A couple of weeks ago, the Toronto International Film Festival, running this year from September 4 through 14, announced the lineups for its Gala and Special Presentations. Round 2 followed last week: Masters, TIFF Docs, Vanguard and Midnight Madness. Today, it’s all about Canada. Around two dozen Canadian features have been added to various programs and Short Cuts Canada will feature 42 shorts.
TIFF’s also announced its roster of governors “who will guide 20 emerging filmmakers in group discussions that focus on creativity, the artistic process and independent voices” during the 11th Talent Lab: Ramin Bahrani, Claire Denis, Sandra Oh and Jim Stark. And four actors will be participating in the Rising Stars program: Sophie Desmarais, Shannon Kook, Alexandre Landry and Julia Sarah Stone.
But back to the lineups. With descriptions from the festival:
An Eye for Beauty (Le règne de la beauté). Denys Arcand. Toronto Premiere. Luc, a talented young architect, lives a peaceful life with his wife Stephanie in the stunning area of Charlevoix. He has a beautiful house, a pretty wife, dines often with friends, plays golf and tennis, and goes hunting—leading a perfect life, one might say. One day, he accepts to be a member of an architectural jury in Toronto. There, he meets Lindsay, a mysterious woman who will turn his life upside down. Starring Éric Bruneau, Mélanie Thierry, Melanie Merkosky and Marie-Josée Croze.
The Elephant Song. Charles Binamé. World Premiere. Xavier Dolan, Bruce Greenwood and Catherine Keener star in this big-screen adaptation of the play by Nicolas Billon about a psychiatrist who is drawn into a complex mind game when he questions a disturbed patient about the disappearance of a colleague.
Mommy. Xavier Dolan. Toronto Premiere. In a fictional Canada, where a new law allows distressed parents to abandon troubled children to the hospital system, Die Despres, a feisty widow, tries to cope with Steve, her wild yet charming ADHD son. While they both try to make ends meet and live under the same roof, Kyla, their mysterious neighbour, offers her help. As Kyla’s heartwarming presence becomes increasingly intense, questions emerge about her own mysterious life, and the way her destiny may ultimately be linked to that of Steve and Die. Starring Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement and Antoine Olivier Pilon.
October. Gale Ruba Nadda. World Premiere. Helen, a doctor mourning the sudden passing of her beloved husband, has retreated to their beautiful island cabin to put his things in order. Unable and unwilling to return to her job and normal life in the city, she stays alone at the remote cabin. When a small boat washes up on her shore carrying a mysterious man—unconscious and bleeding from a gunshot wound—Helen pulls him in and saves him, leaving her alone with this unknown and potentially dangerous stranger. Starring Patricia Clarkson, Scott Speedman and Tim Roth.
Preggoland. Jacob Tierney. World Premiere. When 35-year-old Ruth ruins a baby shower with her juvenile antics, her old high school cronies—who are all mothers now—promptly de-friend her. Later, when she is mistakenly thought to be with child she is inexplicably welcomed back into the group. Although she initially tries to come clean, the many perks of pregnancy are far too seductive to ignore. Preggoland is a comedy about our societal obsession with babies and the lengths people will go to be part of a club. Starring Sonja Bennett.
Monsoon. Sturla Gunnarsson. World Premiere. Part road movie, part spectacle, part drama, Monsoon is Sturla Gunnarsson’s meditation on chaos, creation and faith, set in the land of believers. The subject is the monsoon, the incomparably vast weather system that permeates and unifies the varied culture of India, shaping the conditions of existence for its billion inhabitants.
The Price We Pay (La Face cachée de l’impôt). Harold Crooks. World Premiere. Director Harold Crooks (The Corporation, Surviving Progress) blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance with this incendiary documentary about the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, which has seen multinationals depriving governments of trillions of dollars in tax revenues by harbouring profits in offshore havens.
The Wanted 18. Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan. World Premiere. Through stop-motion animation, drawings and interviews, this film reveals how 18 cows in the village of Beit Sahour became an inspiration and symbol of resistance during the first Palestinian Intifada. As the Israeli army searches for the illegal bovines, the story veers from comedy to drama to tragedy—with a large dose of the absurd.
Backcountry. Adam MacDonald. World Premiere. Based on a true story, Backcountry follows an urban couple who go camping in the wilderness and get hopelessly lost. Without food or water, they struggle to find their way back. When they enter a predatory bear’s territory, their trip turns into a horrific tale of tragedy, will, and survival. Starring Missy Peregrym and Jeff Roop.
