Archives For Into the Abyss

TIFF’11: The Great Wrap-Up!

September 23, 2011 — 4 Comments

Well, after about a week’s distance, I think it’s time to take stock of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. There were highs and lows; there was a lack of sleep; there were friends and beers; there was plenty of malnutrition; there was a ton of waiting in line-ups.

All in all TIFF’11 was the best TIFF year for me so far. The primary reason for this was not the films, though there were a few good ones, it was the friends. Prior to the festival, Courtney Small, from Big Thoughts From a Small Mind, invited me to a monthly Toronto film bloggers meet-up. Through that meet-up, and another during the festival, I got to enjoy drinks with a ton of really awesome film bloggers. The result was that, other than a couple of screenings, I did not see any movies by myself. Many of the people I met were actually at several of my screenings. Here’s a list of some of the people I got to hang out with:

Ryan McNeil, from The Matinee (@matinee_ca)

Bob Turnbull, from Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind (@TheLogicalMind)

Shannon the Movie Moxie (@MovieMoxie)

Sasha James, from Final Girl Project (@FinalGirlProj)

Matt Brown (@tederick) and Matthew Price (@mattmovies), from the wonderful Mamo Podcast

Julian Carrington, from a Healthy Disdain (@aHealthyDisdain)

James McNally, from Toronto Screenshots (@toscreenshots)

Leora Heilbronn (@leoraheilbronn)

Shane McNeil (@come_back_shane)

Andrew Parker, from Criticize This! (@AndrewJParker)

Titania Plant, from Classic Flick Chick (@classicflikchik)

Danielle D’Ornellas, from blogTO (@ellstar)

That’s quite a list of people. I might have missed a few names—I probably did—so if you feel slighted, just leave a comment and I’ll add you. And to all of you, I say thank you. Sincerely, I mean it. Thanks for making this my first real social TIFF experience. It was a lot of fun, and I cannot wait to do it again next year, along with all the monthly meet-ups in between.

As for the festival itself, the movies are the movies. Some were great, some were terrible. C’est la vie.

I’d like to do a list of Best and Worst from TIFF’11, but first I will simply list off all the movies I saw, with links to my reviews.

A fair number of films and one heck of a festival.

Continue to the next page to read my choice for the TIFF’11 justAtad Awards!


Werner Herzog’s latest foray into the documentary space came from his work on a TV documentary series he is still working on featuring interviews with inmates on death row. Into the Abyss takes one of the interviews and expands on it by getting into the details of the case and adding several interviews with other people somewhat related to the case and the Texas capital punishment system. What results is a film about terrible crime, death and, strangely, the beauty of life.

In one scene from the film, Herzog tells the young man, Michael Perry, soon to be executed that while he strongly opposes the death penalty, it doesn’t mean he has to like him. The heinous crime is not made any less disturbing or disgusting just because the man who committed it is going to be killed, and Herzog doesn’t have to feel bad for the man being executed either. That is the line towed by Into the Abyss. The film explores these attempts to come to terms with the harshest of punishment in the light of the harshest of crimes.

The real power of the film comes from the many other interviews Herzog conducted. Throughout the film he speaks to another man who was convicted as part of the same crime, but who only has a life sentence. He speaks with family members of the victims. He speaks with acquaintances of the convicts, a minister who consoles men at the death house, a man who ran the death house for many years and executed upwards of 125 people, and even a woman who met and has married the second convict while still in prison. In speaking to all these characters, Herzog paints a portrait of the effects of horrific crime and the implications of the death penalty.

Herzog also manages to extract little nuggets of comedic gold. The people he talks to truly are interesting, and it’s always fun to see Herzog prodding people into talking about random things like squirrels, monkeys and tattoos. In those lighter moments we witness the humanity at the core of everyone, even the people we might consider monstrous.

It’s those moments of humanity that actually makes the film surprisingly life affirming. Now, I don’t mean that in the sense of being anti-capital punishment. The affirmation of life comes from the realization that all of us are given a certain amount of time to live on this planet, and how we choose to live it is far more meaningful than even the circumstances or date. As one character in the film says, the important thing is not the date of birth or date of death on your tombstone; it’s the dash we should be concerned with. That little dash is your entire life, and it’s up to you how to live it.