TIFF 2012

The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off this Thursday.  Toronto is a fun glammed up version of itself during the world’s largest and most important film festival, what with the celebs crawling the streets and your favourite haunts.  Walk through Yorkville and everyone is in a big hat and dark sunglasses, famous or not, people want to be taken as such.  It’s kind of a riot and a harmless sort of fun.

This year there are lots of films worth checking out, many likely to be on Oscar-watch.  Here though is a list of some interesting Asian cinema making its North American debut at this year’s fest.

Gala Presentation
Thermae Romae

Based on Mari Yamazaki’s critically acclaimed manga series, Thermae Romae is a time-travelling comedy that has done gang-busters at the box office in Japan.  A lot of irreverent and absurd fun, it needs to be seen to be believed given the plot:  Lucius a thermae architect from ancient Rome is propelled into a modern-day Tokyo bathhouse where he is inspired by the many innovations in “modern bathing culture” and can’t wait to implement some of these ideas back in ancient Rome.  Director Hideki Takeushi has tackled a classic fish-out-water story, one that addresses class, imperialism and creative thought, in one unique and entertaining film.

In Conversation with… Jackie Chan

What can’t Jackie Chan do?  As an actor, director, martial artist,  writer, comedian, stunts choreographer, recording star (yes, really!), philanthropist and entrepreneur, his list of accomplishments is mind-boggling.  I suppose he did start his career at age 8, but still…

With one special presentation on September 9 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Chan will be on-hand to discuss his impressive career as well give those lucky enough to score a ticket a preview of his forthcoming project Chinese Zodiac.

Contempory World Cinema

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is known as the Japanese master of suspense.  His latest endeavour, Penance, designed to be screened as a multi-part television miniseries or theatrical feature event, is a 4.5 hour, 5 chapter meditation on the nature of guilt as a mother seeks answers and revenge to the brutal murder of her young daughter killed during a day at elementary school. It’s billed as “a disquieting fresco of disturbed minds and wounded souls, Penance is a quiet masterpiece of mounting intensity” and not to be missed.

Comrade Kim Goes Flying

An inspirational tale about a young coal miner who dreams of becoming an acrobat, Comrade Kim Goes Flying is also important because it represents the first Western-financed fiction feature made entirely in North Korea. The festival programmer promises that “this charming film wears its heavy historical mantle with grace, weaving a lovely, light-hearted tale whose themes — overcoming adversity, and realizing the dream of a lifetime—upend our assumptions of a largely cloistered culture”.  Certainly an interesting look into a culture we rarely see.

Do you plan on making it to any screenings at TIFF this year?  What’s on your list?

All images courtesy of TIFF.net.  Visit the official TIFF website for ticket availability.

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