Film Reviews: TIFF Cinematheque Present – The films of INGMAR BERGMAN

A must for all those serious about cinema, Ingmar Bergman films demonstrate the art of cinema and the influence of a director’s life and religion on his craft.

Bergman has also been an influence on many a filmmaker, most notably Woody Allen, Margarethe von Trotta, Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Love, Ruben Ostlund among others.  Allen has made films like STARDUST MEMORIES which is definitely Bergman in tone while von Trotta has made SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN, a documentary on the Master’s work.    It is a pity the doc is not screened as part of this retrospective as it would serve as the perfect companionship.  The doc was screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and hopefully will get a theatrical run soon.

This exhaustive series screens almost every Bergman film, which needless to say should be seen on the big screen.  The cinematography by Sven Nyquist,who has worked on most of the Bergman’s films is nothing short of astonishing.

Bergman’s films range from the playful like the most entertaining FANNY AND ALEXANDER to his most serious (about death WILD STRAWBERRIES, CRIES AND WHISPERS and of course, THE SEVENTH SEAL with the grim reaper or relationships PERSONA) to his kind of action/revenge flick, the excellent THE VIRGIN SPRING).  A warning is that the films are not an easy watch – many are ultra-grim, except maybe for FANNY AND ALEXANDER which runs more than 3 hours in length.

Religion plays part in Bergman’s films.  His childhood is best exemplified in FANNY AND ALEXANDER.  

For the complete program schedule, ticket pricing, venue and showtimes, please check th Cinematheque website at:

Capsule Review of Selected Films:

CRIES AND WHISPERS (Sweden 1972) ***

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Though the only foreign film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, CRIES AND WHISPERS is one of my least favourite Bergman films.  Though the cinematography here by Bergman regular Sven Nykvist is one of his best works, the film is too artsy for my taste.  The story follows  three sisters, played excellently by Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin and Harriet Anderson, one of which is dying from an unnamed ailment.  She is closer to her maid that the oner two sisters though she (Agnes) tries to reconcile the problem after her death.  There are lots of heavy breathing, moaning and groaning and of course, crying and whispering, which I think could be quite laughable at times.  Religion is always at the forefront again.  There are hints of lesbian love and incest though thankfully Bergman spares the audience any sex scenes.  All a very sordid and gloomy affair.


FANNY AND ALEXANDER (Sweden 1982) *****Top 10

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

FANNY AND ALEXANDER is the film that has been on many a critics Best Film list.  Personally, its stands as my best Bergman film, even to say that it is one of my 10 best films of ALL TIME.  The film is pure delight from start to finish despite its over 3 hour running time (The film was originally made for television).  The first hour is light and cheerful (rare in a Bergman movie) as the wealthy Swede family celebrate Christmas among the family and servants.  This is Christmas in Sweden with all the food, decorations, dancing and celebration.  At the hour mark, the father, Oscar dies and the mother marries a wicked over-religious bishop who moves the mother and children into his own house, demanding that every personal possession be left behind.  “I worry for the children'” says the grandmother, prompting the worse to come.  Alexander, particularly suffers the wrath of the bishop.  The bishop’s household is also the epitome of evil.  I have seen this 3-hour film three times, and it is pure ecstasy each viewing.


HOUR OF THE WOLF (Sweden 1968) ****

Directed by Imgmar Bergman

The HOUR OF THE WOLF is a bewitching hour.  As described by the Master, Bergman himself: “The hour of the wolf is the time between night and dawn.  It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most palpable.  It is the hour when the sleepless are pursued by their sharpest anxieties, when ghosts and demons hold sway. It is also the hour when most children are born.”  His film captures this hour vividly through the life of painter on the verge of madness played by Max von Sydow.  It all happens when the painter mysteriously disappears and his pregnant wife (Liv Ulmann) discovers his diary and hence his thoughts of his affair with another woman.  HOUR OF THW WOLF traces the painter’s decent into madness (one of the film’s best segments involve him and his wife attending a dinner party where everything drives him crazy).  Bergman does what he does best here – shows the demons in an individual.


PERSONA (Sweden 1966) **

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

PERSONA, quite similar in tone to CRIES AND WHISPERS is again, one of the least favourite of my Bergman films.  The film follows an actress played by Liv Ullmann who is recovering in a hospital before being cared fro by a single nurse, played by Bibi Anderson.  The two move into the doctor’s beach house where the two continue the actress’s convalescence.  The actress initially never talks but slowly opens up, which gives the chance for the nurse to go on and on about her youth and adventures including an abortion and a sexual fling with a young stranger that gave her the best sex in her life.  Needless to say, the two torture each other.


