Thursday, September 5, 2013

It all starts in Toronto

The red carpets will roll out with tonight’s world premiere of Bill Condon’s “The Fifth Estate” officially kicking off the 38th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

“The Fifth Estate” is a dramatic thriller and one of several TIFF selections based on real events spawned in the digital world.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate.
As outlined by TIFF the story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of modern time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society – and what are the costs of exposing them?

 “We have a number of films dealing with the idea of living in an information society, what that means now. (In addition to the Fifth Estate), we have a documentary called “The Square,” about the Arab Spring and the Tahrir Square revolution and how much of that was about information – about Facebook and Twitter and YouTube,” said TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey in a report by CBC News. “These things are now part of our lives. People are asking questions about having political change enacted through media, but also how information about us is held through governments, by authorities.”

Fifth Estate is expected to hit Detroit theaters just in time for Oscar contention.

And an Academy Award is possible for any one of the 146 features films making their world premiere in Toronto. “Every best picture winner since 2007 has played at TIFF, from “No Country for Old Men” to last year’s winner “Argo,” which was based on the CIA operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1980. This year the story will return as the Canadian documentary, “Our Man in Tehran.”

Much of the buzz surrounding the heavyweights has to do with exposure to previous film festivals like Cannes and Sundance. Alffonso Cuaron’s space odyssey “Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney; Steve McQueen’s slavery epic “Twelve Years a Slave”; and Jason Reitman’s “Labor Day” to name a few.

Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet and Gattlin Griffith in a still from Labor Day.
“A lot of that (Oscar buzz) does begin in Toronto because our audience here has become known for having a good nose for quality films and finding films like ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ ‘The King’s Speech,’ ‘Argo’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ – even going back to ‘American Beauty’ in 1999,’ ” said Bailey. “I would hope that the attention is never limited to those films that might be in the horse race because there’s a lot more going on here.”

Just ask the cinephiles of last year’s festival who camped out in a line that snaked around a Toronto city block to get tickets for “This Is Not a film.” The clandestine documentary was shot partially on an iPhone and smuggled into France in a cake for a last-minute submission to Cannes. A feature by director Jafar Panahi, it depicts his day-to-day life while under house arrest in his Tehran, Iran, apartment. Panahi, who remains under house arrest while appealing his government’s sentence -- six years in prison and a 20 year ban from filmmaking – has a second film coming to TIFF, “Closed Curtain.” The lines are forming now for that one.

A scene from Closed Curtain.

As for the blockbusters headed for mainstream America this fall, we’ll have to wait and see. Chances are a great deal of them will be seen first in Toronto.

For more coverage of the Sept. 5-15 festival visit The Macomb Daily and The Daily Tribune

-- AP contributed to the report 

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