The Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF to its votaries, made its bow on Thursday, with a home-bred feature, Jeremy Podeswa's Fugitive Pieces." Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall, conceived it seems for grand gestures like TIFF opening nights, rose in acclaim of one of this festival's favourite sons.
Podeswa's film tells of a man working to live down his experiences as a child orphaned by World War II in Poland, eventually saved by a Greek archaeologist. It's a subject that strikes home in a nation whose DNA is instilled with cultures and tragedies from the other side of the Atlantic.
Canuck pictures (that's the affectionate adjective Canadians use for themselves) occupy much of the radar of a festival now nudging Cannes. It is not unhelpful to have such names as David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Denys Arcand in Canada's directorial bag, all of them about to screen in the next nine days.
But TIFF 2007 may be the biggest year yet in a totally different geography: India has arrived to stay. Cameron Bailey, TIFF's International Programmer, says, "India is no longer an occasional here. I hope it is going to be a hardy perennial, integrated in TIFF. Look at our crop this time. We are proud to have Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Buddhadeb Dasgupta functioning at their best. Adoor takes time over his work. Four Women may be his finest in recent years. <b1>
Then there's Rituparno Ghosh working with a sphere of sensitivity he has made his own. He moves from it with his Last Lear starring Amitabh Bachchan. Here are two terrific performers challenging each other to new heights. Amitabh's portrayal reminds me of Richard Burton at the top of his powers."
Bailey says, "But the discovery for me has been Shivajee Chandrabhushan. With his Frozen he has broken new ground, in fact broken the mould. It's not just the black-and-white, which could have been a gimmick, but here it is justified in a dozen ways. It's the tone and style. He has gone beyond the frame of the art film. I hope he will be inspirational in India." Bailey is the one programmer of a major film festival who devotedly, rigorously and annually spends time in the country to put together his India package.
The world's most respected figures in filmdom now make Toronto a compulsory annual call. India seems to be taking its place in one of the most testing and therefore most formative of forums. It bodes well for the quality, style and business of an emerging new Indian cinema.