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TIFF 2016 Days Two, Three and Four: Beer and B-Movie Antics in Colossal and Riding the Waves in Gaza Surf Club

September 15, 2016

I’m someone who likes to go to the cinema alone, preferably in the afternoon, preferably to the sort of screenings that only attract a handful of other people and preferably with absurd snacks like stuffed vine leaves or chicken nuggets or something. So, for me, the whole film festival experience is brand new and very exciting. It’s infectious, all the buzz and the applause and that sense that what’s happening it more than just a film screening- it’s an event.

On day three of TIFF, the event I attended was a morning screening of Colossal at the Ryerson Theatre.

The director, Nacho Vigalondo, came out to introduce the film and quoted from his favourite review so far; an article in which the writer stated that straight men will not like this film. I’m sorry, the director said, but if you are a straight man please feel free to leave and everybody laughed at the straight men and I felt kind of bad for them for a second or two but no more than that.

It made me feel ungrateful that after laughing at the director’s jokes and loving the atmosphere and the venue of the screening, I didn’t much like the film. Anne Hathaway has said that she made the film for her sixteen year old self. I wish I was still in contact with my sixteen year old self but she got pissed off with me years ago and went off to do her own thing. That said, I know that even sixteen year old me wouldn’t like this film. It’s a bit of a cop-out to say that Colossal just isn’t my thing but it’s a true cop out. A rom-com spliced with a monster b-movie? You’ve got to applaud originality, I suppose.

It’s not so much that the premise is crazy that’s the problem – one of my favourite films of last year was The Lobster – it’s the way the crazy premise unfolds. None of the characters are sympathetic, which is fine, but what’s unforgivable is that none of the characters are interesting. So much is made of Gloria’s ‘alcoholism’ and ‘mental breakdown’ but really she’s just a bit of a brat and enjoys a beer. So what? Leave her alone. It’s satisfying to see Gloria kick off at the end and destroy her nemesis Oscar, who enters the film like a typical rom-com love interest before turning into a magnificent bastard, but it falls a little flat. I had already tapped out. The best moments in the film are the parts where it smiles at itself but the rest can be summed up pretty well with this tweet…

 

On to TIFF Day Four, then. After a tough shift (they’re all tough) I managed to finish half an hour earlier than usual and rush in to one of the last screenings of the day, the engrossing documentary, Gaza Surf Club. I am not a surfer, in fact I don’t like it when water splashes in my face in the shower, but I am a huge documentary fan and Gaza Surf Club was right up my street. The film follows Ibrahim, a young man trapped like so many others between Egypt and Israel and searching for a way out. In lieu of an actual escape plan, Ibrahim and his friends take to the Mediterranean Sea, finding some freedom in surfing the waves that exhilaratingly, but cruelly, propel them over and over again back to the shores of the homeland they’re desperate to leave.

Gaza Surf Club

image copyright: facebook/gazasurfclub

Unexpectedly, Gaza Surf Club also spends time with those excluded from enjoying the escape from dry land completely – Gaza’s women. The film’s portrait of fifteen year old Sabah, who learned to surf from her father as a child, is at first inspiring and later infuriating as the realisation dawns that we might be witnessing the last time she ever surfs, head-covering or no head-covering, in the sea. Ibrahim eventually leaves for Hawaii with the help of an American sponsor and promises to return with the knowledge of how to make real surf boards to finally kick start a real Gaza Surf Club. At the end of the documentary it is revealed that Ibrahim has yet to return to Gaza, and who can blame him.

It must have been 3am by the time I got home, ate and went to bed on Day Five which was foolish because Day Six was a big one. Next time – the haunting Nocturnal Animals and the phenomenal Jackie.

 

 

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