September 23, 2011

2011 Toronto International Film Festival - Guest Post by Dasha Kotova

The middle of September is a time that’s both exciting and stressful for Toronto film lovers. When the Toronto International Film Festival rolls around, it’s time to brace yourself for tough decisions, long lineups, pushing and shoving, and general crowdedness and confusion in order to get to the films that have captured your interest. Last week, I spent a significant portion of time doing just that. And my schedule was hardly anything compared to some other film reviewer that I know, for whom staying up till 3am during TIFF and then waking up a couple of hours later constitutes business as usual.

Whenever I look up TIFF programs, my brain threatens to explode, because there is so much stuff going on all at the same time. How am I to choose? What’s especially frustrating is the presence of all the films from various countries that might be difficult to find later on. Makes me wish the festival would go on for a more extended period of time, with all the same films, instead of packing it all into a frenzied ten days.

I’ve had a chance to see six films at TIFF this season – Drive, House of Tolerance, Miss Bala, Your Sister’s Sister, Wuthering Heights, and Burning Man. You can find my full reviews at The Toronto Film Scene if you click on the titles. Below are just a few of my overall impressions.

I’m not going to play the “which one did you enjoy the most” game, but I’d just like to say that Drive and Wuthering Heights both really blew my mind because they were both such complete surprises for me. Drive isn’t the sort of genre I usually go for, so, it caught me off guard when I started to get into it so much. “Genre” is probably the wrong word - this film blends a variety of different genres very smoothly. You don’t get the “I’m a film nerd, and these are the references to all my favourite movies” vibe from it (I wish I could say the same for Quentin Tarantino, haha). The story really speaks for itself, and, at the same time, you can see that Nicolas Winding Refn uses such eclectic sources of inspiration.

As for Wuthering Heights, I didn’t know it would be so different. I do enjoy your regular “period dramas”; there’s just a certain feel that most of them have in common, and I don’t think that suits Wuthering Heights at all. Well, if you agree, you’ll be pleased to hear that Andrea Arnold’s adaptation has a completely unique and haunting atmosphere, which, to me, seemed like a better interpretation of such a strange and spooky novel. It’s not at all about the costumes, but rather about the emotion.

I found that House of Tolerance is another film that transcends the trappings of a “historical” setting. It takes quite a serious look at the life of a high-end 19th century Parisian brothel, and goes for the true-to-life feel. Miss Bala also creates a narrative that tries to come across as realistic as possible – this film being about the present-day terror of the drug war in Mexico.

Of all the films I’ve seen at TIFF this year, Your Sister’s Sister was the lightest one – it’s just a warm-hearted and silly indie relationship film that succeeds on the strength of the actors’ performance (them being Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Mark Duplass). While the other movies I caught really took a bite out of me as far as their emotional gravity, I could walk out of this one feeling somewhat carefree.

Burning Man is also comedic, but very darkly so, seeing as it deals with grief and trauma, exploring those subjects by throwing humour at you when you least expect it. You might feel kind of odd for laughing during it, but then you might also recall the way reckless humour helps when difficult situations do arise in real life.

After this whole intensity of TIFF was over, I was happy to take things easy for a few days, and process what I had seen. I don’t get how some of my friends are perfectly content to watch fifteen films during the festival if they can – for me, six was plenty to think over, and I find myself still wanting to walk about them a week later.


  1. Great post, Dasha, thank you. It's funny, when I started reading your post, I immediately thought: "Oh, so Toronto turns into Paris during the Film Festival!" -- except, in Paris, lining up is part of daily life, you know ? ;-)
    Thank you for reviewing these movies for us. I was planning on seeing "Drive" and "Wuthering Heights" so I am definitely going now! ;-)Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. I can't tell you how appreciative I am to receive and read your film reviews at the TIFF. There are several I intend to seek out and view. Thank you, Olga. Thanks for passing on your critiques.

    And I've already made my wish (thanks for the tip.)

  3. Je passe vous dire bonjours et sans faire mon cinéma !

  4. Hello Dasha:
    We love the cinema and find film festivals particularly interesting as they do present one with a wealth of World Cinema that is not the usual fare locally.

    We have been most interested in reading your reviews and shall be certainly following some of these up. Being British, we feel somehow that we should love 'costume dramas' but,we regret to say, that all too often we find them tiresome with very little to say. However, Wuthering Heights, seems to be in a different league and so we are now intrigued to see it for ourselves.

  5. Je suis comme toi, Olga. Et je me régale encore longtemps après un film qui m'a vraiment plu.
    Ah, c'est beau, le cinéma!

  6. I would love to go to TIFF. Sounds like the stress of TIFF is outweighed by the great opportunities to see good writing, art and cinematography.

