An Evening with Robert Lantos: Where the Truth Lies

Friday night at Innis College, I sat about 2 spits away from the enigma of the Canadian Film and Television industry that is Robert Lantos. For those of you who are unaware, Robert Lantos is Canada's mega-producer for Film and previously Television productions. His resume includes: The Sweet Hereafter, Sunshine, Ararat, Men with Brooms and the recent, Where the Truth Lies which was screened preceeding the evening's discussion.

I told a friend, who had already screened the film, that I was seeing it, to which she replied, "I am glad you got a free ticket." and then later text messaged me "let me know what you think of wttllies." After it screened, I text messaged her back, "Painful."

As opposed to Tim, who enjoyed the film at the Toronto Film Festival, I couldn't wait to get out of my seat. While Egoyan's cinematic stylings are rather cold and distant yet beautiful to the eye, it still does not excuse the lack of storytelling. Or rather, the lack of storytelling devices. At one point, the story was literally relegated to one secondary character reading from a manuscript. Karen O'Connor (played by miscast Alison Lohman) made me think at one point she was somewhat either, psychic or clairvoyant to be able to see and know certain trivial details of the past. Much of the 'discoveries' were realized through incessant first person narrative babble. Then again, I'm not a fan of first person narrative (9 times out of 10, it's a cop-out). Egoyan should stick to being a director and hire a good screenwriter for his next film.

The discussion that proceeded was fairly engaging. Robert Lantos, despite rumour and innuendo circulated throughout the industry, seemed very approachable and easy to talk with. The main discussion was about the Canadian Film Industry and how can we save it or rather, what is the solution? Lantos replies, "Excellence". In English-Canada, the film and television industry is run by the government re: bureaucrats who have a certain list of criteria that a production must meet in order to be granted funding. Lantos' answer is that the system should be wiped out and that the only criteria should be is "Excellence."

My question is "Who determines Excellence?" since art is so subjective. Not only that, the Film and Television industry is, by far, the only industry where crony-ism is accepted and even expected. For those who determine 'Excellence" may or may not even have the talent to do so. Biases do run rampant that even if an application for a grant is rejected one year, one may apply with the exact same production and succeed due to the changing of jurors the very next year. Aside from actually making the production, how do we get butts in the seats? English-Canada, rarely supports its own simply because it is rather inaccessible, or just plain bad.

Perhaps it isn't the films that are inaccessible, just the mentorship.

In any case, while the mixed bag of reviews for Where the Truth Lies pour in, the mystery remains: Does Lantos think THIS fits his definition of "Excellence"?


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