Hello NEON Fans,
Thanks for checking out my Day #4.
My first film of the day was SKIN, directed by Guy Nattiv. Here’s the brief TIFF synopsis: “Jamie Bell stars in the true life story of Bryon Widner, a young man raised by skinheads, for whom turning his back on hatred and violence meant undergoing painful and expensive operations to remove the tattoos that signified his terrible past life — a process only possible with the support of a Black activist.” This powerful story is a grim reminder that hate isn’t just something on TV in a far-away rural landscape (or public office)…it lives right next door. With opening shots of a white supremacy group in Columbus, Ohio, the film constantly reminded me that Ohio is home to some of the most hate-fulled groups in the nation…and that’s terrifying. This film is a tense and disturbing look into a cult of white supremacists, and it’s a reminder of how any cult can organize and assemble their followers. They’re looking for the disenfranchised, the lost and angry, or even just the hungry – and they brainwash these people until they become lackeys. The images are horrific, the mind-sets are intolerable, and actions of these groups need to be made more and more public. That’s one reason I think this film is successful…and this story in particular provides a small ray of hope and will hopefully also serve as a call to action.
THE WEDDING GUEST, directed by Michael Winterbottom, was next on my list. “A mysterious British man (Dev Patel) with a hidden agenda travels to Pakistan to attend a wedding, but things take an unexpected and dangerous turn when his plans begin to unravel.” Patel is quite good in this tight little thriller. I know that critical response has been mixed, but I was engaged and often on the edge of my seat for this tight storytelling from the director of more recently well-known films like TRISTAM SHANDY, THE TRIP and THE TRIP TO ITALY.
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING, directed by Tom Donahue, was next on my list. Here’s what TIFF had to say about it: “In this timely follow-up to his documentary Casting By, Tom Donahue explores the insidious and systemic sexism in Hollywood through the voices of marquee celebrities, including Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Sandra Oh, Jessica Chastain, and many other ambassadors of the #TimesUp movement.” This film is a powerful exploration (with data collected by an initiative by Geena Davis) of women’s roles in the film industry…and the lack of representation (as well as the boys’ club mentality that keep them from having a place at the table). There is some very interesting data presented in this film – particularly from the CEO of FX. Ultimately, the film makes us understand that if we bring more women into the filmmaking fold – we’ll get better content as well as a better and stronger self-image for women and girls on a national and global scale. The glaring issue I had with this film was the fact that it was directed by a man. Huh?
The next film was one that I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while. IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK – directed by Barry Jenkins. Here’s the brief TIFF synopsis: “Director Barry Jenkins’ ambitious follow-up to Moonlight adapts James Baldwin’s poignant novel about a woman fighting to free her falsely accused husband from prison before the birth of their child.” This striking film is about love (as well as an unfair judicial system and the black experience in America). The production design is sublime and the performances are incredible. I fell in love with this love story and the strong sense of family.
A friend of mine who works in PR convinced me that I needed to check out CLIMAX, directed by Gasper Noe…so I went to my first midnight screening of the festival. Here’s what TIFF wrote about the film: “Set in 1996 and inspired by real-life events, the latest from art-house agitator Gaspar Noé (Love, Enter the Void) depicts the malevolent madness that envelops a dance troupe’s post-rehearsal party after a punchbowl of sangria is spiked with LSD.” The film opens with a high energy dance performance that elicited a round of applause from the audience…then it went into a series of two-shots where people talked as though being interviewed about various life experiences (this went on way too long)…and eventually the party happened (with the aforementioned spiked sangria). Though I appreciate the craft that goes into creating such an effective nightmare, I absolutely loathed this film. I wanted to leave multiple times, but I also wanted to make sure I could tell you all about it. On my way out, I heard one audience member say, “The thing that really depressed me about it [this film] is that I haven’t tripped balls like that in years.” That response made me think, “I’m happy to be as square as I am.”
Before my last film of the day, I stopped by the Fox Searchlight party – a celebration of their two films in the festival – CAN YOU EVERY FORGIVE ME? and THE OLD MAN & THE GUN. I met a handful of folks in the industry, caught up with a couple old friends and was within arm’s reach of Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek. It was a fun little respite (with great appetizers and delicious cocktails), and I always appreciate being invited.
Thanks for reading! 18 films in 4 days. Let’s see what the next days hold…I’m trending to set a personal record.