    I'd love to see Wuthering Heights!

  7. Oh boy that must have been fun to go to a film festival but I have never been to one.
    I find European films so different from American ones.

  8. Johan on *Mukavan-Hauska* kuva...
    Valitettavasti 'tekstisi' jäi lukematta -
    Kuva oli ilmeisen 'tyrmäävä'...!

  9. Have a great weekend ! miss your thoughts and images !

  10. Ok, I'll try to catch up on these films from your Guest Post too. I still have to complete my My-7-Link Post - I'll do tonight and Post it tomorrow - and my own review of the San Sebastian Film Festival films that I've seen this year (10) with some unique jewel to share too! So, this is for everybody - in anticipation - watch out my blog :-)

  11. Wuthering Heights would be the one for me ... and you are right in that it does not fit the period drama image. I will attempt to see this or download it. Thank you for sharing and I am glad that you managed to fit in so much.

    Check out my Ireland posts whilst I am in England. Back mid October.

  12. Great overview! I love Emily Blunt, so I'll be sure to check out that one.

  13. I saw Drive over the weekend and i thought sweet beginning. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't get past the extreme violence in the second half. I really enjoy your makes me want to go see all the other ones!=)

  14. Hello Olga! good success in your International film festival! I am sorry,I am so far away to enjoy your films!Kisses from Greece.

  15. Спасибо за ревью, захотелось посмотреть! :)

  16. Veronique,
    Such a cultural event is definitely a big deal for Toronto, and everybody gets a little overexcited. We're not very used to lines, so, perhaps we are a little spoiled, but then, we're not exactly spoiled when it comes to interesting films.
    I'm glad you enjoyed my reviews, and hope you enjoy Drive and Wuthering Heights!
    - Dasha

    Hi Rick,
    These were Dasha's reviews :) However, we are glad you see you've enjoyed them :)
    - Olga

    Hi Staive,
    Vous ne pouvez imaginer - quoique nous vivre dans un pays bilingue, nous vraiment ratez films français. Ils sont difficiles à trouver. À Moscou, nous avons eu plus de chance de les regarder régulièrement.
    - Olga et Dasha

    Jane and Lance Hattatt,
    I can definitely see your point with costume dramas seeming tiresome sometimes. I tend to enjoy them like candy, but I often can't take them all that seriously. (However, my mom seems to go for them no matter what.)
    I wonder what you'll think of Wuthering Heights.

    Hi Richard,
    Ce sont en fait des critiques de ma fille. Elle en sait plus sur les films que je suis, mais je les apprécie tout autant.

  17. Lydia Kang,
    The stress of TIFF is definitely worth it, but sometimes you have to fight for the opportunity to get to a screening :) I got to see some interesting people from the world of film. For instance, Diego Luna (who has co-produced Miss Bala) came in for a Q & A.
    - Dasha

    Hi A Lady's Life,
    Yes, I agree - I feel that each country with a film industry has a different feel. That's why I love to find films from other countries.
    - Dasha

    Hi Eko,
    Pidän kuvia kuin että:)
    - Olga

    Hi Wong,
    I have also been awaiting your return to the blogosphere. I hope all is well with your health. Looking forward to your future photos.
    - Olga

    David L Macaulay,
    Glad to hear you enjoyed it.
    - Dasha

    Hi Pet,
    I'm starting to read your 7 posts this afternoon. Also, definitely looking forward to your future posts about your adventures :) Hope you're having fun!
    - Olga

  18. Aguja,
    I'm not sure if Wuthering Heights has been officially released yet. Oftentimes, films appear at festivals before their wider release date. When you, you should definitely try to find it; I highly recommend that one :)
    - Dasha

    Talli Roland,
    She really is great; I very much enjoy her work. If you're a fan, then this film is definitely the one to see.
    - Dasha

    T. Becque,
    It was definitely great fun :)
    - Dasha

    Thank you; I'm glad you liked my overview. If you're not a big fan of violence, I would advise you against Miss Bala and House of Tolerance. Hope you enjoy some films!
    - Dasha

    Hi Φανή Παπαγεωργίου, Ζωγράφος,
    Thank you for your visit. We really enjoy the cultural diversity of Toronto, but it's often challenging to find films from countries other than North America. That's where TIFF can help us!
    - Olga and Dasha

    Спасибо! Надеюсь. что вам понравятся эти фильмы.
    - Даша

  19. I'm dying to see Wuthering Heights, I'd love to hear more about it.

  20. Hila,
    I don't think it has been officially released yet; it should be out in November. You should definitely see it!
    - Dasha

  21. Recuerdos del cine de antaño reflejados en una hermosa fotografía infantil. Enhorabuena.