Party Hats and Popcorn for Toronto on Film

Summer is indeed over. I never got that much needed tan and already the Cinematheque is launching its fall programme.

The new season comes with a new branding (Cinematheque Ontario has been ditched for TIFF Cinematheque) in preparation for the big move-in-together with the rest of the festival's operations in the Bell Lightbox (the someday-to-be TIFF megacenter).

First up this season is a showcase of Toronto on Film, a set as diverse as the city itself, kicking off this Friday, October 9th. Not at all interested in movies that disguise our city as New York, Chicago, or Generic City, America, the series - a birthday shout out to Toronto on its 175th - features Toronto playing Toronto with screenings spread over the next couple of weeks and guest appearances by acclaimed local moviemakers.

From the look of things, the schedule lists movies that are all over the map (classics, contemporary, shorts, features, docs). Steve Gravestock, Canadian programming head at TIFF explains, "we wanted to make the series representative of different periods as well as show a selection of films which are seldom screened or little known, like The Bloody Brood or the tourism film it's playing with, Toronto Boom Town, which is very funny, and kind of refreshing, in its naivete. "

"The series is also meant to represent key films cited by the contributors to the monograph, Toronto on Film," according to Gravestock.

I got my hands on a copy of Toronto of Film (an anthology published by TIFF shortly before this year's festival). The collection of essays covers different aspects of film history in the city, has a handy reference of 175 key Toronto films, and is a must-read for anyone interested in local cinema. (Contributors include a who's who of Canadian film writers and experts: Geoff Pevere, Steve Gravestock, Piers Handling, Matthew Hays, Brenda Longfellow and Wyndham Wise.)

Best screening bets here are a double billing of Deepa Mehta's Bollywood/Hollywood (2002) and Clement Virgo's short Save My Lost Nigga' Soul (1993), with Virgo and the stunning star of Bollywood Lisa Ray in attendance (Oct 10, 8:30pm). Bollywood/Hollywood is a fun take on the Pretty Woman plot with Bollywood song and dance thrown in, and then set in Toronto. Save My Lost Nigga' Soul is one of the Virgo's earlier works produced at the Canadian Film Center, a contemporary reworking of the Caine and Abel story.

Being obsessed with weird, dark, and cryptic movies, naturally I'm excited to see David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983) in the mix (Oct 22, 9:15pm). In this cold and seedy portrait of Toronto, small TV station exec Max Renn (played by James Woods) pursues the source of pirated torture videos being broadcast in the middle of the night. The film features some great 1980s nostalgia-worthy stuff like thick rimmed glasses, Debbie Harry, and a synthesizer heavy soundtrack.

Somewhere between catch Ron Mann's Dream Tower (1994) about Rochdale College, the 60s experiment in education that went awry, or more recent films like Monkey Warfare and Empz 4 Life, which reflect the recent trend Gravestock points to in local cinema - focussing on specific neighbourhoods.

Toronto on Film runs from October 9th to 22nd at the TIFF Cinematheque.


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