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E. Nina Rothe

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From the Headlines: A Procrastinator's Guide to Toronto International Film Fest

Posted: 09/03/2012 8:30 pm

This year's Toronto International Film Festival is the perfect programming blend of independent projects and big studio films, master filmmakers and some recently discovered greats, short films with heft and long movies with a light heart, international gems and homegrown's finest and -- to my heart's delight -- lots of great films from the Middle East. The one great bond these films all seem to share is that they are the types of projects that present a little culture with their entertainment.

Starting on the 6th of September through the 16th, audiences attending TIFF will be privy to 289 features and 83 shorts. They will include new films by beloved auteurs like Abbas Kiarostami, who this times transports us magically to Japan with Like Someone in Love, Michael Haneke with his Palme D'Or Cannes favorite Amour, and Manoel de Oliveira's Gebo and the Shadow. Did you know that the Portuguese master de Oliveira is 103 years old and still making films? I didn't, until a recent trip to the Film Society of Lincoln Center. But I digress.

There is also a great Italian corner, with Bernardo Bertolucci's latest ode to youth jumping first to my mind -- Me and You is Bertolucci's first feature in ten years -- Matteo Garrone's Reality which takes the idea of yearning to be a celebrity to the extreme, Sergio Castellito's Twice Born starring Penelope Cruz, a story reminiscent of Jafar Panahi's yet unmade last film by Leonardo di Costanzo titled The Interval and a wonderfully restored version of the Roberto Rossellini classic Stromboli starring Ingrid Bergman. It was during the shooting of this film that the scandal over the Italian filmmaker's liaison with the Swedish actress first broke and perhaps their romance overshadowed the film's "intensely moving exploration of sainthood and spirituality" in the words of Martin Scorsese.

Of course, no TIFF would be complete without super star power and this year it comes courtesy of Costa-Gavras, with his latest Capital starring Gabriel Byrne, Robert Redford, who directed The Company You Keep -- also starring Shia LaBeouf, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie. At the festival we could also expect Joaquin Phoenix (or can we?) in this year's most anticipated film -- Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master -- Hugh Laurie for Mr. Pip, Gael Garcia Bernal who stars in No and Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes, all starring in Blue Valentine filmmaker Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines. And to round it all up, thinking woman's heartthrob Dustin Hoffman has an early contender to the Oscars in his directorial debut Quartet, starring Maggie Smith.

Alright, so the single ticket sales day has come and gone and you're probably wondering, like me, just how to TIFF? No worries, because possibly more than any other festival in the world, the Toronto International Film Festival is a "rush tickets" deal. In case your selection appears sold-out, know that many seats are released the morning of the screening, and you can try to secure them at box offices around Toronto, through the phone or online. Or you can just show up a while before -- a couple of hours if the film has a huge celebrity line-up -- and watch the world go by while standing on one of the lively, friendly TIFF rush lines. But not all films are worth the wait, so check out the slideshow below for my picks.

Zaytoun
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"JET FIGHTER SHOT DOWN IN LEBANON"

Zaytoun comes last on this year's TIFF program, for obvious alphabetical reasons, but it's an undeniable first on my list. If you're lucky enough to have watched Lemon Tree and The Syrian Bride, by filmmaker Eran Riklis, then you'll understand my excitement. Riklis simply gets it -- what it takes to be human in this chaotic world of ours and the fact that we need to move around in the grey areas of our emotions, our beliefs, not just think in terms of black and white.

Zaytoun, in it's world premiere at TIFF, could be a of road movie of sorts, the story of two unlikely companions who, within the turmoil of civil-war Lebanon, help each other make their way back home. What will always remain perhaps the home of their dreams...

For those of us who believe in the human rights aspect, political power of film, Zaytoun is one project that could at once enlighten and unite. Riklis always dabs his films with a healthy dose of not taking himself too seriously and provides what I crave from my entertainment: Inspiration. And I won't even get into how high up on my list is thinking woman's hunk Stephen Dorff after his performance in Sofia Coppola's Somewhere. Lets just say he certainly picked the perfect project to follow that with.
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