The Best of The Review
Counting down our favourite newsletter editions of 2017
Whether you fell in love with Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, or Get Out, 2017 was a year that illustrated the power (and record-breaking box-office possibilities) of new perspectives through the medium of film. The fantastic pieces penned by our 24 Review Newsletter curators this year were no different. We’ve taken the liberty of curating our favourite editions (in chronological order) for your year-end pleasure. From all of us at TIFF, thanks for reading all year long! We’ll see you in 2018 with more compelling cinematic content, delivered straight to your inbox.
JOHNNY MA For his edition, which dropped during TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival, Old Stone filmmaker Johnny Ma paid homage to the three ’90s Chinese films that inspired his 2013 short film Grand Canal. Ma, a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker, wrote eloquently about learning to embrace the gap between the two sides of his heritage: “Finally, I was starting to find my voice that was neither a Canadian nor a Chinese filmmaker's, but something that was in the middle. It was one that felt at last closer to who I am, somewhere ‘in-between’ it all.”
THE TIFF NEXT WAVE COMMITTEE The teenage cineastes behind the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival are some of the smartest and most-woke programmers around. In this wide-ranging Q&A, we asked the 2017 Next Wave crew for their thoughts on representation, social media activism, and what they were watching, listening to, and streaming online. What they gave us was a fascinating roundup of both the dankest memes and the most incisive thoughts about what teenage viewers want from cinema.
JAMES LAXTON The Oscar-nominated cinematographer behind the Best Picture–winning Moonlight detailed how making the film with director Barry Jenkins changed his life: “Moonlight, unlike other films I’ve shot in the past, had a real deep emotional impact on me. My life was changed by making this film, not just because of its success, but because of my experience of working in those neighbourhoods, meeting people from these communities. I have a different understanding and perspective of how I see the world. I know that sounds like a lofty idea, but that’s the truth.”
CANADIAN FEMALE FILMMAKERS TELL US EXACTLY HOW TO HELP WOMEN IN FILM The question “What can Straight White Guys do to help women in film?” is not exactly an easy one to answer. We recruited nine female filmmakers (many of whom were nominated at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards), working variously as producers, directors, documentarians, and commercial directors in the Canadian film and television industry, to drop some knowledge. With advice as simple as “don’t take on a job telling a marginalized person’s story when you know that someone else is up for the gig who can tell the story more honestly,” and “call out the b.s. that doesn’t necessarily affect you,” this Do’s and Don’ts of male allyship is an important primer in the heady times after #MeToo.
ALANIS OBOMSAWIN Legendary documentarian Alanis Obomsawin screens her 50th film, Our People Will Be Healed, January 17 and 18 at the Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival, where she is also the subject of an onstage In Conversation With… event. At age 85, she isn’t nearly done telling the stories of her people and fighting for Indigenous rights. In her edition of The Review, Obomsawin takes us through her life in film, which began when she first wanted to build a swimming pool on her reserve in Odanak, Quebec. Says Obomsawin: “If I didn't think making films helps, I wouldn't be working like I do. I really believe in it, and I think people are not informed. For 150 years, people have been told lies about the history of this country.”
ELAN MASTAI Screenwriter Elan Mastai (The F-Word, The Samaritan) released his debut novel All Our Wrong Todays with Penguin Random House this year. The emotional science-fiction romance got him thinking about cinema’s relationship to time travel, and the way rewatching a beloved film can be a chance to revisit your former self. Here’s Mastai on the uncanny experience of watching 2017’s sequel T2: Trainspotting with the same person he watched the original film alongside 20 years earlier: “I kept remembering the original Trainspotting, who we were then versus who we are now. Our bodies in the same pose across 20 years, seated side by side, staring up at the glowing screen. We are also two people who have physically aged over the decades, watching actors who have physically aged over the decades, pretending to be the same people they pretended to be the last time we sat together staring at a glowing screen. T2: Trainspotting is a restless and dynamic movie, but by far, the best special effect is when the film cuts from the contemporary faces of the actors to their youthful avatars, frozen in time with their grins, grimaces, and bony, petulant beauty. We were all bony, petulant beauties once.”
MATTY MATHESON The host of VICELAND’s new series It's Suppertime! curated The Review back in May, where he expressed his love for both comfort food and comfort cinema, including his number-one fave, Forrest Gump: “It was on TV the other day and I literally watched it twice in a row; my wife thought I was insane. I can’t help it. Every time I watch the part where Forrest finds out that he has a son, it breaks my heart.”
