Hidden valuable voices at TIFF

Photos courtesy of TIFF
By Alicia Sealey

There seems to be a different film festival just about every week in Toronto, with the biggest being the annual Toronto International Film festival (TIFF; Sept 4 – 14). Famed film critic, Roget Ebert once said, “We are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds.”

I whole-heartedly agree. Hence, with the variety of films from all over the world being showcased at TIFF 2014 … well, it would be a shame not to go exploring, right? Following are three hidden gems about a voice stigmatized, a voice penalized, and a voice disenfranchised.

Do I Sound Gay?
Is there a “gay” voice? Find out in the film Do I Sound Gay?

DO I SOUND GAY? (World premiere; dir. David Thorpe; U.S.; 77 min.) This summer, the fourth-ever WorldPride took place here in Toronto with over one million participants and spectators. And whether you are aware of it or not, everyone knows somebody who is gay. Some are still in the closet; others live out and proud. FYI: Did you know that actor Rock Hudson was “in the closet” his entire career?

This community’s desire is to have its true voice heard. But here’s a question to ponder: is there such a thing as a gay voice? Thorpe, through interviews with NOW Magazine sex-columnist Dan Savage, Star Trek’s George Takei, and Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, tries to answer this question. This documentary is funny and refreshing in its goal to speak out (Sept. 7).

Gael Garcia Bernal stars in Rosewater, directed by Jon Stewart.

ROSEWATER (International premiere; dir. Jon Stewart; U.S.; 103 min.) Fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will remember he was away last summer directing a film. Well, Rosewater is that film. A 2009 satirical interview about Iran’s volatile elections on Stewart’s show with Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) resulted in Bahari being arrested by Iran’s government.

Accused of being an American spy, Bahari was tortured for five months which he wrote about in his book Then They Came For Me. Bahari’s book became Stewart’s film’s inspiration.

Like many of my generation, Stewart is my go-to guy for explaining complicated, political, blow-back situations. And I cannot wait to see this film (Sep.t 8, and Sep.t 9).

Trick or Treaty
Film – ‘Trick or Treaty’

TRICK OR TREATY? (World premiere; dir. Alanis Obomsawin; Canada; 85 min.) It is a shame that every year I always find a film that covers this topic: disrespect and political abuse of Canada’s proud First Nations communities. In her latest documentary, Obomsawin covers the now infamous Treaty #9 in which the First Nations communities surrendered their sovereignty rights to their lands to the Canadian government in 1905. Note: Canada was born in 1867, and this treaty was its ninth.

Obomsawin exposes the bias of this treaty with articulation from historians, lawyers and even heirs of the ancestors who signed it. Yet Treaty #9 continues to be referenced to justify intentions that no one had in mind at its signing; least of all the First Nations communities.

As oil pipelines and resource explorations start in earnest on their traditional tribal lands (especially in the Arctic!), we will undoubtedly be hearing more about Treaty #9. Trick or Treaty? will help all to be more sensitive to this ongoing discourse (Sept. 5, and Sept. 6).

I have several more previews to share. As space in this printed edition is limited,  please go to our website at Exploring the World through TIFF for a second original article from me about more TIFF 2014 films. Cheers!