Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 TIFF Movies & the Business Lessons Learned

As many of you know, I go to TIFF every year and see 20 or so movies. This year, it seemed that the common theme in the movies that I saw was “change” – both actual physical change as well as social change. 

In business, change is a constant.  In my business, there are many external changes that I need to be aware of – changes to the laws, changes in technology, the way clients want to be communicated with and the products that are available.

Back to the movies.

Let’s start with “physical change”.  I saw the movie “Kodachrome”, a story about the relationship between a father and son. The father, a famous photographer who shoots only on film, approaches his son, a record producer, to take a road trip to Parsons, Kansas to develop his last rolls of Kodachrome film before the last developing lab closes.  FYI – this movie was shot on film (versus most are now shot digitally).  Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose or the English version of the proverb - the more things change, the more they stay the same.   Perhaps the best scene was towards the end of the movie, when all the photographers who gathered in Parsons, stand to applaud the dying famous photographer.

Contrast this with a film one of my friends saw – “High Fantasy” shot entirely on iPhones, supposedly by the actors in the movie. This movie is by the award-winning South African director, Jenna Bass.  Quite a contrast in technology between the “old” film video cameras and an iPhone.

And in the middle of these two movies was “Jane”, a biography of Jane Goodall that integrates incredible 50 year old National Geographic 16mm archival footage, shot by Hugo van Lawick, with new digital footage shot by Brett Morgen. This movie tells the story of Jane Goodall and the chimpanzees in Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park. This film discusses the development of this project that started out studying chimpanzee behavior in the wild to help understand human behavior and now is involved in raising awareness, protecting and expanding the forests in Africa to protect the wildlife.  Their mission statement is “Protecting wildlife, empowering people.” www.janegoodall.ca I guess this movie was not just about the “physical changes” but also change in knowledge and society attitudes.

Many of the movies discussed social change.  I saw “Novitiate” A coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of Vatican II and the massive reforms to the Catholic Church that took place between 1962 and 1965. It was interesting to watch the members of the order adapt (or not) to these changes.  For those of you looking for a review of Vatican II, check out the Wikipedia article.  This movie documented what happens when social change is sudden and you need to adapt or give up your dream. 
Another movie that I saw that integrated social and technological change was “Silas”. This movie profiled the life of Liberian activist Silas Siakor, a tireless crusader against illegal logging and a symbol of resistance for a new generation against the backdrop of a corrupt, democratically elected government.  The technology?  A phone app – TIMBY ( www.timby.org/  ) that enables ordinary citizens to safely record and submit examples of illegal logging to a central group who can use this “proof” to force change.  This app is now being used in other parts of the world to record and report other illegal activities.

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women reveals how a trio of brilliant thinkers embraced an unconventional lifestyle (menage a trois) and gave birth to an icon of female power – Wonder Woman.  Their lifestyle, that was offside in the 1920’s has now become main stream (at least in the Western world), even if it is still not common place. The character of Wonder Woman has generated almost as much controversy as the lifestyle of Professor Marston. 

Social change (or not) was a primary theme in the movie “Sweet Country an outback western inspired by real events in 1929. This is a story of personal conviction and settler justice set in the stark panoramas of Australia's Northern Territory. It discusses the different justice for Aboriginals and “white” men.  This is in stark contrast to the start of every film at TIFF this year that began with the TIFF person introducing the film starting by thanking the local tribes for “hosting TIFF on their lands”.

The changes in my business have been steady. I now routinely complete life insurance applications online while talking to my clients by telephone or “Skype”. I have access to a much broader product offering than when I started in the business in 2001. I also conduct my business very differently with a lot more online processes and fewer face to face and snail mail exchanges than ever before.
So how do you incorporate “change” in your life and business?  Even carrying around a Smart Phone changes much of what we do on a daily basis.  If you want to chat about change (or any other subject), give me a call or send me an email.