Bang Bang Baby. Jeffrey St. Jules. World Premiere. A small-town teenager in the 1960s believes her dreams of becoming a famous singer will come true when her rock-star idol gets stranded in town. But a leak in a nearby chemical plant that is believed to be causing mass mutations threatens to turn her dream into a nightmare. Starring Jane Levy, Justin Chatwin, Peter Stormare and David Reale.
Big Muddy. Jefferson Moneo. World Premiere. Martha Barlow has a dark personal history she’d rather not remember and more skeletons in her closet than she’d care to admit. After her teenage son Andy becomes involved with seedy characters, Martha must face her violent past in order to secure her son’s future. To do so, she must ward off a crazed racehorse owner, reconcile with her estranged family, and reunite with Andy’s dangerous and long forgotten father. Big Muddy is an outlaw tale played out as a modern-day murder ballad. Starring Nadia Litz, Justin Kelly, Stephen McHattie and Rossif Sutherland.
Corbo. Mathieu Denis. World Premiere. Montréal, 1966. Jean Corbo, an idealistic 16-year-old of Québécois and Italian descent, befriends two far-left political activists and joins the FLQ (Liberation Front of Québec), an underground movement determined to spark a socialist revolution. Jean thus begins an inextricable march toward his destiny. Starring Anthony Therrien, Antoine L’Écuyer, Karelle Tremblay and Tony Nardi.
Guidance. Pat Mills. World Premiere A closeted former child actor, an out-of-work alcoholic, fakes his résumé and gets a job as a high-school guidance counsellor, where he thrives while giving bad advice. Starring Pat Mills, Zahra Bentham, Alex Ozerov and Tracey Hoyt.
In Her Place. Albert Shin. World Premiere A mysterious woman from a big city arrives at a rural farm in South Korea, where she’s taken in by an old woman and her odd teenage daughter. The three women remain in isolation and, as they begin to fall into a new rhythm of life together, work to fill a void within their lives. But soon enough, their arrangement becomes more than what they bargained for. Starring Yoon Da Kyung, Ahn Ji Hye and Kil Hae Yeon.
Songs She Wrote About People She Knows. Kris Elgstrand. World Premiere. Carol, an emotionally repressed woman, loses friends and alienates people when she begins singing songs she wrote about people she knows. But she unexpectedly inspires her boss, to whom she dedicated the song Asshole Dave, to resurrect his dreams of becoming a rock star. As Dave flounders, Carol continues to hone her creative voice. Starring Arabella Bushnell, Brad Dryborough and Ross Smith.
The Valley Below. Kyle Thomas. World Premiere. The Valley Below is a multi-narrative drama that chronicles the life of a small town in the badlands of Alberta over the course of one year. The story is told in four chapters, each focusing on a different set of characters, including a pregnant teenager, a hard-drinking musician, a reclusive taxidermist, and an ambitious police officer. The film’s intertwining stories combine to render a rich portrait of rural life in central Alberta. Starring Stephen Bogaert, Kris Demeanor, Alejandro Rae and Lori Ravensborg.
We Were Wolves. Jordan Canning. World Premiere. Two estranged brothers return to the family cottage after the death of their father. Over the course of three days they must learn to let go of the man they thought they knew, and accept responsibility for the men they have become. Starring Peter Mooney, Steve Cochrane and Lynda Boyd.
Wet Bum. Lindsay Mackay. World Premiere. It’s the start of the spring term in a small northern town, heralding swimming lessons, hanging out with best friends, new classes and new possibilities. But this year, things are different for 14-year-old Sam. While her friends are moving on, focusing on boys, experimenting with drugs, Sam is too uncomfortable to even take off her bathing suit in front of the other girls. After landing herself into trouble, she is forced to work as a cleaner at the retirement home run by her mother. Sam finds unexpected and unlikely friendships with two of the retirement home’s residents who end up teaching Sam a few things about growing up—and growing old. Starring 2014 TIFF Rising Star Julia Sarah Stone, Kenneth Welsh, Leah Pinsent and Craig Arnold.
CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA
Félix and Meira. Maxime Giroux. World Premiere. Félix is an eccentric and penniless French Canadian whose wealthy father is dying. Meira is a married Hasidic woman with a family, searching for something new. They were not meant to meet, let alone fall in love. Félix and Meira tells the miraculous love story between two strangers from two distinct communities, who attempt to love each other despite what separates them. Starring Hadas Yaron and Martin Dubreuil.
