Every year, Toronto hosts one of the top film festivals in the world. If you know where to go, spotting a famous star is not hard. Since the festival usually happens in the first couple of weeks of september and it usually coincides with the back-to-school hype, I never really attended before. This year I decided I had to watch at least a couple of movies. I in fact watched three! I decided to watch only foreign movies, since the North American movies would be easy enough to find in the mainstream movie theatres or at least in movie rentals.
These are the movies I watched:
Barcelona, a map (Barcelona, un mapa) by Ventura Pons – I couldn’t miss a Catalan movie set in Barcelona, could I? Neither could Alan, so off we went to the movie theatre on a Sunday evening. You’ll find a synopsis of the movie on the link above. I really enjoyed the movie. It was psychological and intimate, and the story unfolded a bit at a time. It wasn’t until the end that you understood all that was going on. I like movies like that. But the big treat was to find out, just before the movie started, that the screening I was in was actually the world premiere of the movie and that the producer was there. Ventura Pons himself came to the stage, introduced the movie and after the screening he went back up to answer questions. It was really interesting. Particularly interesting was to witness the care he took in not be construed as a Catalan separatist, despite the fact that his movie starts with Franco’s speech against Catalan nationalism and outlining a program for the “hispanicization” of Catalonia.
Useless (Wu Yong) by Jia Zhang-ke – This was an interesting documentary on consumer society in China that seemed promising but which I didn’t enjoy so much. It starts by showing workers in a clothing factory, then it moves on to the work of a Chinese fashion designer that likes to think outside the box and push boundaries, and it ends with the life of workers in a coal mine in inland China. I don’t think the different parts connected very well. But overall, an interesting glimpse of Chinese life.
And along come tourists (Am Ende kommen Touristen) by Robert Thalheim – Very good. I really enjoyed this one. This one is about Sven, a young German guy who volunteers to do his civil service in Auschwitz. He didn’t really want to go, he had volunteered to work at a youth hostel in Amsterdam instead but couldn’t get in. The camp has now become a major tourist/education attraction and, as such, plays an important economical role for the small Polish town where it is located. It’s a fascinating movie for those of us interested in historical memory and commemoration. When I was in Europe, I felt, at times, the discomfort Sven portrays when faced at the business-like, facile way the past can be commemorated. In the case of the Holocaust, the case is even more difficult for surely the past must be remembered and Thalheim asks as the question: but how is it best to do so?
All in all, it was a good festival. Alan has put his name down to volunteer next year. Should be fun!
PS: Did I mention the uptight guy that sat beside me at the movie theatre last night? I noticed that looked my way every once in a while but thought nothing of it. Until he finally leans over and says “do you think you’ll be finishing that soon?”. He was referring to my small bag of popcorn, which I always get when I go watch a movie (it’s some sort of Pavlovian response that has cinema = popcorn firmly imprinted in my brain). I merelly raised an eyebrow and stiffled a giggle. Come on! This is a movie theatre. Where people are supposed to eat popcorn. If you can’t deal with the noise of people eating the above-mentioned popcorn, clearly a movie theatre is not for you. Honestly, some people are just crazy…