This year’s Toronto was competing in my psyche with the recent loss of my mother. My focus was less on finding the greatest of films this year. I hear from others that the festival offered a good mix, if not the most outstanding, selection of films. Personally, I am discovering that a new community has opened its arms to me and the films that are standing out most for me are by women and about women. My community, those women who have lost their mothers, is sharing a unique and profound rite of passage whose meaning continuously unfolds.
In Toronto I was hyper aware of the women and their position in this corner of the world I inhabit. Canadian women, Helga Stephenson, Director Emerita of the Toronto Film Festival, predecessor to Piers Handling; Michele Maheux, Executive Director and COO of TIFF ever since I've known her which has been a long time; Linda Beath who headed United Artists when I was beginning my career and who has since moved to Europe where she teaches at EAVE (European Audio Visual Entrepreneurs), Kay Armitrage, programmer of the festival for 24 years and professor at University of Toronto, are all women to helped me envisage myself as a professional in the film business, and they are still as vibrant and active as when we met more than 25 years ago. Carolle Brabant, Telefilm Canada’s Executive Director continues Canada’s female lineage as does Karen Thorne-Stone, the President and CEO of Ontario Media Development Corporation.
18 films currently are in a large part attributable to OMDC; they include Nisha Pahuja’s doc The World Before Her (contact Cinetic) (Best Doc Feature of 2012 Tribeca FF), Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz (ISA: TF1), Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children (ISA: FilmNation), Anita Doron’s The Lesser Blessed, (ISA: EOne) Ruba Nadda’s Inescapable (ISA: Myriad), Alison Rose’s doc, Following the Wise Men.
TIFF’s new program for year-round support of mid-level Canadian filmmakers, STUDIO, under the directorship of Hayet Benkara is bringing industry mentorship to 16 filmmakers with experience, shorts in the festival circuit, features in development. Exactly half of these filmmakers are women. This was a conscious move on Hayet’s part. She said there is always such a predominance of males without thinking about it that she decided to bring balance.
Then a look at some more of the Canadian talent here brings me to the Birks Diamonds celebration of seven Canadian women: Anais Barbeau-Lavalette, Manon Briand, Anita Doron, Deepa Mehta (Midnight’s Children), Kate Melville, and Ruba Nadda which honored each with a Birks diamond pendant in a reception hosted by Shangri-La Hotel and Telefilm Canada where 300 guests mingled and caught up with each other. The pre-eminence of women was again made so apparent to me.
Talking to publicist Jim Dobson at Indie PR at the reception of Jordanian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir whose film When I Saw You was so evocative of the 60s, a time of worldwide freedom and even optimism among the fedayeem in Jordan looking to resist the Expulsion of the Palestinians from Palestine; he said that all five of his clients here are women directors, “I had When I Saw You, (ISA: The Match Factory), Satellite Boy (ISA: Celluloid Dreams/ Nightmare), Hannah Arendt (The Match Factory), Inch'allah (ISA: eOne), English Vinglish (ISA: Eros Int')."
Of the 289 features here at TIFF, Melissa Silverstein at Women and Hollywood is trying to zero in on the women directors, so watch her blogs More Women-Directed Films Nab Deals out of TIFF, TIFF Preview: Women Directors to Watch and TIFF Preview: The Female Directing Masters Playing at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival.
Add to this the upcoming Sundance initiative on women directors that Keri Putnam is heading up (more on that later!) and I am feeling heartened by the consciousness of women, directors and otherwise, out there. That is saying a lot since last season in Cannes with the pathetic number of women directors showing up in the festival and sidebars this past spring.
Here is the Female Factor for TIFF 12 which scores an A in my book:
GALA PRESENTATIONS - 6 out of 20 = c. 30% which is way above the usual 13% which has been the average up until Cannes upended that with its paltry 2%..2 of these were opening night films.
MASTERS – 0 – Could we say that women directors have not been around that long or shown such longevity as the men? Lina Wertmiller was a long time ago. I don’t even know if she is still alive. Ida Lupino was an anomaly. Who else was there in those early days? Alice Guy-Blaché ?
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS - 13 out of 70 = 19%
MAVERICKS - 3 out of 7 “Conversations With” were with women (43%)
DISCOVERY 11 out of 27 = 40% which includes The-Hottest-Public Ticket for the Israeli Film directly below (a Major Buzz Film Among its Public)
TIFF DOCS 7 out of 29 = 24% - Women traditionally have directed a greater portion of docs
CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA 11 out of 61 = 18%
TIFF KIDS 0 out of 5. Any meaning to this???
CITY TO CITY – MUMBAI 0 OUT OF 10 Any meaning to this???
VANGUARD 2 out of 15 = 13% (the average for most festivals)
MIDNIGHT MADNESS 0 out of 9 which is fine with me, thank you. This is a boy's genre or a date-night genre for girls and boys with a plan for the night.