Sarah Polley’s familial documentary, Brandon Cronenberg’s horror-satire and Xavier Dolan’s gender-bending epic are among the collection of Canadian fare being served at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival.
“This year’s there’s a strong showing from docs. We have a strong showing from female directors,” senior programmer Steve Gravestock said at the announcement of the festival’s Canadian lineup Wednesday. “There are a lot of love stories, fractured romances and youth-themed films.”
The festival will play host to Polley’s Stories We Tell, in which the Oscar-nominated filmmaker interrogates a family of storytellers. The film will debut the week before TIFF at the Venice Film Festival. Also, David Cronenberg’s son, Brandon, will present his debut feature, Antiviral, starring Caleb Landry Jones as a clinician who sells viruses harvested from celebrities to obsessed fans, and Sarah Gadon as a sick superstar.
“I was extremely sick with a bad flu and I was obsessing over the physicality of illness and how it came from someone else’s body,” Cronenberg said. “This struck me as being a weird intimacy; cell penetration, it’s more intimate than sex. So afterward, I was trying to think of character who might see disease that way and I thought of [a fan] who might want Angelina Jolie’s cold. It’s critical of celebrity obsession and the mania behind that.”
Laurence Anyways, the third and most ambitious feature by Quebec filmmaker Dolan, chronicles a love story between a man and a woman, in which the man decides to have a sex change.
While both Antiviral and Laurence Anyways debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May, several homegrown films will have their world premieres in Toronto. The producers of the Academy-Award nominated Monsieur Lazhar and Incendies will debut their war drama, Inch’Allah, about a Canadian obstetrician working in a Palestinian refugee camp.
“One thing that I noticed this year was that we saw a lot of Canadian filmmakers going outside of our borders to tell their stories,” said TIFF programmer, Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo. ”We have films like Inch’Allah, which is set in the West Bank, Rebelle by Kim Nguyen which is set in Africa. We have Sudz Sutherland’s Home Again, which is set in Jamaica. In the gala program, we have Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children and Ruba Nadda’s Inescapable, which is set in Damascas.”
Michael McGowan, whose Score: A Hockey Musical opened the festival in 2010, returns with the world premiere of Still, a heartfelt tale about an 89-year-old New Brunswicker, played by James Cromwell (Babe) who faces jail time when the government tries to prevent him from building a better home for his ailing wife.
McGowan flew out to meet the real-life octogenarian on which the story is based. “At what point do you pack it in whether you’re 50 or 60 or 70?” McGowan said. “Here’s guy who is 89 and who starts building a house. It’s the idea of still trying to do things that are ridiculous that was attractive about the story.”
The lineup also includes several coming-of-age tales. Jason Buxton’s Blackbirdexamines media and fear in a post-Columbine society. Eighteen-year-old Toronto actor Connor Jessup plays an alienated teenager whose online threat sparks panic in a small community.
“In my film the lead character never intended to plan a shooting but through a series of events and mis-perceptions, he is implicated by the media and the community,” Buxton said. “I’m a parent myself. I understand the community’s response to threat but at the same time, as teenagers, it’s about growing up, it’s about learning to use your voice in healthy ways. We’ve gone too far the other way. We’re quick to jump, we’re quick to scapegoat.”
Meanwhile, Kate Melville’s Picture Day follows Claire, a young woman forced to repeat Grade 12. “It’s like a punk rock John Hughes kind of movie,” said Tatiana Maslany who plays the protagonist.
Melville, an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, said she first thought of the characters when she was in high school 20 years ago. “I was a lot dorkier in high school; Claire was the girl I wished I could be.”
Seven Canadian documentaries will play during the festival including activist filmmaker Rob Stewart’s follow-up to his acclaimed box-office hit Sharkwater. InRevolution, Stewart struggles to empower the conservation movement to affect global change. Stewart said he is pleased to be premiering another film at TIFF. “It’s heartwarming for us that the community in Toronto responded to the issue,” Stewart said. (Toronto banned shark fins products.)
The TIFF Docs program already includes Canadian films such as Simon Ennis’Lunarcy!, Jamie Kastner’s The Secret Disco Revolution and Barry Avrich’s Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinksy.
Here’s a look at more Canadian cinema showing at this TIFF 2012:
My Awkward Sexual Adventure, Sean Garrity: A conservative accountant tries to win back his unsatisfied ex-girlfriend by enlisting the help of an exotic dancer. “When you see a love scene in a movie, it’s generally elegantly lit and everyone’s really comfortable and good-looking. It all plays out like an opera,” said Winnipeg writer and star, Jonas Chernick. “But sex can be very embarrassing and very awkward so this is a comedy that explores that.”
Liverpool, Manon Briand: A coat check attendant in a bar takes an unclaimed coat back to its owner but finds herself in the middle of criminal intrigue. Luckily, or maybe unluckily for him, a regular at the bar loves her and risks his life to help her. “It tells a contemporary story of…how to be intimate in a global world, how to have intimacy when you’re behind your cellphones and laptops,” Briand said.
Rebelle, Kim Nguyen: Young Congolese actress Rachel Mwanza won the Silver Bear for best actress at Berlin International Film Festival for her portrayal of Komona, a 14-year-old girl who becomes a child soldier in Rebelle (known as War Witch in English).
The Lesser Blessed, Anita Doron: This coming-of-age story follows Larry, a Native teenager balancing his romantic heart with a dark past that threatens to unravel his life.
The Crimes of Mike Recket, Bruce Sweeney: Sweeney (Last Wedding) returns to the festival with this neo-noir police procedural about a failed real estate agent (Nicholas Lea) whose attempt to turn things around makes him a suspect in a criminal investigation.