Those looking for escapism and fantasy at 2013 Toronto will be disappointed. This year’s line-up is a heavy dose of films that dramatise real-life events in recent history as well as biopics of those who influence life-changing trends. The docu-style feature film dominates. However, take heart. Some are on the fun side.
Popular music, for instance. There is the Ron Howard documentary Jay Z: Made in America on the recent music festival held in Philadelphia, and 12.12.12: The Concert for Sandy Relief on the 2012 benefit held in New York city in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Sandy, and John Scott’s All Is By My Side — on a young Jimi Hendrix -- played by Andre Benjamin.
However, the winners are the dark, disturbing films portraying lows in a country’s strides through time. Two films in particular are of note. One is 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen, the British artist and filmmaker who directed the IRA prison drama Hunger and the sex-addiction shocker, Shame. It is based on the memoir by Solomon Northup, a free black man, who was kidnapped and spent 12 years in slavery. The film that has severely violent scenes which the director says emphasises humanity in cruelty, stars the marvelous British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender as a slaveholder and by no means the least, Brad Pitt, whose company helped produce the film. The screenplay is by John Ridley. This film comes with massive hurrahs gained at the just concluded Telluride and Venice festivals.
The second is a world premiere on which expectations are high. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom directed by Justin Chadwick and starring another remarkable British actor, Idris Elba. Based on the 1994 autobiographical work by South African President Nelson Mandela, the film profiles his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. It is backed by South African producer Anant Singh’s Distant Horizon and French-owned, British-based production house Pathe.
From India, Pan Nalin’s Faith Connections is a riveting, candid account of the devotional chaos of the Kumbh Mela of 2013 (the first after 12 years), which attracts millions of pilgrims to the confluence of three sacred rivers. The human stories that the film follows provide heart-warming sides to characters even when the odds are against them. The heroes are the feisty sadhus who live a life of godliness with an abandon and panache that sets them apart. This truly scintillating experience is being premiered in India at the upcoming Mumbai Film Festival.