Celebrating 8 years in Toronto this month, the European Union Film Festival remains under the radar for many Toronto cinephiles, which is a real pity. For one, it’s the only film festival I’m aware of where all screenings are FREE. But quite apart from that, it offers a huge selection of cinema from a wide range of cultures, and in a multicultural city like Toronto, that makes some of the screenings feel like impromptu gatherings for various outposts of the European diaspora. This year marks the first time that they’ve been able to show at least one film from every EU member country. There are 30 films from 27 countries in total.
This year’s festival takes place from November 14-27th and all screenings are at the Royal Cinema (608 College Street). You’ll need to arrive early since many of the films fill up completely.
The films are a mix of new and old, stuff that plays high profile festivals like TIFF and films that rarely play outside their country’s borders. In other words, it’s really an unmissable opportunity to peer into some rarely-glimpsed corners of the world through cinema. Here are a few I’m looking forward to seeing:
Byzantium (UK, Director: Neil Jordan) — screening Saturday November 17th at 8:30pm
This character study of two vampires (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) hiding out in a coastal resort just played TIFF and drew attention for its lush visuals and deliberate pacing. It will be introducted by veteran UK producer Nik Powell, who is also presenting Neil Jordan’s film The Crying Game (1992) on Friday November 16th at 3:00pm and conducting a number of workshops during the festival.
Vampyr (Denmark, Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer) — screening Saturday November 17th at 11:00pm
And a perfect follow up to Byzantium is this 1933 classic from Danish auteur Carl Theodor Dreyer. The Criterion Collection called it “one of cinema’s great nightmares.”
Silence (Ireland, Director: Pat Collins) — screening Wednesday November 21st at 6:00pm
Documentarian Pat Collins creates an interesting hybrid film here, equal parts meditation and odyssey, “tracing the psycho-geographical journey undertaken by an enigmatic soundman (writer and co-scenarist Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde) from his adopted city of Berlin to his native Donegal. His undertaking is to aurally document landscapes free from man-made noise – a journey that ultimately leads our protagonist inwards, as he finds himself drawn to his childhood home.”
Hot Hot Hot (Luxembourg, Director: Béryl Koltz) — screening Sunday November 25th at 6:00pm
A classic fish-out-of-water comedy from a charming country my wife and I just visited in September. “Ferdinand is a longtime employee of Fish Land, the aquatic centre within the globalized leisure complex “Worlds Apart”. He’s a small, bald forty year-old, and a solitary, anxious introvert entirely devoted to his passion for fish. Ferdinand’s obsessive little existence is turned upside down the day Fish Land is closed for six months of renovations.
He is transferred to another section of “Worlds Apart”, the Finnish-Turkish Delight spa. Ferdinand is suddenly thrown into a world of nudity, sensuality, relaxation and letting go. In short, everything he could possibly be afraid of.” I’m eager to see what the Luxembourgeois find funny.
P.S. Vancouver also has a European Union Film Festival running from November 23-December 6. They might have a nicer website, but they only have 26 countries represented, and they also charge for tickets. Ours is FREE!