it's film festival season again in Toronto. Three of them are taking place at once: the Reel Asian fest (for details see Rep Cinemas, page 108), Rendezvous With Madness and the inaugural Female Eye festival.Rendezvous With Madness has always intrigued me because it's devoted to films about mental illness, addiction and isolation, which on paper sounds pretty grim. Yet most commercial films are about characters under pressure, pushed to the brink and forced to make tough decisions. If you think about it, there's just as much emotional stress in a love story as in a thriller, so the occurrence of madness in film is wide-ranging.
This year's slate (47 shorts and features) includes for the first time a gay program, an animated program and a children's segment. One of the seven shorts that make up Queer Madness (Friday, November 16, 7 pm) is the stellar Coming To Terms, a first film by Shawn Postoff focusing on a gay university student talking on the phone to his mother and telling her he won't come home unless she and his father accept him for who he is.
In Heroines, part of the With Different Eyes program (Sunday, November 18, 1:30 pm), documentarist Stan Feingold follows photographer Lincoln Clarkes around Vancouver's east end while he shoots portraits of female junkies. The women, both repelled and flattered by the attention, talk about their lives while Clarkes discusses the need for his work.
Heroines would fit nicely into the Female Eye festival if it had been made by a woman. Female Eye, the brainchild of filmmaker Leslie Ann Coles, offers women directors the chance to strut their stuff.
Is this festival needed? Yes, it is. There may be lots of women directors, but they're still a minority, and a festival like this is less about gathering works that represent the entire female experience than it is about encouraging women, especially local women, to pick up cameras and tell their various stories, providing them with a showcase -- if they're any good, that is.
These are solid films, especially the opening-night gala, Mariages (Thursday, November 15, 7 pm), by Quebec filmmaker Catherine Martin.
The best Canadian film at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, Mariages would have made a bigger splash if it hadn't screened on the night of September 11, when only a handful of people were in the audience to appreciate it.
The beautiful-looking film (think Cries And Whispers shot through cheesecloth) centres on a 19th-century woman who defies her family to take a secret lover.
And check out Sarah Polley's assured second short film, I Shout Love (Saturday, November 17, 7 pm), about a couple re-enacting their most intimate moments for a video camera; and Dawn Kuisma's engaging Shave It Baby, Shave It (Saturday, November 17, 11 pm), which fetishizes the act of shaving by both men and women.
rendezvous with madness film festival through November 18. All screenings at the Joseph Workman Auditorium (1001 Queen West). Admission $8, unwaged pwyc. 416-583-4606. www.rendezvouswithmadness.com. For complete schedule, see Rep Cinemas, page 108. Rating: NNN
The female eye film festival November 15-18. All screenings at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor West). Admission $8, Bloor members $6. 416-516-2330. www. femaleeyefilmfestival.com. For complete schedule, see Rep Cinemas, page 108. Rating: NNN