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Alternative choices at Toronto International Film Festival

By Bryen Dunn     Aug 24, 2010 in Entertainment
Toronto - Toronto is within weeks of welcoming Hollywood and the world as the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off on Sept 9th for 10 days of premieres and parties. Many non-mainstream movies debut at TIFF.
While many gather to watch the next big blockbuster to hit the screens, there are others who seek out the more alternative options to mainstream. FilmsWeLike, the independent distribution company headed by filmmaker Ron Mann, recently announced that the 2010 Palm d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat); I Wish I Knew (Hai Shang Chuan Qi) - the new film from master Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke; and The Light Thief (Svet-Aki) a delightful gem from Kyrgyzstan’s Aktan Arym Kubat will be showcased at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s magical-surrealist film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat) - the story of an old man suffering from kidney failure who prepares to die and encounters his dead wife, his missing son (who's been transformed into a laser-eyed monkey ghost) and a princess who has sex with a catfish, took the Palme d’Or at the 63rd Cannes film Festival. Inspired by a book by a Buddhist abbot recording accounts of people who remembered their past lives, the film was shot in Isan, in Thailand’s north-east where Weerasethakul spent his childhood. The film will receive its North American premiere in the Masters program at TIFF 2010 on Thursday, September 16. Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul is attending TIFF and availble for interviews September 16 + 17.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is the final installment in a multi-platform art project called Primitive. Previous installments include a seven-part video installation and the two short films A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and Phantoms of Nabua.”
Working outside the strict confines of the Thai studio system, Apichatpong Weerasethakul is an independent Thai film director, screenwriter, and film producer. His feature films include Tropical Malady, which won a jury prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, Blissfully Yours, which won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard program at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, and Syndromes and a Century, which premiered at the 63rd Venice Film Festival and was the first Thai film to be entered in competition there.
Critically acclaimed Chinese director Jia Zhan-Ke (24 City, Still Life) turns to the history and people of Shanghai in his newest film I Wish I Knew, a North American Premiere in the Masters Program at TIFF 2010 on Wednesday, September 15.
Like his last film, 2008's 24 City,, Jia Zhan-Ke’s I Wish I Knew (Hai Shang Chuan Qi), which screened at 2010 Cannes in Un Certain Regard, is a documentary/fiction hybrid about modern-day China. Where 24 City took a personal focus on the citizens of a Chinese town affected by the construction of a high-rise condominium, I Wish I Knew takes a broader view, examining the history of Shanghai as viewed from the present. Jia Zhan-Ke’. Eighteen people from Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong recell their lives in Shanghai. Their personal experiences, like eighteen chapters of a novel, tell stories of
Shanghai lives from the 1930s to 2010. Jia Zhan-Ke said “I came to Shanghai with my movie camera and traced the footsteps of Shanghaiers who left this city for Taiwan and Hong Kong. Shanghai is closely tied to the lives of almost every important historic figure in the modern history of China. And events of national significance in the life of the city also destined Shanghaiers for lives of painful, life-long separation. When I sat face-to-face with characters in my film, and listened to them talk every so calmly about the hair raising events in their pasts, I suddenly realized what it was that I captured with my camera: a dream of freedome twinkling in their eyes.”
Completed before the April 2010 popular uprising against the deeply corrupt regime of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the failures of post-Soviet Kyrgyz democratization come to roost in a remote village in Aktan Arym Kubat's third feature, The Light Thief (Svet-ake), a selection at the 2010 Cannes Directors Fortnight and having its North American premiere in TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema program on Friday, September 10. This tragi-comic fable unfolding in short vignettes is stylistically similar to his earlier works "The Adopted Son" and "The Chimp"
Played by the director, Svet-ake (the film's original title, which literally means "Mr. Light") is the electrician of a remote, impoverished village in the Kyrgyz mountains. The villagers turn to him for help with their constantly short-circuiting electricity (which he often steals for them from the town hall) and personal problems. For his part, the kind, spirited father of four daughters has two dreams: to have a son and to bring cheap, wind-powered energy to the valley.
Although not specified, the film is set in early 2005, during the Tulip Revolution that overthrew the government. There are no demonstrations in Svet-ake's little village, but the changing times are felt nonetheless.
Progress, good and bad, is personified by Bekzat (Askat Sulaimanov), a dubious young tycoon who has returned to his native village looking to buy land and go into business with even shadier Chinese investors. He promises to finance Svet-ake's surprisingly modern windmills if the latter works for him. Initially trusting of Bekzat, the electrician soon realizes that the changes he is bringing go hand in hand with the death of centuries-old traditions.
TIFF Screening Dates
Thursday, September 16 10:30pm Isabelle Bader Theatre
Saturday, September 18 9:15am AMC 5
Wednesday, September 15 9:45pm Scotiabank Theatre 4
Friday, September 17 5:00pm Jackman Hall, AGO
Friday, September 10 6:00pm AMC 4
Saturday, September 11 9:30am AMC 3
Following TIFF all three films will open at the TIFF Bell Lightbox:
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Thursday, September 23
I Wish I Knew Thursday, November 11
The Light Thief Thursday, November 18
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