Discover more from 812: Film Reviews and Other Musings
TIFF 2023 Preview
8 Black Films At Toronto International Film Festival
Soon, TIFF 2023 will begin. This year marks my fifth time attending the festival across the border: I’ve seen some tremendous years (2019), some surreal moments (the mostly empty 2021 iteration), and the fest rage back to health in 2022. The first time arrived, I did so seemingly stuck between two paths: Would I fully pursue film criticism or would I go into book publishing? Of course, I chose the former. But at the time, I thought 2018 would be my lone, once in a lifetime trip. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case.
For this go around, I wanted to share some of the Black-directed films at TIFF I’m most looking forward to, particularly the lesser-known works that might evade many attendees.
I have continued to rejumble my schedule to make watching writer-director Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction happen. For one, Jefferson was one of the primary writers on Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen. Secondly, the film stars Jeffrey Wright. I’m not sure there’s a single actor working right now who’s on a better streak than Wright. Even so, leading man parts are rare for him. The last time I saw him in a juicy starring part was Hold The Dark. In American Fiction, a satirical work, he plays an English professor, which having seen Wright’s dry wit in Wes Anderson’s films, seems like pitch-perfect casting. Thankfully, I have found room in my schedule and will be reviewing this film for RogerEbert.
Banel & Adama
I managed to catch and review Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s visually intoxicating romance at Cannes, and it hasn’t really left me. Living in a Senegalese village, the titular couple are caught between the traditions, roles, and superstitions that govern their tiny community, pitching them toward a path where they must choose between their responsibilities or their love.
A Tribeca import, Monica Sorelle’s colorful, dreamlike drama concerns softspoken Haitian demolition worker Xavier (Atibon Nazaire), working to support his family as he tears down the former homes held by fellow immigrants. Mountains is a subtle work about gentrification, assimilation, and the generational divide between first gens and their parents that often recalls the heartache of Farewell Amour.
I was so fortune to interview Rosine Mbakam out of Cannes for her arresting film Mambar Pierrette. Like her previous documentaries, it is centered around a woman dedicated to a craft. In this case, it’s the titular Pierrette (Pierrette Aboheu Njeuthat), a Cameroonian seamstress tirelessly working to earn enough money to buy school supplies for her son. A combination of Vittorio De Sica and Ousmane Sembène’s shared interest in characters pushed against a socioeconomic wall, Mambar Pierrette is quietly, a powerful work of skill.
I’m still trying to rearrange my schedule to catch the new Ava DuVernay joint. It was a late add to the festival after premiering out of Venice. The film is inspired by author Isabel Wilkerson’s life; it stars Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor and Jon Bernthal. And that’s all I really need to know to be excited about this one. Especially since, surprisingly, this is the first narrative feature directed by DuVernay since A Wrinkle in Time.
I will be reviewing George C Wolfe’s biopic about Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin for RogerEbert. While I haven’t watched the film yet, considering Wolfe is coming off Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and this is a reteaming with Colman Domingo — one of the best actors working in Hollywood — my hopes are high, even as I fear that this film will ignore the darker parts of Rustin’s legacy.
Silver Dollar Road
There’s never a moment when Raoul Peck isn’t must-see. His last work, the tome docuseries Exterminate All the Brutes remains a critical and imperative high point in a career concerned with examining the far-reaching effects of racism. So much so, that it’s hard to consider the possibility that he could ever top it. Nevertheless, he returns with this documentary about a Black family in North Carolina fighting against pernicious land developers. I’m prepared to be blown away.
Stamped from the Beginning
Does Roger Ross Williams ever sleep? Earlier this year, at Sundance, he premiered the wrestling biopic Cassandro. Then he showed his documentary Love to Love You, Donna Summer at Berlinale. Now, he’s at TIFF with Stamped from the Beginning, a documentary adaptation of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s same-titled book about the history of anti-Black racism in America. I’ve gotta catch this one before I blink and Williams has another movie.
While I will compile my TIFF reviews in my usual monthly newsletter, in real time, my reviews will be running on RogerEbert, IndieWire, and Screen Daily. Be on the look out!