TIFF Names Canada's Top Ten for 2012!

Sarah Gadon stars in Cosmopolis.
Courtesy of eOne Films
The Toronto International Film Festival revealed its annual lists for “Canada’s Top Ten” and I must say that the picks demonstrate what a strong year it was for Canadian cinema. The list was presented by Sarah Gadon and Don McKellar last night at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. I am very happy that some of the films that put Canada on the map in 2012 received recognition, as did some hidden gems from the festival circuit that will surely expand Canadians’ interest for their national cinema. I was somewhat decent with my predictions for the Top Ten features, with six out of ten of my guesses making the cut (Stories We Tell, Laurence Anyways, Midnight’s Children, Rebelle, Cosmopolis, and Still), along with some pleasant surprises including a film I was rooting for (The World Before Her) and some that I’m excited to see. Canada's Top Ten also includes three documentaries (The World Before Her, Stories We Tell and The End of Time), which marks a good improvement after last year's score of zero. Finally, in true Canadian fashion, there's a good ol' sex comedy on the list: The legacy of Porky's lives on in My Awkward Sexual Adventure, which I missed at TIFF (although my brother caught it and quite enjoyed). There's weird sex and snowshoes galore on Canada's Top Ten.

The only surprising choice amongst the features is the appearance of Michael Dowse’s Goon. (I didn't even put it on my list of predictions and contenders!) I don’t particularly mind, since I enjoyed the film myself, but Goon isn’t exactly on the same level of quality as, say, All That You Possess, Legend of a Warrior, or Inch’Allah, which all missed the cut. Goon did connect with mainstream Canadian audiences more strongly than some other Canadian films did this year, so its inclusion is certainly understandable. It’s also the closest we’ve come to making a decent hockey comedy—it’s our Slap Shot—so Goon might attract some hockey hosers who are looking for a puck to drop amidst this never-ending hockey strike. It wouldn’t be an ‘Eh’ list without a hockey movie!

As suggested above, there are a few notable omissions on the Canada’s Top Ten list, but that was inevitable considering what a strong year it was for our filmmakers. I am surprised that Antiviral didn’t make the list, but I’m not going to grumble since it wouldn’t have been on my own list of ten. (It’s a good debut nevertheless and Brandon Cronenberg will surely be on the list soon enough.) I am disappointed that the some of the films mentioned above didn’t make the list, as well as a few others that I missed and was hoping to see (ex: Blackbird, Picture Day). However, those films will certainly appear on my own “Canada’s Top Ten” list in the coming weeks, and roughly half of the features that appear here will join them.

As for the shorts, I am excited to see so many new films. I can't really comment on the shorts because I’ve only seen one of the films included, Bydlo, and it certainly deserves a spot. I’m a bit disappointed that strong films such as Frost, Margo Lily, Kali, and Let the Daylight Into the Swamp won’t be travelling the film circuit—I'm shocked that Frost didn't make the list—but I’ll keep these shorts in mind for my upcoming lists.

So how does Canada's Top Ten bode well for the Genies? (Forget Oscar predictions, I should guess the Canadian Screen Awards... that's an untapped market!) If you'll recall, four of last year's Best Picture nominees were on the list (Monsieur Lazhar, Café de flore, A Dangerous Method, and Starbuck) while The Whistleblower was not (but it should have, since it was the best Canadian film of last year! Likewise, four out of five films made both lists in 2010: Banrey's Version, Incendies, Les amours imaginaires, and Splice. 10 1/2 did not. (It was never even released here.)

Those odds make it safe to say that the frontrunners are probably Rebelle and Stories We Tell, since they're the most widely loved Canadian films this year. Next in line is probably Laurence Anyways, since Xavier Dolan is bound to win one year and has a lot of passionate support. He did beat both those films at TIFF... (We can also presume that Suzanne Clément is atop the leaderboard for Best Actress, although I would have bet the farm on I Killed My Mother's Anne Dorval to win a few years ago and the film was shut out.) Deepa Mehta has never won either and Midnight's Children is a strong enough project to merit the award. I think MC is in the top five as is its fellow Canuck adaptation Cosmopolis, which should bring Cronenberg into the race for the best Canadian film he's made since 1996's Crash. Finally, I wouldn't count out Still since it's built strong word of mouth and would benefit strongly from the awards.

Overall, though, I think that the panelists chose strong and diverse lists. There is a blend of new and established talent, English and French, and fiction and non-fiction. The features list also includes three films by female directors, as well as a range in onscreen representation and varied stories. All in all, well done TIFF!

Canada’s Top Ten Features, in alphabetical order, are:

 David Cronenberg (Entertainment One Films)
The End of Time
 Peter Mettler (Mongrel Media, National Film Board)
 Michael Dowse (Alliance Films)
Laurence Anyways
 Xavier Dolan (Alliance Films)
Midnight's Children
 Deepa Mehta (Mongrel Media)
My Awkward Sexual Adventure
 Sean Garrity (Phase 4 Films)
 Kim Nguyen (Mongrel Media)
 Michael McGowan (Mongrel Media)
Stories We Tell
 Sarah Polley (Mongrel Media, NFB)
The World Before Her
 Nisha Pahuja (KinoSmith)

Canada’s Top Ten shorts, in alphabetical order, are:

Patrick Bouchard (NFB)
Chef de meute (Herd Leader)
Chloé Robichaud (Locomotion Distribution)
Crackin' Down Hard
Mike Clattenburg
Diane Obomsawin (NFB)
Ne crâne pas sois modeste (Keep a Modest Head)
Deco Dawson (Microclimat Films Inc.)
Bahar Noorizadeh
Phillip Barker
Old Growth
Tess Girard
Martin Thibaudeau (Locomotion Distribution)
Paparmane (Wintergreen)
Joëlle Desjardins Paquette (Locomotion Distribution)

Canada’s Top Ten lists were decided by two panels – one for features and one for shorts.

The panelists for features:
Barri Cohen – filmmaker, Executive Producer, AllScreen Entertainment Inc.
Kerri Craddock – Senior Manager of Festival Programming, TIFF
Paul Ennis – Associate Editor (TheWholeNote.com), film and music critic, programmer
Matt Galloway – radio host (CBC’s Metro Morning)
Judy Gladstone – Chief Creative Officer, E & E Productions, and former head of Bravo!FACT
Jacob Tierney – actor and filmmaker (The Trotsky, Good Neighbours)
Elizabeth Yake – Executive Producer (It’s All Gone Pete Tong) and President, True West Films

The panel for shorts:
Eileen Arandiga – programmer, former festival director for the Canadian Film Centre's Worldwide Short Film Festival
Laura Good – Film Circuit Programming Coordinator, TIFF
Matthew Hays – author and journalist (The Globe and Mail, The New York Times)
Jennifer Jonas – producer (I’m Yours, Trigger) and President, New Real Films
Greg Klymkiw – writer, producer and long-time creative consultant at the CFC

The films in Canada’s Top Ten play in Toronto at TIFF Bell Lightbox from January 4 to 13, 2013.
 (We will let you know if and when CTT comes to Ottawa!)
For more information, please visit www.tiff.net/topten