Smoke-Free TIFF Presents: If You Saw His Heart

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If You Saw His Heart (2017)

Reviewed by: Tarnem Afify

If You Saw His Heart is another TIFF Film debuted at this year’s festival. Directed by Joan Chemla, the film stars Gael Garcia Bernal as a petty gypsy thief hiding out in a derelict motel called Metropole. There he crosses paths with a beautiful stranger, Francine, and while she appears to be just as lost in this brutal underworld as he is, she may just prove to be the very person who can save him. The film starts off with an extended wedding sequence where we see Daniel hanging out with the groom, Costel. The two are best friends and belong to a gypsy community situated in the South of France. Once the party is over, the script flashes back-and-forth revealing how Daniel lured Costel into a life of crime and feels responsible for his accidental death.

Even though there is an evident art form in the pictures used as well as harmony between the colours in the background and the scenes’ atmosphere, I would not recommend the movie. It lacks smooth transitions between its events and has an open ending that does not make sense! Its fragmented narrative seems to be trying to compensate for the shortage in its content. It has a slow progression in the events that leads to an ending that is not much different from the beginning. Finally, the movie not given an official rating. However, based on the violence, sexual content, and tobacco presence throughout the film, I would personally rate it 18A.

Was there smoking in the movie? Yes. The movie contains tobacco, lots of it.

tobacco impressions

What was happening in the scene with smoking? It starts off with scenes from Costel’s wedding and impressively enough, the first scene is of a magician using a cigarette as a tool to perform magic tricks! Smoking and drinking are displayed in the movie, as a source of entertainment during these gatherings. Smoking especially, is illustrated as a tool for reliving stress, sadness, feelings of confusion, and negative emotions. Characters smoke when thinking about their current situations, future and fate, as well as a mean for relaxation.

What was your reaction to seeing the characters using tobacco? I was shocked that the movie had included a scene of children and youth smoking. This scene was very unnecessary and the only clear message it is delivering is the normalization of smoking among children and youth. Even though most of the audience in the theater were adults and it may appear that the movie was not directly targeting youth, it is clear that the point of such a scene is to normalize the act of youth smoking among parents, teachers, supervisors, and those who support, guide, and teach youth.  All in all, it was disappointing to see smoking in If You Saw his Heart and it was obvious that the industry was using the movie as a means to promote its products. If smoking was taken out of the movie, it would have given the actors more room to use their skills and talent to contribute to the plot and produce a higher quality work.

Did the movie show the real health effects and consequences of tobacco use? The real consequences of using tobacco are masked and falsified when the movie displays smoking as a necessity for life and equated it with food and drinks.

Smoke-Free TIFF Presents: Life and Nothing More


Life and Nothing More (2017)

Reviewed by: Saadia Sarker

Life and Nothing More was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and is rated 14A. It is Spanish drama film both directed and written by Antonio Mendez Esparza.  It tells a story about a 14-year old boy, Andrew, and his mom, Regina, and the struggle they face living in Florida. The film explores privilege and systemic racism, while also balancing it with family ties and Andrew’s process of growing into a young man. Andrew is torn between remaining young yet having to take on more adult responsibilities while his mother must maintain her strength despite all odds to keep her family going.

The film felt very raw, yet real. I enjoyed that it used different character perspectives to explore the nuances and struggles of everyday life. The hardships faced by many African-Americans through institutional setbacks is shown remarkably in the film. The film resonates quite a few times that life for some may be harder to live due to the circumstances and cards life has dealt them.

Was there smoking in the movie? Yes, there was tobacco use.

tobacco impressions


Who is smoking? Regina, Andrew’s mother is found smoking throughout the film. Robert also smokes once.

What was happening in the scene with smoking?  

The film had a total of five scenes of tobacco usage:

  • Regina smoking a cigarette in the kitchen, with her kids around
  • Regina smoking while talking to co-workers during break
  • Regina smoking again w/ friends outside of work during break
  • Robert smoking in the house, while sitting on the couch and talking to Andrew
  • Regina smoking while sitting on her bed in her room and scrolling through her phone

Would you notice if the smoking was taken out of the movie? If the smoking was removed from the film, I do not think I would have noticed.

Did the movie show the real health effects and consequences of tobacco use? While I understand the scenes containing smoking were intended to implicate the stress some of the characters in the film were experiencing, the movie did not show the real health effects or consequences of that tobacco use.  The film, however, does explores factors which may influence a person’s decision and circumstances to begin smoking.

Smoke-Free TIFF Presents: Novitiate

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Novitiate (2017)

Reviewed by: Rachael Bentley

Novitiate, is a 14A film that was screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. It is about a young adult raised by Roman Catholic nuns who marries the Church which she then challenges after going through some detrimental changes in the early 1960’s. It is directed by Maggie Betts and stars Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo, Julianne Nicholson, Dianna Agron, Morgan Saylor, Liana Liberato and many more.

