It wouldn’t be the Toronto International Film Festival if it didn’t showcase filmmakers from their own country. From acclaimed veterans to emerging talent, TIFF (which runs September 8-18) has an impressive lineup of documentaries, dramas, thrillers and animation. This includes the North American premieres of Xavier Dolan’s Cannes Grand Prize winner It’s Only the End of the World starring Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel, as well as Kim Nguyen’s Two Lovers and a Bear starring Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan. The fest will also see the world premieres of the documentary thriller The Skyjacker’s Tale and Anatomy of Violence from Deepa Mehta, who directed the Oscar-nominated Water. See the complete lineup of Canadian films below.
BELOW HER MOUTH, April Mullen, Canada (World Premiere)
Below Her Mouth is a bold, uninhibited drama that begins with a passionate weekend affair between two women. Dallas, a roofer, and Jasmine, a fashion editor, share a powerful and immediate connection that inevitably derails both of their lives. Starring Erika Linder, Natalie Krill, and Sebastian Pigott.
IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD, Xavier Dolan, Canada/France (North American Premiere)
After 12 years of absence, a writer goes back to his hometown, planning on announcing his upcoming death to his family. As resentment soon rewrites the course of the afternoon, fits and feuds unfold, fuelled by loneliness and doubt, while all attempts of empathy are sabotaged by people’s incapacity to listen, and to love. Starring Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, and Léa Seydoux.
MEAN DREAMS, Nathan Morlando, Canada (North American Premiere)
Mean Dreams is a tense coming-of-age thriller about a 15-year-old boy who steals a bag of drug money and runs away with the girl he loves. While her violent and corrupt cop father hunts them down, they embark on a journey that will change their lives forever. A potent fable at its heart, Mean Dreams fuses the desperation of life on the run with the beauty and wonder of first love. Starring TIFF Rising Star Sophie Nélisse, Josh Wiggins, Bill Paxton, and Colm Feore.
TWO LOVERS AND A BEAR, Canada (North American Premiere)
This film is set in the Great North, near the North Pole, in a modern town where about 200 souls live precariously in minus 50 degree weather, and where roads lead to nowhere but the endless white. It is in this eerie lunar landscape that Lucy and Roman, two young tormented souls, fell in love. But now, ghosts from Lucy’s past are coming back, and she needs to run away or she will burn. Together, these lovers decide to make a leap for life, a leap for inner peace. Starring Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan.
WEIRDOS, Bruce McDonald, Canada (World Premiere)
Nova Scotia, 1976. It’s the weekend of the American Bicentennial and 15-year-old Kit is running away from home. With girlfriend Alice, Kit hitchhikes through the maritime landscape towards a new home with his mother, Laura. Along the way, Kit and Alice’s relationship is tested as Kit approaches a realization that will change his life forever. Starring Dylan Authors, Julia Sarah Stone, Molly Parker, and Allan Hawco.
WINDOW HORSES (THE POETIC PERSIAN EPIPHANY OF ROSIE MING), Ann Marie Fleming, Canada (North American Premiere)
Window Horses is a feature-length animated film about a young Canadian poet who embarks on a whirlwind voyage of discovery — of herself, her family, love, history, and the nature of poetry. Featuring the voices of Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, Don McKellar, Nancy Kwan, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, the film is filled with poems and histories created by a variety of artists and animators, who set out to blend a vast myriad of differences between cultures, philosophies, arts, and time frames.
ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE, Deepa Mehta, Canada/India (World Premiere)
In 2012, a young woman was gang raped by six men inside a moving bus in New Delhi. She was beaten senseless and thrown naked out onto the street. Eleven actors collaborated on Deepa Mehta’s devastating fictional dramatization of the lives of the rapists.
WE CAN’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE, Alanis Obomsawin, Canada (World Premiere)
In 2007, the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a landmark discrimination complaint against Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. They argued that child and family welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserves and in the Yukon were underfunded and inferior to services offered to other Canadian children. Veteran director Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice documents this epic court challenge, giving voice to the tenacious childcare workers at its epicentre.
ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: TRUTH, DECEPTION, AND THE SPIRIT OF I.F. STONE, Fred Peabody, Canada (World Premiere)
Investigative journalists Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Matt Taibbi, and others are changing the face of journalism, no longer tied to mainstream media, choosing independent alternatives. Cameras follow as they uncover government and corporate secrets, just as ground-breaking and influential American journalist I.F. Stone did decades ago.
BLACK CODE, Nicholas de Pencier, (Canada World Premiere)
Based on the book by Professor Ron Deibert, Black Code is the story of how the internet is being controlled and manipulated by
governments in order to censor and monitor their citizens. As they battle for control of cyberspace, ideas of citizenship, privacy, and democracy are challenged to the core.
GIANTS OF AFRICA, Hubert Davis, Canada (World Premiere)
On a continent where dreams are often displaced for necessity and survival, the game of basketball brings hope to many young men in Africa. Masai Ujiri, president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors, returns to Africa each summer to stage basketball development camps. Young men from across the continent overcome staggering odds, with an unwavering spirit, to attend these camps that are held in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda. As Masai and his team of coaches work to train and inspire the raw talent that they encounter, Giants of Africa captures the amazing physical and emotional journey that these young African men pass through.
