Hollywood director Spike Lee launches pandemic-hit Toronto film festival »

Spike Lee
Image Credit: AP

Spike Lee kicked off a singular Toronto film festival Thursday with a tribute to black victims of police violence, as his newest film premiered on-line and at drive-in screenings as a result of coronavirus.

With a pandemic and a closed Canadian border forcing Hollywood stars and media to stay dwelling, North America’s greatest film festival has scrambled to seek out socially-distanced methods to current this 12 months’s line-up.

Even administrators have stayed away, which means that “David Byrne’s American Utopia” – Lee’s film model of the Talking Heads musician’s Broadway live performance – formally opened the festival by streaming on the internet.

The uncommon format didn’t dampen opinions.

Deadline Hollywood mentioned the film “isn’t just a concert doc, but also a life-affirming, euphoria-producing, soul-energizing sing-along protest film that’s asking us to rise up against our own complacency.”

In the film, which meshes themes of neighborhood and battling injustice, Lee initiatives photos of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – all African Americans killed by police – over a rousing protest music.

The anthem encompasses a call-and-response chant of “Say his name” for every black sufferer – a theme veteran filmmaker Lee has coated extensively over his lengthy profession.

“It feels like this year in particular, what he’s been saying for decades is resonating with a lot more people,” festival co-head Cameron Bailey advised AFP.

“It does feel like it is exactly the film for the moment… it gives both David and Spike the opportunity to really focus the audience’s attention on issues of anti-black racism, of the Black Lives Matter movement,” he added.


The Toronto International Film Festival sometimes attracts half 1,000,000 attendees to its celebrity-studded purple carpets and world premieres, which embrace Oscars hopefuls and obscure arthouse flicks hoping to seek out distributors.

This 12 months as a result of COVID-19, solely film lovers who’re already based mostly on the town can attend bodily screenings at a dramatically pared-down festival boasting simply 50 characteristic movies on present – in contrast with a typical 300-odd.

On Thursday, small crowds gathered at drive-ins, a lakeside open-air display, and a handful of limited-capacity indoor theaters to observe Lee’s film, in addition to French debut characteristic “Spring Blossom” by Suzanne Lindon.

In a separate on-line festival speak, Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis confronted racism and typecasting in Hollywood, telling audiences that movies with black stars “don’t always have to be a ‘Boyz n the Hood’.”

Her feedback come days after the Academy modified greatest image Oscar guidelines to require minimal ranges of variety.

Davis famous that whereas within the Sixties “only one black actor had an agent, that was Sidney Poitier,” right this moment’s trailblazers have benefited from numerous roles on streaming platforms and a cultural zeitgeist “screaming and absolutely demanding” extra illustration.

‘Really imply microbes’

In one in every of a number of movies that premiered on-line to Canadian internet customers, legendary director Werner Herzog – recent from his on-screen function in Star Wars sequence “The Mandalorian” – explores the true cosmos in meteorite documentary “Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds.”

Werner advised AFP his investigation led him to conclude alien life is probably going – “some (meteorites) carry sugar, a building block of life, so the probability is good that there’s something out there” – however that fears of a lethal strike have been overstated.

“Maybe in two million years we’ll be hit by something big… let’s face it, so what?” he added, citing threats of nuclear warfare, an enormous volcanic eruption or “some really mean microbes.”

With the present pandemic shutting down different festivals together with Cannes and Telluride, film icons together with Martin Scorsese, Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet have been just about known as in to spice up Toronto with on-line talks and galas, working by to September 20.

“We still wanted to do a festival,” mentioned Bailey. “It’s important for our audience, and I think we just all need some inspiration that art can provide.”

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