Thursday, September 8, 2016


Crush at airport baggage claim
 The 41st Toronto International Film Festival has kicked off amid controversy and heated debate. The huge festival, which sprawls across the city, is the biggest public festival in the world and is screening more than 400 movies, with 138 world premieres.

  But the first problem facing visitors is getting out of the teeming and tumultuous airport. Thousands of people are being disgorged from planes at almost the same times and the airport has introduced holding pens where passengers are forced to wait before being allowed  in to the overcrowded immigration hall where waits of more than an hour are not uncommon.
  Once in the city visitors can join the highly charged debate and furor over Nate Parker's The Birth of Nation which has managed to overshadow much of the pop culture. The  big question is can Birth of a Nation come out as a viable awards contender and potential hit after the adverse publicity surrounding Parker's acquittal on a rape charge 17 dears ago, or will the Toronto Film Festival be the final graveyard for its chances? 
  The fast-talking Parker, who is doing the promotional rounds of parties, interviews and red carpets, is doing his best to avoid discussion of his past with evasive answers such as: "I go to God with my thoughts and prayers for support." And: "This film is about so many things that are bigger than me."

Strange sights along Festival Street
  Another film causing plenty of debate is Paul Verhoeven's provocative Elle, which stars Isabelle Huppert as a woman who appears to be violently raped at the beginning of the film, but then falls into a series of disturbing games with her apparent assailant that turn her from victim to willing accomplice----a topical and hot-button issue.

  Sex is a topic in the news in the city at the moment with sex workers furious at a website on which their customers comment on their prowess and rate their performances. As one woman writes in a column in Now magazine: "Stuff like this can be traumatizing and costly. A woman may have to completely rebrand herself to get away from these comments which are often online forever."

   But many have started to take revenge on their customers by making their own public evaluations of them on Twitter feeds. Scintillating stuff. 

   As usual the centre of the city has been turned into a massive party zone with King Street becoming a pedestrian area dubbed
Festival Street with live bands, street performers, food trucks and outdoor cafes.

 Bars, clubs and restaurants will be doing record business during the next 11 days but for those wanting something stronger than alcohol, there is a free food and drinks guide which gives the recipes for five potent cannabis cocktails inspired by films at the festival. As the guide says, "One of life's pleasures is combining marijuana with why not switch to sipping your pot as a refreshing alternative to sparking up?"

   Interesting to see what the next 11 days holds. 



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