Blindness is dark, intense and pretty damn good. I gather the director, the awesome Fernando City of God, The Constant Gardener Meirelles has recut the film again since it screened at TIFF, though since this is my first time seeing it, I can't say what's been changed. Shot in Guelph Ontario and Sao Paulo, Brazil (I know, weird combo) the picture follows a group of nameless characters who all contract a virus that causes blindness, all but one woman, played by Julianne Moore, who pretends to be blind to stay with her husband, the doctor, Mark Ruffalo. For the most part, it works well, and the cast is great, with a lot of recognizable Canadian character actors, such as the regularly creepy Maury Chaykin and Soulpepper Theatre co-founder Susan Coyne, who co-created Slings & Arrows
Don McKellar adapted the script and has a supporting role in the picture. I managed to get a few moments with him on the red carpet. As a shout out to the Strategic Partners international market going on here this weekend, he defended the idea of international co-productions to get movies made here in Canada.
"They get a bad rap," he says. "People assume that you are making compromises, but it's actually the reverse. This is Hollywood propaganda. It's a co-production in this case so we could maintain control. It's also essential for Canadian films, if you want to get over a certain budget, you have to do it."
McKellar was friendly and forthcoming, a really easy interview. He talked about choosing Sao Paulo as a location because it's enormous, multi-ethnic (with a huge Japanese population) and mostly unrecognizable, it doesn't have a lot of famous landmarks, ideal for realizing the city in the novel, which is unidentified.
"No one has an image of it, it was perfect for us."
I asked him if he ever felt a little overwhelmed as this modest Canadian working with material by a Nobel Prize-winning author and an internationally renowned director.
"There were moments I recognized the absurdity of it. But when Saramango gave us the rights, he said he did it partially because we're Canadian. He respected us at least as a nation, he prefered our foreign policies at the time to America, he liked our work. Even Fernando, I adore his previous films, but he deferred to me as a writer. I'm not the most bold guy but I was empowered by them."
I gave props to McKellar for my favourite Canadian TV sitcom of all time, Twitch City that he starred in and helped create. "There were a lot of people who identified with that show," he said, chuckling. "It still has a strong following in many places in the world."
OK... so, it's after 2 and I have to crash. I'll finish this party wrap-up tomorrow, with details my other chats with filmmakers, and I promised my thoughts on Ariel Nasr's Good Morning Kandahar...I will deliver.
In closing, let me say this: Rosanna Arquette was at the party, but the VIP section was so crowded I only saw her in passing, on the arm of her director, Michael Melski. And Justin Nozuka brings the blue-eyed soul thing, I suppose, but he ain't no Buck 65.