Friday, September 28, 2012

Diamonds discovered in the rough at the Toronto International Film Festival

One of the big thrills about covering a film festival is discovering a gem on your own. 

Last year, while on my way to the celebrity ball - that being the premiere of Brad Pitt's film about baseball general manager Billy Beane -- I got tangled up in line for Rush tickets. Not the band Rush, but the rush line for extra tickets. Normally, you'll see 10 or 20 people, but this time there were hundreds standing in a line that went around the corner and down the street. Turns out an Iranian filmmaker, under house arrest for making a film, made a film about being under house arrest. It arrived at TIFF by way of a USB thumb drive smuggled into Canada in a loaf of bread. Like everyone else, I had to see it for myself -- if for no other reason than to pay tribute to the artist's efforts. 

So, I bowed out of the Pitt press conference and went to the screening of "This is not a film." 

It made me laugh and cry. Most of all, it made me appreciate how lucky we are as writers or filmmakers and audiences to choose what we want to create and see.

This year's gem, "Far Out Isn't Enough,"  was discovered by accident thanks to an usher who had no idea what film was showing and nodded to yes to all questions asked. I went to the screening thinking it was something else, and boy was it something. 

Not only is Ungerer's story interesting -- he was the first children's author to make a kids book about creepy things like a snake, was blacklisted in America and his books were banned by libraries for publishing erotica artwork - but fun to watch. Its director Brad Bernstein combines traditional documentary storytelling with original animation including that of Ungerer himself. 

Additional interviews with illustrators such as Maurice Sendak, who says in the documentary there would be no "Where the Wild Things Are" without Ungerer, also make it a gem. 


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