Heartbeat. Andrea Dorfman. World Premiere. Justine hasn’t played her guitar since a spell of stage fright caused her to faint and fall on her head. Now, forced to give up her lifelong dream of becoming a musician and to avoid the big risks that would give her fulfillment, Justine is stuck. She lives in the unchanged house of her dead grandmother, works at an unfulfilling office job, and continues to sleep with her ex-boyfriend, Ben. When Ben suddenly puts an end to their late night trysts, Justine is inspired to play and write music again. Starring Tanya Davis, Stewart Legere, Stephanie Clattenburg and Jackie Torrens.
Love in the Time of Civil War (L’amour au temps de la guerre civile). Rodrigue Jean. World Premiere. Alex is a young addict who sells his body in Montréal’s Centre-Sud district. He’s flanked by Bruno, Simon, Jeanne, Éric and Velma, all of them caught in the same spiral of compulsion. Hostage to society’s market logic, they are the fallen angels of a dark and violent time. Yet their beauty somehow survives, rebellious amid the ruins. From one fix to the next, desire becomes a life raft, as their bodies, exultant, seek to avenge the humiliation to which they are condemned. Orphans of a wild tribe, they live and love like restless vagrants in the shadows of society’s comfort and indifference. Starring 2014 TIFF Rising Star Alexandre Landry, Jean-Simon Leduc and Simon Lefebvre.
Teen Lust. Blaine Thurier. World Premiere. An awkward high school student strives to lose his virginity before his parents and their satanic cult can sacrifice him to the devil. Starring Jesse Carere, Daryl Sabara, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Cary Elwes and Jon Dore.
Tu dors Nicole. Stéphane Lafleur. Toronto Premiere. Making the most of the family home while her parents are away, 22-year-old Nicole is enjoying a peaceful summer with her best friend, Véronique. When Nicole’s older brother shows up with his band to record an album, their vacation takes an unexpected turn and the girls’ friendship is put to the test. Amidst a rising heat wave, Nicole’s insomnia—and romantic misadventures—mount each day. Tu dors Nicole takes a humorous look at the beginning of adulthood and all its possibilities. Starring Julianne Côté, Juliette Gosselin, and Marc-Andre Grondin.
The Editor. Matthew Kennedy and Adam Brooks. World Premiere. From members of Winnipeg’s infamous Astron-6 collective comes a loving homage and absurdist send-up of the Italian giallo genre. Rey Ciso was once the greatest editor the world had ever seen—but since a horrific accident left him with four wooden fingers on his right hand, he’s had to resort to cutting pulp films and trash pictures. When the lead actors from the film he’s been editing turn up murdered at the studio, Rey is fingered as the number one suspect. The bodies continue to pile up as Rey struggles to prove his innocence and uncover the sinister truth lurking behind the scenes. Starring Matthew Kennedy, Adam Brooks, Conor Sweeney, Udo Kier and Paz de le Huerta.
Trick or Treaty? Alanis Obomsawin. The new documentary from Alanis Obomsawin follows the journey of Indigenous people in their quest for justice as they seek to establish dialogue with the Canadian government. By tracing the history of their ancestors since the signing of Treaty No. 9, they are raising people’s awareness about the issues that concern them and finally putting an end to inertia.
Speaking Parts (1989). Atom Egoyan. Lance is a film extra looking for his first speaking role. When Clara, an idealistic television writer, checks into the hotel where Lance works, he seduces her into casting him in her current film. Meanwhile, Lance’s co-worker Lisa prowls video stores, obsessively viewing and re-viewing the movies in which Lance appears as an extra. Haunting images and obsessive sexualities merge, as these three people become fatally entangled in a web of psycho-sexual desire. This digital restoration was supervised by Atom Egoyan at Deluxe Toronto.
Crime Wave (1985). John Paizs. Winnipeg director John Paizs’s 1985 classic brilliantly apes the look of ’50s educational films and trashy crime movies in its story of a teenage girl who develops an odd obsession with a frustrated would-be screenwriter. Courtesy of eOne and Library and Archives Canada.
brouillard – passage #14. World Premiere. Alexandre Larose. A path that extends from a family’s backyard into Lac Saint-Charles in Québec City, condensed into multiple layers.
The Innocents. Jean-Paul Kelly. World Premiere. The Innocents features an image stream, an interview with Truman Capote’s desire, and shapes that correspond to the former through the instructions of the latter.