Overall, the film Novitiate was an excellent choice of movie to make. I was raised Roman Catholic as a male. I now see a clear vision of what it is like to be a woman in the community of the church. I grew up near a place called the Madonna House, where both male and female from all walks of the earth are welcomed into the church and live life committed to the church. I never understood what it truly is like in some cases until I watched this film. Great movie, would recommend.

Was there smoking in the movie? No, there was no tobacco use.


Did the character appear less believable/realistic because they did not use tobacco? No, without the tobacco use, it certainly did not affect the plot of the movie.

Why do you think the movie-makers chose to keep tobacco out of this movie? I think the filmmakers chose to take tobacco usage out of the movie because it is not needed-especially in a religious movie.


Smoke-Free TIFF Presents: Jane

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Jane (2017)

Reviewed by: Ivory Featherstone

Jane is a documentary on Jane Goodall’s life work that is brought together from primarily outtakes of never seen before footage. It is PG rated film directed by Brett Morgan and was screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. The film tells a story of love through Jane’s expeditions as a young adult, first hand insight on some of her famous field work in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park that is used today, her relationship with Hugo van Lawick, husband and cameraman, and finally, the family of chimpanzees that were the focus of her studies.

Overall, Jane was an amazing experience. After years of studying her ground-breaking field discoveries in my Anthropology classes, I can now make connections like never before. The movie was about love. Not only love with the chimpanzees she studied but the love and growth of her cameraman and husband Hugo. They both have a special relationship and a love for the work they do. I recommend this movie and sure hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Jane deserves a better rating in my opinion due to the way her story was captured like never before.

I took my mother and boyfriend to see the movie with me, who are not interested in any of this kind of stuff but they enjoyed it more than I did! To be the second audience group to see the premiere of Jane, in the world felt special. It even felt like an added little gift when the director Brett Morgan came out before the movie to do an introduction and then after the movie for a question and answer session. Overall, for my very first TIFF experience- I am now hooked for life. I will be a continuous member of the TIFF audience for years to come. Thank you again for such a wonderful experience, see you next year!

Was there smoking in the movie? Yes, there was tobacco use.

tobacco impressions


Who is smoking? Hugo, the cameraman and husband to Jane was a chain-smoker.

What was happening in the scene with smoking? He was smoking cigars and mainly bored waiting for the chimps to arrive so he could document Jane’s field work.

Would you notice if the smoking was taken out of the movie? No, I wouldn’t notice if smoking was taken out of the movie. It didn’t really have a need to be in the film. I only noticed it because I knew I was looking for it.

What was your reaction to seeing the characters using tobacco? No, the movie did not show and health effects related to smoking. But, from my opinion, the smoking could have caused the early death of Jane’s husband.

Smoke-Free TIFF Presents: The Shape of Water


The Shape of Water (2017)

Reviewed by: Donna Pan (Program Assistant at Youth Advocacy Training Institute)

The Shape of Water is Academy Award nominated director Guillermo Del Toro’s newest film that was screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It is a romantic fantasy film set in the 1960’s that tells a tale of a Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaning lady who works in a government laboratory, who falls in love with an half man half aquatic creature that is captured and brought in for testing. It stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins and many more. It is rated PG on the Official TIFF Website, however I believe that due to the tobacco exposure and mature scenes throughout the film, it should be rated 18A. This film was not accurately rated as I had anticipated a children’s film given the genre and summary of Toro’s newest film.

Elisa’s story is incredibly sad as she was an orphan was who abused as a child and as a result became mute as her vocal chords were cut. She feels alone in the world and desperate to be accepted. She states that this creature is the only person to ever see her as whole and complete. She becomes the only person able to communicate with the creature as she slowly earns over his trust and teaches him ASL. When she learns that the Colonel Strickland wants to dissect the creature she feels that it is her responsibility to save him and return him back to the ocean where he was found. It is definitely an interesting story albeit a little disturbing, I would rate it a 7/10.

An interesting side note is that The Shape of Water was actually filmed in Toronto and it was screened at the Elgin Theatre where it was filmed. Definitely a cool Inception-esque moment seeing the theatre and the seat I was sitting in appear on screen.

Was there smoking in the movie? Yes, smoking was prevalent across the film in the form of cigarettes. I would count at least 10+ times of tobacco exposure.

tobacco impressions

Who is smoking? Main characters including Elisa, Zelda, Hoffstetler, as well as many other minor characters can all be found smoking at some point during the film.

What was happening in the scene with smoking? In the scene where Elisa and Zelda are smoking, they were offered cigarettes by their coworkers when they were taking a break. Other characters smoked both indoors and outdoors.

