Film Fest Notes
by Sybille Forster-Rentmeister
It appears as though right from the start the festival did not have a lucky star. I heard that he first gala bombed with critics and public.
Let me rephrase that: The first gala did not find favour with either critics or the public.
And half way through the fest the events in the USA shaped the rest of it and all of us for more than the length of a festival. I feel it necessary to rephrase my words, because such well used descriptive expressions like "bombing" or "holy terror" all of a sudden feel terribly out of place and inappropriate.
Originally just before the black day south of the border, I was going to start my report like this:
It has been said that every successful TV show runs at least one year too long. Perhaps the same thing can be said about film festivals or any other festival.
What once was a showcase of great renown is of late a bit tired in Toronto. Last year’s 25th anniversary brought an extra cache of glitz and glamour; this year’s film fest was maligned by many embarrassing moments, a sort of internal terror all its own. It started right at the start when major media already reported that getting to one of the more important venues like a gala the press had a hard stand. In fact we found out that it was easier to get to a gala as a plumber, accountant or chiropractor, however loosely associated with the fest and the industry it serves.
Actually it started already earlier with mix-ups of accreditation. In our case we were promised one thing and then handed another; and when we voiced our displeasure we were told that if we do not like the way things are handled we do not have to apply next year. Sounds like a threat to me. Admittedly I am never graceful under fire, but when a helpful person at the fest suggested I should apologize to the powers that are and even try flowers or some such, in other words a bribe, I decided to live out this film fest and then see what would happen. But I would not apologize for something I did not do.
And then September 11 arrived and left us breath- and speechless. The horrendous events in the US make everyone look at life with new priorities, even or especially at something as mundane as a film fest. They caused one of our valuable contributors for instance, to decide to cut down, at least for a while, and spend more time with family and friends rather than running around trying to report on stuff that is important only to other people.
And even though we are reminded daily not to let the terrorists ruin our lives, instead we should get on with it and live it to the fullest, we do live it differently already. It was an instant reaction that will find different shapes and forms as we go on, as a process of constant re-evaluation. It is not only going to change the way we travel, but also the way we decide what our priorities are, what language we are going to use, what we are going to tolerate and whom we are either going to ignore or even shun.
One thing is for certain; I actually think that bullies, any kind of bullies (including the ones at the film fest that cannot take any critic whatsoever and prefer to threaten withdrawal or refusal of accreditation for next year), will have a harder stand from now on. I was never in support of such behaviour, never condoned it, never will. Bullying is the act of cowards, as our politicians just now reminded us. To say "If you do not like the way we do things…" is simply using the reverse psychology of bullying to achieve the same end. And anyone who knows me has observed that I have never bought into any such thing or recommended it to anyone who likes to be a free agent instead of a slave. In fact I think there are a whole lot of people out there that are awakened as "freedom fighters", ready to take a stand when it counts.
O yes, one more thing: Any media asking before or after any press conference, or what have you, a celebrity for an autograph was also threatened with immediate withdrawal of accreditation, meaning that you cannot be media and a fan at the same time. That is not professional. Question: Can one be media and a critic at the same time? O yes, I forget, that is what being professional is all about, being critical.
So, my friends, allow me to be professional. If you ask me someone can take this schmooze fest and re-vamp it, re-think it, re-invent it, re-policycize it, re-politicize, re-construct it, and especially re-personnelize it before I submit to such indignity again. Perhaps I find someone who is willing to do it for me. I know no one is going to miss me personally, even if we are the only German Canadian liaison that ever did show an interest in the cultural aspects between German speaking language cultures overseas and this country, which is our mandate and earned us three awards.
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