Confessions of a 2012Toronto TIFF virgin


I must confess that attending the GTIFF screenings has been as enriching an viewing live theatre. I have always placed cinema as the “poor cousin” of theatre. However, entering the various TIFF venues, listening to the directors explain the purpose of their films, watching the films, and the discussions that follow are as exciting as a live stage performance. In some instances, the actors appeared after the film has ended, and the question and answer sessions are particularly meaningful. I like the theatres in the Bell Lightbox the best as the spaces are intimate and the line-ups to enter them are far less than at the larger venues.

Below are the first three films that I have had the good fortune to attend, all of them world premiers, with the directors anxious to discover how their work will be received.

The film “Zaytoun”

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Film’s director : Eran Riklis                             The cast of Zaytoun

Zaytoun is a heart-warming story of an Israeli fighter pilot who bails out of his plane over Lebanon. He is captured and imprisoned by the Palestinians. Among his captors is a young Palestinian boy, whose mother is dead and whose father is killed shortly after the Israeli pilot is captured. The boy has a burning desire to take a small olive tree that his father had brought from their ancestral village, and plant it in the garden of the family home. However, the village is now in Israel, and to accomplish the task he must make a deal with the pilot, whom he hates, since he has been taught that Israelis are the enemy of his people. The pilot agrees to take the boy back to his ancestral village in exchange for the boy helping him to escape to the Israeli border. The scenes of the countryside, especially along the coastal areas, reminds us of the beauty of the land, and sad that it is consumed with such conflict and violence.

The boy, who is angry and resentful, must learn to trust a hated adversary, and the pilot must cope with trusting a boy whom he believes is the product of a terrorist group. Their flight across rough terrain to reach the Israeli border is an amazing story of how sworn enemies can learn to appreciate the other’s viewpoint. Although the events occur in the 1980s during the Lebanese Civil War, the tale is very poignant in today’s world. The word “Zaytoun” means “olive” in Palestinian. This film is a must-see.

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The actor who plays the Palestinian boy (Abdallah El Akal),  and the pilot (Stephen Dorff)

Film: Dreams For Sale

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The script-writer and director (Miwa Niushikawa) and the two stars of the film.

This is the story of a young Japanese couple who earn their living by operating a restaurant in Tokyo. Their restaurant is tragically destroyed by fire. The husband is a master chef, and in the days following the disaster, despite his despair, he comforts a woman who had recently lost her lover. She gives him “consolation” money. The wife of the chef realizes the possibilities of gaining more money to rebuild their restaurant. They plot to bilk a string of lonely women of their funds, always intending to pay the money back.

The film has sub-titles, which creates the effect that the viewer is walking the streets of Tokyo, surrounded by Japanese, with the sub-titles becoming a friendly translator who interprets what you hear. It is a remarkable film, and the excellent photography adds to the realism. There are many scenes involving food, since much of the action takes place in restaurants. The dishes will seem familiar to most Torontonians as they are readily available in our own city.

The desire to fulfill a dream, even if it means selling one’s soul, is a theme that is universal and timeless.


Film: The Last White Knight

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The script writer and director (Paul Saltzman)  Producer: (Patricia Aquino)

The documentary film from the same director and producer as “Prom Night in Mississippi,” is a powerful movie about the racial divide in the southern United States. It reveals the part the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) played in the murders and intimidation exerted against black voters in Mississippi in the 1960s. Paul Saltzman is the star, the director, and the script writer. The producer is Patricia Aquino.

When Saltzman was a young man, while trying to help blacks to register to vote, he was assaulted. These events are shown through graphics. Now, in the present day, Saltzman interviews the man who assaulted him and captures it on film. The man remains a bigot and a member of the KKK, but at times he is able to see glimpses of the other side of the argument. Slowly,as the interview proceeds, the viewer gains access to the deepest feelings of the Mississippian man and Saltzman. The questioning and responses to the opinions the man gives are sensitively handled. It a wonderful film that forces the viewer to think about racism and the evil it spawns.

The producer of the film, Patricia Aquino, also produced “Prom Night in Mississippi.” Her sensitive and creative work adds to the outstanding quality of the cinematic experience. Paulo Saltzman and Patricia Aquino are to be highly congratulated. The superb work in this film helps explain why the documentary genre has become so popular.

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The CNE Air Show is over for another year and the Ex is closed.

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The new Toronto Aquarium at the base of the CN Tower, due to open in simmer – 2013

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Construction at Clarence Square on the east side of Spadina, north of Front Street.

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The northwest corner of Queen and Spadina where a McDonald’s is located.

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The history of the site of the Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Spadina and Dundas Streets.

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The historic home now occupied by Paul Magder Furs

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The 1890s church of St. Margaret’s Anglican on Spadina south of Queen street. The church is now hidden from view by a modern addition across the front of it.

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The iconic Balfour Building at Spadina and Adelaide Streets

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House on Spadina south of Dundas Street – today it is difficult to believe that it was once a prestigious residential building

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The vanished underground men’s washroom from the early nineteenth century, located in the middle of the street at Queen and Spadina.

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The site of the Consumers’ Glass Building at 239-241 Spadina, south of Dundas Street. It is presently under restoration.

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