Masters at Toronto International Film Festival 2021
An American (Christian Bale) tries to protect a group of Chinese students and prostitutes from Japa-nese soldiers in 1937 Nanjing, in Yimou Zhang’s ‘The Flowers of War.’

The Toronto International Film Festival has always highlighted the newest works from master filmmakers from around the world. This year, even with its reduced lineup, is no exception. Iran’s Asghar Farhadi has a string of award-winning films, including About Elly and A Separation; A Hero, co-winner of this year’s Cannes Grand Prix, was featured at TIFF.

Canadian Denis Villeneuve, premiered his much anticipated version of the science fiction story, Dune. French favorite Laurent Cantet (Human Resources) revealed his latest study of French society with the previously reviewed Arthur Rambo. Famed documentarian Stanley Nelson presented his remake of Attica also reviewed here earlier. Multi-award-winning Palestinian director, Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) presented his newest political and emotional thriller, Huda’s Salon. And then First Nation superstar Alanis Obomsawin was featured with a full retrospective of her life’s work, including a special documentary of her career.

Huda’s Salon

One of Italy’s most prominent actor/directors and often the champion of working people, Nanni Moretti returned with his much awaited first narrative feature since the award-winning Mia Madre six years ago. Three years ago he made a documentary homage to Chilean leader Salvador Allende entitled Santiago Italia, revealing Italy’s role in protecting opponents of dictator Pinochet in its embassy in Chile. He’s now back with a well-crafted dramatic morality play called Three Floors. It’s a character-laden, multi-leveled plot centered around a car accident that affects several different families in the same Rome apartment complex. Moretti’s directorial skills utilizing a fine cast of actors make this another major accomplishment from one of the world’s most revered directors.

One of the best ways to understand and experience China is by learning about the land and its history through great cinema. TIFF closed with a special screening of One Second from the master of Chinese cinema, the highly acclaimed director Yimou Zhang. Starting his career in 1988 with Red Sorghum, Zhang developed his skills through dozens of award-winning films including Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, To Live, House of Flying Daggers, and recently The Flowers of War, a powerful drama featuring Christian Bale in a story about the Japanese invasion of Nanking in 1937.

One Second is a love statement to the art of cinema. It tells the story of a young man who walks endless miles through the desert to see a movie in a small village—only to arrive too late. The rest of the story utilizes old-style slapstick, melodrama, and plenty of imagination, to tell a complicated story of how he eventually gets to see the film. It is the director at the top of his form. Zhang’s other current productions include a war movie, Ju Ji Shou, a true story about a Chinese sharpshooter who set a record in the Korean War for killing or wounding 214 U.S. soldiers assisting the South Koreans. Rarely does one see war films where the American soldiers are the enemy aggressor. Even though China lost as many as 200,000 fighters during the defense of North Korea, they defeated the U.S. in a war and drove back Gen. MacArthur’s “UN” forces back to the 38th Parallel, resulting in the longest retreat experienced in American war history. Of course, those in the West learned a different story from the account presented in books like The Hidden History of the Korean War by famed journalist, I.F. Stone.

At this time of growing threats from the U.S. empire, China seems to be pumping up production of patriotic films that praise the historic sacrifices made by the Chinese people who brought their country up from the poorest and most oppressed country in the world in the early 1900s, to currently being the second-largest economy in the world, while also eliminating extreme poverty—all in just one century! They have been releasing films with some of the highest box office records in the world, actualizing Vladimir Lenin’s statement about the power of cinema to mobilize revolutionary spirit in defense against imperialist war.


Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

Bill Meyer writes movie reviews for People’s World, often from film festivals. He is a keyboardist at Bill Meyer Music and a current member of the Detroit Federation of Musicians. He lives in Hamtramck, Michigan.