Red Capriccio. Blake Williams. World Premiere. An anaglyph found-footage film thematically inspired by the capriccio paintings of Giovanni Paolo Panini, Thomas Cole, and Charles Robert Cockerell—which depicted fantastical and dilapidated architectural landscapes—and structured in the style of Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky’s capriccio compositions—brimming with playful staccatos and glissandos, and prone to sudden tonal shifts.
Lunar Almanac. Malena Szlam. Toronto Premiere. Moving through landscapes and inhabiting landscapes, the moon is on a journey through magnetic spheres, influencing the subtle energies on Earth. The moon becomes “moons” as it oscillates within its own margins of size and shape. Through single-frame and long-exposure superimpositions, the film assembles in series of short sequences shot in 16mm Ektachrome and hand-processed. The unaltered, in-camera edit segments shot on various nights gather over 4000 stills of multi-layered field views of the moon.
Anna and the Tower. Lynne Marsh. World Premiere. Internationally renowned Canadian artist Lynne Marsh presents Anna and the Tower, a 3-channel video installation with sound co- commissioned by TIFF and the Goethe-Institut Toronto that conflates documentary and performance. Filmed in an under-utilized airport outside of Berlin that was once a Soviet airbase, the work conveys both a sense of latency and expectation, and a desire to will events into being. Presented at, and in collaboration with, Scrap Metal Gallery, 11 Dublin Street, Unit E. Runs daily September 4 to 14.
SHORT CUTS CANADA
An Apartment. Sarah Galea-Davis, 17’. World Premiere. An Apartment is an intimate character study of Paul, a man who finds himself in mid-life struggling to restart his career in a modern job market with no room for a man of 55 trying to start over. After a long bout of unemployment, Paul is forced to move in with his brother, sacrificing personal space in hopes he will be back on his feet soon. But as his last job prospect dries up, Paul learns that the life he is trying to get back is gone.
Around Is Around. Norman McLaren, 8’. North American Premiere. Newly restored, McLaren’s 1951 short is the first stereoscopic animated film ever made. McLaren creates a visionary 3D effect with a cathode-ray oscilloscope, and the result is an elegant, mesmerizing pattern of spherical shapes evolving in space.
The Barnhouse (La Grange). Caroline Mailloux, 19’. North American Premiere. A sweltering August in a remote community. Authorities and neighbors from the area search for an eight-year-old boy who has gone missing. Near the old family barnhouse, Jacinthe finds her son Kevin escaping into his imaginary world. The secret he will reveal to her about the disappearance will change their lives forever.
Bison. Kevan Funk, 12’. World Premiere. A meditative and mysterious dramatic film, Bison explores the violent legacy of colonialism in a contemporary context. The film is anchored by thematic concerns around implicit cultural culpability, systemic issues of failure surrounding the contemporary and historical relationship with First Nations peoples, and notions of responsibility in an individual and societal context.
Broken Face (Sale Gueule). Alain Fournier, 16’. World Premiere. Loik, a disfigured sailor, is posted to a remote lighthouse with Morlaix, a tyrannical head keeper. But soon the two men find themselves besieged by a strange storm.
Burnt Grass. Ray Wong, 11’. World Premiere. Burnt Grass is a dramatic short film about a young couple who discover a strange phenomenon in their backyard that duplicates organic life. After one of them copies themselves, their relationship takes unnatural and bizarre turns as loyalties shift, creating a new spin on the love triangle.
Chainreaction. Dana Gingras, 11’. World Premiere. Chainreaction employs a pop sensibility that creates a tactile and mobile atmosphere, deconstructing the sublimely disquieting forces of desire, isolation, emotional and physical dislocation, manifested between layers of image, gesture and sound.
Chamber Drama. Jeffrey Zablotny, 11’. World Premiere. Megan, a stubborn teenage girl with hypersensitive hearing, attempts to prove herself to her supervisor on the last day of her internship in an acoustics laboratory.
CODA. Denis Poulin and Martine Époque, 11’. World Premiere. The mesmerizing dance of light particles in this film serves as both its subject and raw material. Using motion-capture techniques to manipulate the light particles, the filmmakers evoke ecological themes in their visual reinterpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. As the very first note is played by acclaimed twin sister pianists TwinMuse, the light particles form a cloud that morphs into a dancer performing a swirling digital choreography.
Day 40. Sol Friedman, 6’. World Premiere. In this animated retelling of the Noah’s Ark story, various unholy activities fill the great ship, as the animals discover the darker side of their nature.
Del Ciego Desert. François Leduc, 12’. North American Premiere. At Del Ciego desert, two gunfighters plagued with heavy squint and very bad eyesight duel in order to avenge the massacre of their families.
A Delusion of Grandeur (Une idée de grandeur). Vincent Biron, 14’. World Premiere. Louis, defeated mayor of his small town’s latest election, has to bid farewell to his seat after 20 years of loyalty. Following his defeat, he goes through a rough patch that leaves him confused about his future. As events seem to conspire to remind him of the bitter taste of his failure, he finds unlikely solace at his neighbor’s house.
The Encounter (La Rencontre). Frieda Luk, 9’. World Premiere. A man becomes obsessed with a woman he assaulted, when he unexpectedly happens to see her one day.
Entangled. Tony Elliott, 15’. World Premiere. A scientist initiates her brain-dead partner’s secret experiment to find out what happened to him. But what she experiences is a mind-bending reality that threatens both of their lives.
Father. Jordan Tannahill, 9’. World Premiere. Austin must extricate his father’s body from an abandoned factory after his father is electrocuted while thieving copper.
Fire (Fuoco). Raha Shirazi, 12’. World Premiere. As dawn turns to dusk, village men set off in search of fire. A celebration of traditions and myths, this is a story embedded in the Iranian culture, and directly connected to the representation of fire in the Zoroastrian religion and Persian literature.
Godhead. Connor Gaston, 11’. World Premiere. A mystic autistic man heals his broken family without saying a word.
Hole. Martin Edralin, 15’. North American Premiere. This film is a daring portrait of a middle-aged disabled man yearning for an intimate connection in his solitary life. Billy roams the city in pursuit of intimacy, but his disability proves to be a barrier to his emotional and sexual needs. With no other options, he looks to his caregiver for relief.
Indigo. Amanda Strong, 9’. World Premiere. After years of suppressing her inner child, an elderly woman named Indigo struggles to connect with her childhood with the help of a grandmother spider, and faces the many layers of herself, and life, to revitalize her spirit before death. Hand-crafted stop-motion figures animate this fantastical tale based on native mythology.
Intruders. Santiago Menghini, 10’. World Premiere. In the aftermath of a deadly haunting in a small suburban home, a sinister omnipresent entity presence causes havoc in the private lives of a young boy, an unsuspecting teen and absent-minded inspector.
Kajutaijuq: The Spirit That Comes. Scott Brachmayer, 15’. World Premiere. Isolated in the harsh wilderness of the Arctic, a hunter follows the teachings of survival passed on to him by his grandfather. In an environment governed by the spirits of the land, a taboo is broken and he is forced to face the consequences.
Last Night. Arlen Konopaki, 6’. World Premiere. A shocking accusation pits two roommates against each other.
Light. Yassmina Karajah, 13’. World Premiere. After his recent move to Canada, Omar faces the sudden death of his child. Upon hearing the news in Lebanon, his mother urges him to perform a religious pre-burial ritual on the body of his son. He struggles to fulfill her wishes.
Liompa. Elizabeth Lazebnik, 16’. World Premiere. A sick man struggles to retain some kind of control of his body and the world around him.
Luk’Luk’I: Mother. Wayne Wapeemukwa, 19’. World Premiere. A full-time mother/part-time sex-worker goes missing in Vancouver’s downtown eastside during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Me and My Moulton. Torill Kove, 13’. North American Premiere. One summer in mid-’60s Norway, a seven-year-old girl asks her parents if she and her sisters can have a bicycle. Me and My Moulton provides a glimpse of its young protagonist’s thoughts as she struggles with her sense that her family is a little out of sync with what she perceives as normal. A witty animation by Torill Kove, creator of the Academy Award-winning short, The Danish Poet.
Migration. Fluorescent Hill, 6’. North American Premiere. This animated work references vintage nature films and explores the migratory pattern of a herd of made-up wild creatures.
Mynarski Death Plummet (Mynarski chute mortelle). Matthew Rankin, 8’. World Premiere. A handmade historical micro-epic based on the final minutes in the life of Winnipeg’s doomed World War II hero, Andrew Mynarski, who died 70 years ago when his bomber jet is raked with enemy fire. A heritage minute on acid, mixing aviation agitprop with classical and avant-garde animation techniques, Mynarski Death Plummet is a psychedelic photo-chemical cinépoem on the theme of self- sacrifice, immortality and jellyfish.
O Canada. Evelyn Lambart, 3’. North American Premiere. Commemorating the centenary of Norman McLaren’s birth, this 1951 animated adaptation of the count