1974 was a one of those strange years that drew infamy, intensity and just plain strangeness with which certain years, be it due to a nexus of precipitating events, or coincidence, become saddled.
I am particularly cognizant of the curiosities of that particular year because it is the year I was born. May 14th. Exactly two months prior, Russell Hoban had a sudden need to begin jotting down strange near-phonetic revelations in his post-nuclear-apocalyptic/spiritual book Riddley Walker. Philip K. Dick identified that year as the one where V.A.L.I.S. – the Vast Active Living Intelligence System – beamed a pink light into his head, causing him to simultaneously inhabit the time of Christ and the present day Santa Clara where he in actuality dealt heroine out of his basement to the local neighborhood kids.
Nixon was impeached. Stephen King published Carrie. The Super Outbreak – the largest chain of tornadoes ever to hit the US and Canada left 315 dead and 5000 injured. India successfully detonates first nuclear weapon. The very first UPC code was scanned in a store in Troy, Ohio. The Symbionese Liberation Army recruited Patty Hearst. Juan Peron, beloved president of Argentina, husband to Evita, dies. Christine Chubbuck, a newscaster for WXLT-TV shot herself in the head in a live broadcast. Restrictions on holding private gold in the United States, created by Franklin Roosevelt are removed.
Duke Ellington, “Mama Cass” Elliot, Ed Sullivan, Jack Benny, Samuel Goldwyn, and Nick Drake, die.
Meanwhile in Kinshasa, Africa, American producer Stewart Levine and South African musician Hugh Masekela organize a three-day festival to coincide with the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match-up between George Foreman and Muhammed Ali. The lineup consisted of Bill Withers, James Brown and the Mighty JBs, B.B. King and list of African superstars that included Miriam Makeba and Afrisa. Most of the American music legends were visiting Africa for the first time.
Documentary footage of the event was tangled up in legal affairs encircling the Liberian backers, but footage finally became available when the issue was settled in order to form the basis of the Oscar winner “When We Were Kings” – a documentary concerned with the boxing match. Footage of the music concert remained unpublished – until now.
While bootlegs of the show have been readily available for years, for the first time in three decades, California-born director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte presents a heretofore unseen perspective on the white-hot music of the mid-seventies’ monsters of soul in a setting that startles and documents a time when connections were becoming more enthusiastically recognized between contemporary American music and its connections to that of Africa.
Thursday September 04 06:30PM AMC 6
Saturday September 06 09:00PM AMC 10
Saturday September 13 10:00AM AMC 3
In festival speak a “party” means a select number of people and their significant others, agents, producers, assistants, best friend from high school and the dude they just met taking a piss in the alley outside the Gala screening are the only ones who get into a room.
Sometimes the room is beautifully decorated, at great expense, one-night-only, with Dionysian opulence, twenty foot ice sculptures pissing Stoli into crystal tumblers. Sometimes, a room is just that: a room.
But at TIFF, a room is never just, a room.
Three years ago I traveled with Heather Graham in an SUV down Bloor St. to Holt Renfrew where my friend who worked there had invited us to stop by for the Vinyl party. We wore jeans and took it really casual. Until we got there to find the street closed off with (literally) red velvet rope, a red carpet running the length of Toronto’s busiest intersection, and white gloved doormen opening the car doors for us. Over the course of the next half hour, we managed to go from the main fiesta to the VIP room to the VVIP lounge, to finally, the VVVIP room, which was essentially a small stocking room for fur coats where Heather, Paul Haggis, the person claiming to be JT Leroy and Michelle Trachtenberg stood around wondering what the hell was going on.
OK, so in that case the room was just, a room.
But a few days later I went to party on Cumberland and ran into an old friend of mine – music video director Rob Heydon. We were just two dudes wandering in and out of whatever we could get into and he mentioned a new project he was working on and would I be interested in reading it. Few years later, and he is inviting me to his own TIFF party at Empire on Cumberland for the very same film – Ecstasy – an adaptation of the novel by Irvine Welsh (who also wrote Trainspotting) starring Richard E. Grant, Billy Boyd and Erica Durance that is about to go into production (Canada/UK) and with any luck will be a TIFF ’09 screening. In fact, Mr. Heydon even mentioned there might be a sweet little role in it for me. Per the press release: “500 VIPs and film celebrities will be invited for a night with DJs and Juno award winning band Bedouin Soundclash.”
You don’t know these things going in. All you can do, is just turn up and see what comes of it. A lot of the time its just a bunch of bullshit, overzealous door-people and paparazzi. But weird little things happen. No, its not networking or shmoozing so much as it is just watching things grow, or die on the vine. Its an amazing experience and one that makes the festival just that – a festival and not just a bunch of screenings.
Festival parties are not easy to crash. Or at least not fun to crash unless you are with someone who the parties will want to be seen with. ie. famous people. So don’t even try unless you have that key with you. Or an invite of course. But don’t despair!
Clubs will host parties in tandem with the fest, to capitalize on the high profile company wandering the streets; you can see some pretty cool stuff in more intimate venues than usual as they endeavor to draw some of the fest’s glitterati into their midst.
For example here are the details on TIFF-related parties open to the public:
Thursday, September 4th, 2008
Molson Rocks presents EDWIN
Location: 567 Queen Street West
Jackfish River: 10:00pm (opening act)
SD+R Fashion Show: 11:00pm
Tickets: $10 at door
Monday, September 8, 2008
Event Name: TIFF 08 ABSOLUT MOVIE LOUNGE @ ROCKWOOD
Promotion Company: Kleen Media
Music: House, Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock,
Dress Code: FASHIONABLE ATTIRE
Notes: ARRIVE BEFORE 11:00PM
In the event, however you feel like attempting to crash a party, or have said golden key person with you here are a couple of bona fide TIFF industry parties. Pick your celeb of choice and then go see if you can catch a glimpse:
Sunday September 7th
Canadian Film Centre Annual BBQ
Venue: Canadian Film Centre
Hosted by: Norman Jewison