1883 Takes TIFF 2022

There is a reason that Toronto International Film Festival, often referred to as TIFF, is known as the people’s film festival.

From the moment we stepped foot onto King Street West, we were surrounded by people. Some, like us, wore press badges and carried note books, others were clearly industry, but the majority of attendees were simply people who loved film. Luckily for them, this year there was a lot worth loving. While the schedule did not allow for us to see everything on the roster, the movies did see told stories of hope, endurance and love. These themes found settings in various contexts, but all in all it was a fitting common thread for a festival finally back in full swing after a multi-year pandemic. Of all the screenings we attended there were three films and one talk that fit these themes the most: Emily, Catherine Called Birdy, Empire of Light, and Taylor Swift’s discussion with TIFF CEO, Cameron Bailey. 

 

 

Francis O’Connor’s Emily takes a look at the life of renowned author Emily Brontë and the events that inspired Wuthering Heights. Somewhat known for her roles in period pieces, it is no wonder that O’Connor did a beautiful job both writing this film and deciding to make it her directorial debut. She brings forth a performance from Emma Mackey, who plays the titular role, worthy of both critical and commercial acclaim.

The movie does not center around the time this particular Brontë spent on her famous novel, but rather the life the rebellious young woman lived in her 30 years. At its heart Emily is a love story. Yes. There is plenty of romance to be found in the two hour and ten minute run time, but I believe what showed through the most was the love she had for life and the endurance needed to persevere in a world that was not quite ready for who you are.

 

 

Catherine Called Birdy, while a much more family friendly film, has much in common with the first.  A long time passion project of Lena Dunham’s, the movie is based on the children’s book by the same name. A modern take on 1800s life, it delves into the life of a 12 year old girl named Catherine, or affectionately Birdy, as she navigates growing up. For her, that includes being married off to a willing suitor, something she creates much mischief to avoid. The film stars Bella Ramsey, Billie Piper, and Andrew Scott and much like Emily celebrates love both platonic and romantic, drives home the importance of being who you are, even when those around you tell you to stop trying.

 

 

For the true cinephiles attending the festival this year, there were two films of top priority: The Fabelmans and Empire Of Light. While we were not able to catch the upcoming Speilberg drama, the equally anticipated Sam Mendes film was a wonder to behold. Set in 1980’s England. It focuses on the employees of The Empire, a local movie theater, especially a woman named Hillary, portrayed by Oscar Winner Olivia Colman. The movie follows her journey to self- acceptance and the love she finds along the way, despite both internal and external obstacles, and the hope movies can provide both as a backdrop and center stage.

 

Announced only a week before the date, one of — if not the — most in-demand events during this year’s TIFF was In Conversation: Taylor Swift. Speaking with TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey, Swift screened her critically-acclaimed short film, All Too Well, to audiences for the first time in its original 35mm format. Discussing her directorial process, Swift unveiled how she leaned on the film’s emotional arc to navigate her two leading stars, Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien.

Acknowledging her ability to self-fund the film, she notes the importance of highlighting female filmmakers and female storytellers, much like herself, in a male-dominated industry. In particular, she notes her inspirations — Nora Ephron, Chloe Zhao, Greta Gerwig, and friend and Catherine Called Birdy director Lena Dunham — in addition to a number of films that have embedded themselves in Swift’s mind, like The Way We Were, Love Story and Kramer vs. Kramer.

For more information on TIFF’s year-round programming and next year’s festival, visit tiff.net.

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