...or, our whirlwind trip to TIFF 2014 ....or, so you thought you might like to go to the picture show!
Let me just preface this all by saying that Mark has an almost 35 year relationship with The Wall. He could certainly tell you more detail about all his connections to it but what it boils down to is that he saw the original New York Wall shows in the early 1980's (I think he saw 3 of 5 nights). He travelled to New York for the North American premiere of the Alan Parker's film, "The Wall." Later, he flew to Berlin to see Roger and friends tear down the wall in 1990 and in 2010, was in Toronto for the opening night of the more recent tour. In 2012, just after his first cancer diagnosis, he went to Quebec City for the final night of the North American leg of the tour. During the 2010/2012 tours, he saw the show 7 times. Just wanted to put that out there, before I tell our long and winding story of how we got to see the world premiere of the new movie, last night in Toronto.
When the announcement was made that Roger Waters and Sean Evans were going to be premiering their film, “Roger Waters The Wall” at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was shocked. It was a pleasant surprise but I hadn’t realized that the film was finished (we’ve been speculating about a concert film since the fall of 2010). To learn that the premiere was happening just a couple of hours down the road from us, and on a Saturday night, was really exciting. I had never been to TIFF before and it’s been about 17 years since Mark had been so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We got up early on Sunday, August 31 and spent about 2 hours in an online queue, trying to get tickets. Eventually, we had our tickets, 2 seats for the world premiere screening. Honestly, we would have been happy to get tickets for any screening of the film but this was what we’d hoped for; seeing the movie, at the premiere, with Roger and Sean in attendance, on Roger’s birthday no less.
When we arrived in Toronto that afternoon, we went immediately to the box office at the Elgin Theatre. A friend of mine is a TIFF pro and she told me that we could collect our tickets at will-call, rather than go to the main festival box office (which is located in the middle of a big TIFF street festival on King Street). We were told that we couldn’t get our tickets until an hour before the screening but I spoke to a couple of festival volunteers (who I might add are just so lovely and helpful) and learned that we could line up in the ticket-holders line and then grab our tickets before the doors open. The lines were interesting. The theatre is located on Yonge Street and they had barriers all around the theatre, and across the street. There was a barricaded section for folks who hoped to buy Rush tickets, located on the south side of the box office. The line for ticket holders was to the north of the box office. I’d been warned that the line for ticket holders could snake all the way around the building (the Elgin seats 1500+ people). There was a separate line, a second-tier VIP line for folks who carry one of the sponsoring company’s credit cards.
The screening was scheduled to start at 9:15 p.m. so we took off for a walk, wandered around a bit and grabbed some dinner. At 7 p.m., we went back to the theatre to line up. The line was huge but we were told that many of the folks in the line were queued up for an 8 p.m. screening (which was happening in the Wintergarden theatre – located in the same building as the Elgin). When we first joined the line, we were around the corner. It was pretty obvious to us which folks were going to the Wintergarden and which folks were there to see The Wall. There was lots of tour t-shirts and “trust me” hoodies in the lineup. Some folks wore VIP laminates from the Ticket Master promotions of the tour. While we stood in line on Shuter Street, folks across the street were lining up for a TIFF party in Massey Hall. There was a DJ blasting dance music into the street. It was a very festive environment but the folks in the line around us were not really enjoying the music or the street theatre (courtesy of a young woman who had clearly taken too much of something). Fortunately, this didn’t last too long. By 8:15 p.m. or so, we had moved up and were about 50 people away from the box office. While we stood in line, TIFF volunteers were handing out these lovely commemorative stickers and some of the TIFF staff kept joking “ticket holders for the Wall, please line up by the Wall.” It was funny for about the first 3 times, less so each time we heard it after that!
Roger and Sean were scheduled to arrive at 8:30 p.m. and many folks in the lineup started to push toward the red carpet area. Some of the people who were standing near us ran up to try to get photos or have Roger sign something when they arrived. It was interesting to see. I’d been told that normally, the ticket holders are in the theatre before the red carpet folks start to arrive and that once you got your seat saved, it was possible to run back to the red carpet area to get photos. Last night, at the Elgin anyway, this was not the case. I had printed off a couple of photos I took at the show in Ottawa (June 2012) and thought if the stars aligned correctly, we may be able to get one signed. When we saw the crush of the crowd (many folks from behind us had run up to the red carpet), we decided to stay put. The sound of people hollering Roger’s name was a little overwhelming. We were probably 40 feet from where he was and it was loud, I can only imagine what it would have been like for him.
