Monday, September 10, 2007
Toronto Diary: Farewell Plans
While the Toronto Film Festival is only about half over, for me it has come and gone, and by this time tomorrow I will be back in Los Angeles, attention turned to the Emmys. While television's golden night is fun to cover, not much compares to my time in Canada. It's hard to say goodbye.

Luckily, though, I will soon be reminded of my adventures in the north as I begin to turn the interviews I've conducted into what I hope are compelling news stories for CNN.

In particular, I plan to begin work on a piece centered around the surge of new films coming out about the war in Iraq. Today I interviewed legendary director Brian De Palma for his new movie, "Redacted," talk-show-host-turned-filmmaker Phil Donahue about his documentary "Body of War," and Nick Broomfield for the feature "Battle For Haditha." I have to say, it is impressive to see how these artists are reacting to the times and hear what their hopes are for the work they've done.

While my time in Toronto may have been short, my list of highlights runs long. Jonathan Demme's documentary "Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains" is exceptional. The Q&A I attended with the former president and his wife was truly memorable.

Chatting with Maria Bello and Amy Brenneman about their new film "The Jane Austen Book Club" was downright fun. (Maria, in case you're seeing this, good luck with cold turkey!) My dear friend Robert, who owns a gallery in Berlin, will be thrilled that Alexandra Maria Lara from "Control" and her co-star/boyfriend, Sam Riley, are excited to check out his hot German art spot.

Introducing two great artists for the first time, De Palma and Laura Linney, in our shooting suite (their scheduled interviews overlapped) was a terrific moment to witness. Can you imagine Brian De Palma giddy? I can.

And finally, getting the opportunity to talk about "Across the Universe" -- a wonderful film -- with its director, Julie Taymor, and star Evan Rachel Wood added an unexpected delight to my experience this year.

All in all, I have been inspired and encouraged by this year's festival and look forward to the upcoming film season.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Toronto Diary: Documentary now
Members of the press covering the Toronto Film Festival do a number of things. They screen, they critique, they interview, they schmooze (I'm not a big fan of the word "schmooze" -- used either as a verb or a noun it sounds like something that should involve a diaper), they walk, eat and mingle ... but, most of all, they report back.

It is with great enthusiasm that I report back today on the film "Darfur Now."

"Darfur Now" is about the humanitarian crisis happening in Sudan. It's a remarkable film, helpfully and incisively laying out the issues involved in this African conflict. I recommend seeing it when it hits theaters in October.

I'm not going to lie: Documentaries are not the reason I got into entertainment news. They used to seem like the rice cakes of the movies: boring, flavorless and of little interest -- to me, anyway. (Then again, I used to have the same impression of the news, and now I work at CNN. Go figure.) I got into entertainment news because it was usually lighter in nature and offered viewers the one chance in the news hour when they could relax and just enjoy a little fun.

Life is funny, isn't it? Now, not only do I like docs, I feel they are some of the most important films out there -- and, in many cases, where the true journalism is happening today. "Darfur Now" is a good example of why I'm a big fan.
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