AfroToronto's TIFF 2009 Picks - Part II

18 Sep 2009


The Toronto International Film Festival ends this weekend. But it''s not tow late to enjoy the festival if you haven't yet. There are still two full days of screenings and the following picks are films we recommend that you check out.


Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky

Not to be confused with the upcoming film Coco Before Chanel (which chronicles the early years of Coco Chanel), starring Audrey Tautou, to be released on Sept. 25th, the film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky being featured at TIFF ’09 focuses on the affair between Coco Chanel and Russian composer Igor Stravinsky in Paris in 1920.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky was the Closing Film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It is based on the 2002 novel Coco & Igor by Chris Greenhalgh.

The story begins in 1913. Chanel is madly in love with the wealthy aristocrat Arthur “Boy” Capel. She is devoted to her work and is a rising star. At the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, she attends Igor Stravinsky’s premiere of his revolutionary work "Rite of Spring". But the work is too radical for the Parisian aristocrats and the audience vehemently reacts with boos and jeers. It is deemed a primitive scandal. But Coco is fascinated. Stravinsky is shattered by the violent reaction of the bourgeoisie.

Seven years later, Coco Chanel has become a rich and established woman. But she is devastated by the sudden death of Boy Capel in a car crash. She meets Stravinsky again but this time he is a penniless refuge living in exile in France following the Russian revolution. Coco Chanel is intensely drawn to him and decides to offer the homeless Stravinsky and his family refuge in her luxurious villa in Garches.

A passionate and intense love affair between Chanel and Stravinsky ensues.


Saturday September 19    09:00AM    SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1



London River

London River is the latest film by Oscar-nominated Franco-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb. He earned much acclaim for his 2006 film Days of Glory (Indigènes) which tells the story of soldiers from France’s North African colonies who fought valiantly against the Nazis during World War II.

In London River, Bouchareb explores the emotional aftermath of the terror attacks in London on July 7, 2005 through the despairing eyes of two parents from different cultures brought together by the search for their children gone missing.

In the English Channel island of Guernsey, widower Elizabeth (Brenda Blethyn) is worried about the fate of her daughter Jane after hearing about the horrific events in London. Meanwhile, Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyaté), an African immigrant living in rural France sets out to travel to London in search of his estranged son Ali who was living in North London at the time of the attacks.

Through a chance meeting in London, they both discover that their children had been living together at the time of the attacks.

Although Elizabeth and Ousmane are bound by destiny, they are culturally worlds apart. Their common journey leads them to walk a common path. Through the process, they learn about each other and confront their cultural misconceptions. They give each other strength and form a deep bond.

It’s also interesting to see how Ousmane discovers how Africans abroad live their lives. We’ve seen a lot of films depicting black people from the West going back to Africa to rediscover their roots; but Bouchareb turns the process of discovery the other way.

Official website: http://www.tadrart.com/tessalit/londonriver/gb.html


Friday September 18    08:45PM    AMC 6    
Saturday September 19    12:15PM    CUMBERLAND 2



A Hindu''s Indictment of Heaven

A Hindu’s Indictment of Heaven is a short film (11 minutes) by Toronto director Dev Khanna (Plums & Prunes TIFF’07) is an interesting exploration of the concepts of the soul mate, eternal happiness and the afterlife.

Are we able to truly love only one person in our lives? Is there such a thing as eternal bliss? Will we be truly reunited with the ones we love at the gates of heaven?

These are questions which Dev Khanna asks with A Hindu''s Indictment of Heaven. Khanna finds some of these clichés interesting because there is no such thing as a St. Peter standing at the pearly gates of heaven in his Hindu heritage.

“I wanted to create a middle ground or a bridge between two cultures that can ultimately create a deeper understanding of the idea of love and happiness” he says.

In the film, a woman chooses to wait at the gates of heaven for 10 years for her soul mate to show up. But there’s a twist when he arrives. He’s not alone.


Friday September 18    09:00PM     AMC 7



Women without Men

Iranian video artist Shirin Neshat’s (pictured on top of this article) first feature film, Women Without Men, is a unique and beautifully shot story about four women from different walks of life living through the turbulent times of early 1950s Iran. The tension-filled political backdrop is the 1953 U.S. and British-backed coup which deposed the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and reinstated the Shah to power.

Each woman in the film fights to seek her freedom. Their shackles take different forms.

Munis wants to break free of her overbearing and religiously conservative brother who wishes to marry her off. She sits in front of a radio all day and listens to the protests in the streets of Theran against the imperial powers. She yearns to be out there to fight for her country’s freedom. But she must first earn her own freedom.

There are many parallels, which Shirin Neshat herself point out, between Munis and Neda Agha-Soltan, the woman who died before the world’s eyes and became a martyr for this year’s protesters in Iran.

The other women in the film battle in their own way to emancipate themselves either from prostitution, the suffocation of the traditional role of women in Iranian society, and the abyss of a loveless marriage.

The film is an adaptation of a novella by Shahrnush Parsipur.



Saturday September 19    09:15AM     SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4

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