MOSTLY SUNNY, Dilip Mehta, Canada World Premiere
Growing up in small-town Sarnia as the daughter of strict Sikh parents, no one anticipated Sunny Leone’s remarkable transformation into an adult film star and Penthouse cover girl — not even Sunny herself. More astonishing still, she has reinvented herself in India as a mainstream reality TV star and Bollywood actress, beloved by millions despite widespread awareness of her spicy past. Mostly Sunny asks what makes Sunny tick, and explores the birthplace of the Kama Sutra’s paradoxical relationship with sex.
THE RIVER OF MY DREAMS, Brigitte Berman, Canada (World Premiere)
Actor-writer-director Gordon Pinsent is one of Canada’s most beloved artists. Filled with humour, passion, and complexity, this film by Academy Award–winning filmmaker Brigitte Berman tells Gordon Pinsent’s story, as well as a universal story about the human condition, while making creative use of state-of-the art digital technology.
THE SKYJACKER’S TALE, Jamie Kastner, Canada (World Premiere)
The Skyjacker’s Tale is a documentary thriller about Ishmael Muslim Ali (né Labeet), one of the most wanted U.S. fugitives ever, who successfully hijacked a plane to Cuba after being convicted of murdering eight people on a golf course owned by the Rockefellers.
THE STAIRS, Hugh Gibson, Canada (World Premiere)
The Stairs tells the story of Marty, Greg, and Roxanne, each of whom survived decades of street involvement in Toronto. Using that experience, each works in public health to help their old neighbourhood, while struggling to maintain their newly-found stability. Told over five years, The Stairs defies stereotypes about drug use, sex work, and homelessness through an intimate portrait that is by turns funny, surprising, and moving.
ARQ, Tony Elliott, USA/Canada (World Premiere)
In a future where corporations battle against sovereign nations over the last of the world’s energy supplies, Renton and Hannah relive a deadly home invasion over and over again. The intruders are bent on getting the ARQ, an experimental energy technology that could end the wars — and is also creating a time loop that is making the day repeat.
HELLO DESTROYER, Kevan Funk, Canada (World Premiere)
A young junior hockey player’s life is shattered by an in-game act of violence. In an instant his life is abruptly turned upside down; torn from the fraternity of the team and the coinciding position of prominence, he is cast out and ostracized from the community. As he struggles with the repercussions of the event, desperate to find a means of reconciliation and a sense of identity, his personal journey illuminates troubling systemic issues around violence. Starring TIFF Rising Star Jared Abrahamson.
JEAN OF THE JONESES, Stella Meghie, Canada (Canadian Premiere)
Writer-director Stella Meghie’s debut feature is an acerbic coming-of-age tale that revolves around the troubled Jones family, one of whom dies at the start of the film. When the paramedic who answers their 911 call falls for rambunctious Jean, the courtship goes south during a calamitous funeral. Starring Taylour Paige and Gloria Reuben.
OLD STONE, Johnny Ma, Canada/China (North American Premiere)
When a drunken passenger causes Lao Shi to swerve and hit a motorcyclist, the driver stops to help the injured man. When no police or ambulance arrive, he drives the victim to the hospital, checks him in, and finds himself responsible for the man’s medical bills. The repercussions of Shi’s selfless act expose a society rife with bone-chilling callousness and bureaucratic indifference. On the verge of losing his cab, his job, and his family, Lao Shi has to resort to desperate measures to survive. Starring Chen Gang.
PRANK, Vincent Biron, Canada (North American Premiere)
Stefie, a lonely young boy, is approached by Martin, Jean-Sé, and Lea to record their daily pranks with his cellphone. The four prankmeisters decide to set up a stunt which goes beyond anything they’ve done so far… but who will be the victim? Prank is a funny and sometimes scary coming-of-age story about friendship, curiosity, peer pressure, and the loss of innocence.
WEREWOLF, Ashley McKenzie, Canada (World Premiere)
Blaise and Nessa are marginalized methadone users in a small town. Each day they push their rusty lawn mower door-to-door begging to cut grass. Nessa plots an escape, while Blaise lingers closer to collapse. Tethered to each other, their getaway dreams are kept on a suffocatingly short leash.
CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA
BOUNDARIES, Chloé Robichaud, Canada (World Premiere)
The paths of three women cross in Besco, a small isolated island facing an important economic crisis. Starring Macha Grenon, Emily VanCamp, Nathalie Doummar, and Rémy Girard.
X QUINIENTOS, Juan Andrés Arango, Canada/Colombia/Mexico (World Premiere)
Three separate but powerful stories of three teenagers who must come to terms with their new reality when they are forced to migrate to different parts of the Americas after the loss of someone they loved.
NELLY, Anne Émond, Canada (World Premiere)
A film inspired by the life and work of Nelly Arcan. Nelly is a portrait of a fragmented woman, lost between irreconcilable identities: writer, lover, call girl, and star. Several women in one, navigating between great exaltation and great disenchantment. The film mirrors the violent life and radical work of its subject, paying tribute to a writer who insisted on taking risks. Starring TIFF Rising Star Mylène Mackay.
nirvanna the band the show, created by Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol; directed by Matt Johnson, Canada (World Premiere)
Two lifelong best friends and roommates are planning the greatest musical act in the history of the modern world. If only they could book their first gig.
A COOL SOUND FROM HELL, Sidney J. Furie, Canada
A striking record of hipster Toronto in the 1950s, Sidney J. Furie’s long-thought-lost second feature follows a bored young man who kicks his middle-class destiny to the curb and plunges into the Hogtown netherworld of jazz, sex, and narcotics.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer