Veteran Canadian filmmakers, including David Cronenberg, Guy Maddin, Bruce McDonald and Denys Arcand, rule this year's Canada's Top 10 film list, picked by a jury selected by the Toronto International Film Festival.
Guy Maddin's salute to his hometown, My Winnipeg, represents the fourth time that one of his films has been included on the list in its six-year history. David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, a crime drama set in London with two American leads (Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts), represents his third inclusion on the list (after Spider and A History of Violence). Denys Arcand's Days of Darkness ( L'Âge des ténèbres), a satire set in Quebec in the near future, is a sequel to his 2003 film Barbarian Invasions, which also made the top 10.
The Tracey Fragments from Bruce McDonald ( Hard Core Logo, Roadkill) had its debut opening the Berlin International Film Festival. The film stars Ellen Page, who has been earning Oscar buzz for her work in Juno, to be released on Friday.
Also on the list is Fugitive Pieces, based on the acclaimed Anne Michaels novel, which opened the 2007 TIFF. Director Jeremy Podeswa ( The Five Senses) has established himself as a high-profile television director ( Six Feet Under, Rome) in the United States for the past few years.
Three other films were from first-time feature-film directors. Amal, from Richie Mehta; Continental Divide: Un Film Sans Fusil ( A Film Without Guns) from Stéphane Lafleur; and Young People Fucking (directed by Martin Gero). There are also two non-fiction films on the list with Peter Raymont's A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman (one of 15 documentaries short-listed for Oscar contention). The other documentary, Up the Yangtze, directed by Yung Chang and co-produced by the National Film Board, has been accepted at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
This is the sixth year of the top-10 list, which was begun by the TIFF organization to promote Canadian cinema. The list, which is not ranked, is picked by a 10-person panel from across the country, including Canadian filmmakers, producers, journalists and academics, who vote anonymously. Eligible films must have shown either at a Canadian film festival or opened theatrically in Canada in the past year.
This year, for the first time, a separate group of panelists picked a top-10 list of short films. These include Code 13 (Mathieu L. Denis); The Colony (Jeff Barnaby), Dust Bowl Ha! Ha! (Sebastian Pilote); Farmer's Requiem (Ramses Madina); Les Grand (Chloe Leriche); I Have Seen the Future (Cam Christiansen); I Met the Walrus (Josh Raskin); Madam Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski); Pool (Chris Chong Chan Fui) and Terminus (Trevor Cawood).
In the lead-up to the movie-awards season, several of the major critics associations have already weighed in on the best films of 2007 and a handful of Canadians films have drawn awards or nominations.
The story of a woman's slide into Alzheimer's disease, Away from Her, the first feature directed by actress Sarah Polley (featured on last year's Canada's top-10 list), is a particular critics' favourite. Polley won the New York Critics Circle Award for best first feature this week and the New York Critics Online award. She was also given the Los Angeles Critics Associations' New Generation Award and the San Francisco Critic's Association for best adapted screenplay for the script for Away from Her, based on an Alice Munro short story.
The film's star, Julie Christie, was picked as best actress at the National Board of Review (a U.S. group of film historians, students and educators). She was also picked as best actress by the New York Film Critics Circle, the New York Film Critics Online, the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association and the San Francisco Film Critics Association.
Christie, who has previously won an Academy Award for Darling (1966) and was nominated three more times, is rated as a likely prospect for an Oscar nomination. One of her competitors may well be Halifax native Ellen Page, star of Juno (directed by Montreal-born Jason Reitman). Page was picked as best breakthrough artist by the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Online and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Juno was also picked as one of the year's top 10 films by the National Board of Review.
Two years ago, David Cronenberg earned two Oscar nominations for A History of Violence. This year, Cronenberg's Eastern Promises garnered six nominations at the Satellite Awards, which will be announced by the International Press Academy of entertainment reporters in Los Angeles on Dec. 16. The nominations are for best drama, best director, best actor, best screenplay, best score and best film editing. Away from Her is nominated for four prizes: best director, best adapted screenplay, best drama and best actress. In the same competition, Juno is nominated as best comedy or musical feature. The film's writer, Diablo Cody, is nominated for best screenplay.
Academy Award nominations will be announced Jan. 22 and the Oscars will be awarded Feb. 24.
Public screenings of the top 10 films, along with question and answer sessions with filmmakers will be held from Jan. 25 to Feb. 5, at Cinematheque Ontario in Toronto. (Tickets at topten.ca, at 416-968-FILM, and at the box office, Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor St. W., Toronto). A selection of the films will also screen in Vancouver, Ottawa and select Film Circuit communities.
The top 10 Canadian feature films of 2007 are, in alphabetical order:
L'Âge des Ténèbres
(Days of Darkness)
A black comedy about a Quebec civil servant (Marc Labrèche) who retreats into daydreams to escape the boredom of his life and the society collapsing around him. Directed by Denys Arcand.
An honest rickshaw driver in Delhi cares for an injured child while he is unwittingly the beneficiary of a rich man's estate. Directed by Richie Mehta.
Continental, Un Film
(Continental, A Film
Four different characters are affected when a businessman disappears in the woods in this deadpan comedy. Directed by Stéphane Lafleur.
A London nurse discovers the diary of a dead teen mother that implicates Russian gangsters. Directed by David Cronenberg.
Based on Anne Michaels's novel, the film stars Steven Dillane as Jakob, a Polish-Jewish poet who was raised in Greece and Canada. Directed by Jeremy Podeswa.
The director's hybrid "docu-fantasia" includes voice-over narration and dramatic inventions and re-creations of childhood memories. Directed by Guy Maddin.
A Promise to the Dead:
The Exile Journey
of Ariel Dorfman
The director takes the Chilean-American poet-playwright Ariel Dorfman back to the scene of the Chilean revolution of 1973. Directed by Peter Raymont.
The Tracey Fragments
Based on Maureen Medved's novel, the film follows the fragmented monologue of a teenaged girl, riding a bus wearing a shower curtain while searching for her little brother. Directed by Bruce McDonald.
Up the Yangzte River
Western tourists take a farewell cruise up the Yangtze River to visit the soon-to-be-submerged countryside in this portrait of a human and ecological disaster. Directed by Yung Chang.
Young People Fucking
This comedy follows five different sexual encounters, from foreplay to the postcoital aftermath, over the course of one evening. Directed by Martin Gero.