This year's line-up at the Toronto International Film Festival was somewhat on the depressing and disturbing side; but in a powerful, artistic, and stylish Bergman-esque way.
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As another Toronto International Film Festival comes to an end, it once again leaves the film lovers with unforgettable memories; and this year, with scenes that will haunt them for a long time. This year's line-up was somewhat on the depressing and disturbing side; but in a powerful, artistic, and stylish Bergman-esque way.

From Coen brothers' new masterpiece, No Country For Old Men, to various documentaries on the war in Iraq, this year's audiences have witnessed more gunshots, deaths, and blood than all the Tarantino films combined. Regardless of that, Toronto was also a wonderful treat for every cinephile. From high-concept Hollywood movies to low-budget Eastern European flicks to high-tech futuristic anime, this year's festival featured over 350 selective films from all over the globe.

While new films by great auteurs like Coen Brothers (No County for Old Men), Neil Jordan (The Brave One), Ang Lee (Lust, Caution), Peter Greenaway (Nightwatching), Gus Van Sant (Paranoid Park), Francois Ozon (Angel), Takeshi Kitano (Glory to The Filmmaker), and Takehi Miike (Sukiyaki Western Django) were greatly appreciated by their huge fan groups, this year's festival also featured and introduced some incredible new talents and remarkable movies.

One of these films is no doubt, Taiwanese actor Kang-sheng Lee's directorial debut feature, Help Me Eros. Kang-sheng Lee has been known for his remarkable performances in many films of the brilliant Taiwanese auteur Ming-liang Tsia, though as the bittersweet love story of Help Me, Eros makes it evident that he already has mastered all the crucial techniques of quality storytelling in big screen. Set in modern day Taiwan, the movie chronicles the lives of three lonely people and their mostly unfortunate misconnections, as they strive to form some kind of meaningful connection with the materialistic and harsh world surrounding them.

Another noteworthy film was House of Sand and Fog's director Vadim Perelman's new movie In Bloom, featuring Uma Thurman as a Columbine survivor looking back at her life, particularly the day of an incident, as it's slowly revealed to us how much this incident changed, or didn't changed her life. Saying anything more about this movie would be giving away too much of it's complex plot structure. Though, from its electrifying beginning to its twisted (in every sense of the word) ending, this movie delivers a very wild roller-coaster ride, topped with breathtaking visuals and unforgettable performances by Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood.

If the disturbing is the criteria for this year's TIFF, then it is safe to say that no one achieved this more strongly and succesfully then Alan Ball (the prodigy writer of American Beauty and Six Feet Under). His latest feature Nothing is Private, which he wrote and directed, is definitely one of the most powerful, political and disturbing films of the festival. Seen entirely from the point of view of a 13-year-old Arab-American girl, Jasira, the movie depicts a very personal and highly-disturbing coming-of-age drama, as she struggles to fit in to the suburbs of Texas, while dealing with her conservative father, vicious classmates, and a bigoted Army reservist neighbor who harbors a 'not-so-innocent' interest in her. With Nothing is Private, Alan Ball not only once again proves to the world that he is one of the most talented living screenwriters of our time, but more so, his stylish film also demonstrates that he is equally skilled as a director as well. Based on a memoir by Alicia Erian, Nothing is Private is one of the rare, bold gems of the festival that aims to reflect the times that we live in without pointing fingers, and making overly-dramatic statements without hiding behind stereotypes.

Another highly pleasant and equally disturbing surprises of this year is auteur Sydney Lumet's new movie, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, starring Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman as two out-of-luck, desperate brothers, who are planning an armed robbery into their parents jewelry store. As bleak and disturbing as it sounds, the director Lumet chooses to concentrate more on the psychology and the mindset of his characters, as opposed to the unthinkable violence that they unleash. And, the result is one of the most unique and effective thrillers of recent years.

For those who desperately needed a mood enchanter (I was, by Friday), The Edukators' director Hans Weingartner's new film Reclaim Your Brain is no doubt one of the most entertaining examples of anti-depressant style crowd-pleaser. Set in present day Berlin, the movie is about a highly successful and well-respected television producer who gets sick of the meaningless and shallow shows of his TV station. His solution? Quit the high-profile job, sell everything, form a gang out of unemployed outcasts, and declare an underground guerilla-style war to the rating system in order to create a new television schedule without stupid reality shows and shallow paparrazi specials. To this recipe, add a great catchy and rocking soundtrack, hilarious one-liners, and top-notch acting and you have an addictive crowd-pleaser that will make you ask for more and more...

There were many many more brilliant movies, documentaries and short films; though, unfortunately, it is not humanly possible to see 300 or so movies within only one week. And that is THE tragedy of the Toronto International Film Festival. And now the waiting period that has been dreaded by many cinephiles has just began. It is the period during when cinephiles all over the globe, start checking religiously the upcoming releases for their hometowns, in order to see if they are one of the lucky ones that might get to see one of the masterpieces that colored this year's Toronto. As for the privileged who are planning to attend TIFF next year, they already marked down September 4 -13, 2008, on their calendars, and started fantasizing about the announcement of next years line-up.

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