The Canadian titles have been announced for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. It’s a good-lucking bunch of films overall, with some expected titles popping up, such as Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, Sarah Polley’s documentary Stories We Tell, and Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral. I’m especially excited to see Inch’Allah, from Kim McCraw and Luc Déry, the producers of Oscar nominees and Genie winners Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar. (Will they make it three years in a row?) Other goodies include a new Bruce Sweeney film and a quartet of films by new directors that are playing in the Discovery programme, which houses Canuck debuts now that the Canada First! programme is defunct. I'm disappointed that Molly Maxwell didn't make the cut, as well as Three Days in Havana, but the latter might not be finished/ready. Overall, though, the selections are impressive and diverse, with the festival bringing seven films by female directors to the line-up. TIFF also announced the short films for Short Cuts Canada. Among those I’m eager to see Frost (the new CFC short), as well as Ashley McKenzie’s When You Sleep.
Some of the films announced today will be eligible for the City of Toronto + Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film — given out annually to a Canadian filmmaker — and the SKYY Vodka Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film — presented annually to a Canadian filmmaker for an impressive debut feature. The Canadian awards jury responsible for selecting this year’s winners includes producer and filmmaker Jody Shapiro, CPH PIX Festival Director Jacob Neiiendam, actor and filmmaker Valerie Buhagiar and director, writer and producer Patricia Rozema.
The newly announced Canadian selections are:
Brandon Cronenberg, Canada/USA North American Premiere
Syd March is an employee at a clinic that sells injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans. When he becomes infected with the disease that plagues superstar Hannah Geist, he must unravel the mystery surrounding her before he suffers the same fate. Starring Caleb Landry Jones and Sarah Gadon.
Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, Canada World Premiere
Chloe is a young Canadian obstetrician working in a makeshift clinic within a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank where she treats pregnant women under the supervision of Michael, a French doctor. Facing daily checkpoints and the separation barrier, Chloe is confronted with the conflict and the people it affects. Her encounter with the war draws Chloe into an adventure that's both deeply personal and as large as the land. From the producing team behind Academy Award®-nominated Monsieur Lazhar and Incendies.
Xavier Dolan, Canada Toronto Premiere
In the 1990s, Laurence tells his girlfriend Fred that he wants to become a woman. In spite of the odds — and in spite of each other — they confront the prejudices of their friends, ignore the counsel of their families, and brave the phobias of the society they offend.
For ten years, they try to live through this transition, and embark on an epic journey which, unbeknownst to them, may cost Fred and Laurence their love. Starring Suzanne Clément and Melvil Poupaud.
Manon Briand, Canada Toronto Premiere
A coat check attendant in a bar decides to take an unclaimed coat back to its owner, but soon finds herself in the middle of criminal intrigue. A regular of the bar has long harboured a secret love for the attendant — enough to put his life on the line to help her. Starring Stéphanie Lapointe, Charles-Alexandre Dubé and Louis Morissette.
Kim Nguyen, Canada Toronto Premiere
Komona, a 14-year-old girl, tells her unborn child the story of how she became a child soldier. A tale set in Sub-Saharan Africa, Rebelle is also a love story between two young souls caught in a violent yet beautiful and magical world. Starring Rachel Mwanza (winner of Silver Bear for best actress at Berlin International Film Festival), Alain Bastien and Serge Kanyinda.
Michael McGowan, Canada World Premiere
Based on true events and boasting a veteran cast, Still is a heartfelt story about an 89-year-old New Brunswicker (James Cromwell) who faces jail time when the government tries to stop him from building a more suitable house for his wife (Geneviève Bujold), whose health is beginning to fade.
Stories We Tell
Sarah Polley, Canada North American Premiere
In this inspired, genre-twisting film, Academy Award-nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who’s telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets behind a family of storytellers. She playfully interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of a lively, fun-loving past and the shadows just beneath. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: a messy, intense and loving tangle of contradictions.
Jason Buxton, Canada World Premiere
An alienated teenager's online threat ignites fear in a small community, in this disturbing and perceptive look at how our media-fuelled, post-Columbine culture can transform typical teen angst into intimations of murder.
