The 2022 Toronto International Film Part 1, Moving On, Maya and the Wave, The Woman King

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival kicked off on September 8, 2022, with me attending in person. This is my fourth year of press accreditation, with the last two years being online, so I must say it feels great to be back!

My selection’s started off with the comedic writer-director Paul Weitz’s film, “Moving On,” starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Malcolm Macdonald, and Richard Roundtree. The story centers on a man (Howard), played by Macdonald, giving a eulogy at his wife’s funeral; a college friend of his wife, Evelyn, played by Tomlin, makes a comedic, somewhat snarky entrance. A few minutes later, Fonda (Claire) gives a detestable stare while walking up to say hello to Howard; he gazes at her with astonishment and is shocked when she says, “I’m going to kill you, and I’m going to do it today.” Believe me, when I tell you this is not a spoiler, as Fonda proclaims this from the get-go. The entire film ends up being a comedy of errors about how she’s going to kill him and if that will eventually ever happen

This is the second collaboration for Weitz and Lily Tomlin after 2015’s “Grandma,” the acclaimed road-trip comedy in which Tomlin’s character accompanies her granddaughter on a mission to obtain an abortion. “Moving On” contains themes of loss, aging, hurt, regrets, and love are all mixed in the film—one minute you’ll be laughing and the next will bring you to tears. A thoroughly entertaining film with outstanding performances by all.

The documentary “Maya and the Wave” is filmmaker Stephanie Johnes’ 10-year project following world-champion Brazilian big wave surfer Maya Gabeira. Not only did she go into battle against colossal waves, she experienced misogynistic behavior from her male surfer peers. The thrilling pursuit of conquering big waves all over the world is shown in amazing cinematography that is like no other I’ve seen. Yes, Maya is determined to reach her goal of breaking the highest big wave world record, and we are along for the ride. We discover that the coastal town of Nazaré in Portugal is known for its big waves.

World Champion Big-Wave surfer Maya Gaberira and director Stephanie Johnes, Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

Again, the exhilarating big wave surfing scenes by all surfers are captured in amazing cinematography accompanied by a riveting musical score. The training, setbacks, injuries, and near-death experience is all captured. As well as the close family ties of Maya, mother, father, and sister—the realism of their scenes paints a loving portrait of support. As a viewer, we root for Maya as her determination, pain, and hard work ethic are captured. There are no spoilers here, as it’s best to watch Maya’s journey and see the results yourself, although here’s her dream goals in the Guinness World Records. Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira has broken her own Guinness World Records title for the largest wave surfed – unlimited (female). It bests her previous record by five and a half feet, with a confirmed measurement of 73.5 foot (22.4 metres). It was very exciting to have director Stephanie Johnes appear on stage with the World Champion Big-Wave surfer Maya Gaberira. The audience gave them uproarious applause!

“The Woman King” the film that champions women, is based on the actual events of the Agojie, an all-female consortium of warriors trained relentlessly in order to protect the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s. Viola Davis takes the lead as General Nanisca, who eventually becomes King. It goes without saying, she is a force of the movie, and you can’t take your eyes off of her. Viola is in her element, as is the rebellious teenager, Nawi, played by Thuso Mbedu, of Barry Jenkins’s ten-part series “The Underground Railroad,” based on the bestselling book by Colson Whitehead of the same name.

Thuso Mbedu and Viola Davis, The Woman King, TIFF 2022

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s prior films and TV series have prepared her for the intimacy of relationships in the project. Directing the excellent series “Women of the Movement,” based on the book, “Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement,” starring Adrienne Warren as Till’s mother and directing the all-star cast of Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and Sophie Okonedo in the film “The Secret Life of Bees.” Yes, she was ready for the challenge and wowed us at every turn. I’d be amiss if I didn’t discuss John Boyega’s role as the King, you might know him from the Stars Wars trilogy movies. He firmly exhibits strength and power in his role as a King who, at times, is forced to compromise his people.

Viewing multiple battles can be tough, and yes, the violence is gory, yet you can’t help but root for the women as they protect their land, property, and people. The most important element for me is the appreciation of the role models all young girls have to follow now as the woman warriors work as a group to out-smart and out-fight their opponents’. I’d also recommend seeing it on the big screen in movie theaters. Yes, it’s that great!

Sarah Knight Adamson© September 12, 2022