Toronto International Film Festival: Five for the road


B. Ruby Rich reflects on some of her favorite TIFF '06 moments.

* The scene: the world premiere of Dixie Chicks: Shut Up And Sing. Filmmakers Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck (daughter of Gregory) were in the audience, as were the Dixie Chicks themselves. The documentary tells the story of the past three years as the Chicks dealt with protests, concert cancellations, radio blackouts, and a death threat resulting from Natalie Maines' remark: "We're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." When a scene played showing the decision to re-route the tour to Canada after Toronto was the only city to sell out immediately, the whole theatre erupted in wild hooray-for-us applause.

* Christine Vachon at TheatreBooks, one of Toronto's great bookstores, signing copies of her new memoir about her experiences in the indie-film trade, A Killer Life Of course I bought one. She's only in town for one night: she's in the middle of shooting Todd Haynes' new opus on Bob Dylan. Cate Blanchett just finished her section, so she got a break to come to Toronto for the premiere of Infamous. Vachon tells me she'll be in San Francisco, at the Commonwealth Club, at the end of the month.

* Camila Guzman Urzua's screening of The Sugar Curtain, her documentary on growing up in Cuba during the golden age of socialism. One audience member, an exiled Uruguayan, objected to her clear-eyed view of the terrible failures of the Revolution in the years since her childhood era. "Why don't you talk about the embargo?" he wanted to know. Yeah, like every other Cuban film that's ever been made. Old patterns die hard.

* Crowds jammed the sidewalk outside the Four Seasons, driven into a frenzy by a bumper crop of celebrities this year. My standards are different: Costa-Gavras at the Unifrance party was my idea of stardom. Talking to SFIFF's Linda Blackaby and the NY Film Festival's Marian Masone, he tried to explain the arrival of so many French films dealing with Algeria. "One million people left Algeria for France after the end of the war," he said. "There are many stories, and different points of view. They should have been made ten years ago."

* The moment the rain starts. Every year, mid-festival, the hot waning days of summer stop abruptly for a rainstorm. When the rain ends, the thermometer drops and fall is here. The mid-point of the festival is the change of seasons, and today I saw my first leaves turn red. Shadows of mortality. There's nothing sadder than the end of a film festival. And at this writing, it's only four days away.

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