An Overdose of Scheduling

In just over a week, a bevy of Chlotrudis members will cross the northern border and arrive eager to spend the better part of their days in dark movie theatres at the Toronto International Film Festival. As anyone anticipating a trip to the festival knows, the complete schedule was posted yesterday so many of us have been spending a lot of time working on excel spreadsheets tweaking schedules and prioritizing films. It's a massive undertaking with well over 300 films to chose from. Now while my friends Bruce and Beth are well ahead of me with scheduling, I have spent a little time on my own film selection, so I thought I'd share with you in no particular order a handful of films I am excited about and hope to see during the festival.

PING PONG PLAYA' directed by Jessica Yu - With Yu's documentary PROTAGONIST as one of my top docs seen this year, I am very excited to catch her first feature narrative about a young Chinese-American man with dreams of becoming a basketball star. The problems is, he's not very good. Instead he finds himself taking over for his mother to teach ping pong lessons after she is injured in a car accident. Despite his lack of interest in ping pong, our hero finds himself giving his best effort in an important championship game to win the attention of a girl he admires.

THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS directed by Bruce McDonald - TIFF is always flush with new Canadian films, something this movie buff always enjoys, and this year is no exception. Chlotrudis Award winner Ellen Page is featured in a trifecta of features this year, and THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS is the one I am most excited about. Visually experimental, McDonald's latest film tells the story of Tracey, a young social outcast who leaves her small town for the big city in search of her younger brother. Penniless and along, Tracey encounters a series of outsiders while always one step behind her target.

UNE VIELLE MAÎTRESSE directed by Catherine Breillat - I'm always up for a new film by the controversial Catherine Breillat, who received Chlotrudis attention with for her divisive film FAT GIRL. After suffering from a near-fatal stroke, Breillat returns with a movie that while less in-your-face than some of her earlier work, still deals with her perennial topics of women and sex. UNE VIELLE MAÎTRESSE concerns the attempts of sexual libertine Vellini to interrupt the plans of her dissolute young lover, Ryno de Marigny, to marry the virtuous gem of the French aristocracy, Hermangarde.

BRICK LANE directed by Sarah Gavron - On the strength of a single film, the made for British television work, THIS LITTLE LIFE, filmmaker Gavron received a Chlotrudis spotlight. I am very eager to see her first feature narrative based on one of the most celebrated British novels in years, that opened a window on a community that lives in plain sight but is seldom understood by outsiders. Growing up in the idyllic setting of Bangladesh, Nazneen is married off to a man she has never met and flown to London’s Brick Lane neighbourhood to meet her new husband after her mother commits suicide. Nazneen must struggle to find her own autonomy with a man she does not love, but when the attractive young Karim enters the picture, things get complicated.

JUST LIKE HOME directed by Lone Scherfig - Danish filmmaker Scherfig is off to a strong start. She wowed us with her debut narrative, ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS, and proved her talent with her follow-up, WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF. Now with her third film, Scherfig displays her talent for angst-ridden comedy is at its sharpest. A man running naked through the steets of a small Danish town sets off a chain of events that uproot the natural repression and politesse of its inhabitants. As the townsfolk attempt to find a solution to this sudden decay of morals in their community, Scherfig focuses a harsh lens on this insular society’s collective neuroses.

HELP ME EROS directed by Lee Kang Sheng - TIFF is always packed with new films from Asia, and I'm very excited about this Taiwanese entry from Lee Kang Sheng, best known for his leading roles in all of the films of Tsai Ming Liang. In his second directorial effort, Lee shares a personal reflection on Taiwanese society. In this tale of loneliness and dissatisfaction with consumer culture the successful Ah Jie loses all his money on the stock market and turns to pot for comfort. Although he makes a connection with Chyi, a volunteer hotline counsellor, he engages in an easy but unsatisfying sexual relationship with local vendor Shin. Lee explores excess and poverty, both in terms of consumerism and spiritual sustenance.

I'll be back with some more of my selections in the next day or two. I haven't even mentioned any of the terrific-sounding documentaries screening at the festival. I will also return with some tips for TIFF newbies to make sure you don't miss any of the films you want to see!