|Rhymes for Young Ghouls|
The list is very festival-centric, as all but one film on the list appeared at TIFF this year. (That’s not a bad thing.) All three Canadian winners from TIFF 2013 are on Canada’s Top Ten: Best Canadian Feature winner When Jews Were Funny by director Alan Zweig, Best Canadian First Feature winner Asphalt Watchers, and Best Canadian Short Film winner Noah. The only non-TIFF film to appear in the top ten features is the Berlin winner Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, which brings Denis Côté back to the festival circuit fête after Curling made Canada’s Top Ten in 2010.
This year’s Canada’s Top Ten is especially worth looking at since the pool of films includes work by directors who are largely outside the Canadian canon of Cronenberg, Egoyan, Arcand, Mehta, and Polley, etc. With many of Canada’s top filmmakers delivering foreign productions this year, Canada’s Top Ten fulfills the festival’s mission of celebration and discovery: these are films by previously undiscovered talents or unsung filmmakers who haven’t always gotten the recognition their body of work merits. Sarah Prefers to Run, for one, gives Chloé Robichaud some invaluable attention to give her film some extra legs. The list admittedly includes regulars like Xavier Dolan (Tom at the Farm), who perhaps best embodies the cutting edge work for which young Canadian filmmakers Canada are gaining attention on the national and international scene. Ditto Denis Villeneuve, whose Enemy is an experimental production of international scope and adapts a novel by acclaimed author José Saramago. (I have only seen a test version of the Villeneuve film so I can’t comment on its inclusion in the programme otherwise.)
Equally notable is the diversity of the shorts programme. Canada’s Top Ten includes both Anglophone and Francophone short films (one of which is directed by Xavier Dolan’s frequent collaborator Monia Chokri), animated noirs like The End of Pinky, and docudrama hybrids like A Grand Canal. The Oscar shortlisted animated short Subconscious Password made the list, but, unfortunately, it's fellow Oscar hopeful Gloria Victoria did not. Other disappointing shorts snubs include We Wanted More and the Hot Docs film Mary and Myself.
There are few surprises to be found in the list. Empire of Dirt might be the most surprising omission given its popularity at TIFF. (I personally had mixed feelings about it, but I hope to give it a second chance.) Siddharth could have popped up on the list, too, given its festival buzz and the fact that it received a shout-out when Gabrielle was announced as Canada’s Oscar selection. I’d also swap Alan Zweig’s “Football in the Groin” equivalent When Jews Were Funny for his superior and deeply moving 2013 film 15 Reasons to Live. When Jews Were Funny is nevertheless a film that connected with audiences just as well as it did with critics, as did the line-up’s other doc Watermark, which boasts some of the best cinematography you’ll see this year.
It’s a good list overall. There’s something for everyone here, whether it’s the discovery of a new style, voice, or story. Now get out there and see these films!
Canada’s Top Ten Features:
(Links to reviews where available)
Dir. Shayne Ehman, Seth Scriver
Dir. Denis Villeneuve
Dir. Michael Dowse
Dir. Louise Archambault
Dir. Jeff Barnaby
Dir. Chloé Robichaud
Dir. Xavier Dolan
Dir. Denis Côté
Dir. Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky
Dir. Alan Zweig
Canada's Top Ten Shorts:
Dir. Fraser Munden, Neil Rathbone
Dir. Claire Blanchet
An Extraordinary Person
Dir. Monia Chokri
Dir. Johnny Ma
In Guns We Trust
Dir. Nicolas Lévesque
Dir. Walter Woodman, Patrick Cederberg
Dir. Stéphane Moukarzel
Dir. Fantavious Fritz
Dir. Chris Landreth
Dir. Kevan Funk
Canada’s Top Ten screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox January 3-12.
I’ll check in with my own Top Ten of Canada’s best when the “Year in Review” begins later this month, but what are your favourite Canadian films of 2013?