IIFF 2009: From Canada with love

October 1, 2009 at 8:15 am (Festivals, IIFF, Movies, Reviews)

It’s Wednesday here at IIFF, and for the first time, it rains and it’s really cold. Not a good weather to walk around downtown from theater to theater. Luckily, being part of the staff, I also get to be driven around in the official festival cars, so going to Victoria in the morning to write a bunch of stuff, and then hurrying to Glendale for a workshop and the first couple of movies, caused no problems whatsoever. The workshop was about digital cinema, was presented by Tudor Lucaciu and was extremely interesting, a comprehensive study about cinematography, especially about the differences between digital cameras (Red One) and 35 mm film (Kodak).

The first movie of the day was the second dud of the festival. Franklyn is a SF drama that starts with two completely parallel worlds, that eventually (obviously) end up being connected: the present, and a weird lovecraftian version of a different universe. But the plot takes a lot of time to kick off, so for more than an hour we get to see some under-developed and uninteresting characters from the present, walking around in a mess of a story with no hook for the audience and a lot of boring scenes, and also the parallel universe that, despite also being extremely boring, at least looks very good. By the time the worlds begin connecting, and you realize there is something behind the story after all, you’re already too pissed off to care.

A few crispy strips later, another movie in competition kicked off. Battle in Seattle is a story based on true events about some activists protesting the WTO (World Trade Organization), and the riots that started after a peaceful demonstration turned violent. Despite the interesting subject, the movie is completely devoid of soul, probably because there are too many main characters and all of them are completely underdeveloped. The movie stumbles from one scene to another, and, despite some good moments, the too many protests become tiring. It would have been more useful to cut some of these scenes, in favor of some character development, especially when it comes to the activists. The plot concerning the characters played by Woody Harrelson and Charlize Theron is however very good, and contains a couple of the few memorable scenes of the movie. Still, Battle in Seattle misses on too many levels to be considered a success.

The last film of the day was also the most interesting one. Only is a no-budget Canadian flick, directed by a couple of beginners from Toronto (who flew halfway around the world to be at IIFF for the premiere). It tells the story of a lonely 12 y.o. kid from northern Ontario, who meets a girl, guest at his parents’ motel, and spends a day with her in the snowy forests of Canada. The film has no kind of plot, no climax, no special effects, nothing out of the mundane life in the deserted plains of Ontario – just the two characters, simple, mundane people, that meet each other, and discover each other while walking around in the snow – just like we are discovering them, through simple dialog, observations and gestures. The film makes us feel, and the end is wickedly innocent and also simply perfect.

In this report: Franklyn 4/10, Battle for Seattle 5/10, Only 8/10

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