TIFF 2014: Canadian Film Highlights

On Wednesday, August 6th, TIFF announced the roster of Canadian films that would be making their debut at the 2014 festival.  Hosted at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, several special guests and filmmakers were on hand to assist Piers Handling, Cameron Bailey, and several other Festival programmers reveal what is always a hotly anticipated portion of the event.  This year’s slate of Canuck films span several programmes of the festival and offers a surprising amount new talent making their inaugural appearance.

In addition to the films, also announced today are this year’s Rising Stars, a small group of young actors hand-picked by the Festival who are making their mark in the industry.  Sophie Desmarais, Shannon Kook, Alexandre Landry, and Julia Sarah Stone may not be household names yet but they are each well on their way to building impressive bodies of work, and we will only continue to see great things from them in the future.  Each actor will take part in a series of special events over the course of the festival to improve their training and acting prospects with international industry delegates.  Past Rising Star alumni include Golden Globe nominated actress Tatiana Maslany, star of the popular television show Orphan Black.

The first round of film announcements came from the Short Cuts Canada programme.  Each year the programmers whittle down hundreds of submissions from across the country to a list of 30-40 short films.  These are divided into 6 programmes that groups together several of the films.  For fans of this format, the Short Cuts Canada programme always promises to be diverse and interesting, covering many different themes.  Visit the Short Cuts Canada programme page to see which films have been selected.

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In a surprising yet deserving move, legendary documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin will be presenting her latest film Trick or Treaty? in the Masters programme.  The film follows Indigenous people hoping to raise awareness about the issues plaguing them by tracing the history of their ancestors and attempting to establish a dialogue with the Canadian government.

As was expected, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy will be making its Toronto debut in the Special Presentations program, after winning a Jury Prize earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival.  Dolan continues his impressive streak in this stylish drama about a single mother raising her violent son alone.

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Also screening in the Special Presentations programme is The Elephant Song, starring Dolan, Bruce Greenwood, and Catherine Keener, about a psychiatrist drawn into a complex mind game after question a disturbed patient about the disappearance of a colleague.  Quebec favourite Denys Arcand is back with his latest film An Eye for Beauty about a man leading the perfect life that is turned upside down when he meets a mysterious woman on a business trip.  Ruba Nadda, past winner of the Best Canadian Feature Film prize at the 2009 festival for her film Cairo Time, will be returning with her latest October Gale, as is festival favourite Jacob Tierney, with his new film Preggoland about a woman who becomes popular again with a former group of friends after she lies about being pregnant.

The final film of the Midnight Madness program was also revealed as part of these announcements.  Matthew Kennedy and Adam Brooks’ The Editor, a parody tribute to Italian masters Mario Bava and Dario Argento, is about a one-handed master film editor who becomes the prime suspect in a string of brutal murders.

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Also announced and generating some early excitement are selections from the TIFF Docs and Discovery programmes.  Documentary filmmaker Sturla Gunnarsson, previous winner of the People’s Choice Documentary Award in 2010 for Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie, returns with his latest film Monsoon, a reflective piece about how the vast weather system permeates the culture of India and its effects on the population.  Selected for the Discovery programme is Bang Bang Baby from first-time director Jeffrey St. Jules.  In what’s being described as a bizarre 1960’s dramatic sci-fi comedy musical, the film stars Jane Levy (ABC’s Suburgatory) and Justin Chatwin (Showtime’s Shameless).  A small-town teenager (Levy) believes her dream of becoming a famous singer will come true when her rock-star idol (Chatwin) gets stranded in town.  However, a leak at a nearby chemical plant that is causing mutations threatens to turn her dream into a nightmare.

Additional selections were announced for the TIFF Docs, Contemporary World Cinema, Discovery, TIFF Cinematheque, Wavelengths, and Future Projections programmes.  Further information can be found at TIFF.net.

With just 28 days left to the start of the festival, there are only two more weeks of film announcements left before the schedule is revealed. Next week, on August 12th, the bulk of the remaining titles will be announced in the Contemporary World Cinema, City to City, and Short Cuts International programmes.  August 19th will see the remainder of the films, including the last of the Discovery, Special Presentation and Gala films announced along with the Guest List and Schedule.  Stay tuned for more coverage in the coming weeks!

Read about other TIFF 2014 Film Announcements.

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