Igor Drljaca, Canada World Premiere
Miro, an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, lives in Toronto. He has a hard time relating to others and he never stays in one place for too long. When he finds out that his pre-war friend Dado, who has been missing for almost two decades, is now wanted for war-era crimes, his life starts to unravel. Upon hearing that Dado still visits Zljebovi, a village on the outskirts of Sarajevo, Miro embarks on a trip to Bosnia to find his friend.
Kate Mellville, Canada World Premiere
Forced to repeat Grade 12, Claire's reputation is sliding from bad-ass to bad joke. At night, she escapes to would-be rock star Jim (aged 33), while at school, she bonds with Henry, a nerdy freshman she used to babysit. Eventually, Claire learns the difference between sex, intimacy and friendship.
Kazik Radwanski, Canada North American Premiere
Kazik Radwinski's debut feature Tower is about a single and career-less man who lives at home with his parents in Toronto. He wanders alone in search of companionship and suddenly finds himself in an intimate relationship. Irritated by a raccoon that tears up his garbage, he sets out to catch it.
CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA
Rafaël Ouellet, Canada Toronto Premiere
After being involved in a road accident causing the death of a woman, truck driver Germain’s world collapses as he feels an overwhelming sense of guilt and remorse. His state of mind starts to worry his younger son Samuel, who puts his own janitor job in Montreal on hold to track down his older brother, drifter Alain, in New Brunswick, hoping to head back together to their hometown to give some support to their father.
The Crimes of Mike Recket
Bruce Sweeney, Canada World Premiere
Bruce Sweeney (Last Wedding) returns to the Festival with this neo-noir police procedural — set against the backdrop of economic hard times — about a failed real estate agent (Nicholas Lea) whose recent attempt to turn things around makes him a suspect in a criminal investigation.
Sudz Sutherland, Canada World Premiere
Home Again is about three adults raised “foreign” (in the USA, United Kingdom and Canada) from childhood and deported back to their birth country, Jamaica. Back “home” each discovers a different Jamaica from the paradise in vacation ads. We follow these three deportees on a journey for survival that surprisingly is filled with hope.
My Awkward Sexual Adventure
Sean Garrity, Canada World Premiere
To win back his unsatisfied ex-girlfriend, conservative accountant Jordan Abrams enlists the help of Julia — an uninhibited exotic dancer — to guide him on a quest for sexual experience, leading him into a world of strip clubs, sensual massage parlours, cross-dressing and S & M.
The Lesser Blessed
Anita Doron, Canada World Premiere
The Lesser Blessed is a powerful coming-of-age story about Larry, a Native teenager balancing his romantic heart with a dark past that threatens to unravel his life.
I Declare War
Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, Canada World Premiere
A group of friends play an innocent game of capture the flag in the neighbourhood woods, arming themselves with nothing more than sticks, their imagination and a simple set of rules. One afternoon, the game takes on a more serious tone and the quest for victory pushes the boundaries of friendship, giving the would-be warriors a glimpse of the darker side of human nature.
Tout ce que tu possèdes (All That You Possess)
Bernard Émond, Canada World Premiere
A disgruntled academic refuses a substantial inheritance because the fortune was amassed dishonestly. Soon after, he is reunited with his teenage daughter whose mother he had abandoned when she was pregnant. From the filmmaker responsible for La donation and La neuvaine.
Rob Stewart, Canada World Premiere
The much anticipated follow-up film from the filmmakers of internationally acclaimed, box office hit Sharkwater, Revolution follows Rob Stewart on an adventure from photographer/filmmaker to environmental activist trying to change the world. Stewart faces danger, conflict and drama in his struggle to find the key to empowering the conservation movement so it can affect change on a global scale.
Previously announced Canadian features include: Denis Côté’s Bestiaire (Wavelengths), Ruba Nadda’s Inescapable (Gala) and Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children (Gala). Canadian films previously announced in the TIFF Docs programme include: Simon Ennis’ Lunarcy!, Jamie Kastner’s The Secret Disco Revolution and Barry Avrich’s Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinksy. Previously announced in the Masters programme: Peter Mettler’s The End of Time.
SHORT CUTS CANADA
Charles Officer, ON, 8’ World Premiere
100 Musicians is a sensual and intimate film. It is a hazy summer night in Kensington market. Sydney and June are in bed, in the afterglow of making love. The tender moment slowly culminates into a social/political quarrel over what they hear on the radio.
