Saturday, September 26, 2015

Books educate, movies inspire, people cause change.  This was the take-home message from a number of the Q & As with the directors from the movies I saw at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) this year.

TIFF started as a small “Festival of Festivals” in Toronto in 1976 collecting the films from other film festivals around the world and showing them to eager audiences in Toronto.1 That first year, 35,000 enthusiasts watched 127 films from 30 countries.  Today TIFF shows around 400 movies (most 3 times) to over 400,000 people over the course of 10 days in September. Many of these movies are International or North American Premiers.  In addition, to the public screenings, there are screenings for the press and industry insiders.

I have been going to TIFF and seeing around 20 movies each year since 2007.  For 4 or 5 years before that, I went to 2 or 3 movies each year.  I’ve been fortunate that each year I see a couple of great movies that often don’t play for years (if ever).

Several of the movies I saw promote the values of transforming the way people see the world and the way that we interact. 
Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble will be released in the spring of 2016.  Yo-Yo Ma does not see himself as a musician, but as an agent of change. The Silk Road Ensemble's aspiration is to "create unexpected connections".  In the movie, we hear the magnificent results of blending musical cultures; If you’re into music or exploring the variations in culture, this movie is for you.
I saw two environmental movies – Return of the Atom and This Changes Everything.  Return of the Atom explored the issue of nuclear energy from multiple perspectives (scientific, safety, pro and con opinions) and encouraged the viewer to draw their own opinion.  This Changes Everything (based on the book by Naomi Klein) encourages people to take action to change the world.   No matter your opinion on the environment (or your business), it is important to continuously educate yourself and be true to yourself.  This was also the theme of Michael Moore’s new movie – Where to Invade Next. Michael Moore travels the world looking at what he refers to “American solutions” being used around the world for American problems.
There’s always a way to get to your goal.  You may be a movie director in Iran who has been banned from making movies, so you drive around Tehran in a cab recording everyday life as Jafar Panhai did in his movie Taxi.  You could also live in a small village in Tibet and decide to go on a “bowing” pilgrimage (laying your bodies flat on the ground after every few steps) along the 2000 kilometre road to Lhassa in Paths of the Soul (a fictionalized true story). Or a 70 year old man who has never left his village, driving 3000 miles to Darwin, Australia to participate in assisted suicide in Last Cab to Darwin.  These movies depict human perseverance in a positive light and reaffirm your belief in other people and in the helping relationships that we all develop though our lives.
I tell people that going to TIFF isn’t a vacation.  I consider that seeing movies is a way to get a fresh perspective on my life and my business (especially when you see 20 films in a 10 day period).  If you missed TIFF and don’t want to wait until next September, Toronto is very fortunate to have many film festivals throughout the year -  or
Check out the full list of movies that I saw (with short summaries).  The ones that I recommend are marked with an “*”. If there are 2 “*” it is a highly recommend and I think that you should see it when it plays near you. 
Alphabetical List of 2015 TIFF Movies I Saw
ARABIAN NIGHTS TRILOGY – This art trilogy, won many awards. 
BABA JOON - Chronicling the burgeoning conflict between father and son in a hard-working Iranian-Israeli family.
*CROMO – an Environmental / Thriller TV series that will be airing in Argentina.        
*JAFAR PANAHI'S TAXI – Jafar Panahi is an Iranian filmmaker who is banned from making movies, so I guess this isn’t a movie.  It shows a side of Iranian life that is the same as everywhere else in the world.
*JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES: PEACEKEEPERS – a documentary about female Peacekeepers from Bangladesh that are sent to Haiti for a year.
**LAST CAB TO DARWIN – Assisted suicide was briefly available in Australia. This is the moving story of one man’s journey.
*LEN AND COMPANY – The story of how we are influenced and changed by the people around us
*LOOKING FOR GRACE – An Australian film, about parents looking for their teenage daughter
*MAGGIE'S PLAN – a chick flick about a women who needs to control everything     
**MUSIC OF STRANGERS: YO-YO MA AND THE SILK ROAD – This ensemble is the result of a workshop at Tanglewood and is a microcosm of the world.  If you’re into music, the blending of cultures or how blending different points of view can be much better than its parts.  This will be released Spring 2016
*PATHS OF THE SOUL – a documentary about members from a Tibetan village who go on a pilgrimage    
PROMISED LAND -  A Chinese film discussing the movement of the young people to the big cities       
*P.S. JERUSALEM – This is an autobiography of Danae Elon (daughter of Amos Elon) on her return to live in Jerusalem with her family after an absence of 20 years. They are currently living in Montreal.
*RETURN OF THE ATOM - A documentary showing all the viewpoints of the construction of a nuclear power plant on the remote Finnish island of Olkiluoto.
SONG OF SONGS - The film recreates the idyllic village life of a Hasidic community in a turn-of-the-century Ukrainian shtetl.  
Quiet Zone
Clouds of Autumn
Nulla Nulla
Hide & Seek
Oslo’s Rose
A Tale of Love, Madness and Death
*THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING - Directed by Avi Lewis and based on Naomi Klein's bestselling book of the same name, This Changes Everything is an urgent dispatch on climate change that eschews the abstract and rhetorical in favour of the personal and immediate. Can be seen everywhere – check their website
3D Movie
Prima Materia
A Fire in My Brain that Separates Us
Something Horizontal
The Exquisite Corpus
**WHERE TO INVADE NEXT –Michael Moore’s latest movie. He travels the world (mostly Europe) to find solutions to the problems in the USA (e.g. gourmet school lunches in France, 8 weeks of vacation in Italy, free college education [including for Americans] in Slovenia, etc.}
*WHITE KNIGHTS – The story of an NGO trying to rescue 300 children from the civil war in Chad. Or are they?  You get to write the ending.