38th Toronto International Film Festival opens Sept. 5

By Alicia Sealey



The 38th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) rolls into town from Thursday, Sept. 5th to Sunday, Sept. 15th, 2013. Showcasing 366 films (short and/or long in duration), TIFF 2013 promises to be its usual, high-quality, yet overwhelming buffet of delectable experiences for all whom like films. So, if you want to view “the best” out of all this overindulgence that TIFF 2013 has to offer, some advance homework is required. And, of course, the term “the best” is a subjective concept, OK?


Here are some diverse films to wet your appetite:


THE FIFTH ESTATE (World Premiere; dir: Bill Condon; USA/Belgium): This feature film is the opening night gala film for TIFF 2013. It is important as its content is straight from recent news headlines; political whistleblowers following their personal conscious versus adhering to government protocol steeped in maintaining secrecy. Let’s face it, we all experience some element of this in our personal lives: keeping family secrets, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, etc. But when said secrets have national and international implications, how silent are you truly prepared to be in the battle for right and wrong? This is the story about how sources to, and WikiLeaks forever changed, the high-stakes secret activities of international politics.


MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (World Premiere; dir. Justin Chadwick; South Africa): Sit back and enjoy one of the better renditions of Nelson Mandela’s life. (Note: this film is scheduled for release on Nov. 29th, 2013). FYI: The TIFF 2011 Gala presentation – WINNIE – will be in US theatres this Sept 6th. However … and I don’t understand why, but you can also see it – in advance on Canada’s TMN for free – debuting on Aug. 29th, 2013 (check your local Canadian TV listings for details).


THE ARMSTRONG LIE (North American Premiere; dir. Alex Gibney; USA): This sports documentary’s title says it all. Filmed during Lance Armstrong’s 2009 Tour de France race, it chronicles … possibly(?) … the very beginning of the end of his cycling legacy and empire. Plenty riveting stuff here. However, I’ll let you be the judge, OK?


STARRED UP (World Premiere; dir. David Mackenzie; United Kingdom): Unfortunately, we are living in a world where many men live most of their lives behind bars in jail. Some start early with this experience. This is where this  film starts. As its central character graduates from “jouvie” to “adult prison,” he encounters his father; also incarcerated. The family dynamic between them is eye-opening; something that I would not wish on any reader herein to personally experience. However, this fictional storyline is inevitable as more and more sons without fathers are incarcerated in today’s society.


GIRAFFADA (World Premiere; dir. Rani Massalha; France/Germany/Italy/Palestine): Is it possible that a child’s love – Ziad, 10 yrs old – and his crusade for an animal’s love-life can cross ancient political divides? Watch as a Palestinian and Israeli giraffe are brought together … or will they? Set to the back drop of political turmoil, Ziad’s quest is inspiring, and considered a TIFF 2013 festival hidden gem.


EMPIRE OF DIRT (World Premiere; dir. Peter Stebbings; Canada): This feature film explores a Canadian Aboriginal family dynamic that spans three generations of women covering the topics of teenage pregnancy, addiction and poverty. One pivotal crisis brings the need to “go back home” which eventually exposes some hidden secrets that all will learn from in the end. Yeah, it’s a typical storyline. However, rarely do we see it set against Canada’s Aboriginals community’s reality which is rich with societal textures that are bizarre. To me, this contextual culture backdrop is what makes this storyline fresh … again.


Descriptions for many more films can be found at www.tiff.net. Once there, click on “Festivals,” then from its selection dropbox option, choose “Toronto International Film Festival.” Move your curser across to “films” under that title. If successfully done, you will then see a page that provides the alphabet (A to Z) in single letters. Click on any letter, and what will come up are all the promotional pictures of every film that begin with that letter. Click on any of those images for a more detailed description of said film.


Phew! That was plenty to absorb, right? However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to navigate and find descriptions for the films that you are looking for … or heard about to be showcased during TIFF 2013. Book your tickets early. This can also be done online via www.tiff.net or at 416-599-8433.