- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
TIFF TOASTS THE TRUE NORTH’S
Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival expands with three-city simulcast
and coast-to-coast screenings
Celebrated lineup includes works by Patricia Rozema, Guy Maddin, Philippe Falardeau, Alan Zweig, plus an onstage conversation with Kiefer Sutherland
TORONTO — TIFF® salutes the country’s cinematic superstars tonight, revealing the Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival™ lineup of the top 10 features, shorts and student shorts for 2015. Established in 2001, the festival celebrates and promotes contemporary Canadian cinema and raises awareness of Canadian achievements in film. Running January 8 to 17, 2016 at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, the 10-day event presents public screenings of the selected films accompanied by introductions and Q&A sessions with filmmakers, as well as special events, industry panels and free engagements. On January 16, Golden Globe–, Emmy- and Screen Actors Guild Award– winning Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland will take the stage for an intimate discussion about his fascinating career. The 1985 landmark film My American Cousin rounds out the lineup as the festival’s Canadian Open Vault selection.
New this year, the festival will present a special screening simultaneously in three different cities, which includes a simulcast introduction and interactive Q&A offering audiences in Vancouver’s The Cinematheque and Montreal’s PHI Centre the chance to ask questions of the talent in Toronto. Select screenings from the lineup also return to Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg, with added stops in Halifax and Ottawa. Filmgoers in Toronto can once again vote to crown the Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival People’s Choice Award winner. These announcements were made at an industry event in Toronto tonight, hosted by Entertainment City’s Teri Hart.
“From exceptional debut features to veteran filmmakers at the top of their craft, Canadian talent from coast to coast cracked this year’s list,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director, Toronto International Film Festival. “What better way to escape winter’s icy grip than with a toasty lineup of special guests and homegrown films presented in eight cities across the country.”
“One of our most geographically representative programmes to date, the strength of this year’s lineup is a testament to the diversity and curiosity of our nation’s filmmakers — from Newfoundland to British Columbia,” said Steve Gravestock, Senior Programmer, TIFF. “The collaborations from across the country demonstrate the versatility of our filmmaking community, delivering deeply engaging cinema in their exploration of Canadian values.”
Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival features for 2015, in alphabetical order. Synopses below.
Closet Monster, Stephen Dunn (Elevation Pictures)
The Demons (Les démons), Philippe Lesage (FunFilm Distribution)
Les êtres chers (Our Loved Ones), Anne Émond (Entertainment One Films)
The Forbidden Room, Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson (Mongrel Media)
Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr, Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard (White Pine Pictures)
HURT, Alan Zweig (Super Channel/MDF)
Into the Forest, Patricia Rozema (Elevation Pictures)
My Internship in Canada (Guibord s’en va-t-en guerre), Philippe Falardeau (Entertainment One Films)
Ninth Floor, Mina Shum (National Film Board of Canada)
Sleeping Giant (Le géant endormi), Andrew Cividino (D Films Corp)
A special simulcast screening of Into the Forest takes place in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on Saturday, January 9 at 9 p.m. ET, and includes an interactive Q&A with Patricia Rozema.
Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival shorts for 2015, in alphabetical order. Synopses below.
Bacon & God’s Wrath, Sol Friedman
Balmoral Hotel, Wayne Wapeemukwa
Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson (Elevation Pictures)
Interview with a Free Man (Entrevue avec un homme libre), Nicolas Lévesque (NFB)
The Little Deputy, Trevor Anderson
My Enemy, My Brother, Ann Shin
Never Steady, Never Still, Kathleen Hepburn
NINA, Halima Elkhatabi (Les Films du 3 mars)
o negative, Steven McCarthy
Overpass (Viaduc), Patrice Laliberté (Travelling, les films qui voyagent)
Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival student shorts for 2015, in alphabetical order. Synopses below.
Alia, Raghed Charabaty (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design)
The Casebook of Nips & Porkington, Melody Wang (Sheridan College)
Cupid, Maria De Sanctis (York University)
Dysmorphia, Katherine Grubb (Emily Carr University of Art + Design)
ed, Taha Neyestani (Sheridan College)
Menesetung, Kyle McDonnell (Ryerson University)
Michi, Kaho Yoshida (Emily Carr University of Art + Design)
Ms. Liliane (Mme Liliane), Junna Chif (Concordia University)
Pretty Dangerous, Dan Laera (Humber College)
Smoke, Kellen Jackson, Suzanne Friesen and Sasha Tomasky (Simon Fraser University)
The Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival tours select films to major cities across the country including stops at Vancouver’s The Cinematheque (January 8 to 17), Montreal’s PHI Centre (January 8 to 16), Winnipeg Film Group’s Cinematheque (January 15 to February 28), Edmonton’s Metro Cinema (January 22 to 31), Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada (January 23, additional dates TBA), the Calgary International Film Festival at the Globe Cinema (February 4 to 7), and the Atlantic Film Festival in association with the Halifax Central Library (May 2 to 8).
Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival 2015 features panel
A national panel of six filmmakers and industry professionals selected the best in Canadian features.
Liz Braun ─ entertainment columnist (Sun Media/Postmedia newspaper chain)
Marie-Hélène Cousineau ─ filmmaker and producer (Sol, Before Tomorrow)
Stacey Donen ─ film programmer
Kris Elgstrand ─ writer and filmmaker (Songs She Wrote About People She Knows)
Midi Onodera ─ filmmaker and video artist (Skin Deep)
Ravi Srinivasan ─ executive director of the South Western International Film Festival
Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival 2015 shorts panel
A national panel of five filmmakers and industry professionals selected the best in Canadian shorts.
Sarah Goodman ─ filmmaker and writer (Army of One, Porch Stories, National Parks Project)
Lisa Haller ─ Senior Canadian Programming Associate, TIFF
Aeschylus Poulos ─ producer (Sleeping Giant, The Book of Negroes)
Nicholas Pye ─ artist and filmmaker
Albert Shin ─ filmmaker (In Her Place, Point Traverse)
The Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival student shorts were selected by Lisa Haller (Senior Canadian Programming Associate, TIFF).
The Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival shorts panel will select the student shorts winners for Best Film (Live Action) and Best Film (Animation).The filmmakers will be awarded with prize packages following the screening in January, courtesy of William F. White International Inc., Technicolor, and the Directors Guild of Canada.
In Conversation With... Kiefer Sutherland — Saturday, January 16 at 4 p.m.
Award-winning Canadian actor and filmmaker Kiefer Sutherland joins Cameron Bailey on stage for a career-spanning discussion that will touch upon both his film and television work, from his early days in Canada up through to Forsaken.
TIFF Industry Sessions — Thursday, January 14
TIFF Industry presents a series of sessions on current issues and trends in the Canadian film industry. The sessions are open to filmmakers, writers, producers, distributors, and film students who wish to learn more about both the creative and business side of the Canadian film industry. Sessions include Case Study: Creating the World of Room with David Gross (producer, Room), Adrian Love (senior vice president of marketing and acquisitions, Elevation Pictures), and Ethan Tobman (production designer, Room), moderated by columnist Johanna Schneller (The Globe and Mail); Visual Concoctions: How Canadians are Blending Genres with filmmakers Nick DenBoer (The Chickening) and Steven McCarthy (o negative), producer Laura Perlmutter (Riftworld Chronicles), and filmmaking duo Jen and Sylvia Soska (Twisted Twin Productions), moderated by TIFF Programmer Colin Geddes; and Master Class: Exploring Virtual Reality with Secret Location, featuring a discussion with James Milward (president and executive producer, Secret Location). To attend these sessions, visit tiff.net/industry.
Canadian Open Vault: My American Cousin — Friday, January 15 at 3 p.m. | FREE
Sandy Wilson’s landmark 1985 feature, about a bored preteen on an Okanagan farm whose inner rebellion is inspired by the arrival of her ultra-cool older cousin from California, is both a bittersweet coming-of-age tale and a meditation on the differences between us and our neighbours to the south.
The Canadian Open Vault programme presents free screenings of Canadian classics every season at TIFF Bell Lightbox, as part of TIFF’s efforts to make the country’s rich cinematic heritage more accessible to audiences.
TIFF presents First Things First: Coming of Age in Canadian Film — Friday, January 15 at 1 p.m. | FREE
Moderated by film critic Jason Anderson (Toronto Star), this free panel discussion explores five debut, coming-of-age-themed films at this year’s Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival: Sleeping Giant (represented by director Andrew Cividino), Closet Monster (executive producer Niv Fichman), Canadian Open Vault selection My American Cousin (director Sandy Wilson), short film NINA (director Halima Elkhatabi), and student-short film Menesetung (director Kyle McDonnell). Tickets are free and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the box office two hours prior to the event start time.
Tickets and ticket packages for Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival events at TIFF Bell Lightbox go on sale December 9 for TIFF Members and December 16 for the public. Purchase tickets online at tiff.net, by phone from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET at 416.599.TIFF and 1.888.599.8433, or in person at the TIFF Bell Lightbox box office from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET. Pricing as follows: regular screening ticket is $10 (feature film or shorts programmes); purchase the 6ix Pack for $50 and get six tickets for the price of five; tickets for In Conversation With... Kiefer Sutherland are $20 each. Canadian Open Vault and Higher Learning events are free. TIFF prefers Visa.
In order to be eligible for the Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival, the film (short or feature) must be directed by a Canadian citizen or resident, Canada must be an official country of production on the film, and the film must have been released commercially or played a major film festival in Canada in 2015.
Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival features synopses
Closet Monster, Stephen Dunn, Ontario/Newfoundland
Release date: summer 2016
Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film, 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
An East Coast teenager and aspiring special-effects makeup artist (Connor Jessup, Blackbird, 2012 TIFF Rising Star) struggles with both his sexuality and his fear of his macho father, in this imaginative twist on the coming-of-age tale from first-time feature director Stephen Dunn.
The Demons (Les démons), Philippe Lesage, Quebec
Released: October 2015
While Montreal is in the throes of a string of kidnappings targeting young boys, 10-year-old Felix is finishing his school year in the seemingly quiet suburb where he lives. A sensitive boy with a vivid imagination, Felix is afraid of everything. Little by little, his imaginary demons begin to mirror those of the increasingly disturbing world around him.
Les êtres chers (Our Loved Ones), Anne Émond, Quebec
Released: November 2015
The story begins in 1978 in a small town on the Lower St.-Lawrence where the Leblanc family is rocked by the tragic death of Guy, found dead in the basement of the family home. For many years, the real cause of his death is hidden from certain members of the family, his son David among them. David starts his own family with his wife Marie and lovingly raises his children, Laurence and Frédéric, but deep down he still carries with him a kind of unhappiness. Les êtres chers is a film of filial love, family secrets, redemption and inherited fate. Featuring 2015 TIFF Rising Star Karelle Tremblay.
The Forbidden Room, Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, Manitoba
Released: October 2015
Honouring classic cinema while electrocuting it with energy, this grand ode to lost cinema begins (after a prologue on how to take a bath) with the crew of a doomed submarine chewing flapjacks in a desperate attempt to breathe the oxygen within. Suddenly, a lost woodsman wanders into their company to tell his tale of escape from a fearsome clan of cave dwellers, and we are taken high into the air, around the world and into dreamscapes, through spinning tales of amnesia, captivity, deception and murder, skeleton women and vampire bananas. Created with the help of master poet John Ashberry, The Forbidden Room is like a glorious meeting between Italo Calvino, Sergei Eisenstein and a perverted six-year-old child, with Mathieu Amalric, Udo Kier, Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin, Roy Dupuis, Clara Furey, Louis Negin, Maria de Medeiros, Jacques Nolot, Adèle Haenel, Amira Casar and Elina Löwensohn who comprise a cavalcade of misfits, thieves and lovers.
Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr, Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard, Ontario
Release date: January 2016
Omar Khadr: child soldier or unrepentant terrorist? The 28-year-old Canadian has been a polarizing figure since he was 15. In 2002, Khadr was captured by American forces in Afghanistan and charged with war crimes, including murder. After spending half his life behind bars, including a decade at Guantanamo, Khadr is released. This is his story, in his own words.
HURT, Alan Zweig, Ontario
Release date: January 19, 2016
Toronto Platform Prize, 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
HURT is a documentary portrait of Steve Fonyo, who having lost his left leg to cancer, completed a fundraising run across Canada in 1985 at the age of 19. He was the youngest Canadian ever to receive the Order of Canada. The next 30 years, however, were even tougher than his legendary run: petty theft, larceny and drug addiction, until in late 2009 the Order of Canada was taken from him. Spend a year in the world of this one-time hero and see how the run has nothing — and everything — to do with his life.
Into the Forest, Patricia Rozema, British Columbia/Ontario
Release date: spring 2016
Two sisters (Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood) struggle to survive in a remote country house after a continent-wide power outage, in this gripping apocalyptic drama by one of Canada’s most celebrated filmmakers.
My Internship in Canada (Guibord s'en va-t-en guerre), Phillippe Falardeau, Quebec
Released: October 2015
Guibord is an independent Member of Parliament representing a vast county in Northern Quebec who unwillingly finds himself in the awkward position of determining whether Canada will go to war. Accompanied by his wife, daughter and Souverain (Sovereign) Pascal, an idealistic intern from Haiti, Guibord travels across his district in order to consult his constituents and face his own conscience. This film is a sharp political satire in which politicians, citizens and lobbyists go head-to-head while tearing democracy to shreds.
Ninth Floor, Mina Shum, British Columbia
Release date: January 15, 2016
It started quietly when six Caribbean students, strangers in a cold new land, began to suspect their professor of racism. It ended in the most explosive student uprising Canada had even known. Over four decades later, Ninth Floor reopens the file on the infamous Sir George Williams Riot: a watershed moment in Canadian race relations and one of the most contested episodes in the nation’s history. Director Mina Shum (Double Happiness) locates the protagonists in clandestine locations throughout Trinidad and Montreal — the wintry city where it all went down. In a cinematic gesture of reckoning and redemption, she listens as they set the record straight.
