Canadian film goes full frontal in Toronto

Movies: #TIFF18, The Toronto International Film Festival

This year’s lineup of Canadian film at TIFF represents more than a handful of familiar faces, it’s a coming-of-age moment for the whole industry.

The Toronto International Film Festival

September 6-16

By Katherine Monk

(September 6, 2018) TORONTO — Canadian film doesn’t have its own category at the The Toronto International Film Festival any more, but if it did, this year’s lineup would make for more than an album-worthy family portrait. It would be the stuff of dynasty.

Three generations of proven talent will join a select group of notable first-timers over the next ten days, proving it’s not just the festival that’s hit middle-age in its 43rd year, but the Canadian film industry as a whole has matured. We’re a fertile source of content, able to claim Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale as our own, and now we’ve propagated, offering a multitude of voices and genres instead of the standard handful of high-profile, white male auteurs.

So while Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg may not be appearing at this year’s festival, the legendary Denys Arcand will debut The Fall of the American Empire, another instalment in his chronicle of continuing decline. We’ll also see the continuing rise of indigenous cinema thanks to Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown’s Edge of the Knife, the first Haida language feature, The Grizzlies, Miranda de Pencier’s story of lacrosse in the far north, and Falls Around Her, Darlene Naponse’s new film starring Tantoo Cardinal in her first full lead as an Anishinaabe singer who returns to the reserve and bumps into her past.

Cardinal isn’t the only familiar face exploring new ground. Enfant adoré Xavier Dolan (Mommy, J’ai tuer ma mere) will finally unveil his long-awaited English-language debut, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. A globe-trotting drama starring Susan Sarandon, Jacob Tremblay, Kit Harington and Natalie Portman, Dolan’s sixth feature in under a decade tells the story of a kid’s obsession with a TV star.

Don McKellar explored similar strains of fame and connection in Childstar, his 2004 follow-up to Last Night, but this year, he returns to the director’s chair with Through Black Spruce, a drama  starring Tantoo Cardinal, Graeme Greene and Tanaya Beatty as family members struggling with the disappearance of a young Cree woman who headed to Toronto for a modelling career but disappeared without a trace.

Also making a long-awaited return to the festival circuit is Vancouver director Keith Behrman, who last made the rounds with 2002’s Flower & Garnet. This year, he presents Giant Little Ones, a coming-of-age drama starring Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello as parents to a maladjusted teen played by Josh Wiggins.

Giant Little Ones Kyle Maclachlan Josh Wiggins

Big Deal: Kyle MacLachlan stars as a father who left his wife for a man in Keith Behrman’s Giant Little Ones, one of several new Canadian films debuting at TIFF18.

Joining Behrman in the west coast contingent are fest veterans Bruce Sweeney (Dirty, Last Wedding, The Dick Knost Show) with his latest exploration of dysfunctional romance called Kingsway, and Victoria-raised Jennifer Baichwal, who re-teams with her husband Nick de Pencier and photographer Edward Burtynsky for another sobering — yet mesmerizing — documentary view of humanity’s impact on the planet in Anthropocene: The Human Epoch.

Other high profile documentaries from Canada include Sharkwater: Extinction, the final plea from the late filmmaker and environmentalist Rob Stewart to save the species, and Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz, Barry Avrich’s interview with the last surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials.

Truth is also the central quest in The Lie, the latest project from successful TV writer and producer Veena Sud (Cold Case, The Killing). Starring Mireille Enos and Peter Sarsgaard, The Lie navigates the thin ice surrounding a parent’s need to protect their child — even if it means obstructing justice.

Oscar-nominated Montreal director Kim Nguyen (Rebelle, Two Lovers and a Bear) abandons the ice floes in favour of Wall Street in The Hummingbird Project, a thriller starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgard as cousins hoping to get a millisecond jump on trading by laying a fibre-optic cable from Kansas to New Jersey.

Industrial change is also the subject of Sebastien Pilote’s (The Salesman) latest, The Fireflies are Gone (La disparation des lucioles), the story of an angst-ridden teen’s journey to adulthood set against the backdrop of rural Quebec.

Twenty years ago, maritime filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald won TIFF with his tortured coming-of-age classic, The Hanging Garden, and this year he returns with Splinters — a mother-daughter drama fuelled by identity issues. Similar themes await in Patricia Rozema’s (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing) MOUTHPIECE — an adaptation of Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava two-woman play about an aspiring writer attempting to reconcile her feminism with the wishes of her dead mother.

And what festival season would be complete without new work from art-house idol Guy Maddin?  Not to worry, Maddin returns to the program with another collaborative work created with Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson called Accidence. Billed as “Hitchcockian”, the 10-minute short film will supposedly please the voyeur in all of us.

For fans looking to eyeball Canadian work, that’s not always easy, but this year’s TIFF makes an intimate encounter with Canadian film practically impossible to avoid.


Keep checking in with The Ex-Press for full festival coverage and reviews over the course of the festival, which runs September 6-16. For more details on each film, please visit the official TIFF site

THE EX-PRESS, September 6, 2018


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