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More Books on Film at TIFF 2013

September 3, 2013 | Winona | Comments (0)

Welcome to part two of my round-up of books on film at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Last week, I looked at fiction books on the big screen. This week: non-fiction books on film at TIFF 2013!


 Devil's Knot

Devil's Knot

Devil's Knot by Mara LeverittBased on the chilling true crime events in Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt.

In 1993, three eight-year-old boys were murdered in the tightly knit community of West Memphis, Arkansas, and three teenage boys were convicted of the brutal crime. Atom Egoyan directs Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth in this dramatization of the aftermath of those notorious murders, based on award-winning investigative reporter Mara Leveritt's account of the case and the wrongful conviction of the teens. Her book is both exhaustively researched (430 footnotes!) and an engrossing read. You can find out more about the West Memphis Three in the excellent documentary trilogy Paradise Lost and the recently published Life After Death by Damien Echols, deemed "the ringleader" of the three teenagers, all of whom were released from prison in 2011, but not officially exonerated.    


The Fifth Estate

Inside Wikileaks by Daniel Domscheit-Berg Wikileaks by David Leigh and Luke HardingBased on the behind-the-scenes memoir Inside Wikileaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website by Daniel Domscheit-Berg (also: ebook) and the exposé Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays hacker/activist Julian Assange in this investigative thriller - selected for the opening slot at TIFF - about the rise and fall of WikiLeaks. The international non-profit organization has published thousands of classified documents, including nearly 750,000 United States military documents and diplomatic communications - the largest leak of government secrets in American history. The film is adapted from two books, both written by people whose close working relationships with WikiLeaks founder Assange have since soured: Domscheit-Berg, a former WikiLeaks spokesperson; and Leigh, the Guardian journalist who handled the release of the US intelligence leaks to the press.


The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman by Claire TomalinBased on the biography of Charles Dickens' mistress The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin (also: ebook).

When Charles Dickens was 45 - at the height of his popularity, married for over 20 years, and the father of ten children - he fell in love with actress Nelly Ternan, just 17 years old. Ralph Fiennes both directs and stars in this period drama that chronicles their secret romance which lasted from their first meeting in 1857 until Dickens' death in 1870. The award-winning book by literary biographer Tomalin was called "a remarkable feat of biographical sleuthing" by Publisher's Weekly, and includes vivid descriptions of theatre life in the Victorian era, as well as speculation about a child who may have been born, and died, to the illicit couple.

Kill Your Darlings


And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by William S Burroughs Mania by Ronald CollinsBased on the murder of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr, written about in the novel And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs and also in Mania: The Story of the Outraged and Outrageous Lives That Launched a Cultural Revolution by Ronald K. L. Collins and David M. Skover.

This one isn't, strictly speaking, based on a book , but it's sure to be of interest to book lovers and Beat aficionados. Daniel Radcliffe plays a young Allen Ginsberg in this stylish murder/mystery/biopic that explores the shocking murder of David Kammerer, a friend of William S. Burroughs, by the devilishly charismatic Lucien Carr, a force of transgressive nature and an adored inspiration to the radical young poets of the Beat Generation. You can read about the events of that summer in 1944 in two books: the atmospheric, sex-, art-, and drug-fuelled And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, written in alternating chapters by Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, and Mania, a novelistic recreation of the lives of the Beats that covers all the sordid countercultural insanity experienced by the young iconoclasts at the time, as chronicled in their letters, diaries, and creative works.


Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom


Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson MandelaBased on the moving autobiography Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (also: ebook | eaudiobook).

Idris Elba (who I would watch reading the phone book) stars in this epic biopic of the deeply beloved and truly remarkable political revolutionary and eventual president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Mandela began writing his autobiography in 1975, during his 27-year imprisonment, and in it he chronicles the formidible struggles he faced during his life, as well as the struggles of his country to overcome apartheid, one of the most effective systems of oppression in history. A powerful, inspirational book that is sure to stir your heart and open your eyes.


MARY Queen of Scots


Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Stefan ZweigBased on the 1935 biography Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Stefan Zweig.

Swiss filmmaker Thomas Imbach directs the young French actress Camille Rutherford in this sympathetic psychological portrait of the tragic Scottish queen. Mary Stuart was just six days old when she was named to the throne of Scotland in 1542, 16 years old when she became queen consort of France, widowed at 18, then exiled, and executed, age 44, at the hands of her powerful cousin Elizabeth. There have been dozens of works written about or inspired by Mary Stuart over the years; this film was adapted from famed Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's 1935 biography, a bestseller in Germany and France but out of print until recently in North America and the UK. If you are interested in reading more about the quintessential Scottish queen, check out Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser or My Heart is My Own by John Guy.




Reclaiming History by Vincent BugliosiBased on the acclaimed anti-conspiracy book Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi.

An ensemble cast, led by Paul Giametti, Billy Bob Thornton, and Marcia Gay Harden, stars in this dramatic procedural about the doctors and other ordinary people working at Parkland Memorial Hospital on the day that John F. Kennedy was shot and then, just 48 hours later, Lee Harvey Oswald. The film was adapted from the massive, painstakingly assembled 1,612-page tome by Bugliosi, the attorney and writer perhaps best known for prosecuting Charles Manson and writing the definitive book on that subject, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders.



The Lost Child of Philomena LeeBased on the poignant true story The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty Year Search by Martin Sixsmith.

The brilliant Stephen Frears directs the equally brilliant Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in this powerful drama about an unmarried Irish Catholic woman and the BBC reporter who helps her find the son she was forced to give up decades before. That reporter was Martin Sixsmith, whose book chronicles her search and the eventual reunion of mother and son, who had been sold by nuns to America for adoption and grew up to be a successul lawyer for the Republican Party, and a closeted gay man. A heartbreaking exposé of the shocking illicit trade in illegitimate children carried out regularly by the Catholic Church during the 1950s, as well as the social and political cruelties of the Reagan administration during the early years of the HIV epidemic in America.


The Railway Man
The Railway Man

The Railway Man by Eric LomaxBased on the harrowing memoir The Railway Man: A POW's Searing Account of War, Brutality, and Forgiveness by Eric Lomax.

Colin Firth stars as Eric Lomax, a quiet railway enthusiast and former British soldier whose terrifying nightmares alarm his new wife, played by Nicole Kidman, prompting her search for information and understanding. This film is based on the true story of Lomax, who was captured by the Japanese army during WWII, held as a prisoner of war, and forced to work on the Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, on which an estimated 100,000 civilian labourers and POWs died during its construction. Lomax's powerful, award-winning memoir recounts his experiences before, during, and after the war, including his incredible reconciliation with one of his former torturers, interpreter Takashi Nagase, who passed away at age 92, just one year before Lomax, who passed last year, age 93.


12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Based on the shocking real-life account 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup. (also: eaudiobook; public domain ebooks)

Directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, and - in a small role as a Canadian abolitionist - Brad Pitt, this film dramatizes the horrifying true story of a free violinist living in 1841 New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South. Solomon Northup spent the next twelve years of his life in bondage on a cotton plantation in Louisiana, enduring crushing labour, brutal humiliation, and sadistic punishment. When this eloquent, unflinching account of his experience was published - soon after Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin - The Buffalo Express wrote: "We hope it will be universally read. If we do not sadly err, it will prove of vast service in the great cause of freedom. If there are those who can peruse it unmoved, we pity them." Northrup's experience was previously dramatized in the PBS television movie Solomon Northup's Odyssey; to learn more, visit the Twelve Years a Slave website.


And that's a wrap. Happy film fest everyone! See you at the movies - or somewhere in the stacks...




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