A Pretty Funny Story
Evan Morgan, ON, 19’ World Premiere
Bored family-man Rick witnesses a neighbour’s embarrassing act and is eager to report the story back to his office chums. The neighbour though, shamed and maniacal, proceeds to threaten and take action against his bully.
Frieda Luk, ON, 7’ World Premiere The modern-day Sisyphean sentence is represented here as punishment for gluttony when a dysfunctional family meets over Sunday brunch. A well-designed commentary on an overindulgent society, American Sisyphus addresses a culture’s insatiable consumption.
Lewis Bennett and Calum MacLeod, ON, 9’
In 1994, Grade 5 student Lewis Bennett got into a schoolyard fight, resulting in a stern warning from his principal “Change your ways, or you’ll end up in an Asian gang.” Seventeen years later, Bennett (still Caucasian) revisits his past to determine if he took a wrong turn along the way.
Carla Susanto, ON, 2’ World Premiere
Engravings from century-old medical textbooks become an animated backdrop to a man’s loving goodbye during his final moments. The fleeting flicker of the monochromatic images resonates with the narrator’s quickening journey as he transitions from one world to another.
Connor Gaston, BC, 11’ World Premiere
Accused of killing his father, a young man claims the television set was the offender. Referring to the yellow light of the hungry ghosts — the light we cannot resist — Bardo Light takes inspiration from the Tibetan Book of the Dead to create the ethereal tale of a modern creation linking all species to another, transcendent world.
Danis Goulet, ON, 11’ World Premiere
This coming-of-age tale follows 16-year-old Alyssa, a young Cree girl whose plans to be a mom are challenged by reality. Assured direction and keen insight deliver a powerful depiction of the pressures youth face in isolated communities and their attempts to take control of their lives.
Patrick Bouchard, QC, 9’ Toronto Premiere
Inspired by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Bydlo is a staggering visual rendering of the lumbering wooden Polish ox-cart picture. Technically complex (Bouchard animates plasteline) and artistically fiery, Bydlo depicts the cycles of life, the power of man and beast, and both the beauty and horror of labour.
Jonathan Williams, ON, 6’ World Premiere
Two prisoners escape through the woods while being chased by a policeman. They’re in luck: a canoe is left by the waterside, but its owner, a nudist, wants it back. With no plan — and bullets flying in their direction — the trio must find a way out of what they’ve started.
Crackin’ Down Hard
Mike Clattenburg, NS, 10’ World Premiere
Pimpin’ ain’t easy. Nowhere is this more true than in the middle of the desert where a young man looking for some meditation and solitary hiking is confronted with a proposition that might be just too hard to resist. Mike Clattenburg’s irreverent sense of humour is showcased in this cautionary and ludicrously funny tale about succumbing to primal urges and the power of suggestion.
The Dancing Cop
Kelvin Redvers, BC, 7’ World Premiere
A musical satire tackling the politics of native people in urban centres, The Dancing Cop defies typical social commentary by mirroring the bubbling civic tension between citizens and the powers at play. When a man is wrongly accused of theft and cornered by an overly zealous cop, the latter performs a frighteningly cheery song and dance.
Aaron Phelan, ON, 9’ World Premiere
A no-nonsense used-appliance shop owner is forced to contend with a phalanx of tween girls entering his store during a summer camp scavenger hunt. Hrant Alianak’s performance as the anti-social proprietor Hector hits deadpan comedic perfection in this urban tale about generation gaps and bargain-priced stoves.
Jeremy Ball, ON, 13’ World Premiere
An epic sci-fi thriller, Frost follows Nava, a young arctic hunter determined to prove her skills by embarking on a dangerous search for scarce food. At the edge of the known territory, she makes a discovery that will call for her to win the battle in a new world.
The Genius from Quintino
Johnny Ma, ON, 14’ North American Premiere
Ricardo is a mechanic in a poor suburb near Rio de Janeiro. Known by locals for his uncanny ability to fix anything, his reputation brings a curious young boy with a broken toy to his doorstep. Confronted by a past he doesn’t remember and a child looking for more than a mechanic, Ricardo realizes there may be limits to what he can repair.
Herd Leader (Chef de meute)
Chloe Robichaud, QC, 13’ Canadian Premiere
Clara leads a solitary life, much to the chagrin of her meddling family. Her spinster aunt’s untimely passing leads to Clara’s inheritance of a disobedient pug. Learning to live with man’s best friend might teach her a few new tricks.