Sleeping Giant (Le géant endormi), Andrew Cividino, Ontario
Release date: April 15, 2016
City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film, 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
Spending his summer vacation on rugged Lake Superior, teenager Adam befriends Riley and Nate, smart-aleck cousins who pass their ample free time with pranks, vandalism and reckless cliff jumping. The revelation of a hurtful secret sets in motion a series of irreversible events that test the bonds of friendship and change the boys forever.
Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival shorts synopses
Bacon & God’s Wrath, Sol Friedman, Ontario
In this short documentary, a 90-year-old Jewish woman reflects on her life's experiences as she prepares to try bacon for the first time.
Balmoral Hotel, Wayne Wapeemukwa, British Columbia
A dance through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside serves as a haunting metaphor for the life of a First Nations sex worker in this powerful short documentary.
Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, Manitoba/Ontario
Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton is a strange, stirring behind-the-scenes look at Paul Gross’s new feature, Hyena Road. The film mixes deep contrast black-and-white expressionism with wry and raw western revisionism reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, as it summons unwieldy, psychedelic energy from the main event.
Interview with a Free Man (Entrevue avec un homme libre), Nicolas Lévesque, Quebec
Several men are interviewed to get a job and make a new start in life. Through the questions put to them, the plots of their existence are revealed.
The Little Deputy, Trevor Anderson, Alberta
An uncomfortable moment between a father and his son is reassessed in this witty and memorable documentary short.
My Enemy, My Brother, Ann Shin, Ontario/British Columbia
Zahed and Najah are two former enemies from the Iran-Iraq War who become blood brothers for life. Twenty-five years after one saves the other’s life on the battlefield, they meet again, by sheer chance, in Canada. This emotional documentary story is a surprising affirmation of humanity that cuts across political borders.
Never Steady, Never Still, Kathleen Hepburn, British Columbia
Distressed and overwhelmed by the mistakes of his past, a young lease-hand returns from Alberta's oil fields to his childhood home on Lillooet Lake, where he finds solace in the strength of his recently-widowed mother.
NINA, Halima Elkhatabi, Quebec
At 16 years old, Nina is helpless in the face of her four-month-old baby’s incessant crying. Without any escape from this new presence in her life, she ventures out from her tiny apartment into a working-class neighbourhood of Montreal for a brief escapade.
o negative, Steven McCarthy, Ontario
A young woman and the man who takes care of her find shelter in a roadside motel and take the necessary steps to feed her addiction.
Overpass (Viaduc), Patrice Laliberté, Quebec
Shorts Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film, 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
Police chase a teenager after he scrawls graffiti on an overpass for reasons only he understands. Patrice Laliberté’s deeply moving drama captures the power of self-expression in the midst of upheaval.
Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival student shorts synopses
Alia, Raghed Charabaty, Nova Scotia
A man recounts the last few moments before the death of his beloved, in this haunting and poetic glimpse into the flashpoint that started the Lebanese Civil War.
The Casebook of Nips & Porkington, Melody Wang, Ontario
In this delightfully imaginative animation, clues and characters literally jump off the page as two policemen investigate a mysterious crime.
Cupid, Maria De Sanctis, Ontario
Love becomes all the more complicated when Cupid falls for one of his targets, in this endearing twist on classical mythology.
Dysmorphia, Katherine Grubb, British Columbia
Both hand-drawn and 3D computer animation are used in this strikingly emotional exploration of the connections between body dysmorphic disorder, disordered eating and scoliosis.
ed, Taha Neyestani, Ontario
Ed is a quiet man who truly comes to life when he sets foot onstage as a nude figure drawing model, in this exuberant and beautifully rendered animation.
Menesetung, Kyle McDonnell, Ontario
Two siblings on a failed sheep farm in rural Ontario decide to escape their troubled home by stealing their father’s truck, but are unprepared for the consequences ahead.
Michi, Kaho Yoshida, British Columbia/Japan
In this mixed-media animation, Michi journeys into a brightly-coloured world filled with adventure and mysterious creatures — and leaves with a renewed self-awareness.
Ms. Liliane (Mme Liliane), Junna Chif, Quebec
Primary school teacher Liliane is distracted from her overly disruptive class as she anxiously awaits a phone call, yet comfort ultimately comes from an unexpected source in this assured and sensitively directed work.
Pretty Dangerous, Dan Laera, Ontario
This intimate portrait of Seleziya “Sparx” Esho finds the pro wrestler confronting a personal obsession and the strain it puts on both her body and her family.
Smoke, Kellen Jackson, Suzanne Friesen and Sasha Tomasky, British Columbia
Quin helps care for her ill mother and tends to the beehives on her family’s sprawling farmland, but after an unwelcome discovery must question her surreal and mysterious world.