Attending the Toronto International Film Festival (hereafter referred to as "TIFF") every September is one of the highlights of my year, an essential staple of my movie-going diet. It will be a sad day indeed should I have to leave Toronto at some point in my life (which may be a possibility in the near future.) Even if funds are low; even if school responsibilities pull me away; even if it is tremendously difficult to justify spending $300+ on a week of films, I try and find a way to make it work. True, such an extravagance may seem outrageous to casual film watchers; I've often had to justify my choices to horrified friends and family. But how can one explain it? The rush of surviving on coffee and four films a day? The joy of meeting beloved artistic personalities in person? Watching a film several months - or even a full year - before it receives an official release?
Since 2001, I've participated in some capacity, and the number of screenings have ranged from a couple to over thirty (my record is 32 in 2005, I believe.) This year, I'm "only" taking in about twenty films, and the reasons are two-fold; firstly, prices in general have shot up significantly in the last number of years (to give you an example, single-day or rush tickets will likely put you back $20+; even passes and coupon booklets aren't so wallet-friendly lately.)
The second reason may seem a bit strange, but quite frankly, I don't have it in me to go "full out" this year. In previous seasons with a thirty-film schedule, I've found that despite enjoying myself thoroughly, it takes me a long time to recover. The lack of sleep and physical exertion (running from theatre to theatre is quite a workout) catch up with you, and it's not exactly the best way to start a new semester of classes. Plus, I'll be adjusting to a completely new program with time-consuming practicums, as well as moving homes. Those of you unable to attend a major film festival like Cannes, NY, Venice, Telluride or Toronto are probably yelling, "Stop complaining, Ali! I'd give anything to be that sleep-deprived zombie in your shoes!"... and you do have a point. I don't want to suggest that I'm anything less than thrilled at the thought of attending another year - only that I'm getting a better sense of my limits. Plus, I don't like the thought of feeling obligated to watch a film the whole way through. Or not giving it my undivided attention due to crankiness and university stress - last year, I actually fell asleep during Syndromes and a Century... not because I found the film lacking in any way, only because I was exhausted and spent six hours in class earlier that day.
I was reluctant to post a tentative run-down of my selected films, only because of what happened last year (I posted a list of hopefuls, only to be shut out of half my selections.) This year, I don't think I'll have too much trouble; I'm only watching a couple of popular Oscar bait pictures, and I wouldn't be disappointed if I had to fall back on my alternates. I'm worried that I'm Not There and Margot at the Wedding will fill up quickly, but even then, at least they are guaranteed a release somewhere down the road, right?
I am in box #2 this year; think good thoughts for me, people! In case you don't know how the system works, let me clarify... the advance draw allows people who purchased advance passes and coupon booklets to put forward their primary and secondary selections. Boxes are filled with the customers' envelopes, from 1 to 40-something, depending on the demand (let's say 43.) On Friday at 1pm, the advance draw ends, and the box office staff will draw a number randomly; if the number is 26, then that will be the first box opened. Number 27 will follow, up until 43. Then they will process box 1 up to 25 (the last one); obviously, the people in boxes 15-25 would be unhappy campers. Last year, my ballot was placed in the second-last box processed - needless to say, I was cuh-rushed. (Happily, I was still able to rush several screenings like Volver and The Fountain, so it's not a lost cause - you just have to be willing to stand in line for hours and hours... and hours.)
EDIT: Friday afternoon - box number 66 was selected out of 75 total boxes, according to tiffreviews.com. Looks like I have a good shot!
My one rule this year for picking films was the following - absolutely nothing that opens in September could be considered. Therefore, I had to be strong and ignore Eastern Promises, Lust, Caution (*sob*), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, My Kid Could Paint That and In the Valley of Elah (... if you can't tell I'm kidding about that last one, obviously you don't know me well.) I tried to be a little more adventurous this year and move towards titles I didn't know that much about, although you'll certainly see familiar ones in the mix. And my excuse for Reservation Road? I guess it's the Oscar pundit within emerging, but I love Ruffalo and also want to see what kind of acting quartet category fraud will ensue this year. What am I most excited for? Well, besides the aforementioned Haynes and Baumbach features, I'm really looking forward to seeing my idol in person (read: Mira Nair, who will be presenting several short films on AIDS in India, along with several other prominent directors like Santosh Sivan and Vishal Bharadwaj.)
Most devastated to miss out on (due to timing conflicts): Alexandra (Sokurov), Before the Rains (Sivan), Atonement (Wright), Silent Light (Reygadas), Paranoid Park (Van Sant) and The Savages (Jenkins).
I'll likely find out on Sunday which of my picks went through.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7th
You, the Living (Roy Andersson)
L'Avocat de la terreur (Barbet Schroeder)
California Dreamin' (Endless) (Cristian Nemescu)
The Man from London (Bela Tarr) - I know you hated it Glenn, but... it's Bela Tarr!
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8th
Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy)
Mira Nair Presents: Four Views on AIDS in India (Nair, Sivan, Bharadwaj, Akhtar)
Juno (Jason Reitman)
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10th
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)
Nothing is Private (Alan Ball)
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11th
Just Buried (Chaz Thorne)
A Jihad for Love (Parvez Sharma)
Sleuth (Kenneth Branagh)
Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach)
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12th
It's a Free World (Ken Loach)
Useless (Zhang-Ke Jia)
Corroboree (Ben Hackworth)
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13th
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel)
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14th
Reservation Road (Terry George)
I'm Not There (Todd Haynes)
The Last Lear (Rituparno Ghosh)