TIFF 2019 Blog: Blood Quantum, Sea Fever, Hustlers, The Vast of Night & Festival Street

by W. Andrew Powell

Happy day three of TIFF! The first two days of the festival have been fun, eclectic, and still a little chaotic as I try to sort out a schedule that keeps changing.

If TIFF is at all consistent in any way though, it’s the fact that I almost always start my festival experience with a Canadian film interview, and this year it was for the bloody, intelligent, and significant Midnight Madness opening film, Blood Quantum.

The film is the work of director Jeff Barnaby, who released Rhymes For Young Ghouls in 2013. When I interviewed him then, he actually spoke about working on an idea for a zombie movie, so the film has been in the works for some time, but the result is truly unique. Blood Quantum is also the biggest budget Indigenous-directed film in North America with an all-Indigenous cast.

Actors Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, and Forrest Goodluck were in town to talk about the film, and they got in depth about the script, and working with Barnaby, and how he pushed them to make the best film possible.

I’ll have a clip from that interview up soon, and you’ll have to wait for the rest when the film gets a release date.

After that, I screened Neasa Hardiman’s drama/thriller hybrid, Sea Fever starring newcomer Hermione Corfield, with Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen. The film charmed me from the start, with some of the richest characters I’ve seen on screen outside of a film I can’t review until tonight, and it’s intense at times, powerful, moving, and fun as well.

There are very few films like it, with so much passion, and characters that feel like you actually know them by the end.

Friday I stepped away from TIFF for the morning for time on the Cayuga race track with Ford. I’ll save that story for another post, but it was a great diversion from TIFF for a little while.

When I got back to town, I met with Hardiman and the stars of Sea Fever, and we spent 20 minutes talking about the film and production. I wish we had 30 minutes or more, to be honest, as they had such great stories to tell, and came across as people who really bonded over the film, but I was thrilled to have as much time as I did.

Scott also talked to me off-camera about working on the new Batwoman series, which premieres October 6 on The CW, and Showcase in Canada, and I just wish I had found time to chat with him about that project too.

The annual tradition: posing with the TIFF sign on Festival Street

Heading over to Festival Street, I went to Elevation Pictures’ TIFF space and spoke to Hustlers director Lorene Scafaria, and star Constance Wu for a fantastic discussion.

Wu and Scafaria had so much to say about the film, working with Jennifer Lopez, and how women in film are taking narratives in new directions that are trying to forget old, toxic conventions that we’ve seen for decades.

Today, I screened The Vast of Night, which premieres at Midnight Madness tonight and I absolutely loved it. The film is a beautifully minimalist mystery that pays homage to Twilight Zone with hints of Cold War-era radio plays. What I loved is the long, patient character studies, the deft way it handles conversations, and the incredibly long takes.

The film requires some patience from the audience too, but it’s like nothing I’ve seen in a while. A few moments could have been more impactful, but I could have watched Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz, the two stars, for ages.

Next, I’m off to see Synchronic for an interview tomorrow, and then OLG offered me tickets to see the premiere of A Beautiful Day In The Neaighbourhood. I’m also catching actor-turned-director Halina Reijn’s Instinct tonight, starring Carice van Houten.

Oh, and the last thing? Yesterday on King Street, there was one installation that put a smile on my face, and it was maybe the best thing on Festival Street. Two guys were playing giant chess, and a group of onlookers were watching, and even offering a few suggestions to the one man who was losing. Loved every moment of this.

Stay tuned Monday for more!

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