Jeff Wong, BC, 14’ World Premiere
Teenage sisters living in the mountainous villages of Vietnam take a western backpacker into their care. Their informal relationship exposes its complexities, as they guide him through a traditional way of life that has been threatened and transformed by economic and colonial forces.
Horrible Things (Les choses horrible)
Vincent Biron, QC, 12’ World Premiere
Nothing says “I’m sorry” like a thoughtful present. But for Dede, Carole and Steve, their attempts to make amends and assuage their guilt with gift-giving fall comically short. Winner of the Award for Best Canadian Short Film at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, Vincent Biron blends three thematically linked stories with a keen eye for dark comedy and sympathy for deeply flawed characters.
How to be Deadly
Nik Sexton, ON, 16’ North American Premiere
Donnie Dumphy is vulgar, harmless, a hoser, an underdog and a loyal friend; but he’s also broken-hearted. On the eve of St. John’s biggest dirt bike competition of the year, he will live a thousand lives.
I’m Beginning to Miss You
Sakay Ottawa, ON, 3’ Toronto Premiere
When Pinaskin Ottawa disappeared from Manawan, Quebec, no one saw him leave. His brother struggles to not lose hope; looking for clues and continuing his search. Stark images of a winter landscape scattered with fragments of human existence emphasize this poetic and chilling tale of loss.
Apart Theodore Ushev, QC, 4’ World Premiere
Poetic and political, Theodore Ushev’s latest animated work cultivates his incredible talent to call for the liberation of imprisoned Iranian filmmakers and to focus attention on the plight of Jafar Panahi. Drawing inspiration from raw footage of the Green Wave uprising to compose densely layered rotoscoped images embedded with Farsi text, the result is a powerful piece of activism that is both personal and profound.
Keep a Modest Head (Ne crâne pas sois modeste)
Deco Dawson, MB, 20’ World Premiere
Jean Benoît, the last official member of the French Surrealist group, receives Deco Dawson’s signature visual treatment in this biography that fantastically illustrates Benoît’s formative (and highly sexual) childhood memories. Mixing interviews recorded in Benoît’s Parisian studio with surrealist inspired reenactments, Dawson deconstructs documentary conventions to fittingly eulogize a formidable artist.
Let the Daylight into the Swamp
Jeffrey St. Jules, ON, 35’ World Premiere
The St. Judes origins in the lumber camps of northern Ontario lead to a splintered family and a spotted history filled with questions and half answers. With a mix of animation, re-enactments and archival evidence, Jeffrey St. Jules assembles a three-part 3-D documentary collage that explores the consequences of parents who make the difficult decision to give up their children.
Life Doesn’t Frighten Me
Stephen Dunn, ON, 14’ World Premiere
Teenage life for Esther Weary includes her well-intentioned grandpa, friends that suck, and a birthday that couldn’t be more depressing if it tried. She’s insecure about her nose, and puberty makes her think she’s dying. Sharp writing and standout performances by Jade Aspros and Gordon Pinsent highlight this modern coming-of-age comedy.
Bahar Noorizadeh, BC, 13’ World Premiere
A boy mistakenly starts a fire in a residential neighbourhood. His mother, an Afghan immigrant to Canada, is interrogated by the police. Protective of her son and hindered by a language barrier, she has trouble explaining with certainty what happened.
Lost In Motion
Ben Shirinian, ON, 2.5’ A dancer freed from costumes, sets and possibly the laws of gravity takes flight in a solo performance, soaring through the air with grace and power. Choreographed and performed by Guillaume Côté, principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, every pirouette and jeté showcases his talent in a way that audiences have never seen.
Philip Barker, ON, 12’ North American Premiere
As a young infirm woman sits at a quiet diner counter, her surroundings become increasingly unstable. The ensuing chaos of her world literally turning upside down triggers an ominous sequence of events.
Dylan Reibling, ON, 4’
Part two of Dylan Reibling's Dead Media trilogy, Model is a playful and ultra-designed look at the threat of obsoletion of a meticulous human workforce.
The Near Future (Le futur proche) Sophie Goyette, QC, 18’ Toronto Premiere
Ethereal aerial images of suburban sprawl, expressways and floating horizons frame this impressionistic portrait of Robin, a pilot who finds solace in his daily routines in order to delay the pain of recent news from his family overseas.
