MIFF Coverage Part 1 - Festivities are "Cold Blooded"
After last Wednesday's opening gala and Thursday night's screening of David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, MIFF began sticking to its mandate to exclusively showcase the work of little-known filmmakers. On Friday, AMC Winston Churchill (or Cineplex now, though the theatre's appearance has yet to change) was packed with viewers lined up to see Jason Lepeyre's Cold Blooded (starring Zoie Palmer and Ryan Robbins).
The festival commandeered one wing of the theatre, setting up its own box office and mini red carpet. Though it might seem somewhat quaint or precious to set up red carpets and velvet ropes in well-worn (and loved) community comfort zones like the local AMC-turned-Cineplex, the result is not at all silly. It's fun -- a touch of casual glamour that makes up-and-coming directors and actors feel appreciated.
Once inside the theatre, various slides explained MIFF's green mandate, its ability to get filmmakers distribution, and its dedication to showing films that aren't all about "snow and crying...and hockey."
Then, once most were seated with their popcorn and giant diet pops, co-founder Matt Campagna welcomed the audience with a comical and charismatic intro. He introduced Cold Blooded as "cops and robbers for the 21st century," and shortly thereafter, the film began with an alarm bell and shot of shattered jewellery case. A jewel heist has gone down -- and something has gone wrong. The thieves are confronted by a renegade cop who shoots one and beats the other. That other, Cordero (Ryan Robbins), ends up in a Scarborough hospital, guarded by attractive, wide-eyed rookie cop Frances Jane (Zoie Palmer).
The movie, a dark, quiet genre film that jumps, somewhat abruptly from talky crime drama to semi-gory thriller, is relatively engaging. The performances are competent across the board, though some of the dialogue is clunky and existential exposition too overt (for example, the point that good vs. evil isn't so straightforward and that "good guys" aren't always what they seem is stated too explicitly more than once).
Officer Jane's night goes from mundane to annoying to shockingly bad when she finds out people other than the police are after Cordero. A cold and sadistic crime boss, Louis Holland (William MacDonald) uses irate Doctor Gill's (Huse Madhavji as seen in the above picture) family as leverage to bypass security and attempt to kidnap Cordero. Naturally, nothing goes according to anyone's plan, and a violent altercation leads to Holland maiming Jane in a brutal and significant way.
From there, the cat and mouse game begins, with the officer fighting (unrealistically, but it is a gritty crime thriller) through her devastating injury to hunt down, taze and defeat the men who are compromising her mission and terrorizing a hospital (or a few people in the hospital, rather). The film had some notable missteps in connecting with the audience, sometimes drawing laughs when it surely didn't intend to.
All that said, Cold Blooded ended to enthusiastic applause, and after the credits rolled, producers Tim Merkel and Leah Jaunzems walked to the front of the auditorium with notable cast members Palmer, MacDonald and Madhavji and took questions from an audience made up in large part of film aficionados. Most questions spoke to the audience's filmmaker predilections -- namely the ones about budget, shooting time, and distribution.
Much the audience's satisfaction, Merkel announced that the film had drawn interest from a Canadian distributor.
To top off the night, the cast added a little approachable glamour by joking with the crowd (Palmer was especially witty) and posing for photos on the red carpet. And as for what MIFF meant to those in front of the camera, some said anything that gets independent film out there is worthwhile.
"Any festival is a good festival," said Madhavji (who's also starred in Call Me Fitz and Saving Hope). "Especially ones that show indie film. I'm happy with how this film turned out," he added. "It [Cold Blooded] is something we all really wanted to do. Not something to pay the bills."