I didn’t know when I booked the movies I would see at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this past weekend that there would be a common theme. Basically the ticket-buying process is a bit of a crap-shoot. I had a large list of movies that I thought would be interesting but there were time conflicts and availability issues to negotiate. In the end I got seven of the movies on my list so I was happy.
I knew that the film Something Necessary, shot in Kenya was a fictional story but based on the post-election violence there in early 2008. I also realized that the film shot in Bosnia – For Those Who Can Tell No Tales – would have a post-war theme. I knew very little about The Railway Man, the Dallas Buyers Club or Philomena other than that they had great acting performances by well-known actors. And I threw in two comedies to break the tension – The Grand Seduction (Directed by Don McKellar) and Bad Words (Directed and starring Jason Bateman of Arrested Development fame}.
It was somewhat surprising to me that all the dramas were based on real events.
The characters were fictional in some, but the events were real. In three of the movies, the main characters were people who had actually existed and struggled with torture, illness or were horribly mistreated in other ways.
In all the films – even the comedies – someone was wronged. The wrongs varied from being lied to or manipulated to having their child taken away from them but they all revolved around people who suffered some repercussions of having been wronged by someone else.
The dilemma for all the protagonists, that was the force that became central to the film, was how to deal with the past. How do you interact with your abuser? How do you overcome being a victim? Do you look for revenge or do you give in? Ultimately, do you forgive?
It all came together for me in the last five minutes of those seven movies when Philomena elects forgiveness. Without giving away the story, she confronts someone who has wronged her badly, ruined her life, in fact. Her companion is angry and wants an apology or some sort of revenge. But Philomena quietly says something like this. “Yes I have something to say to you. I forgive you for what you have done to me.”
Her angry friend is astounded and asks “Is that all you are going to say? Is that it? Just that simple?
Philomena responds with (and I paraphrase – the screenwriter found just the right words to make it powerful) “It was not simple. It was very difficult. But ultimately i could live with hate in my heart and be miserable. Or I could forgive.”
Is this a choice we all have to make at some point? Will we burn ourselves up with anger, rage and the need for revenge or can we honestly forgive on some level and move on.
The movies I saw at TIFF 2013 not only entertained me last weekend, they gave me lots to think about. I just may have also learned some valuable life lessons.