King Street almost feels like it did a few years ago as the Toronto International Film Festival returned this week for a fest that’s packed with everything that made it one of my favourite places every September.
Screenings, parties, red carpets, and Festival Street have all returned in a big way, and the subtle changes TIFF has made even improved a lot of things.
Every festival event is happening within a few blocks of TIFF Bell Lightbox this year, making it a lot easier to get around from event to event. The red carpets at both Roy Thomson Hall and the Visa Screening Room at Princess of Wales Theatre have both been improved and expanded to look bigger and better than ever. And the festival feels like it’s running hot again.
I started TIFF this year with screenings of Moonage Daydream, The Woman King, a Wendell & Wild presentation with Netflix and director Henry Selick, and watching some early screeners of films.
My big news this TIFF though was sitting down with The Woman King star John Boyega to talk about his role as King Ghezo alongside iconic star Viola Davis. It’s one of the best interviews that I’ve had this year, and I’m thrilled that I had the time with him before the chaos of TIFF even started.
The best part was that he was so into the role, and working alongside Davis, who he said really set the tone for the whole film.
The first two days of TIFF have also been pretty full. I was at NBP’s No Vacancy Lounge for a little refresh that included drinks, chocolates, and a couple of goodies to take home, and I explored Festival Street to check out some of the activations and everything happening there.
Last night I also went to Peroni Nastro Azzurro’s TIFF Party at the Festival Village, and I had a chance to meet up with some friends that I haven’t seen in months, or years, over a few drinks. What I love about the space is that it’s right beside the main festival red carpet, giving it the whole “village” feel, and like a party within a party right beside Festival Street.
Beyond everything else, I saw the opening night documentary film, Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues. Director Sacha Jenkins’ documentary on the legendary Louis Armstrong is a moving, smart, and funny tribute to the king of jazz. It digs deep into his life, and more importantly, gives a window into his soul through recordings he made at home chronicling his private thoughts. The documentary is mostly told through his own voice from those recordings, and through letters read by rapper Nas, and it reveals a man who discovered that his positivity, and his horn and music, could make a difference in America when racism affected him everywhere he went.
The film is also a deep dive into his vision and genius, and what made his music so important to the history of music today. So far the film stands apart as one of the best I’ve seen so far.
Today I was at the TIFF Dialogues Primetime Panel to hear creators Bruce Miller from The Handmaid’s Tale, and Mickey Down and Konrad Kay from HBO’s Industry talk about the work of being showrunners, and what it takes to make a hit show. It was a fun and lively discussion, and I love how the three creators broke down the work they do, and how they have adapted over the years.
(The only thing missing from the conversation was another showrunner. Next time I’d have to recommend Emily Andras, Michelle Lovretta, Kerry Ehrin, or Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, as just a few ideas, particularly for genre hitmakers.)
After that, I also sat down with Down and Kay to talk about their work on the series, and how season 2 of Insiders gave them the opportunity to top their work in the first season.
My other two interviews for the day were Driving Madeleine, with director Christian Carion and actor Dany Boon, and Canadian film Riceboy Sleeps, with writer and director, Anthony Shim, plus stars Choi Seung-yoon, and Ethan Hwang.
Driving Madeleine just got scooped up at the festival by Cohen Media Group and it’s a beautiful story with Boon giving a charming performance alongside French icon Line Renaud. It’s a story about a woman, played by Renaud, delving into her past on a taxi drive around Paris with Boon as an impatient (at least at first) driver while she prepares to go into a care home.
Riceboy Sleeps is an evocative drama about a mother raising her son in Canada, struggling with their connection to their home in South Korea, as well as a difficult past. Set in the 1990s, the story is so touching, and as they said to me in the interview, it’s really an immigrant story, and a story on motherhood. I’m also a big fan of the tone and texture, thanks to the fact that it was shot on 16mm film.
Tomorrow I have a full day that’s going to be a real highlight from TIFF, and the next few days are all pretty full with screenings above all else. I’ll have more updates soon, and watch for capsule film reviews, some full film reviews, and interviews.
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