12 CANADIAN AUTHORS How many award-winning Canadian authors does it take to curate a Books on Film edition of The Review? Well, we got 12, including Jen Agg, Jesse Brown, Julia Cooper, Durga Chew-Bose, Barbara Gowdy, Scaachi Koul, Stacey May Fowles, Sean Michaels, Heather O’Neill, Naben Ruthnum, Adam Sternbergh, and Zoe Whittall. This edition, in which they shared their memories of summers spent reading on the dock and movie-watching with the AC turned up high, was a favourite with readers.
SARAH KOLASKY Toronto actor Sarah Kolasky was tired of not getting to play complex female protagonists, so she produced and co-wrote her own damn movie with her best friend Adam Garnet Jones. In this personal essay, Kolasky details the difficult process of getting her independent dramedy Great Great Great off the ground, and questions the industry’s tendency to criticize female protagonists for being “unlikeable.” Writes Kolasky: “Ultimately, as a woman in Canadian film, I am writing and producing out of necessity: I will create the roles I want until I see them everywhere.”
DEEPA MEHTA In an edition of The Review as passionate and epic as, well, a Deepa Mehta film, the director shares the story of her life in film, from her early memories growing up in India as the child of a theatre distributor to eventually becoming an Academy Award–nominated director (for her 2007 film Water). That journey from childhood to awards season wasn’t easy, as Mehta faced everything from sexist remarks from her crew to death threats from factions in the Indian public. Her powerful story offers many words to live by, including this closing passage: “As my dad rather cryptically suggested many moons ago, we never know when we will die, and we will never know how a film will fare. So why compromise on either? Live life on your own terms. Make films on your own terms too.”
LINA RODRIGUEZ A Colombian who moved to Toronto to study film at York University, Lina Rodriguez continues to make films in her home country while feeling caught between two cultures. Writing on the making of her second feature Mañana a esta hora (This Time Tomorrow, which was filmed in Bogotá with a small crew and a cast who felt more like family), Rodriguez explains why filmmaking for her is an attempt to capture “the romanticism of togetherness in the fleeting present,” as well as a process of constant discovery.
PASCALE DREVILLON Montreal actor Pascale Drevillon received a special acknowledgement at the TIFF ’17 awards ceremony for her beautiful, vulnerable performance in Marc-Antoine Lemire’s Pre-Drink, winner of the Best Canadian Short Film at the Festival. But her road to success wasn’t exactly easy. In an incredibly honest and stunningly-written personal essay, Drevillon chronicles how the making of the film allowed her to better understand her own transition as well as the need for trans actors to see themselves on screen. Writes Drevillon: “Trans roles and trans actors have slowly made their way into the mainstream, but it isn’t enough to just remind the audience we exist. While some trans and other gender-nonconforming people may be happy to finally have a seat at the table and be part of the discussion, we need to be able to tell our own stories. No one is ever just one thing.”
NELSON GEORGE TIFF’s Black Star programme celebrated 100 years of Black excellence on screen. Here, cultural critic, journalist, and movie producer (Top Five, She’s Gotta Have It) Nelson George pens a loving ode to the five movie stars and Black cultural icons who shaped his life: Sidney Poitier, Sheila Frazier, Laurence Fishburne, Halle Berry, and Queen Latifah.
COMPOSERS ALDO SHLLAKU, AMELIA WARNER, AND DAVE PORTER The composers behind the TIFF ’17 titles Downrange, Mary Shelley, and The Disaster Artist divulged the secrets of their often mysterious and intimidating art form. While talking candidly about the art and craft of their profession (as well as how the theme song for Breaking Bad got made), all three ultimately agree that a perfect Hollywood score comes down to something you can feel in your tummy.
PAUL SCHEER Comedian Paul Scheer is obsessed with bad movies — so much so that his beloved, long-running podcast How Did This Get Made? analyzes the worst movies ever created on a weekly basis. For TIFF, he explains why bad films make for great parties and how The Disaster Artist (which portrays the real-life story behind Tommy Wiseau’s The Room) is like a “more realistic La La Land.” For good measure, Scheer caps it off with a list of dialogue that will let any aspiring screenwriter know they’re on the wrong track. Please delete “Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo” from your spec script immediately.
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“He shit his heart out… literally.” Sorry, but I gotta disagree. If this line is in a film, you just know it's going to be good — actually, it might just be f'ing hilarious! — Thomas Jenkins