TIFF 2017: Advocates, Blowhards and Provocateurs 

Spend a day queuing in line with a horde of film critics and movie studio executives, and you'll overhear a fair amount of belly-aching about the the lack of quality films, the bottomless pockets of Amazon and Netflix and, following a dismal summer box office, the pending death of movie theaters. Spend some time queuing with people who actually pay to see a film, however, and you remember why you fell in love with the movies in the first place.

click to enlarge Priyanka Chopra - GEORGE PRENTICE
  • George Prentice
  • Priyanka Chopra
"Don't you just love it?" asked a young Toronto woman. "Look around you. All these people are excited to see something new, something different, hopefully something smart and maybe something great."

"TIFF is the highlight of our year," piped in her boyfriend.

Amen. After spending several hours at press and industry screenings, I slipped away to hop in line at a public screening of one of the more than 200 movies that will premiere over the next week and a half at the Toronto International Film Festival. Yes, most film festivals are special, but combine that energy with an amazing city and some of the nicest people on the planet, and you're in dreamland.

I was lucky to get an invite to an opening day soiree, co-hosted by Priyanka Chopra, the talented producer, actress and singer. The event was a fundraiser for Share Her Journey, a campaign to increase skill sets, opportunities and participation for women in front of, and behind, the camera. When he isn't busy starring in ABC-TV's Quantico, Chopra has been spending a fair amount of her time as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. She also has her own foundation to support health and education in her native India.

Now about those movies...

click to enlarge Borg/McEnroe - TIFF
  • TIFF
  • Borg/McEnroe
Thursday, Sept. 7, saw no fewer than 50 films screened for critics. One of the high-profile world premieres on opening day was Borg/McEnroe, a biopic about... well, guess who? I take a back seat to no one in my love for tennis and consider myself blessed to have seen Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe play at Wimbledon, but I couldn't have been more bored through the 100 minutes it took to tell us about two people that we know fairly well already. Both Bog and McEnroe's autobiographies are well worth the read and I highly recommend them both. But this film? Not so much.

click to enlarge 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' - TIFF
  • TIFF
  • 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer'
The most jaw-dropping film I saw Thursday may be one of the most controversial films of the year: The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The title is the least odd thing about this film from director Yorgos Lanthimos, who made a bit of a splash with The Lobster last year. There are too many spoilers that I don't intend on spilling here, but suffice to say, nervous laughter from the audience eventually turned to gasps in this oddball horror story.

On more than a few occasions, I watched other audience members shade their eyes or shake their heads in disbelief at what they were witnessing. Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone star in this one, and I would bet my last dollar that as many people will walk out of this film as there will be people who think it's brilliant. The Killing of a Sacred Deer will be undoubtedly be debated for many years to come.

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