SPOTLIGHT October 2020: Joana Vicente, TIFF-Maker, Indie Producer and Film Activist

Joana Vicente’s first year as co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival was a triumph. The transplanted New Yorker oversaw a TIFF that had all the bases covered: superb films, A-list movie stars in attendance, initiatives in place to level the playing field for filmmakers (and journalists) and all the razzle dazzle required to make the festival a magnet for industry, audience and tourism dollars. Her second TIFF happened in a pandemic. It too was a triumph.

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WEEK IN WOMEN: Chloe Zhao’s NOMADLAND Update – Brandy McDonnell reports

Chloé Zhao’s acclaimed drama Nomadland, starring Oscar winner Frances McDormand, made its NY premiere on September 26 as the Centerpiece film at the 58th New York Film Festival, Earlier this month, the film was lauded with the Golden Lion this year at the 77th Venice International Film Festival and awarded the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the 45th Toronto International Film Festival. It is the first film to hold both honors.

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MLK/FBI (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

Filmmaker Sam Pollard eschews talking head interviews in favor of filling the frame with archival material. The Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, the signing of the Civil Rights Act into law, and other moments, earth-shaking and intimate, are the images that unfurl on screen. The effect is arresting. Pollard doesn’t just bring history to life, but King himself. There he is: living, breathing, changing hearts, minds, and society.

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WOLFWALKERS (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

Balancing a dark picture of the Middle Ages with moments of great humor and images of the magical world, the vintage animation style of this enchanting film perfectly fits its fantastic fable. Based on Irish mythology about wolves, Wolfwalkers is a film that will bewitch children and adults alike.

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GOOD JOE BELL (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

To call the truth-based film a disappointment is an understatement. What might have been a compelling story of a father’s quest for redemption is, instead, a flabby melodrama that plays like one of those old Afterschool Specials. Joe Bell and his family are reduced to symbols of problems that plague society. Flesh-and-blood people deserve better.

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SPRING BLOSSOM (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

Remember the name Suzanne Lindon. If her debut feature, Spring Blossom, is anything to go by, the precocious 20-year-old has a brilliant future ahead of her. Making its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, this smart, evocative coming-of-age drama reveals Lindon in her best light as a writer, director, and actor.

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LIMBO (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

A Syrian refugee awaits the deposition of his asylum request in a state of discombobulation on a remote, rural island in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides in writer/director Ben Sharrock’s low-key melancholy drama. This is a drama of observation, character, and mood. Sharrock turned to inspiration for his story to Syrian friends.

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TRUE MOTHERS (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

True Mothers is first and foremost a movie about feeling in every sense of the word. Naomi Kawase’s emphasis on ‘feeling’ is harmonized as physical and emotional; the film is punctuated by a steady stream of close ups of hands, highlighting their gestural capacity to communicate complex feelings without words, but also to connection with another person through touch.

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ANOTHER ROUND (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

Though Another Round is an ensemble drama, Mads Mikkelsen stands out in the crowd, one of a quartet of high school teachers who decide to test the crazy theory that maintaining a .05 alcohol level leads to optimum mind and body function. Certainly, staying drunk leads to euphoria in the early going, but in scenes that veer between comedy and melodrama, reality has a way of deflating the buzz.

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NOMADLAND (TIFF20) – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Who but Frances McDormand could take on such mundane tasks as making peanut butter sandwiches, cleaning toilets and packing merchandise into Amazon boxes and transform such moments into a riveting cinematic experience? The two-time Oscar-winning best-actress for 1996’s Fargo and 2017’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is at the top of her game in filmmaker Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland.

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