Jason Anderson

  • Mamoru Oshii, Ghost in the Shell, 1995, 35 mm, color, sound, 83 minutes.
    film July 08, 2014

    Cyborg Manifesto

    THERE MAY BE no historical evidence to support the veracity of the strange tale of René Descartes’s robot daughter, but the story remains compelling for anyone who’s ever been troubled by the emotional currents that run between humans and their handiwork. According to one version, Descartes was so devastated when his daughter Francine died of scarlet fever at the age of five that he used his expertise as a physician to construct a life-size mechanical doll in her likeness. The philosopher was so attached to this surrogate that he brought it with him everywhere—at least until it was discovered

  • Pacho Velez and Stephanie Spray, Manakamana, 2013, HD video, color, sound, 118 minutes.
    film September 02, 2013

    Sensory Overload

    A GOOD MANY PATRONS rely on the Toronto International Film Festival to provide views of places they may never otherwise see for lack of funds, ambition, or courage. But of all these vicarious journeys set to begin when the festival launches its thirty-eighth edition on September 5, none may be as unusual or as immersive as the one presented by the latest creation from Sensory Ethnography Laboratory, which makes its North American premiere this week alongside many other marvels in TIFF’s Wavelengths program.

    A multidisciplinary initiative at Harvard University under the direction of Lucien

  • Asli Özge, Men on the Bridge, 2009, color, sound, 83 minutes.
    film August 19, 2013

    Rebels with a Cause

    HARDY CINEPHILES love nothing more than to acknowledge a fresh trend or some heretofore unheralded new wave. But even the most devoted among them may have been slow to recognize the surge of activity represented by a startling series at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox. “Rebel Yell,” a weeklong program dedicated to work by a new generation of Turkish women filmmakers, constitutes “a modest showcase for a major phenomenon,” in the words of programmer Rasha Salti.

    The series is a timely one. Whereas recent international retrospectives on directors such as Yilmaz Güney have alerted more viewers to the

  • Michal Marczak, Fuck for Forest, 2012, color, sound, 90 minutes.
    film May 03, 2013

    What’s Up, Doc?

    NO SUCCESS STORY comes without some wrinkles. Over the course of its two-decade existence, Hot Docs built a reputation among Toronto festivalgoers as a more audience-friendly alternative to the overwhelming, all-consuming behemoth that is the Toronto International Film Festival.

    But now that it too has been supersized—it’s become the continent’s largest showcase for nonfiction filmmaking—Hot Docs has inherited some of the issues that go along with any increase in girth and prestige, like fast-disappearing tickets for screenings with big-star guests. To be fair, Hot Docs’ notion of a visiting

  • John Torres, Lukas nino (Lukas the Strange), 2013, video, color, sound, 82 minutes.
    film April 10, 2013

    Images Conscious

    GIVEN THAT IT FEATURES a character who may or may not be a half-man/half-horse creature known in Filipino folklore as a tikbalang, Lukas nino (Lukas the Strange) is bound to be one of the more mysterious films to surface this year. It’s all the more impressive that John Torres’s fifth feature can seem so ineffably and gloriously odd even when it’s situated amid the bounty of unpredictable live-music-and-movie matchups, doc-fiction hybrids, and other exercises in boundary blurring that fill Toronto’s Images Festival every year.

    Though now prodigious and established enough to qualify as North

  • Jem Cohen, We Have an Anchor, 2012, color HD and black-and-white 16 mm, 85 minutes.
    film December 06, 2012

    Jem Session

    LIKE SO MANY OF JEM COHEN’S efforts to marry images and sounds since his early collaborations with friends like R.E.M. and Fugazi in the 1980s, We Have an Anchor is as beguiling as it is unclassifiable. Presented at a two-night run at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, it combines live musical performance with a multiprojector presentation of footage principally shot by Cohen during a decade of travels through Cape Breton, a rugged island off Canada’s east coast. As the DC-bred, New York–based filmmaker admitted after the first performance, he’s still unsure whether it’s a concert or a movie.

