Lost in a sea of major Hollywood releases and hyped international films are the hidden gems of the Toronto International Film Festival. These are the films that you won’t likely get the chance to see again in theatres, at least not in Toronto.
Andrew Parker has picked three films that are defintely not your typical fare, but that he believes are nonetheless worthy of your time and attention: First Position, Doppelgänger Paul and i am a good person, i am a bad person.
First Position, dir. Bess Kargman
I’ll freely admit that there are two things that I am a sucker for: inspirational documentaries and dance films. Director Bess Kargman delivers the best of both worlds with a story of a group of kids training for and competing in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix. The competition is known as the premiere showcase for ballet students looking for a potential scholarship to some of the best dance academies in the world. What sets First Position apart from average inspirational movie fodder is that Kargman has assembled a wonderful group of subjects – from a girl who once lived in Sierra Leone and a brother and sister who are completely different in terms of talent. She also isn’t afraid to take a hard look at the financial, physical, and emotional sacrifices made by the kids and the parents. The template being employed is fairly old hat, but Kargman makes it work very well and thankfully not everything works out exactly as one would think. – A. P.
Sunday, September 11th, Isabel Bader Theatre, 3:30pm
Sunday, September 17th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 12:30pm
Doppelgänger Paul, dir. Dylan Akio Smith and Kris Elgstrand
It takes a lot of thought and effort to make the absurd seem plausible and humorous, but directors Smith and Elgstrand create an inspired level of lunacy in the deadpan comedy Doppelgänger Paul. A disturbed writer named Karl (Brad Dryborough) who hates everything about his life begins stalking and befriending a man he thinks is his exact duplicate (Tygh Runyan), despite the fact that he looks nothing like him. Things get complicated when a pair of people rip off Karl’s life story and appropriate it as their own. Despite a definite lull in the middle of the film it remains an affably silly exercise in near Dadaist humour that benefits from great performances from Dryborough and Runyan. Smith and Elgstrand also wisely keep things relatively smart rather than going for cheap punchlines and their creativity goes a long way. – A. P.
Monday, September 12th, AMC 2, 9:15pm
Wednesday, September 14th, AMC 9, 3:00pm
Saturday, September 17th, AMC 2, 7:00pm
i am a good person, i am a bad person, dir. Ingrid Veninger
Toronto based filmmaker Veninger (Modra, Only) makes yet another appearance at TIFF this year with a surprisingly touching look at a mother-daughter relationship on the rocks. Veninger stars as Ruby White, a filmmaker filled with hubris but not a lot of common sense. Ruby enlists her daughter Sara (Hallie Switzer, Veninger’s real life daughter) to act as her personal assistant while travelling through Europe to various film festivals. After a disastrous first night spent with a mother who seems incapable of shutting up, Sara decides to go her own way and leaves to go to Paris. Only then do they learn truths about one another that can only be learned from time spent apart. Veninger seems to know the type of character she is playing all too well, and the mother-daughter dynamic rings true and unforced. It never quite reaches a level of absurdity and it isn’t necessarily meant to be laugh out funny or witty, but it is a very good “slice of life” story. – A. P.
Saturday, September 10th, AMC 6, 7:15pm
Tuesday, September 13th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 12:30pm
Saturday, September 17th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 8:45pm