MIFF Director Jaie Laplante Scopes Flicks at Toronto International Film Festival

Categories: Film Fiend
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Film Fiend features dispatches from Miami International Film Festival Director, Jaie Laplante, as he scopes flicks on the indie film festival circuit.

The 36th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the Queen Bee film festival of the Americas, kicked off yesterday with 300+ films vying for attention from press, industry and public alike. The power and breadth of TIFF has become, of course, legendary. Four out of the past five years, Best Picture Oscar winners have been launched here.

It was here last year that I saw Susanne Bier's In a Better World, and invited Susanne to come to Miami and receive her Career Achievement Award at MIFF.  I had no way of knowing at the time that Susanne would be bringing with her an Oscar that she won for the film, only a week prior to her arrival in Miami. It was also here last year that I saw Denis Villeneuve's Incendies, only a few nights after it won the top prize at the Venice Days festival. Eventually it would go on to be MIFF's powerful closing night presentation last year.

So...how do I go about wading through the 300 titles to find those perfect films to play in Miami?  Where do you start?

The first thing I do is cross off everything that will be released in theaters prior to March. So no U2, no George Clooney, no Brad Pitt, no David Cronenberg for me. All of their films will be released in the coming weeks and months, and therefore not eligible for MIFF 2012.

One very exciting development in TIFF this year is that they have chosen Buenos Aires as this year's city in the City-to-City spotlight.  I see numerous films from Argentina every year (and have already invited some for MIFF 2012) but they tend to be films made in or about all over the country, so it's particularly interesting to see a program that focuses solely on the main city.

Veteran Argentine director Carlos Sorin's new film The Cat Vanishes (El gato desaparce) is a definite highlight of the B.A. spotlight. At first glance, the new film might seem to be something of a sequel to Sorin's famous 2004 film Bombón: El Perro, about a handsome dogo.

But where Bombón was amusing and sweet, The Cat Vanishes is all malice and simmering tension. Returning home after a breakdown that had him committed to a mental ward several months earlier, a history professor tries to integrate himself back into the lives of his wife and their cat, but the cat will have none of it. What follows is one of the most intriguing cinematic  cat-and-mouse games in some time.

Pablo Trapero (Lion's Den, Carancho) is to Buenos Aires what Martin Scorsese is to New York City, and while Trapero does not have a new film at TIFF this year, the City-to-City program is screening his seminal Crane World (1999) in retrospect.

Trapero's presence is also felt in the echoes of influence on his frequent screenwriting partner, Santiago Mitre, making his feature directing debut with The Student (El estudiante).  Set among the political student clubs of the University of Buenos Aires, the movie feels somewhat otherworldly, in its depiction of fervently committed activist students strategizing political power moves. Nevertheless, it's a fine drama, anchored by an extremely interesting lead performance by Esteban Lamothe.

By contrast, Rodrigo Moreno's second feature, A Mysterious World (Un mundo misterioso), fills an instantly more recognizable niche!  In the very first scene, the protagonist's girlfriend asks for "some time apart," and he is thrown into a tailspin.

Wandering aimlessly through Buenos Aires, stopping at coffee shops and picking up random girls, moving into a cheap hotel and buying an old car (that soon breaks down), it's not at all clear what Boris is up to.  But with this loose, ambling structure does Moreno allow the moods and textures of below-the-surface Buenos Aires seep in.

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