About 30 minutes before Roger arrived, a very small group of protesters set up across the street. At first, it was just two young men, each holding a bundle of pink balloons. I couldn’t make out what was printed on them but I had seen a couple of posts on twitter earlier in the week from folks who were inviting people to come down to protest the screening. Another group joined the balloon fellows and a couple of banners were hung over the barricade, and a couple of men started shouting at Roger. Now, I’m not going to wade in on any big political debate because honestly, I agree with Roger’s position this particular issue. Personally, I think that if you are going to print a banner and quote someone, you should try to get the quote right. Also, you should look further at the quote and see it in the context of the rest of that particular song. That’s all I’ll say. Once Roger and the VIPs entered the theatre, the protesters turned on us, hollering at us to rip up our tickets and calling us anti-Semites. Nice way to try to get your point across.
Eventually, the line started to move and the folks in the second-tier VIP line were allowed in. The folks in our line up were allowed in immediately after and Mark and I split up, thinking that between the two of us, we’d be able to find a decent spot to sit. When I entered the lobby of the theatre, I looked over to my right and saw Roger and Sean standing about 6 feet away (I could see the side of Roger’s face and the back of Sean’s head) standing in a cordoned off area, being interviewed. As I walked past, some TIFF handlers started moving Roger and Sean toward the inner lobby. I could see Mark ahead of me about 6 people and the crowd was asked to stop so Roger, Sean and a small group of people could get onto a beautiful old elevator, I presume to go up a level to the stage. Once the elevator door closed, the crowd was permitted to move ahead.
When we got into the theatre, we discovered that more than half of the seats in the theatre were reserved for the credit card people. Mark always like to sit as close to the front of the theatre as possible, no matter what the movie. When he’s attended TIFF in the past, this was never a problem and normally, the first few rows are empty. Last night however, the first section was jam packed. We made our way up toward the middle/back section, on the right side of the theatre. I had been in this theatre once to see a play many years before and knew that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house and our seats were great. We were in the theatre about 5 minutes when they took the house lights down.
TIFF CEO Piers Handling came onto the stage to introduce Roger and Sean. They both came up on stage and Roger said a few words about the film. He joked that Sean was a mute but that they would both be around to answer questions after the film finished. With that, the lights when dark and the film started.
I’m not going to do a formal review of the movie. As with music, I know what I like but I’m not a super technical film nerd so I certainly won’t get into too much detail about the film because I really think that folks should experience it for themselves. I will say this, we noticed right away that one of the shows they filmed was Quebec City. Mark had been at that show, in July 2012, on the Plains of Abraham. We later learned that the other show in the film (and they were edited together magnificently) was filmed in Buenos Aires. I can honestly say that this was the best concert film I have ever seen. Anyone who has seen the tour knows how visually striking it is. I think it was a very ambitious project to try to capture the experience of the Wall tour on film and Sean and Roger did it beautifully. As with anything he sets his hand to, Roger does not disappoint. Nigel Godrich did an amazing job on the music and it sounds better than I could have imagined. The sound was absolutely flawless. Visually, it’s stunning. The viewer has an opportunity to experience the show from just about every different seat in the house. One of the things I loved most about the Wall was that no matter where your seats were, they were great.
Sean Evans had said earlier on twitter that “Roger Waters The Wall” was a concert film with a twist. This was a great way to describe it. The incredible concert footage is interwoven with a moving, thoughtful and sometimes funny narrative provided by Roger. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that my favourite part of the concert footage was during “Hey You.” I had always wanted to see what the band gets up to during this part of the show. Watching them perform, hidden by the Wall, was a real treat. The boys are clearly enjoying themselves and having fun with each other, away from the audience. The other high-light for me came toward the end, as Roger is introducing the band during “Behind The Wall.” When he got around to introducing Snowy White, everyone (including us) in our section of the theatre cheered loudly. I wish he could have been there to hear it, it only happened for him. I will say that this film demonstrates exactly how talented every band member is, Roger & Sean have shown everyone in their very best light, looking and sounding incredible.
Interestingly, the screening did not sell out and there were many empty seats in front of us. As the credits were rolling, I grabbed my camera and tried to get as close to the front of the theatre as I could to take a couple of photos. I wasn’t able to get as close as I would have liked and they didn’t put the house lights up like I had hoped that they would. From my spot along the wall, I looked up and at the end of the row I spotted Jack and Harry Waters. At this point, Roger was up on stage, thanking folks and introducing some of the team members who were in the audience.
We heard that Roger and Sean planned to stay in Toronto the following day to attend the Ryerson screening and I am certain that they will be working hard during their time at TIFF as they try to secure distribution for the film. At the moment, they have neither a distributor nor a release date set. Someone asked about a DVD release and Roger commented that they need to get the film out into the theatres before they can do that. I’m confident that the eventual DVD (and I hope accompanying soundtrack album) will sell well. They have really outdone themselves with this film. I cannot wait to see it again.