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TIFF 2004: Unforgivable Blackness

On Saturday, I saw my last movies of the film festival. In the end I saw ten.

Most of the movies I saw this week left me feeling rather unmoved. It's not that the movies weren't good -- most of them were. It's just that it was too much of the same thing. I think I need to do take a different approach to selecting next year. Just as Hollywood movies have a style, non-Hollywood movies can have one too, and I began to tire of it.

Last Tuesday I saw Ils se maričrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants (...And They Lived Happily Ever After) (TIFF link), a French movie that portrayed a group of adults in various relationship states (argumentative marriage, good marriage troubled by an affair, the playboy). On Wednesday I saw 5X2 cinq fois deux (TIFF link) which was another French movie about marriage -- this time a rather bad one (i.e,. bad marriage, bad movie).

Additionally, on Wednesday I saw La Niņa Santa (The Holy Girl) (TIFF link), an Argentinian movie about some religious teenage girls becoming (somewhat) aware of their sexuality. Then on Saturday I saw Whisky (TIFF link), which was a Uruguayan movie about an monotonous factory owner who asks his assistant to pretend to be his wife when his brother visits, but who remains monotonous nevertheless. Both of these movies would have been fine, but at the end of this year's film festival they just weren't doing much for me.

Then, when the festival was about to end, I finally saw something brilliant. And, you'll be able to see it on TV.

Saturday afternoon I watched a documentary by the great Ken Burns -- the guy who produced PBS histories of The Civil War, Jazz, and Baseball. It was Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (TIFF link) -- a biography of the early-20th-century boxer.

This, in typical Burns fashion, was a rather long film. But it was nevertheless a fascinating account that went well beyond the story of a single man and touched on themes that Burns has worked with throughout his career -- American history, racism, black/white and north/south relations, etc. It was great material and it was brought together wonderfully. Additionally, at the end of the marathon (almost 4 hours including intermission), Ken Burns was on hand to answer questions. He received some of the more interesting questions I've heard from any film festival audience, and he answered them with friendly intelligence.

So, for me this was the highlight of the festival. (I did see some other very good movies in the first weekend, which I wrote about here and here.)



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