    It

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master, 2012, 70 mm, color, 137 minutes. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix).
    film September 13, 2012

    The Master and Margaritas

    ONE REASON the Toronto International Film Festival has been able to attain such prominence is that it’s been careful not to step on the toes of its biggest rivals. Unlike Cannes, Venice, Berlin, and Sundance, TIFF has no competition beyond a modest slate of critics awards, honors for the best Canadian entries, and the audience prize that’s come to be regarded as an early predictor of awards-season success—The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire were recent winners. That’s why filmmakers hungry for hardware typically treat Toronto as a second stop (or third, if they start the victory lap at

  • Rian Johnson, Looper, 2012, 35 mm, color, 118 minutes. Older Joe (Bruce Willis).
    film September 06, 2012

    Magic Marker

    THOUGH THE EVENT may be better known for the living luminaries it attracts, the most ubiquitous guest at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival may be a ghost. The festival’s thirty-seventh edition pays tribute to the late French maverick Chris Marker by devoting the very first screening slot to Sans Soleil (1983), the essay film–travelogue widely regarded as his signature work. The new TIFF Cinematheque section of archival screenings also includes Loin du Vietnam (1967), the omnibus project whose contributors included Marker, Agnès Varda, and Jean-Luc Godard. That film’s proud pinko

  • Left: Warwick Thornton, Samson and Delilah, 2009, still from a color film, 115 minutes. Right: Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, Ten Canoes, 2006, still from a color film, 90 minutes.
    film June 18, 2012

    At First Sight

    THERE WAS A VERY GOOD REASON that it took until the twenty-first century for the Inuit people of Canada’s far north to craft a cinematic epic of their own. In order to make Atanarjuat (2001)—which plays the opening weekend of First Peoples Cinema, the most ambitious program on the summer slate for Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox—director Zacharias Kunuk and his team coped with extremes of climate and terrain that would have rendered conventional film equipment useless. For Kunuk’s bracing modern telling of a one-thousand-year-old legend, using a digital video camera was less an aesthetic choice

  • Left: Tacita Dean, Edwin Parker, 2011, still from a color film in 16 mm, 29 minutes. Right: Nathaniel Dorsky, The Return, 2011, still from a color film in 16 mm, 27 minutes.
    film August 31, 2011

    Sweet Sixteen

    WHETHER HE’S PUTTERING around his storefront studio in Lexington, Virginia, or ordering a turkey sandwich at a local restaurant, Cy Twombly displays a stubborn vitality in a new film portrait by Tacita Dean, made last year during what turned out to be Twombly’s final autumn. The twenty-nine-minute work, titled Edwin Parker after Twombly’s birth name, is a remarkably circumspect tribute. Shot by Dean from a series of judiciously unobtrusive vantage points, Twombly becomes the rare camera subject who is allowed to preserve his privacy.

    Presented in the Toronto International Film Festival’s Wavelengths

  • Luo Li, Rivers and My Father, 2010, still from a black-and-white video, 75 minutes.
    film April 12, 2011

    After Images

    WHEN A CONTEMPORARY MUSICAL ACT is brought in to create and perform a new score for a silent film classic, the result is typically tasteful and restrained. But as one might surmise from the band’s moniker, Fucked Up doesn’t exactly do restraint. Enlisted by the Images Festival—Toronto’s lively annual survey of experimental film, video, installation, and media art—to provide new music for a screening of Tod Browning’s film West of Zanzibar (1928) on the festival’s closing night, the local hardcore favorites handled the assignment with all the delicacy of a UFC cage match.

    Fucked Up expanded on

  • Left: José Val del Omar, Fuego en Castilla, 1958–59, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 17 minutes. Right: José Antonio Sistiaga, . . . ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren . . ., 1968–70, color film in 35 mm, 70 minutes.
    film December 30, 2010

    Ecstatic Traditions

    EXACTLY WHAT General Franco thought of José Val del Omar’s “longings to communicate the ineffable” is not a matter of record, but the Spanish ruler would most certainly not have approved of the filmmaker’s way with a pietà.

    The 1958–59 short Fuego en Castilla is the second work in a triptych made in the 1950s and ’60s by the Granada-born film and sound artist whose work has recently attracted considerable interest both in Spain and abroad. In this film, Val del Omar presents various examples of religious statuary by Alonso Berruguete and Juan de Juni in a decidedly impious fashion. Blasting the