Controversy flourishes at Toronto film fest
Michael Moore's latest, along with a spotlight on films from Tel Aviv, brings out the protesters, while others swoon over Clooney.
The opening night movie at the 34th Toronto International Film Festival was "Creation," featuring Paul Bettany as a seriously distraught Charles Darwin. The festival's opening night party, which immediately followed, featured strolling players, in an Adam and Eve motif, covered in nothing but gray body paint and strategically placed fig leaves.Skip to next paragraph
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This absurdist yin-yang effect is a constant at the festival, which runs from Sept. 10-19 and screens more than 300 movies from around the world. The showing of Michael Moore's uneven new documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Story," for example, was preceded by an on-screen array of corporate sponsor plugs, including one from General Motors, one of the film's many targets.
Moore, who strode on stage after the gala screening in his trademark working-class windbreaker and baseball cap, paints a rather halcyon picture of capitalism in America until the advent of Reaganomics. "We, the American people allowed this thing to happen," he said, referring to the current economic meltdown. Later, in a press conference, he dresses all in red to underscore the socialist-communist charges he anticipates from critics. "We bought into this thing of 'Jesus, we could all be rich.' And it was just a big ruse. It's part of the Ponzi scheme. What is the difference between what Bernie Madoff did and what Reaganomics was all about?"
Trumping Michael Moore in the controversy sweepstakes were the protests and counterprotests surrounding the festival's City to City program, which this year spotlights films from Tel Aviv. Canadian filmmaker John Greyson kicked things off last month by withdrawing his short film from the festival "to protest the showcase of Israeli filmmaking." Festival codirector Cameron Bailey, in an open letter on Aug. 28, said, "The goal of City to City is to take a closer look at global cities through a cinematic lens.... We recognize that Tel Aviv is not a simple choice and that the city remains contested ground. As a festival that values debate and the exchange of cultures, we will continue to screen the best films we can find from around the world."
Canadian writer Naomi Klein in an interview with Daily Variety countered that "Tel Aviv is the military center of Israel, a place from which fighter jets departed on their missions to Gaza last December/January."