Diverse films abound at TIFF 2013

By Alicia Sealey


One of the refreshing aspects about the annual Toronto International Film Festival is the diversity of content it offers, year after year. And 2013 is no exception. One can sit back and experience all manner(s) of life. Unfortunately, not all films will find a buyer (i.e. distribution); therefore TIFF 2013 offers – maybe – the only time that you may get to see these inspiring films. Below, I explore the themes of equal rights, gender values and technology.

HI-HO MISTAHEY (World Premiere; dir. Alanis Obomsawin; Canada; Sept 7, 9 and 14) shines a spotlight on the deplorable education system in Attawapiskat, a Northern Ontario Cree village. This documentary follows the efforts of the late Shannon Koostachin. She, her fellow community members, and local politicians campaigned for children’s right to a proper and safe scholastic environment that every child is owed by the Canadian Government. Obomsawin chronicles their struggles within the local community, to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and all the way to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva. This doc also provides insight into how a lack of a proper education can sideline hopes and dreams. However this resilient community, through “Shannon’s Dream,” still fights. I do hope for not much longer.


Fans of Indian cinema may want to look out for one of its leading actors, Irrfan Khan, as he can be seen in two films at TIFF 2013: QISSA and THE LUNCHBOX.

QISSA (World Premiere; dir. Anup Singh; Germany/India/The Netherlands/France; Sept 8, 9 and 14) is a feature film during the years after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Set in the Punjab region, Umber Singh (Khan) is a Sikh father, who struggles to keep his family safe amongst all the political turmoil. Also, gender values are explored here when, after having fathered girls, he desperately hopes his next child will be a boy. However, she is not but he raises her as one anyway. Unfortunately for all concerned, that delusion can only last for so long.


THE LUNCHBOX (North American Premiere; dir. Ritesh Batra; India/France/Germany; Sept 8 and 9) In Mumbai, a network of over 5000 lunchbox couriers, or dabbawallas, deliver lunchboxes from housewives to their husbands who are at work. The lunchbox prepared by neglected housewife, Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is being delivered to the wrong man, Saajan (Khan), a grumpy widower on the verge of retirement. However when the mistake is discovered, she still sends him a lunchbox and they begin to correspond via letters. Both are lonely, longing for happiness. Maybe they will find it?


As technology becomes more sophisticated and permanent in our lives, two films caught my eye: MANAKAMANA and IN REAL LIFE.


MANAKAMANA (North American Premiere; dir. Stephanie Spray, Pancho Velez; USA/Nepal; Sept 6, 8, 15) This documentary showcases how the newly-constructed gondola ride up to Nepal’s famous Manakamana Temple has affected that community’s way of life. Tourists and locals alike no longer have to walk up the mountain to get there. Clearly, this is more efficient. But is it at the expense of cultural tradition? Told through 11 portraits, look out for breath-taking views of this magnificent region, while watching the impact on old-world traditions being replaced by new-world technology.


InRealLife (World Premiere; dir. Beeban Kidron; UK; Sept 9) Those of us who remember rotary phones, having to get up to change the TV channel, and manual typewriters, know that technology has changed our lives forever. However, the generation after us accepts the mass use of technology as normal. The inevitable cultural impact cannot be denied. “I thought the cultural shake-up,” says Kidron, “was something to embrace not fear – but all around me were young people attached to their phones like a third thumb. Their social rules were different, their behavior was different, and they seemed to think nothing of the fact that everything they ever did, thought, listened to or Googled was sitting in a cloud … somewhere.” Is privacy truly a thing of the past? And does anybody care anymore?


Many more films can be found at www.tiff.net. A fun fact: if you do a title search on a film, you will not only find more info about the film but some even have video trailers. Ahhh … there’s that technology again.



Alicia Sealey is a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Email: asealey@the-wire.com.