SUMMER WITH MONIKA (Sweden 1953) ***1/2

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

The lesser known work, SUMMER WITH MONIKA is Bergman’s teenage romance.  The film begins with flirty Monika (Harriet Anderson) asking for a match from Harry (Lars Ekborg) in a coffee shop.  This leads to an evening at the movies and love that soon blossoms.  In the coffee shop, an elderly mane warns of the turmoil of spring just as the teens laugh and prepare for good times.  The contrast of life’s outlook is so different from the old and the young.  But the you g eventually grow older and Bergman sows that misery is part of life, as Harry’s anther blurts out int one scene; “Suffering is part of life”.  The two lovers eventually escape on a stolen boat to spend a summer idyll in the archipelago.  Then life takes a turn as Monika finds herself pregnant.  The two marry, and matrimony rears its ugly head.  Bergman over emphasizes the emotions of his teen characters – Monika not only sobs during the teary moments in the movie but uses a hanky to wipe away tears followed by her blowing her nose.  Harry’s yawns by contrast are big ones.  Despite the lack of nudity, Bergman’s film is very sex and erotic.


THE VIRGIN SPRING (Jungfrukällan) (Sweden 1960) Top 10 *****

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

THE VIRGIN SPRING in retrospect plays like a classic art-house version of TAKEN where the father goes on an all-out revenge against the perpetuators of the crime committed on his daughter.  Bergman knows how to draw his audience into his story and by the time the father lifts up his weapon (a butcher knife) against the villains, the audience is right on the point of cheering him on and violently.  THE VIRGIN SPRING is the harshly beautiful rendering of a 14th-century legend.  While taking candles to her church, the virginal young Karin (Birgitta Pettersson) is brutally raped and murdered by three goatherds.  The assailants later unknowingly take shelter at the farm of her father (Max von Sydow), who realizes their identity when they try to sell his daughter’s clothes.   Bergman’s attention to detail is another reason this film is so perfect – from the eating utensils to the furniture of the 14th Century farmhouse.   The film won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and is Bergman’s most commercially accessible film.



WILD STRAWBERRIES (Smultronstället)(Sweden1957) *****Top 10

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Arguably Bergman’s best film, WILD STRAWBERRIES opens with Professor Borg’s voiceover describing his life, he a 79-year old widowed doctor with a son with no children.  He is looked after by a good housekeeper of 40 years service.  Bergman demonstrates his prowess at drawing the audience into his characters.  When the film begins, Borg has a nightmare – one that is classic Bergman.  Borg is walking down an empty street of deserted building when he looks up at a click with no hands.  He looks at his pocket watch, which turns out has no hands either.  A horse bearing  coffin comes around the corner with the coffin falling off right i front of Borg.  A hand reaches out from the coffin t grab his hand.  Borg opens the coffin to see the face of the corpse as his own.  This opening sequence is nothing short of genius.  The film then follows  Borg en route to receiving his honours in Lund as he is accompanied by his pregnant daughter-in-law Marianne who does not much like him and is planning to separate from her husband, Evald, his only son, who does not want her to have the baby, their first.  One of the best films eve made about old people facing death.




The last day, the 17th of September marks the end of another year of the Toronto International Film Festival. Most noted difference is the fewer number of films programmed, as attendances over the past years have been dropping. Reasons for this state of affairs are many including higher unaffordable movie prices, the removal of the festival all movie pass and movie pirating.

Of the 79 festival films seen this year, I have selected my 10 best – the best of the best.

These are listed in alphabetical order:
BPM (France)

The public is the most important and the PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD went to THREE BILLBOARDS.

Other winners as selected by the Toronto Intrenational Film Festival, are, as listed below, in the different categories.

Till next year…….

The Toronto International Film Festival® announced its award winners at the closing ceremony at TIFF Bell Lightbox today, hosted by Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF. To watch the presentation, visit The 42nd Festival wraps up this evening.
The short film awards below were selected by a jury comprised of Marit van den Elshout, Head of CineMart at the International Film Festival Rotterdam; award-winning filmmaker Johnny Ma (Old Stone); and Cannes 2017 Art Cinema Award winner Chloé Zhao (The Rider).


The IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Marc-Antoine Lemire’s Pre-Drink. The jury remarked the film “is a monumental yet intimate portrayal of a woman in transition. Lead by the towering performances of the film’s two actors, both of who are worthy of receiving their own awards. The jury were especially taken by the leading actress who gives one of the best performances we saw in the Short Cuts programmes. The 2017 Short Cuts jury honors Pre-Drink for Best Canadian short film.”

The award offers a $10,000 cash prize, made possible by IWC Schaffhausen.


The IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Short Film goes to Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s The Burden (Min Börda). The jury remarked, “Whimsical but tragic, imaginative and just plain weird, this is exactly what one can expect from a Scandinavian musical with fish in bath robes singing out their existentialist crisis. This is a film that stands out in this program and any film program it will ever be part of.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize made possible by IWC Schaffhausen.
The jury gave honourable mentions to Matthew Rankin’s The Tesla World Light (Tesla: Lumière Mondiale) and Qiu Yang’s Xiao Cheng Er Yue (A Gentle Night).