TIFF 2017 Full List of Award Winners
TIFF Full List of all PAST Award Winners

Full List of my 2017 TIFF Movies (in alphabetical order)
1.       Azmaish: A Journey through the Subcontinent - Pakistani director Sabiha Sumar and Indian actor Kalki Koechlin take an inspiring and stunning transnational journey through India and Pakistan, uncovering the common humanity beyond the divisive political rhetoric.
2.       The Captain - Director Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler’s Wife, RED, Insurgent) returned to his native Germany to make this stunning black-and-white war movie, which follows a young German deserter as he tries to survive in the deadly final days of the Third Reich.
3.       A Ciamra - Jonas Carpignano’s coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy in a Romani community in southern Italy who is eager to prove he can be a man and is thrust into adulthood when his brother goes missing.
4.       Darkest Hour - Gary Oldman steps into the imposing persona of Winston Churchill in this period drama from director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement), set in the early years of World War II.
5.       The Death of Stalin - Armando Iannucci (Veep) directs Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, and Andrea Riseborough in this acerbic send-up of the Soviet dictator and the bootlick Ministers who vie for power after his sudden demise
6.       Downsizing - Matt Damon headlines a cast that includes Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Alec Baldwin, and Neil Patrick Harris in Alexander Payne’s sci-fi social satire about a man who chooses to shrink himself (literally) to simplify his life.
7.       Hochelaga, Terre des Ames - Mohawk archaeologist Baptiste Asigny engages in a search for his ancestors following a tragic terrain slump in the Percival Molson Stadium, in François Girard’s multifaceted portrait of Montreal’s rich history.
8.       Jane - Academy Award–nominated director Brett Morgen (On the Ropes) reconstitutes 50-year-old National Geographic footage into a poetic look at primatologist Jane Goodall, set to a magnificent score by Philip Glass.
9.       Kodachrome - Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen, and Ed Harris star in this touching road movie that doubles as an elegy for analog in the digital age.
10.   Looking for Oum Kulthum - Shirin Neshat’s movie-within-a-movie about an ambitious Persian director’s attempts to film the life and legacy of legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kulthum.
11.   Professor Marston & the Wonder Women - Luke Evans (High-Rise, Beauty and the Beast), Rebecca Hall (Christine), and Bella Heathcote (Fifty Shades Darker) star in this biopic of William Moulton Marston, the American psychologist who put his progressive ideals about female liberation into practice by creating the DC superhero Wonder Woman and living in an "extended relationship" with his wife and another woman.
12.   Novitiate - Oscar winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) oversees a bevy of up-and-coming female actors in this drama about aspiring nuns at an isolated Catholic school in 1964, who are forced to re-examine their faith and their calling in light of the liberal reforms of Vatican II.
13.   Number One - In this whip-smart drama about corporate sexism, top French star Emmanuelle Devos plays a high-ranking female executive who is forced to consider her options and marshal her forces when she realizes that the glass ceiling is fast approaching.
14.   Short Cuts – A number of short movies
15.   Silas - Anjali Nayar and Hawa Essuman profile the life of Liberian activist Silas Siakor, a tireless crusader against illegal logging and a symbol of resistance for a new generation.
16.   The Square - Swedish provocateur Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes for this no-holds-barred satire of the postmodern art world, about a self-important curator whose attempts to mount an ambitious exhibition go hilariously awry.
17.   Sweet Country - Accused of murder, an Aboriginal stockman and his wife try to stay ahead of a fervent posse in the harsh outback of the Northern Territory, in this period drama from acclaimed Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah).
18.   The Third Murder  - Festival favourite Hirokazu Kore-eda (Still Walking, Nobody Knows) takes a fascinating left turn with this intricate murder mystery, about a defense attorney who believes that his client — the self-confessed killer of a wealthy industrialist — is the fall guy for a sinister conspiracy.
19.   Unicorn Store - Brie Larson stars in her directorial debut about a dreamer reluctant to abandon her childish wonder who is offered the most magical gift she can imagine, with Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, and Bradley Whitford.
20.   Victoria & Abdul - Acclaimed British auteur Stephen Frears reunites with his Philomena star, Academy Award winner Judi Dench, in this charming dramedy chronicling the friendship between Queen Victoria and a decades-younger Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.