TIFF Friday: Day 9

Editor’s note: We’re thrilled to have film writer Cathleen Rountree blogging to us daily from the Toronto Film Festival, telling us the buzz on the marathon of movies and parade of movie stars in Toronto. She’ll file her dispatches daily between movie screenings.

This is my last posting from Toronto, so I’ll make it short and sweet.

I started and ended the day with two significant and superb documentaries: “Trumbo” and “A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman.”

“Trumbo,” of course, is the doc bio of renowned American screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, known especially for his ever more resonant anti-war novel (and adapted script) “Johnny Got His Gun.” Trumbo (at right, directing Timothy Bottoms in a 1971 adaptation of “Johnny”) was also among that elite group of blacklisted writers dubbed “The Hollywood Ten,” who lost there jobs and were subsequently imprisoned for a year for contempt of court charges because they refused to name names before the notorious HUAC, which was desperate to expose Communists. This important story reminds us that, unfortunately, 2007 has more in common with 1947 than we care to admit. In this post-9/11 era of fear-mongering and with the increasing danger of the lose of our Constitutional right of Freedom of Speech, “Trumbo” should be required viewing for every citizen.

And add “A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman” to that “required viewing” list. Dorfman, who now teaches at Duke University, served as Cultural Advisor in socialist president Salvador Allende’s government, before Allende’s assassination during the military coup led by General Pinochet, and Dorfman’s exile to the U.S. Director Peter Raymont followed Dorfman to Argentina (his birth country), the U.S., and Chile. One of the excitements of working on documentaries is the “big unknown” –– those stranger-than-fiction elements that could never have been foreseen. The particular world event in “Promise” was the death of Pinochet, while Raymont and Dorfman were filming in Santiago. The footage of Dorfman’s face while he watches the breaking news on TV is worth the price of admission. As with “Trumbo,” the significance of applying historical lessons to current events is of the utmost importance.

After the screening, I spoke with the distributor of “Promise” who arranged for me to meet and interview Raymont. A fine concluding film and experience to this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

I hope that most, if not all, of the films I’ve mentioned during the past eight days will find there way to Santa Cruz. There is much worthy viewing.

Look for my Festival Overview in my upcoming “Sentinel” column in “The Guide” on Friday, September 21.

Thanks to those you who read this series of dispatches from one of the world’s great film festivals.

Ciao, Cathleen Rountree


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