Maxence Bradley, QC, 9’ Toronto Premiere
Playing between the lines of documentary and fiction, Nostradamos follows citizens preparing for the end of the world. The city of Amos, Québec stands as the safest place to survive. Made in 72 hours, Nostradamos is a riveting portrait on the variances of human reactions to potential environmental catastrophes.
Tess Girard, ON, 5’ World Premiere
In the frigid isolation of winter, an elderly man braves the elements to hew his cord with nothing but an axe and a wheelbarrow. What first appears as a landscape study soon becomes an elegy for nature’s sacrifice to fuel man’s existence.
The Pool Date
Patrick Sisam, ON, 7’ World Premiere
Straight, white and Canadian, Nigel (Mike Beaver) is on a sunny vacation in South America. Hanging by a pool surrounded by sexy young people, his physique clashes — but Nigel remains unfazed. When Rio takes his chair (and possibly his cocktail), he is determined to get it back. A quiet territorial battle opens questions of sexual desire and invitation.
Martin Thibaudeau, QC, 5’ World Premiere
A graveside funeral service sets the scene for what becomes an increasingly disturbing and fascinating piece of storytelling where looking beyond the surface of things reveals the deceased’s life before death.
Elizabeth Lazebnik, ON, 11’ World Premiere
This semi-autobiographical film is about a young woman living in Canada who remembers her experiences of sitting in the safe room with her family in Israel during the Gulf War.
Shit Girls Say
Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey, ON, 2’ World Premiere
Toronto actors, filmmakers and internet phenomenons Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey premiere their new Shit Girls Say episode on the big screen. Their original film-turned-YouTube sensation produced an onslaught of playful gender and/or culturally specific behaviour “Shit (insert gender+culture) Say” videos from all corners of the world and web.
Sophie Dupuis, QC, 24’ World Premiere
As Ariane prepares to leave Val-d'Or — and everything else — behind for the big city, her attempts to say goodbye to her brother are complicated by the ever present sexual tension that exists between them.
Jeanne Leblanc, QC, 11’ North American Premiere
On her way to a job interview in downtown Montreal, Lucy is bogged down by clogged cars, a nagging mother and a potential life crisis. Yet, amidst the oppressive traffic and pushy city pulse, she makes a connection with a perfect stranger.
Matt Austin, ON, 5’ World Premiere
When a Toronto man (Julian Richings) digs through his attic for a VHS, he encounters a 21st century problem: how does he play it? If technology is quickly discarded and upgraded, a memory cannot be allowed to get the same treatment.
Their Feast (Waleematehom)
Reem Morsi, BC, 20’ World Premiere
Following the Egyptian revolution of 2011, a mother and her children prepare a celebratory meal for the return of the eldest son who is being released from a National Security prison.
Fantavious Fritz, ON, 14’ World Premiere
Inspired by a hypothetical grown-up version of Holden Caulfield’s little sister Phoebe, Fantavious Fritz creates a character who is relatable and endearing, while embracing the awkward, irresponsible and defining moments of being a 20-something.
Vive la Canadienne
Joe Cobden, QC, 4’ World Premiere
A lovely afternoon stroll in the park becomes a dynamic dancing duel of quick steps and high kicks between burly men and a joyful mademoiselle. With nary a word, and channeling Buster Keaton’s cinematic style, Joe Cobden brings a modern perspective to a classic Canadian folk chanson.
When You Sleep
Ashley McKenzie, NS, 12’ World Premiere
An unwanted pregnancy is holding together an unstable teen couple. When You Sleep is an assured, fearless account of youth heading straight for a life where they feel trapped.
With Jeff (Avec Jeff, à moto)
Marie-Eve Juste, QC, 14’ North American Premiere
Nyduia is a Haitian Montreal teenager who spends her time going to school, hip-hop dancing, tending to the house and secretly reading poetry. Wanting to shake up her life, she accepts a date invitation from Jeff, a notorious player.
The Worst Day Ever
Sophie Jarvis, BC, 11’ World Premiere
Bernard can't quite seem to get it right today. Although he tries his hardest, he never fails to disappoint those around him — causing accidents left, right and centre.
TIFF runs September 6-16. Please visit www.tiff.net for more info.