of the fest. TIFF is just kicking into gear tonight and Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell is already boasting wildly high praise and Oscar buzz.
What follows are 10 women-directed, must-see films of the fest that span everything from intimate familial journeys to the adoration of an icon. Stay tuned to Movies.com for reviews of many of these films and much more over the coming week.
Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley
A review of this stunning film is on the way, but for now here is the official, vague synopsis as Stories We Tell is a film best experienced blindly. “Stories We Tell, Polley's maiden voyage into the world of documentary, is at heart a personal essay on the intractable subjects of truth and memory. Using a combination of archival footage, still photos and testimonials in a captivating visual assemblage, Polley examines the disagreements and varying narratives of a single family as they look back on decades-old events.”
*The above trailer only gives the barest of information -- the family/person at the heart of this investigation.
Love Is All You Need, Susanne Bier
Having already grabbed an Oscar for her last film, In a Better World, Susanne Bier has decided to recapture the lighter films of her early days, grabbing oft-star Paprika Steen, Trine Dyrholm and Pierce Brosnan for a romantic comedy. The film focuses on a woman (Dyrholm) who beats cancer, only to find out that her husband is cheating just before the marriage of their daughter. Brosnan plays the new in-law (and potential love interest?), while Steen is a “lustful sister-in-law.”
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mira Nair
Monsoon Wedding filmmaker Mira Nair’s latest work brings Mohsin Hamid’s award-winning book to the big screen. The film focuses on a Pakistani man, Changez, relaying the story of his time in the U.S. as he worked on Wall Street until 9/11. It was then when his “dream soon begins to slip into nightmare: profiled, wrongfully arrested, strip-searched and interrogated, he is transformed from a well-educated, upwardly mobile businessman to a scapegoat and perceived enemy.” Riz Ahmed stars, and the real surprise is Kate Hudson, who takes a break from her sad fluff fare to play Changez’s girlfriend.
Ginger and Rosa, Sally Potter
Sally Potter’s latest sees Elle Fanning and Alice Englert play girls born on the day the bomb fell on Hiroshima. Reminiscent of An Education, the girls like to cut class “to engage in passionate discussions about politics… religion, and hairstyles,” until Englert’s character falls for her friend’s father (Alessandro Nivola) and Fanning’s becomes obsessed with the antinuclear movement. Just to add to the already intriguing pot – Annette Bening and Christina Hendricks also appear.
Hannah Arendt, Margarethe von Trotta
“Do you have a problem with political thought, or is it a particular vendetta against Hannah Arendt?” an angry library patron asks in Party Girl. It’s a silly little reference my inner ‘90s fiend demands I share, but I think it might be the only reference/appearance of the thinker in cinema (save some television programs) until now. Adding to her cinematic collection of dynamic historical women, von Trotta’s latest focuses on the German-Jewish philosopher’s trip to Jerusalem to cover Adolf Eichmann’s trial, and the birth of her idea about the “banality of evil.” The director has weaved real footage from the trial into the film, which should make for an impactful journey.
The Brass Teapot, Ramaa Mosley
A young couple is completely broke until she steals an antique brass teapot and discovers that it produces money whenever the pair feel physical pain. The more they hurt, the more money they receive. But once they’re rich, they’re faced with a huge problem: they need to up the pain to keep up the life. The premise, from first-time director Ramaa Mosley is intriguing enough. Having Juno Temple and Michael Angarano star puts the icing on the cake.
Midnight’s Children, Deepa Mehta
Oscar-nominated Deepa Mehta has teamed with none other than Salman Rushdie for an adaptation of his Booker Prize-winning novel (adapted by the author himself). The film focuses on two children born the moment India claimed its independence from Great Britain (a little like Ginger and Rosa), who were switched at birth – one living in poverty and the other in wealth. From the fest synopsis: “Imbued with mysterious telepathic powers, their lives become strangely intertwined and inextricably linked to their country’s careening journey through the tumultuous 20th century.”
Love, Marilyn, Liz Garbus
One year after Bobby Fischer Against the World, Liz Garbus returns with a new, inventive documentary aiming to reveal a new side of Marilyn Monroe. With a collection of the actress’ personal writing, Garbus brings together a collection of noted talents to enact Monroe’s words – actresses like Ellen Burstyn, Evan Rachel Wood, Viola Davis and even Lindsay Lohan, while actors such as Adrien Brody and David Strathairn play people around the icon.
Inescapable, Rubba Nadda
Cairo Time director Ruba Nadda reteams with charismatic star Alexander Siddig for a political thriller about a Syrian-Canadian businessman who returns to Syria after 30years to hunt for his missing daughter who has disappeared in Damascus. The hunt forces him to rekindle old contacts and skills from his days in the Syrian resistance, as he searches for his daughter with the help of his ex-fiancée (Marisa Tomei) and a Canadian embassy official (Joshua Jackson).
The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Sophie Fiennes
In 2006, Sophie Fiennes (sister of Ralph and Joseph) offered the world Slavoj Žižek’s take on film: The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, which inspired IFC to describe him as “a terrific communicator, popularizer and provocateur as well as an interpretive idea volcano.” Now the pair are back for Žižek’s spin on ideology. Again, he examines movie clips and gives his spin, covering everything from wild avant garde pieces like Brazil to classics like Jaws, and he also pops up in re-created scenes from films like Taxi Driver and The Sound of Music.