PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 12:01 AM: : The Toronto Film Festival has set the Godfrey Reggio-directed Visitors to have its world premiere at the festival September 8, in a most splashy manner. The film has an original score by Philip Glass and it is being presented by Steven Soderbergh. While that filmmaker is stepping away from directing features, he’s not done backing them and has been a big supporter of Reggio’s work since Koyaanisqatsi 30 years ago. The Toronto premiere will be presented in 4K digital projection and live accompaniment by members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Michael Riesman. The premiere will be held that Sunday at 6 PM at the Visa Screening Room at the Elgin Theatre.
Said TIFF Director and CEO Piers Handling: “Reggio’s Visitors is a poignant, powerful film. Coupled with live performance by 65 Members of the TSO, this event is an opportunity for Toronto audiences to be moved and to experience film in a whole new way.”
Of his involvement, Soderbergh told me: “I was a producer on the last Qatsi film but had lost touch with Godfrey and out of the blue I emailed his producer, Lawrence Taub. He told me they were in the last stages of cutting his new movie. They brought me out to Red Hook in Brooklyn to show it to me. I loved it and said, ‘What can I do to help, what do you want?’ They asked if I would be presenter and help them navigate making a distribution deal and finding a foreign sales person and I said, ‘I’m in.’ “
Reggio’s “pure cinema” works are hard to sum up in a sentence, and the new film is no different. “It’s connected to the other Qatsi films in the sense it’s Godfrey’s wordless take on a certain subject, but he’s changed his game here,” Soderbergh said. “There’s more directing in it, more things he’s specifically staging for the camera than he’s done before, and there are performers in the film. He’s taken what he does and pushed it into a new area, which was really exciting for me to watch. It’s thirty years ago this year when Koyaanisqatsi came out. I watched it again, and there just isn’t a single, visual idea in that movie that hasn’t been ripped off, assimilated, regurgitated, built upon. Actually I watched all three films again, and it made me laugh how other directors just took his language and just ran with it. Here, he’s moved the goal post as if to challenge others and say, ‘Alright, let’s see what you can do with this.’ It’s so striking, but not necessarily immediately applicable to what everybody else does. They’ll have to work to steal this one.”
Visitors is the fourth feature-length collaboration between Reggio, Glass and filmmaker Jon Kane, after Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi. According to TIFF, “those filmmakers advance their previous work by incorporating body language as non-spoken narrative to join with image and music. Footage of nonverbal human portraits and communication reveals a constant stream of unconscious emotions, barely noticed by most people. Visitors reveals humanity’s trancelike relationship with technology, which, when commandeered by extreme emotional states, produces massive effects far beyond the human species. The protagonist, a wise gorilla, sagely witnesses the antics of homo sapiens. The film is visceral, offering the audience an experience beyond information about the moment in which we live.”