Highlights of the Toronto International Film Festival, in no particular order
(1) Sarah Polley makes her public debut as a director in the glitzy embrace of a Roy Thompson Hall gala for Away from Her, with the seats packed to the rafters, and gives the audience a manifesto on the importance of government funding and support for Canadian cinema. Yeah! Sarah Polley for cultural ambassador. Now that Lions Gate has picked up the film for distribution, there's even a happy ending.
(2) Waiting in the green room backstage, I meet Anna Paquin, the little girl from The Piano, all grown up and articulate and serving as a member of the jury making the award decisions on Canadian cinema. We discuss the crowds of fans this year and the odd relationship between acting and celebrity. "Most actors are very shy and timid, you know," she told me. "Those other people aren't really actors. They're celebrities who appear in movies."
(3) In Away from Her, Julie Christie plays a wise, smart, ironic woman who begins to disappear into an Alzheimer's fog. During one scene, in which her character, Fiona, seems barely aware of her surroundings, she suddenly snaps to attention as the TV news shows footage of the Iraq war. "Have they forgotten Vietnam?" she asks — more cogently than any administration official these days.
(4) At the "Dialogues: Talking with Pictures" event with Albert Maysles, who was accompanied onstage by documentarian Barbara Kopple, there was a screening of his new film composed of outtakes, The Beales of Grey Gardens. Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale explains in one scene why she's agreed to do this film with the Maysles brothers. It's because someone had approached her to do a fiction film based on her life and the notion horrified her. "Imagine, they wanted Julie Christie to play me! I couldn't have that."
(5) OK, so not all my top moments are upbeat. On the morning of Sept. 11, I woke up in my room at the Delta Chelsea Hotel to the phone ringing. When I answered, a voice said, "Oh, thank god it wasn't you." Huh? It was my friend Susan, who had just heard the news of a triple murder-suicide in a room five floors below mine. I was here on this same date five years ago too. (B. Ruby Rich)
For five more of Rich’s top TIFF moments and additional coverage of the festival, visit www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision.