Though it's become an important event for debuting big-budget Hollywood productions and the attendance of A-list stars, the Toronto International Film Festival is also an essential stop for cineastes focused on foreign, independent, and other more human-scale films.
Meg Hamel, director of the Wisconsin Film Festival, and UW Cinematheque co-programmers Heather Heckman and Karin Kolb are among those attending the festival, the largest in North America, which started last Thursday, Sept. 6, and runs through Saturday. The Toronto festival marks the launch of both the fall movie season and next year's Oscars race; it's also where scouting for Madison's big festival begins in earnest.
Heckman and Kolb have kept busy watching films and meeting festival and film directors. "We're here for two reasons," says Heckman. "For one, we're trying to meet contacts to help us find prints, distributors, and everything having to do with Cinematheque." Their other goal is to help scout films for the Wisconsin Film Festival.
Heckman, a Ph.D. student in the UW-Madison Communication Arts department, doesn't formally work for the WFF, but shares an office with Hamel and hopes to help this year. "It's a tradition that the Cinematheque programmer puts together a handful of films for the festival," she says, "and I expect that I will do the same." Kolb, also a programmer for the UW's film series, is more directly charged with helping program for the festival.
Both have been busy watching the screens in Toronto with an eye towards the Wisconsin festival.
As befits her interest in cinema from Argentina and Germany, Kolb was impressed by the Argentine films XXY and Encarnación, as well as the Turkish/German co-production The Edge of Heaven and the Icelandic/German co-production Jar City. She is also interested in Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, an American documentary directed by John Gianvito that has been described as a loose adaptation of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.
For her part, Heckman has an eye on Le Deuxième Souffle, a remake by Alan Corneau of the 1966 Parisian gangster tale directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. "I love assertive color design," she explains, "and it doesn't get much crazier than this." Heckman is also going to be checking out Secret Sunshine, which she describes as 'an absolutely devastating film from South Korea." She has also seen Eat for This Is My Body by Michelone Kay, the epic '60s-via-The Beatles musical Across the Universe by Julie Taymor, and the Hong Kong mystery The Exodus.
Both Heckman and Kolb were big fans of My Winnipeg, a docu-dream by Guy Maddin about gettting lost in the titular Canadian prairie city. 'We are also both interested in revivalist films," adds Heckman.
As for the possibility of any of these films making their way to the festival, it all depends on what kind of American distribution they get. In fact, some might be seen in Madison much sooner than next spring. "Now that Sundance is in town, I think we may find that the Wisconsin Film Festival will have to draw from films that hit the international market much closer to its April date than ever before," says Heckman. "We'll see."