The Toronto International Film Festival commemorated Sept. 11 yesterday in the best way it knew how: through cinema.
The Guys, about a fire captain (Anthony LaPaglia) who works with an editor (Sigourney Weaver) to write eulogies for his men who died that day, screened after a popular run as an off-Broadway play.
The critical consensus was that Jim Simpson's small-budget film, adapted from his staging at New York's Flea Theater, lacked emotional heft, but that LaPaglia turned in an authentic performance.
The actor said it was the first time in his career that he felt a responsibility to outsiders for his portrayal. He did not want to offend real firefighters, whom he hung out with for research and performed with in a key scene.
"My biggest fear about the movie is that it would be perceived as a career opportunity," LaPaglia said after the premiere. "It's not sensationalized, and we're not trying to capitalize on anyone's pain."
11'09"01, the collection of Sept. 11 vignettes by directors around the world, offered more politics than art. Bravo to Sean Penn for providing the most indelible image: Ernest Borgnine's widower awakens as the shadow created by one of the crumbling towers slips across his bed until sunshine illuminates his lonely existence.
France's Claude Lelouch connected with an intimate portrait of a couple set minutes before the first plane hits the tower. In it, a deaf-mute foreigner agonizes about the state of her relationship with her New York boyfriend as he leaves the house. The world is unraveling around her, and it takes his stunning return to make it register.
Idrissa Ouedraogo of African nation Burkina Faso pumped in just the right amount of levity in his short about a group of boys who think they have spotted Osama bin Laden.
Others used a sledgehammer approach to lesser effect. Vignettes by Israel's Amos Gitai and Egypt's Youssef Chahine charted the standard polemic and Indian director Mira Nair's tale of an accused terrorist who turns out to be a fallen hero sacrificed craft at the expense of message.