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The Best of Toronto International Film Festival 2014

Written by on September 17, 2014 

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When a few hundred films stop by 2014’s Toronto International Film Festival, it’s certainly impossible to cover everything, but we were able to catch about 80 features — and, with that, it’s time to conclude our experience. We’ve rounded up our top ten films, followed by a list of the complete coverage, and stay tuned over the next months (or years) as we bring updates on features as they make their way to screens. One can also click here for a link to all of our coverage, including news, trailers, reviews and much more. As always, thanks for reading, and let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments below.

Alive (Park Jung-bum)

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The trend towards the narrative of the victim in cinema has hit critical mass lately, with all manner of films delving into stories of people who are abused and subjugated by life, astonished and blameless victims of a world wrought from chance and cruelty. In most cases the plots of these films form a kind of endurance test, taking a character and ladling on the weight until they either bend, break, or are given a reprieve. Given the state of the world today, it is not hard to see why these narratives strike a chord with us, but it is disheartening to realize that in a bulk of these films the protagonist is does not so much act as they are acted upon. Alive, the newest film from writer/director and star Park Jung-bum, stands in stark contrast to the majority of these films in that it’s protagonist, Jeong-cheol (Park), is the primary acting force in his own life. – Brian R. (full review)

Confession (Lee Do-yun)

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When someone says that they will do their best, the expression is meant as a kind of assurance. No matter what, it seems to say, you can rest easy knowing that you have my full energy and intention towards a favorable outcome. The problem inherent in this statement is that one’s best will always be tempered by whatever failings they possess, and in some cases their best effort and intentions may be poisoned by their shortcomings. Confession, the debut film by South Korean writer/director Lee Do-yun, looks at the way in which intention and character collide, painting a portrait of human interaction that is at once generous in spirit while unflinching in observation. It creates a harrowing, twisted situation in which no one ever intended to do wrong by their friends, and yet still managed to harm the people closest to them. – Brian R. (full review)

Far From Men (David Oelhoffen)

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Writer/director David Oelhoffen has a special film on his hands because it’s powerful tale begs audience members to learn more about the subject. I’m not talking about the fictional character of Daru (Viggo Mortensen) secluding himself in the mountains to teach young Arab children how to read while civil war wages on or his unwitting ward of the state Mohamed (Reda Kateb) awaiting trial in Tinguit for murdering his cousin. I’m referencing the backdrop—where those mountains are and the “why” of the ongoing rebellion amidst them that spans two ethnicities, two languages, multiple races, and one common goal of freedom. – Jared M. (full review)

Haemoo (Shim Sung-Bo)

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Haemoo is an effective moral thriller that immediately mirrors the best work of its co-writer and producer Bong Joon-ho. What starts as slow and straight-forward goes south quickly, raising the stakes drastically as difficult decisions are made — first for profit, and secondly for survival. Opening with a near-fatal, yet tone-setting accident on a fishing boat, Kang (Kim Yoon-seok) is a captain in a very difficult position. After a series of bad luck and poor financial decisions he finds himself over extended, unable to secure a bank loan to sail the ship as a legitimate cargo operation. Turning to the mob, Kang quickly finds himself in a moral dilemma: rather than leave his crew high and dry he reluctantly agrees to smuggle a group of Koreans leaving China with the promise of asylum in South Korea. – John F. (full review)

Horse Money (Pedro Costa)

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Often, when defining the auteur, one of the first things we go to is the consistency of location — that through a certain booming metropolis, quaint small town, or secluded countryside, we can surmise autobiographical details or even the utopian fantasies of the director at hand. All of this is easy in the case of Pedro Costa, coming off his Fontainhas trilogy, which depicted the struggles of the poor and drug-addicted denizens of Lisbon’s housing projects. – Ethan V. (full review)

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