August 3, 2011

THE BIJOU @ TIFF: Festival Titles, Round 2

More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , ,


The Toronto Film Festival has announced its second helping of titles for next month’s worldwide gathering of film professionals and fanatics.  These may be less star-studded than the last group of films announced, but there are still quite a few intriguing titles.  As part of our continuing coverage of the movie awards season that, for all intents and purposes, is about to kick off, we’ll note which titles are potential Awards Bait along the way.

PINA:  Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, among many others) joins his countryman Werner Herzog in the world of 3D documentary.  This one is about choreographer Pina Bausch and her company, with dance numbers filmed in the streets of Wuppertal, Germany.  Wenders’ name makes this picture Awards Bait for Best Documentary if it gets a theatrical release this year.
THIS IS NOT A FILM:  Janar Panahi is an Iranian filmmaker sentenced to 6 years in prison and banned from making films for 20 years because of the political content of his work.  This documentary follows him through a day of his house arrest while awaiting a court decision on the appeal of his conviction.  The combination of film and politics makes this extreme Awards Bait.
ARIRANG:  A film-related documentary of a different kind.  When Korean director Kim Ki-Duk was shooting a suicide scene for his last scripted film, the actress nearly died in real life.  Here he explores how that experience affected him.
COMIC CON EPISODE IV:  A FAN’S HOPE:  Morgan Spurlock at Comic-Con.  What more do you need?
CRAZY HORSE:  Legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s new film is about the equally legendary Paris house of burlesque.  Expect the least exploitative use of film nudity ever.
DARK GIRLS:  Actor/director Bill Duke explores the sure-to-be-controversial topic of skin color among African-Americans.
I’M CAROLYN PARKER:  Aside from his celebrated scripted film career, Jonathan Demme has long been a serious documentarian (his nonfiction films include Stop Making Sense and Cousin Bobby).  Here he tells the story of a civil rights activist and Hurricane Katrina survivor.  Awards Bait alert.
INTO THE ABYSS:   Werner Herzog’s latest documentary explores a triple murder, and includes an interview with the convicted killer, who was scheduled to be executed 8 days after his interview.  Certainly possible Awards Bait.
THE LAST GLADIATOR:  The new film by the prolific Alex Gibney (Client 9 and Casino Jack, among others) should be a hot ticket in Toronto:  it’s about a former Montreal Canadiens hockey player and how he adjusted to life after the NHL.  Gibney is already an Oscar winner, so anything he does is potential Awards Bait.
PAUL WILLIAMS STILL ALIVE:  Remember Paul Williams, co-writer of “Evergreen” (with Barbra Streisand) and “We’ve Only Just Begun,” co-star of the Smokey and the Bandit movies (he was Little Enos), Brian DePalma’s Phantom of the Paradise?  If you were wondering whatever happened to him, this film will tell you.
SARAH PALIN–YOU BETCHA!  Nick Broomfield, never one to shy away from controversy, probes the life of the former Mayor of Wasilla.  I’m going out on a limb and predicting it won’t be a wholly positive portrayal.
THE STORY OF FILM:  AN ODYSSEY:  A 15-hour film (that is not a typo) about innovation in cinema.  Hello, Netflix?
UNDEFEATED:  See the documentary version before the inevitable “inspired by a true story” remake:  the saga of an inner-city Memphis high school football team trying to win the first playoff game in its history.  If it makes the audience cry, it’s Awards Bait.
WHORES’ GLORY:  No, it’s not about the US Congress.  Rather, the story of prostitutes in Mexico, Bangladesh and Thailand.
THE DAY:  Where would midnight movies be without a “post-apocalyptic future”?  This one features Dominic Monaghan and the underrated Shannyn Sossamon.
GOD BLESS AMERICA:  We can’t really make fun of Bobcat Goldthwait as a filmmaker anymore, not after World’s Greatest Dad and Sleeping Dogs Lie.  The auteur’s latest comedy is a charming ditty about a terminally ill man who decides (I’m quoting from the official Festival description) “to off the stupidest, cruellest, and most repellent members of society.”  With a 16-year old accomplice.  In case you were wondering, this is not Awards Bait.  
LIVIDInside was one of the sickest recent horror movies, and directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury are back with a story that involves “a dark secret of unspeakable horror.”  These guys aren’t kidding when they say things like that.
LOVELY MOLLY:  Does “from the director of The Blair Witch Project” mean anything these days?  This is indeed that, one of those horror movies where the troubled heroine isn’t sure whether the terrible things she’s seeing are hallucinations… or real.
SLEEPLESS:  A variation on the recent Point Blank:  a dirty cop’s son is kidnapped, and in order to return the coke he’s stolen to the kidnappers, he has to fight his way through their maze-like nightclub headquarters.
YOU’RE NEXT:  A family besieged by a band of killers; sounds ho-hum, but love that title!
HEADSHOT:  This category typically includes some of the more avant-garde festival titles, to wit:  a cop is shot in the head, and afterwards, he sees everything upside-down.  Presumptive winner of the TIFF “It’s great if you’re high” Award.  (The last winner:  Enter the Void.)
LOVE AND BRUISES:  Chinese director Lou Ye made the acclaimed films Summer Palace and Spring Fever; his new film is set in Paris, and the title seems quite literal:  it’s about a Chinese expatriate in an S&M relationship.
OSLO, AUGUST 31:  The director of Reprise tells the story of a man wandering the city, trying to remake his life.
THE YEAR OF THE TIGER:  One of those feel-bad films you find at festivals:  the protagonist is a convict whose jail collapses in the Chilean earthquake of 2010; he discovers his family has been destroyed by the tsunami, and (from the official description again) “face[s] nature’s cruelty and take[s] his own human existence to the limit.”  Fun!
You might think that’s plenty, but there are more titles still to come before Toronto’s buffet is fully announced–most notably, we don’t yet know what’s in the Masters section of the Festival, which often has some high-profile Awards Bait titles.  Stay tuned…

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."