Canada rules — at least for one day in advance of the 39th Toronto International Film Festival in September. On Wednesday, TIFF organizers announced a diverse group of Canadian-made features, documentaries and shorts to be spread among 10 TIFF programs in September.
With David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars already named as a Gala, the new titles will play in Special Presentations, Discovery, Masters, TIFF Docs, Midnight Madness, Contemporary World Cinema, Wavelengths, Future Projections, Short Cuts Canada and TIFF Cinematheque. The films, according to festival co-director Piers Handling, were created by a group of “hardworking, talent and visionary” men and women.
The lineup includes Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, which was acclaimed at Cannes and will play in Toronto as a Special Presentation with all the hoopla of a Gala. Other promising Special Presentations from established directors include Denys Arcand’s An Eye for Beauty, Charles Biname’s The Elephant Song, Ruba Nadda’s October Gale and Jacob Tieney’s Preggoland.
The Discovery program will host one of the possible underground hits, Jeffrey St. Jules’ wonky musical Bang Bang Baby. A buzz is developing about the movie, which is set in the 1960s and combines a girl’s dreams of rock stardom with mutations caused by a chemical leak. St. Jules said he has been hyping his idea for a decade at TIFF, ever since he debuted his short, The Sadness of Johnson Joe Jangles, and dreamed big for his first feature. “Now I can finally say: ‘I made this film and it’s premiering at TIFF!’ ”
Another buzz film in discovery is Kyle Thomas’ The Valley Below, set in the badlands of Alberta. Lindsay Mackay’s Wet Bum is a coming-of-age story starring Julia Sarah Stone, one of the four actors singled out as a TIFF Rising Star. Albert Shin’s In Her Place is a co-production of Canada and South Korea. Matthew Denis’ Quebec drama Corbo is set during the rise of the FLQ. Adam MacDonald’s Backcountry is a wilderness drama based on a true story of survival and tragedy.
A single Canadian film is part of Masters — and First Nations filmmaking legend Alanis Obomsawin deserves the title. Due to turn 82 Aug. 31, Obomsawin returns to TIFF with Trick or Treaty?, a cutting NFB documentary about the sad history of treaties between Canadian governments and the First Nations peoples.
“TIFF was the first festival that ever invited me with a film,” Obomsawin recalled about her decades-long association with the festival. As for her new doc, she became emotional talking about the inspiration of First Nations youth: “Young people recognize themselves and their ancestors.”
Another long-time TIFF director returns. Sturla Gunnarsson’s Monsoon will play in TIFF Docs. The film, he said, “is a love letter to India” as it chronicles the chaotic effects of the monsoon season. The last time Gunnarsson had a film in TIFF, he nearly died of Legionnaires’ disease just before winning an award in 2010 for his David Suzuki doc, Force of Nature. Gunnarsson said he was happy just to be around to present another film at the festival which inspired him to become a filmmaker.
Winnipeggers provided the Canadian entry in Midnight Madness. The Editor, co-directed by Matthew Kennedy and Adam Brooks, focuses on a film editor who cuts celluloid with a right hand that has four wooden fingers. And now he is the prime suspect in a murder case.
One film missing from TIFF is Atom Egoyan’s controversial thriller, The Captive, which opens in theatres just before the fest. Egoyan is still part of TIFF 2014, though. He just restored his early drama Speaking Parts for the TIFF Cinematheque series.