You are where now? Strange tidings at the You Are Here party
Some directors give good Q&A. Kim Longinotto is an example. She followed yesterday’s screening of Pink Saris with a conversation that traveled the far reaches of how much substance can be injected into a post-film question round. Usually, I don’t stay for the Q&As at all, as you are at the mercy of the audience, and the questions generally fall into three categories: unanswerable (“What can we do to stop the war in Iraq?”), inane (“How much of the dialogue was improvised?”), or self-aggrandizing (“I’ll start by dictating a precis of 35 years of your work, including analysis, just to prove how smart I am, and then ask an unanswerable or inane question”).
A skilled director, though, and Longinotto is one, can turn any Q into a worthwhile A. The first audience member at Pink Saris literally corrected a translation error on a recent subtitle, and Longinotto turned it into a meaningful conversation about the varying significance of knowledge and love. The rest of the Q&A was much the same: intelligent discussion, with far-reaching impact. I saw a similar Q&A earlier this week, with the directors of Game of Death, who are lovely French men unwilling to make any bold statements or jump to any statistically-unsupportable conclusions. They take the questions seriously and give serious responses. Perhaps this is a documentary thing.
All week long I have told people that “membership has its privileges.” This is not to mean, there is a TIFF clique and if you are in it, you get freebies. This means, there is a TIFF community and if you give in to it - give your enthusiasm, your energy, your passion to it - you will get good things out. You will not be left standing outside the Ryerson without a ticket to Super. You will not have to eat the cost of a ticket that you aren’t going to use. You will not be eating lunch alone - ever.
I have a favourite Starbucks perch during the festival, and that is the one on the second floor of the Eaton Centre, in back of the Indigo, looking out over old City Hall. A seat here is a hard get, especially on a day like today. It is pouring rain hard enough in Toronto that I took a subway one stop from College to Dundas. It would have been a good day to have all my screenings in one theatre, but no such luck. Instead I am crisscrossing the city to see the weirder and darker dregs of TIFF’s schedule this year: 13 Assassins, I Saw the Devil, L.A. Zombie, and The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman at Midnight.
At Midnight Madness last night, Red Nights, I spent the first ten or so minutes mentally contemplating how wonderfully awake I was, not a hint of fatigue, clearly ready to easily sail through a witching-hour film. Ten minutes later I was asleep. It wasn’t because I misjudged my alertness level; it was because the movie was bad. After an intriguing opening sequence in which a naked Asian girl is shrinkwrapped and then killed, the film becomes a labourious back-and-forth game of self-generated import between two femme fatales, and the mind could not hold on. Occasionally interrupted by loud acts of violence, I snoozed through the first hour before giving up.
Yesterday was largely about You Are Here and all that, however. The screening went well, and Daniel Cockburn is another director who gives Q&A. (So: perhaps not a documentary thing.) In betweenst the You Are Here premiere and the You Are Here after party, there was also an alumni get-together for York’s department of film & video, which I attended for handshakes and giggles out at Camera Bar. (That York scheduled their event against the premiere screening of one of their own students is, of course, “very York.”) My old classmate Igor was there, and my professor Antonin with “Earthquake”-related goodies to impart, and at one point Tereza clutched my arm and demanded “WHAT IS THE NAME OF DANIEL COCKBURN’S FILM??” before disappearing off to the far side of the party.
Slovakium in dementus - Igor, much as we left him.
My friend Jon was there last night as well; he is the post-production supervisor at York now, and is beloved by everyone. I saw nobody else from our year. It was a terrible, crowded mess and I fled immediately.
Electric landscapes and mystical communion. At the You Are Here party the crowd parted at one point to reveal Anand Rajaram, who steals the film in his brief scene in the Chinese Room. Anand was dressed to the nines and smoking a corncob pipe, only adding to his mythology. I want to write a film for him, or about him, or both. I think he is a performer of Herzogian wildness. When he looks at the offscreen interviewer in YAH, there are moments when he seems to be staring into the sun itself, trying to conceive and convey its meaning.
In Pink Saris there is an unplanned moment where a girl, squatting on the ground to tell Sampat Pal about how her father-in-law rapes her, is briefly framed with a large dog immediately behind her over her left shoulder - and the animal’s balls are frighteningly, threateningly large, mixing with the content of her story in gross and propulsive ways. These things cannot be planned or even thought of. They are in the ether.
Introduction and Q&A session for Daniel Cockburn’s You Are Here: