A movie about an acerbic hockey announcer who suffers a life-changing concussion, an inter-generational romantic comedy that has been called the gay Harold and Maude and the last film from the late Glee star Cory Monteith are among the selection of 20 Canadian feature films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
The festival, which runs from Sept. 5 to 13, is the country’s largest annual showcase for homegrown cinema.
At a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, festival programmers Steve Gravestock and Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo announced new films from Denis Villeneuve, Robert Lepage, Bruce McDonald, Xavier Dolan, Michael Dowse, Bruce LaBruce, Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky, Ingrid Veninger and Bruce Sweeney, among others. As well, TIFF unveiled the 39 titles in the Short Cuts Canada program and participants in the Producers Lab, Talent Lab and Pitch This competition.
Previously announced Canadian films at this year’s TIFF include Jonathan Sobol’s The Art of the Steal, Don McKellar’s The Grand Seduction and Jeremiah Chechik’s The Right Kind of Wrong in the Galas section.
Previously announced Canadian documentaries include Jody Shapiro’s Burt’s Buzz, Barry Avrich’s Filthy Gorgeous: The Extraordinary World of Bob Guccione, Alanais Obamsawin’s Hi-Ho Mistahey! and Alan Zweig’s When Jews Were Funny.
As well, Derek Lee and Clif Prowse’s Afflicted was previously announced in the Midnight Madness program.
Canadian directors, international stars
Oscar nominee Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) makes his English-language debut with Enemy, starring Jake Gyllenhaal in an adaptation of Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago’s The Double. Michael Dowse’s The F-Word, with Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver, is about a young man settling for friendship instead of romance. While the late Cory Monteith was Canadian, he was best known for the American TV series Glee. He stars as a store manager in Gia Milani’s All the Wrong Reasons, an ensemble trauma drama with Karine Vanasse, Emily Hampshire and Kevin Zegers.
Our Home and Native Land
Along with Alana Obomsawin’s Hi-Ho Mistahey!, a documentary about the late 14-year-old Cree student Shannen Koostachin’s campaign to build a decent school in her community, there are two features that resonate with this summer’s Idle No More protests. Jeff Barnaby (who made the short film The Colony which was one of the TIFF Canada’s Top 10 in 2007) makes his feature debut with the 1976-set Rhymes for Young Ghouls, about a 14-year-old drug-dealing Mi’kmaq girl known as “the weed princess” of her reserve. Peter Stebbings’s Empire of Dirt, about a native mother, watching her own teen daughter spiral out of control, who is determined to end a family cycle of abuse.
Mature and Immature Content Advisory
The Canadian reputation for cinematic kink gets a generational twist in two films this year. Bruce LaBruce’s romantic comedy Gerontophilia, in the Vanguard program, is about the relationship between an 18-year-old boy and an elderly man to whom he is attracted, Mr. Peabody, an over-medicated nursing home resident. The film has been dubbed “the gay Harold and Maude” by Andrew Noble, vice-president of Filmoption International, the Canadian distributor of the film.
In contrast, The Husband, from Bruce McDonald, is neither comic or romantic. The drama follows a man whose wife is in jail for sleeping with a 14-year-old boy, and how he unravels after encountering his teenaged rival.
Previously feted Canadiana
The success of Canadian cinema abroad is indicated by a number of TIFF films that have been accepted by other international festivals. Two Quebec films at TIFF previously appeared at Cannes: Chloé Robichaud’s Sarah Prefers to Run, about a young athlete who enters into a marriage of convenience to pursue a university track program, in the Un Certain Regard program; and Sébastien Pilote’s farm-closing drama Le Démantèlement in Critics Week.
As well, Louise Archambault’s Gabrielle, about a young mentally handicapped musician seeking romance, has been accepted at the upcoming Locarno Festival in Switzerland and Xavier Dolan’s Tom at the Farm, an adaptation of Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard’s drama about a young gay man who attends his lover’s funeral, will first show at the Venice film festival. Ritchie Mehta’s Siddharth, an Indian-set film about a vendor whose son may have been sold to child traffickers, has been accepted in Venice Days, an independent film sidebar to the Venice festival.
Our Home and Native Land, Part II
Quebec’s groundbreaking theatre and film director Robert Lepage (The Tectonic Plates) collaborates with Pedro Pires on Triptych, a film about Michelle, a schizophrenic bookseller, Marie, a singer and actress and Thomas, a German neurologist.
Vancouver director Bruce Sweeney (Dirty) brings The Dick Knost Show, about a sports jock who dismisses the danger of concussions in hockey until he gets a smack in the head. With Watermarks, Jennifer Baichwal (Manufactured Landscapes) joins photographer Edward Burtynsky for a collection of stories and high-resolution aerial images around the globe about our increasingly fraught relationship with HO.
In The Animal Project, from lo-fi director Ingrid Veninger (Modra), an acting teacher (Aaron Poole) pushes his young students’ comfort zone by insisting they dress in animal costumes in their daily lives in a search for fur-bound authenticity.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of a documentary filmmaker. She is Alanis Obomsawin, not Alana Obomsawin.