33rd International Toronto Film Festival (Sept. 4-13)
A Window to the World
by Ferry Shafaghi
Every year, September in Toronto brings with it a thrilling sense of anticipation for another ten amazing days which imbue the whole city with a wonderful atmosphere. There is also an overwhelming list of films and the intricate task of selecting your favorites. There are galas and stars and flashes of photographers and the Oscar buzz, but there is also the rare opportunity to see films from different parts of the globe, which otherwise, we would never get the chance to see. This prestigious and well-organized festival has always been a showcase of remarkable films from all over the world. This year, out of 4,209 submissions, 249 features and 63 shorts from 64 countries were admitted to the festival. How many films do you suppose someone would be able to see per day? I would have been pleased if could manage to see four films per day without hurting my eyes! Obviously, the times where you leave the theater in the middle of the film, likely due to ridiculous stories, phony characters, or screens awash with blood, don’t count!
Poems of solitude
There were some memorable films which dealt with people’s loneliness and despair and somehow reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s or Kiarostami’s films. Countless friends and relatives tell me that they have a hard time sitting through such films simply because of their depressing nature. Personally, it does not matter to me how sorrowful a film is as long as it is artistically impressive. The pleasure I get from aesthetic experience surpasses the darkness of the film and surprisingly it leaves a positive impact on me.
In the Argentinean film Liverpool, directed by Lisandro Alonso, Farrel works in a freighter and is always on the sea. When they travel to a city located in the most southern part of Argentina, he gets permission of his captain to go ashore. After being away for 20 years, he wants to go to his birthplace to find out whether his mother is still alive. He is a lonesome man whose only companion is a bottle of vodka. He goes to his cold and bleak village where people still seem to lead a primitive life. His mother is still alive but she can barely recognize him. There is a young girl in their house taking care of his mother and it appears that, by developing a relationship with her, she might bring some kind of affection into his otherwise dull life. Nonetheless, for a man like Farrel, who has detached himself from the world around him, this is not a possibility. The opening scene is a brilliant cinematic introduction of his personality. Two workers are playing video games on the freighter, but he is sitting at a corner in the dark, drinking on his own. The cold and depressing atmosphere of this remote village beautifully demonstrates the state of the characters. At the end, before he goes back to the vessel to depart, he gives a metal key chain to the girl with the word Liverpool on it, a place which is a world apart from her surroundings. Liverpool is a very simple and impressive film which realistically illustrates the empty life of a miserable man who has sunken into solitude.
Goodbye Solo which is reminiscent of Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry is a remarkable achievement from young American-born Iranian director, Ramin Bahrani. This resemblance, by the way, does not diminish, even slightly, the merit of this memorable film. Solo, a talkative and friendly Senegalese cab driver in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, forces himself into the life of William to change his decision to end his life. With beautiful photography, convincing characters and impressive dialogue, this little indie film engages us in a deeply poignant scheme. The old stubborn man who is somehow dragged into this cab driver’s tumultuous life sometimes delights us by showing little signs of interest in life. Solo has problems with his wife because of his ambition to become a flight attendant and in the midst of his emotional involvement with William he has to prepare for his big flight attendant test too. We are faced with a fascinating guessing game to find out whether he will finally go ahead and execute his plan or if Solo will succeed to stop him. Another significant question is, why Solo, who at that crucial moment at the end has the chance to stop the old man, acts completely against what he was set to do since he found out about his intention? Could it be the result of his new perspective to life because of his shattered dream of becoming a flight attendant?
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