The Canadian awards below were selected by a jury comprised of Mark Adams, Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival; Canadian documentarian and Hillman Prize winner Min Sook Lee (Migrant Dreams); and artist and filmmaker Ella Cooper, who is also the founder of Black Women Film! Canada.


The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to Wayne Wapeemukwa’s Luk’ Luk’l. The jury remarked, “The award goes to a striking debut film that disrupts borders – of form and content and suggests new cinematic territories.This beautifully realized film offers a unique Canadian perspective, made with real compassion, insight and remarkable characters from Vancouver’s East Side.” This award carries a cash prize of $15,000, made possible by the City of Toronto.

The jury gave honourable mention to Sadaf Foroughi’s Ava.


The Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Robin Aubert’s Les Affamés. The jury remarked, “This year the Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to a hybrid art-house film that proved to be something of a revelation. Wonderfully scripted and perfectly cast, this film managed the rare feat of featuring genuinely interesting and well-rounded characters; surprising dramatic and comedic moments with well thought-out multi-generational female roles (who were totally badass, I might add) while also dealing with poignant and contemporary issues, set against a striking rural backdrop and hundreds of ‘ravenous’ zombies.”

This award carries a cash prize of $30,000 and a custom award, sponsored by Canada Goose.

The jury gave honourable mention to Simon Lavoie’s The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes).


The Festival welcomed an international FIPRESCI jury for the 26th year. The jury members comprised of jury president Jonathan Rosenbaum (USA), Robert Daudelin (Canada), Martin Horyna (Czech Republic), Ivonete Pinto (Brazil), Marietta Steinhart (Austria), and Jim Slotek (Canada).

Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for the Discovery programme is awarded to Sadaf Foroughi for Ava.

Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for Special Presentations is awarded to Manuel Martín Cuenca for The Motive (El Autor).


As selected by a jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Pacific Cinema for the sixth consecutive year, the NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere goes to Huang Hsin-Yao’s The Great Buddha+.

Jury members include jury chairperson Rashmi Doraiswamy (India), Jian Hao (China), and Savine Wong (Canada). The jury remarked, “The NETPAC Jury awards The Great Buddha+ for depicting the interface between the haves and have-nots, with black humor and style, innovating with noir in representing the social reality of Taiwan today.”


This is the third year for Platform, the Festival’s juried programme that champions directors’ cinema from around the world. The Festival welcomed an international jury comprised of award-winning filmmakers Chen Kaige, Małgorzata Szumowska, and Wim Wenders who unanimously awarded the Toronto Platform Prize, presented by Air France, to Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country.

“This is a spiritual epic taking place in 1929 in Australia’s Northern Territory,” said the jury in a statement. “It is a great saga of human fate, and its themes of race and struggle for survival are handled in such a simple, rich, unpretentious and touching way, that it became for us a deeply emotional metaphor for our common fight for dignity.

Speaking about their deliberations, the jury added: “We saw 12 films from all over the world that took us into very different universes of the soul and to extremely different places on our planet. We were thankful to be able to see these films and we very much appreciated that actually exactly half of them were made by women. TIFF is leading the way, we feel.”

“As we only had one award to give, we had to be quite radical. We also limited ourselves to only one special mention, even if other films might have imposed themselves for best acting, writing or directing.”

Awarding a special mention to Clio Barnard’s Dark River, the jury said: “This film, deeply rooted in the Yorkshire countryside, convinced us, as its characters and actors, its photography, its story and its sense of place were all so much ONE, so utterly believable and controlled, that we were totally taken by it.”

The Toronto Platform Prize offers a custom award and a $25,000 cash prize, made possible by Air France.

New this year, the Festival presents a free screening of Toronto Platform Prize winner Sweet Country at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 8:30 pm on September 17. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 6:30pm.


This year marked the 40th year that Toronto audiences were able to cast a ballot for their favourite Festival film for the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. This year’s award goes to Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The award offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by Grolsch. The second runner-up is Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. The first runner-up is Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award goes to Joseph Kahn’s Bodied. The second runner-up is Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99. The first runner-up is James Franco’s The Disaster Artist.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award goes to Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places. The second runner-up is Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! The first runner-up is Long Time Running directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas De Pencier.

Interview with Festival Director Michael York (MY Film Festival)

MY Film Festival is a brand new and exciting event which will take place in Toronto, Ontario. Our mission is to connect emerging artists with local filmmakers. We are anticipating a solid turn out with many press, bloggers, casting directors and agents to be in attendance this year. If you are a resident of ONTARIO, please get in contact with us for your free waiver code.



 Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Michael York: MY Film Festival is a great way for filmmakers to get the opportunity to display their work in the biggest city in Canada – Toronto. I hope someday people can reflect on their screenings at the festival and see that it helped start/ shape or promote their career.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

I would expect to exchange info with other great, passionate filmmakers and expand my network, as well as being inspired by great films.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

MY film festival are looking for well written and shot films, do to an over welcoming amount of submissions our first year we look for great sound quality as well as well thought out lighting. We don’t discriminate against run and gun productions but we intrigued by unorthodox shots and seemingly flawless cuts.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

I feel from personal experience that films that are not in english have a tougher time standing out or holding the attention of viewers due to the subtitles that can take away from the beautiful cinematography or performances.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Our motivation and our goal is to be able to launch careers, we want to help people make those connections that a blind email or call may not be able to have.

How has your Film Freeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway is actually the only platform we use to promote the festival due to it’s very user friendly layout. They have done a great job of building up a strong database of filmmakers and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have had a single submission.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

I have a lot of big ideas for MY film festival, I could see it going many different directions. I had a thought that it could someday grow into an art show in a large warehouse where we would have multiple film screenings at once with different rooms dressed in different themes based on the genre of the films being shown. The viewers/festival attendees would have the freedom to sit and watch something or quietly excuse themselves to a separate room with another film playing. There are also talks about bringing in a partner who would award the winner of the best short film with one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to turn their passion project into a feature film.

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

That is a good question, I think it would still have to be Scarface. I must have watched that a thousand times when I was a kid.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

What makes a great film for me is a well shot, captivating story with character arcs and a solid ending. (Not always a happy one)

How is the film scene in your city?

We are based out of Toronto, Ontario. The film scene here is booming! Both union and non union films are in constant rotation. We have massive tax incentives for American productions to save a buck and have access to countless great locations and industry professionals. This draws a lot of traffic, we actually have had to turn down several feature films due to lack of studio space.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

SUBMIT your TV PILOT Screenplay or TV SPEC Script
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Screenplay CONTESTSUBMIT your Short Screenplay or FEATURE Script
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COMMFFEST Toronto – Interview with the Festival Director

COMMFFEST mission statement: To advance education by raising the cultural, artistic and aesthetic expression of the community. And to advance the public’s appreciation of the arts through related artistic workshops and panel discussions, while promoting the works of filmmakers and artists alike.

10th COMMFFEST celebrates great cinema , the power of global community and cultural heritage

The 2015 COMMFFEST (Community Film Festival) celebrates its 10th anniversary from September 23 to 30, screening in movie theatres and exhibition spaces, presented yearly by a group of dedicated volunteers. COMMFFEST a non-profit charitable corporation makes its home in one of Toronto’s most fast growing, economically diverse neighbourhood, Old Town Toronto, where many languages are spoken and where memorable films were made.

Go to the website and learn more about the upcoming 2015 festival:

Matthew Toffolo recently chatted with the Festival Director Sandie de freitas:

MT: What is the goal of your film festival?

Sandie: It‘s main objective is to bring communities together in a global cultural exchange under one or more venues to share in their differences and similarities educating them in their struggles and finding their common bonds through film and other artistic disciplines. A place where filmmakers can connect with their audience and network with their peers

MT: How has the festival changed since is began until now?

Sandie: The festival began with 20 films over a three day period from mostly Canada and has now grown into a week long event showcasing over 60 international films with panel discussions as well as a kids film fest attended by schools from across Toronto. It now includes an international art exhibition of renown painters, photographers, mixed media artists. and The festival has an award show called (MADA) the making a difference award presented at our filmmaker’s brunch to filmmakers whose work champions’ social good and community enrichment.

MT: Can you give us a sneak peak of what to except for the 2015 Festival?

Sandie: Celebration of COMMFFEST’s first ten years combining film with art and music with panel discussions/forums with guest speakers. Special guest appearances TBA.

MT: Is there going to be a theme for the 2015 festival?

Sandie: The general theme of socially oriented cinema

MT: Where do you see your festival in 5 years?

Sandie: A world class media event that showcases socially relevant films alongside multiple panel discuss intertwined with art and music

MT: What’s the current status of the Film Scene in your city?

Sandie: A very thriving mecca for film festivals and filmmakers

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

Sandie: The Color Purple

Matthew Toffolo, Interviewer BIO

Matthew Toffolo is the current CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival . He had worked for the organization since its inception in 2007 serving as the Short Film Festival’s moderator during the Audience Feedback sessions.

Filmmaker of over 20 short films and TV episodes. Took over full reins of the WILDsound Festival in May 2013. From then to the end of 2014, he’s presented over 90 movies at the monthly FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto, plus has had over 60 screenplays and stories performed by professional actors at the bi-monthly Writing Festival.