Was smoking necessary for the characters in the movie? No, smoking was not necessary for the characters in the movie. It is actually quite shocking because the movie was officially rated PG on the TIFF website, yet on top of the mature scenes, the tobacco use was so prevalent that I believe it was inaccurately rated.

Would you notice if the smoking was taken out of the movie? I would not notice if smoking was taken out of the film as again, I had anticipated a children’s fantasy movie. Due to its rating, I was hoping there wouldn’t be any smoking.

What was your reaction to seeing the characters using tobacco? My initial reaction was shock as it kept happening and for the main characters to all smoke, it shows that the director felt that smoking added to the development of the story. It could’ve been due to the fact that the story was set in the 1960’s- a period of time where smoking was common. However, in that case, the rating of the film needs to change in order to avoid youth from coming to see this film.

Did the movie show the real health effects and consequences of tobacco use? No, the consequences of tobacco use were not shown in the movie.

Smoke-Free TIFF Presents: BPM (Beats Per Minute)

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BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)

Reviewed by: Fyffe Hunting (Public Health Worker at HKPR District Health Unit) and Youth Group

BPM (Beats Per Minute) is a French drama film rated 14A that was screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It was an informative film about people living with AIDS in the 1990’s. It stars Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adele Haenel and Antoine Reinartz. It profiled people in the LGBTQ+ community. It was also about Nathan, a character who doesn’t have AIDS.  It got up close and personal about the characters’ lives and their relationships with each other. We would recommend the movie to a mature audience.  It was an 8.5/10 film.

Was there smoking in the movie? – Yes

tobacco impressions

How often was smoking found in the movie? In the movie, the image of tobacco use was shown ten times.

What was happening in the scene with smoking? Tobacco use was present when the characters were stressed and needed relief or were in pain.

Was smoking necessary for the characters in the movie? In our opinion it wasn’t really relevant to the story. If these images were not used in the movie it wouldn’t have changed the movie.

Did the movie show the real health effects and consequences of tobacco use? No- the health effects and consequences of tobacco use were not shown.

Smoke-Free TIFF Presents: Angels Wear White

                                               Angels Wear White

Angels Wear White (2017)

Reviewed by: Vedant Kochhar (YATI Volunteer)

Angels Wear White premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and is the first Smoke-Free TIFF Movie Review. The film brings forth critical social issues which include child sexual abuse, violence against women, prostitution, and the corruption present within society. The film is in Chinese with English subtitles. It was released on September 7th 2017 at film festivals throughout the world. The film stars Wen Qi, Shi Ke, Geng Le, and many others. It is interesting to note that due to its festival release, the film’s rating was labelled STC (Subject To Classification) as it was not yet rated. However, I found that in the movie, there were mature scenes found at various points throughout the film. And so, I would rate this movie 18A. The story revolves around two schoolgirls –Wen and Xin, who are assaulted by a powerful middle-aged man in a motel. Mia, a teenager who was working reception that night, is the only witness. For fear of losing her job, she says nothing. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Wen, one of the victims, realizes that her troubles were just beginning.  Trapped in a world that seems to be very evil, these two girls must both find their way out.

The movie starts off by having short and cut off scenes of different angles of a big statue of Marilyn Monroe, and the main character Mia is shown staring at this figure. In the Q & A session that followed the movie, the director Vivian Qu shared an interesting anecdote while working on the script for this film. She read a newspaper article of a Marilyn Monroe statue being moved out of a small town in China. The residents of the town posted messages all around saying “Don’t go Marilyn!”. This deep interest in the statue stuck with the director, and she asked a few of her own female friends about what they thought of the news. One of them responded that Marilyn meant everything to her but love.

Angels Wear White is a foreign film which provides other parts of the world an insight into the state of affairs in China, and the struggles that women face in particular in a patriarchal and sexist world. It opens up the audiences’ appreciation of a more accepting country like Canada where these social issues may be considered less prevalent.

Was there smoking in the movie? Yes.

tobacco impressions

Who is smoking? The police officer, Wen’s mother and father, and the thugs.

What was happening in the scene with smoking? The police officer smoked cigarettes whenever he was stressed, or right after arguments. Wen’s mother smoked after she was given more information regarding her daughters’ case. She also smoked whenever she would feel guilty about her daughter’s situation.  The thugs smoked out of habit.

Would you notice if the smoking was taken out of the movie? No, I would not notice.

What was your reaction to seeing the characters using tobacco –  I thought that the tobacco usage in the film, went with the flow of my understanding of tobacco usage. It is unpleasant, it is destructive and the characters who used it, were villainous. I would rate this movie 18A so children and young viewers are not exposed to the tobacco found present within the film.

Did the movie show the real health effects and consequences of tobacco use? No, it did not show the health effects, but it did show some social consequences of broken relationships, irresponsible people, and chain-smokers instigating their partners to smoke, corruption, and marital instability.


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