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Q&A: IU Cinema’s founding director talks Toronto International Film Festival



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Jon Vickers, the founding director at IU Cinema, stands near a statue at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

IU Cinema’s founding director Jon Vickers traveled to Canada recently for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, known as TIFF.

TIFF is one of the largest international film festivals, attended by some 480,000 people annually. Every year, hundreds of films from countries around the world screen at the festival. Vickers said he attended networking events with acclaimed filmmakers like Claire Denis and Barry Jenkins and saw 24 feature films from filmmakers around the world. The Indiana Daily Student sat down with him to talk about the films he saw at TIFF, the answers have been edited for clarity. 

INDIANA DAILY STUDENT: How did you choose the films you wanted to see?

VICKERS: Festival schedules are not complicated, but they're kind of tricky. There’s always conflicts, so no matter what you want to see you have to base it on timing. Every year I go to TIFF – this is my 15th — I try to see five to six films a day if I can, and with the goal of seeing at least 20 films depending on how long I’m there. I was there five-and-a-half days, saw 24 films, most of them completely, but I had to leave a couple early to get to others. I always try to make a list of the things I want to see. That’s based on what I’ve read about the films, but often it’s also based on the directors I know and the work that I know from these directors.

There’s one film I want to talk about in particular, “Monrovia, Indiana.” There’s a new documentary from the director Frederick Wiseman, who was here in 2016. He was part of our Filmmaker-to-Filmmaker program, and he had never been to Indiana before and he found his subject of this new film here while he was Indiana. So this film would not exist if it were not for IU and IU Cinema. It’s a really, really beautiful portrait of smalltown life in the Midwest. Anyway, very proud to be part of “Monrovia, Indiana.” 

IDS: What were some of the highlights of the festival?

VICKERS: I think probably my top three films would be “ROMA." I would say “High Life” is probably two or three, and then the third, “Shoplifters,” has to be in there. But there are probably 10 films I’d like to bring here to the cinema.

IDS: What were some of the craziest or most unique films that you saw?

VICKERS: Jon-Luc Godard’s “The Image Book” is a typical late Godard film, which for many viewers would seem crazy and unique, and maybe unpolished and unfinished. It’s a really challenging, and I would say complex, use of language and image and sound. As you’re watching, sound’s cutting out, coming in, changing. It’s kind of an attack in some ways on the senses. 

IDS: What about “Widows” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” since both directors are coming off Best Picture wins?

VICKERS: They’re both really great works. “Widows” is a bigger kind of actioner of a film. It’s well done, it’s a good story, it puts the power in these women. It’s these pretty powerful women coming together, unseemingly powerful, but they become powerful in their own ways.

“If Beale Street Could Talk,” I think, is a really great narrative exposé on our current prison system, told through the story of a man who is incarcerated. It’s done really well through great flashback. Barry Jenkins plays with time really well in paralleling a couple stories in different times. It’s really well done.

IDS: Are there any films you’d like to bring to IU Cinema?

VICKERS: Oh, I think there are probably 10 I’d love to. We have a thing happening next spring, which is Mexico Remixed, and so there are at least two films from Mexico that I’d like to bring. Those are “ROMA” and the film “Our Time” from the director Carlos Reygadas. I would say “Shoplifters,” “ROMA,” “Non-Fiction,” “High Life,” maybe “Free Solo,” “Jinpa” – which is a small Tibetan film by Pema Tseden, who we’ve hosted here at the Cinema before – “The Sisters Brothers,” “Her Smell,” “Our Time,” “Three Faces,” “If Beale Street Could Talk” and we are screening “Monrovia” this semester. It was a fruitful, if not my most fruitful, Tiff. 

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