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From Angela Davis to Iranian Hostages, Highly Charged Political Films Galvanize Toronto's Galas

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by Anthony Kaufman
July 24, 2012 10:55 AM
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Yesterday, I reported on the political thicket of Mira Nair's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," which is opening the Venice Film Festival. This morning, the Toronto International Film Festival, not to be out-publicized, has announced its own lineup of big-ticket highly political movies as part of its Special Presentations and Galas section, including Ben Affleck's Iranian hostage thriller "Argo," Robert Redford's tale of a former activist on the run "The Company You Keep," and "Free Angela & All Political Prisoners," Shola Lynch's documentary about legendary black radical Angela Davis.

The selection will also include Nikolai Arcel's "Royal Affair," described as a "gripping tale of brave idealists who risk everything in their pursuit of freedom for the people" and Ruba Nadda's "Inescapable," which tells the narrative of a father's return to the politically fraught nation of Syria (and which I have reported on previously) and just announced, "Zaytoun," from the director of "The Syrian Bride," about the unlikely alliance between a Palestinian boy and an Israeli fighter pilot shot down over Beirut in 1982. 

The complete special presentations line-up is below, and it's safe to say that just about single one of the films has some charged political content.
 
Argo (Ben Affleck, USA )           World Premiere
When militants storm the U.S. embassy in 1979 Tehran, six Americans manage to slip away. Knowing it’s only a matter of time before they are found, a CIA “exfiltration” specialist comes up with a plan to get them out of the country: a plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies. Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Kyle Chandler. 
 
The Company (You Keep Robert Redford, USA  )       North American Premiere
Jim Grant (Robert Redford), a civil rights lawyer and single father, must go on the run when a brash young reporter (Shia LaBeouf) exposes his true identity as a former 1970s radical fugitive wanted for murder. Sparking a nationwide manhunt, Grant sets off on a cross-country journey to clear his name. Also starring Susan Sarandon, Terrence Howard, Anna Kendrick, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper and Nick Nolte.
 
Dangerous Liaisons (Hur Jin-ho, China )                   North American Premiere
As war looms in Shanghai, glamorous libertine Mo Jietu (Cecilia Cheung) runs into playboy Xie Yifan (Dong-gun Jang), an ex-boyfriend who’s never stopped loving her. She persuades him to play a treacherous game: Xie must seduce the innocent and naïve Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi) and then dump her. But the game becomes increasingly dangerous as Xie falls in love with Du, leading them all to tragic and shocking consequences.
 
English Vinglish (Gauri Shinde, India)          World Premiere
Money, fame and a knowledge of English. In India, these 3 factors play a huge role in how society judges an individual. English Vinglish is the story of Shashi, a woman who does not know English and in turn is made to feel insecure by her family and society at large. The film is the lighthearted yet touching and transformational journey of Shashi.  Circumstances make her determined to overcome this insecurity, master the language, teach the world a lesson on the way to becoming a self assured and confident woman. This film marks the comeback of India’s biggest female star, Sridevi. 
 
Free Angela & All Political Prisoners (Shola Lynch, USA/France )      World Premiere
Legendary radical activist Angela Davis’ words and actions made her a revolutionary icon in the 1960s. The documentary Free Angela & All Political Prisoners tells the dramatic story of how a young philosophy professor’s social justice activism implicates her in the botched kidnapping attempt of a judge that ends in bloody shootout. Newsweek asks: what would prompt Angela Davis, “the daughter of the black bourgeoisie, to take a desperate turn to terrorism?” 
 
Great Expectations (Mike Newell, United Kingdom )        World Premiere
Based on the Charles Dickens classic. Orphan Pip rises from humble beginnings thanks to a mysterious benefactor. Moving through London’s class-ridden world as a gentleman, Pip uses his new status to pursue Estella, a beautiful, heartless heiress he’s always loved. The shocking truth behind his fortune will have devastating consequences for everything he holds dear. Starring Holliday Grainger, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter and Jeremy Irvine. 
 
Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michell, United Kingdom)       World Premiere
In June 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Academy Award® nominee Bill Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) host the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) for a weekend at the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson in upstate New York. With Britain facing imminent war with Germany, the Royals are desperately looking to FDR for support. But international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR’s domestic establishment. Seen through the eyes of Daisy (Academy Award nominee Laura Linney), Franklin’s neighbour and intimate, the weekend will produce not only a special relationship between two great nations, but also a deeper understanding of the mysteries of love and friendship.
 
Inescapable (Ruba Nadda, Canada)          World Premiere
One afternoon, on a typical day at work, Adib is confronted with devastating news: His eldest daughter, Muna, has gone missing in Damascus. Now Adib, who has not been back in over 30 years, must return to Syria and deal with his secret past in order to find her. Inescapable is a thriller about a father’s desperate search for his daughter and the chaos of the Middle East he left behind. Starring Alexander Siddig, Marisa Tomei and Joshua Jackson.
 
Jayne Mansfield’s Car (Billy Bob Thornton, USA/Russia)            North American Premiere
Jayne Mansfield’s Car is a funny, poignant and searching look at three generations of fathers and sons in the South during the tumultuous ‘60s. It follows the family's heartfelt — and sometimes hilarious — struggles with long-held resentments, secrets, the memories of war, and how life, death and loss shaped them all. Starring Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, Billy Bob Thornton and John Hurt.

Zaytoun (Eran Riklis, Israel, UK)      World Premiere

Zaytoun is the story of the unlikely alliance between a 12 year-old Palestinian refugee and an Israeli fighter pilot shot down over Beirut in 1982. Their initial distrust develops into friendship as they make their way  across war torn Lebanon on a journey to a place they both call home.

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