The Toronto International Film Festival chugs along with more film gems and movie stars than it has a right to. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith showed their glitter on Sunday at an event for an Angela Davis documentary they produced a day after Johnny Depp showed up for his pal, Damien Echols, out of prison after 18 wrongful years.
Paul Haggis (pictured with me) hung out at Soho House with Trudie Styler – where Madonna had a reservation -- and implored the glitterati to attend his Haiti fundraiser. (He’ll shortly go back to Rome, where he’s shooting a love story with an all-star cast.) Jason Reitman seems ubiquitous.
There are endless cocktail parties and elbow-rubbing soirees, especially at the new Soho House, where the parties start at three different entrances and end up on two different floors. Construction continues furiously next door at the spanking new Shangri-La hotel, even as armies of gleaming SUVs pull up to the valet.
And Mercer Street, around the corner, has back-to-back VIP parties with Hollywood types. It’s an invasion.
And the films keep coming -- not just the big movies, but lots of small and medium stories that are interesting and provocative.
Robert Redford’s new political thriller, “The Company You Keep,” debuted on Sunday night. Redford stars as a former member of the Weather Underground, running from the law as former comrades get caught after 30 years in hiding. (Below: Redford acknowledges applause)
The actor-director brought in lots of notable faces – Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper. Shia LaBeouf plays a reporter who is sniffing out the true story buried in the past. This may not be Redford’s most gripping work, but he digs into substantive issues of radical politics and personal responsibility, of the long memory of the law and the tempering of youthful ideals – or folly – with time.
Everyone is talking about a Danish film called “A Hijacking,” whose screening on Sunday afternoon was completely full.
A taut psychological thriller written and directed by Tobias Lindholm, tells the high pressure story of a Danish freighter captured and held for ransom by Somali pirates. The drama follows the pressure cooker of weeks of high-stakes negotiations that recalls Paul Greengrass’s “United 93” or even the classic “Das Boot.”
Alex Gibney is at the festival with a new documentary that pushes forward new questions about the child molestation scandal in the Catholic church.
In “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” Gibney interviews particularly vulnerable victims in the sex scandal, deaf students in a Wisconsin Catholic school who were preyed upon by the charismatic priest who ran the place, Lawrence Murphy.
While these stories are heart-rending, the documentary raises the question of what the Vatican knew and how it failed act regarding the molestation charges.
Gibney points to a vast cover-up, and, in fact, it seems that in some cases, American bishops pushed to have pedophile priests defrocked, only to have the Vatican delay investigations and ultimately opt to suppress the scandal rather than make amends and seek accountability.
Most interesting is that Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, is the very cleric who was charged with gathering evidence to investigate the molestation allegations under the previous pope.
He could choose to take steps on the matter even now, but he has not. The film suggests that's because of institutional resistance to admitting sexual crimes.
But now as the deaf victims in Wisconsin try to sue the Vatican – a challenge since the Holy See is its own sovereign state – the issue refuses to die and continues to eat away at the church’s credibility.
“It’s clear Ratzinger feels strongly about abuse,” Gibney said after the screening. “But he is unwilling to do anything about it.”