How the Toronto International Film Festival got deadly serious

Last week, while Hurricane Irma was still devastating the Caribbean on its way to the United States, the Toronto International Film Festival was screening The Florida Project — a movie that illustrates just what can be lost when storms batter the poor.

Writer-director Sean Baker’s film is one of the year’s best: a funny/sad slice-of-life that hunkers down in Orlando with an unemployed single mother and her vivacious troublemaker kid, as they eke out a living in and around a cheap motel run by a benevolent manager (played by a magnificent Willem Dafoe). An inspired mix of Little Rascals hijinks and neorealist art, The Florida Project is clear-eyed about how bad choices (or lack of choices) can condemn some folks to living on the margins.

But the movie’s also funny, lively, empathetic. Yes, it’s a critique of the inadequacies of American consumer culture — tellingly set just outside the Disney resorts. But it also argues emphatically that all kinds of people are worth preserving, even in places that may strike us as tawdry and squalid. And that’s a positive message to hear, at a time when human society always seems on the verge of total collapse.

Is it frivolous to be spending a week watching movies and spotting celebrities, when so much else is going on in the world? The fest-goers I’ve talked to in 2017 — in lines and over meals — have been distracted to some extent by the hubbub outside the festival bubble. But we were all just as anxious one September ago, when TIFF coincided with one of the tenser weeks of the presidential campaign. Last year a lot of us from the States came to Toronto already edgy about the unknowns of the election. This year, we’ve nearly all spent months living in a constant state of emergency — which may be why more TIFF-goers have seemed eager to blow off steam.

No matter what the audiences have had in mind though, the filmmakers came in this year with something to say about the state of the things. In 2016, the big movies everyone rushed to see in Toronto were La La Land and Moonlight, two relatively light or personal films that became surprise Oscar powerhouses. This year, one of the most in-demand entries has been Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, an art-horror exercise that arrived shrouded in secrecy. Finally unveiled, Mother! turned out to be an angry, disturbing film

Source:: The Week – Entertainment

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