TIFF #11 and #12; Back to Buffalo
I saw my two final films this afternoon: For Your Consideration at 12:00, and Blindsight at 3:15. “For Your Consideration” is the latest film from director Christopher Guest, and like his earlier films (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind), it was largely improvised. Unlike those films, this time Guest and his usual cast made a relatively straightforward story rather than the mockumentary format they’ve used before. Catherine O’Hara is the star, and delivers a wonderful performance. A particular highlight of this film is the hairstyles–you’ll have to see them for yourselves. Another highlight was that almost the entire cast appeared for the Q&A.
My last film was Blindsight, the documentary about six blind Tibetan kids and the team that took them on an expedition to climb the Himalayas. One of the most enlightening elements of the film was learning about a less romantic side of Tibetan culture: the blind are considered sinners, obviously guilty of great evil in past lives. It was a shock to hear an elderly Tibetan woman cursing two blind kids as they pass on the street.
I’m not sure how I feel about this film, frankly. The good news is that everyone survived. There were, however, several points in the film where I wondered how the teacher and the climbing team could have embarked on such a dangerous adventure with children, without having a clear understanding and agreement on the purpose of the climb. To its credit, the film recorded some of the arguments among the team. Again, without wanting to reveal anything, I’ll just say that the uplifting ending seemed like a stretch, and a somewhat selective one at that. I’m eager to hear the reactions of others.
I finally left Toronto at 6:00 pm and made it home by 8:00. I was a little sad to leave–not so much because I wanted to see more films (although I did), but because of thinking about the contrast between Buffalo and Toronto. A few weeks ago I toured several of the downtown Buffalo apartments and lofts as part of Buffalo Old Home Week. There were some beautiful, stylish lofts available, but little else downtown to attract me to live there. This is all familiar to anyone in Buffalo: the disaster caused in part by the decision years ago to close Main Street to traffic, and the subsequent abandonment of downtown retail. That’s what makes the rehabbing of those downtown buildings feasible. Clearly, the hope is that if enough people move back downtown, the amenities of a neighborhood will follow. Downtown Toronto, by contrast, is vibrant, multicultural, and filled with life and activity. I don’t usually blog about Buffalo; there are lots of others who have been here much longer than me and have much more insight into the problems of Western New York than I do. Still the contrast was striking, and disheartening.