In a job interview a few years ago I was asked what I like to do on a Friday night.
I shared how I liked to go down the street from my condo to the world's best international cinema and watch the best of foreign films — while stopping for sushi on the way there or back home.
*not exactly in those words, paraphrasing here.
The theatre referenced was TIFF (Bell Lightbox) in Toronto, the sushi place was I think called Ichiban Sushi. Fun aside, years later, I discovered it was owned by a friend of a former colleague of mine who I had met in Switzerland. Small world, right!?
Alright, back to film.
The most moving film experiences I have had happened in Toronto between 2010 and 2015. I was able to attend premieres at the film festival each fall it came to town. But this cinema also had programming 52 weeks a year of international films both independent and major studio productions so it was a regular part of my life in the city.
I would characterize this time period as my travel drought years. I think within a combination of my genetic code and how I have evolved to be, travel and exploration are at the root of what drives, fulfills, and provides meaning for who I am and why I exist.
It's been foundational to my identity. I'd also say that during that window, parts of me were not at their best as I missed out on this important outlet due to studies, work, life etc.
Now, back to the foreignness. These films, like literature (shout out to the highly influential works of writers like Kapuściński and Thubron and especially Calvino's Invisible Cities) have unlocked portals for me. Gateways to new experiences. New places. And people.
I am someone who at night, when not able to fall asleep as a teenager would imagine all the places I wished to go in the future and as an adult would recreate the places and space sI have experienced much like the Ariadne, the architect in Inception.
I've tried to re-create mental maps of everything from Istanbul's Sultanahmet to the landscapes alongside the train trip from Ottawa to Toronto and back or from Geneva Airport up into the mountain village of where I used to live. Sometimes it's hard, but I always find it rewarding. I don’t have the research to back this up but I think it can inspire brain health even.
Since leaving Toronto, I have watched less foreign film while travelling significantly more. Is it a straight correlation? Probably not precisely, but it's worth exploring.
This is ended up being a much more chaotic piece than I imagined. I set out to explore why I like foreign films, but what I realized as I was typing was that for me, it’s so much more.
Places also provide insights on how they provide for you what you need in the moment. They can also show you what is missing in your life.
The three most moving films I saw at TIFF between 2010-2015.