1996 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Toronto, Thursday, September 5
The ritual begins. Credentials, catalogue, sit down, try to map out your
schedule. So many films (between 300 and 400), so little time. And so many
sections: the Hollywood type (the "Galas", black tie and sequins),
the Canadian (Perspective), the Far-Flung (Planet Africa, Focus on Vietnamese
cinema), the Bonkers (Midnight Madness)
Add to that: press screenings that start at 8 am and may end around midnight,
and press conferences, and interviews you might want to schedule, and parties
to go to (or at least get invited to - *major* difference), and where is
the Hospitality Suite, and will the Bistro 990 get a waiver from the liquor
laws and stay open till 4 am, if not where will the Watering Hole of Choice
be, and where is everybody and why are they all running around like headless
chickens - and you know in twenty-four hours, you'll be doing the same,
juggling between the glitz, the artsy, the exotic, the crazy.
What is not press-screened you have to get a ticket for. Good luck. Most
shows were sold out months ago, save a couple of "rush" seats,
coupla rows for last-minutes vip's. Good luck again.
Opening-Night Gala movie is Carroll Ballard's "Fly Away Home".
Canadian in setting (and part of content), Californian in style. Based on
the true story of Bill Lishman, an eccentric yet ingenious Ontarian who
"helped" geese relearn, come winter, the ancestral migratory paths
to the South.
The film, too, goes south. What was intriguing fact has become sentimental
fiction a la salsa Hollywood. For some reason or other, we're now dealing
with Jeff Daniels (as the fictitious Lishman), whose (estranged?) wife dies
in New-Zealand, and therefore he has to now take care of their daughter,
"Piano" child star Anna Paquin (I guess that takes care of Paquin's
N-Z accent). And so, see, much like the motherless baby-geese she chances
upon, the motherless child will have to find her sense of direction. Did
it really take a whole committee and a series of story meetings to come
up with that parallel? And to throw in a love interest (Dana Delany) and
a couple of ugly developers... I haven't had such an overdose of feel-good
since The Flying Nun.
The saving grace - for there is one - is Carroll Ballard's lyricism
about Mother Nature (remember "The Black Stallion" and "Never
Cry Wolf"). When the geese take off, the film soars.
Opening-Night party is, well, opening night-ish. A lot of black ties, a
few leather jackets. Professional networkers work the rooms in circles,
trade business cards.
Then off to Bistro 990, on Bay Avenue, where you undo your bow tie, take
off your tux jacket and let it all hang out. At 3 am, the place is still
booming. No way everybody will be gone by 4.
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