Canadian features have been given a bad rap over the years for their shoddy production values, and often with talent departing to the States and elsewhere. But in recent years, it is clear that there is a Canadian resurgence at hand, particularly with the depth of quality in the ranks coming out of the province of Quebec, including Oscar-winner The Barbarian Invasions, and recent nominees Incendies (2010) and Monsieur Lazhar (2011), and with helmers including Denis Villeneuve, Jean-Marc Vallee (C.R.A.Z.Y., Cafe de Flore) and Xavier Dolan.
Vets like Deepa Mehta, Sarah Polley, Peter Mettler and Bruce Sweeney return to TIFF this year, along with newcomers like Jason Dupeyre, Kate Melville, Igor Drljaca, and of course, the new one by Brandon Cronenberg, paying homage to his father David.
Here’s a look at the impressive Canadian lineup appearing at TIFF this year, and the programmes these films belong to.
Midnight’s Children The new Deepa Mehta pic has got to be one of the most highly-anticipated movies premiering at TIFF this year with its screenplay by Salman Rushdie, based off of his Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name, set on the eve of India’s independence from British rule.
Inescapable Ruba Nadda‘s (Cairo Time) thriller Inescapable, stars Alexander Siddig (Syriana) as a Syrian emigre to Canada who returns to Damascus in a desperate attempt to find his missing daughter. The man must confront the turmoil he left behind 30 years prior in a country as unsettled as its ever been. Also starring Marisa Tomei and Joshua Jackson, this movie could not come at a more pivotal time in Syria’s modern history.
Antiviral Paying homage to his father David’s earlier work, Brandon Cronenberg‘s debut feature is a dystopian scare-story where celebrity obsession has gone off the cliff. It follows a young man who work at a clinic that harvests the viruses caught by famous people and sells them to overzealous fans. It neatly split audiences and critics alike when it appeared in the Un Certain Regard lineup at Cannes, but one thing’s for sure: it continues to the Cronenberg brand of giving us something that is miles away from the ordinary.
Inch’Allah Luc Dery and Kim McGraw are the hot producing team behind Canada’s last two films nominated in the Best Foreign Language category at the Oscars, with Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar, both of which continue to give cred to our homegrown talent as well as our willingness to make slick-looking productions in recent years. Their new production–directed by relative newcomer Anais Barbeau-Lavalette–is a drama set in the West Bank about a Quebec obstetrician named Chloe, who finds herself in the precarious position of being a stranger in a strange land, right in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Laurence Anyways Quebec auteur Xavier Dolan broke onto the scene 3 years ago with the mother-son drama I Killed My Mother, a remarkable and assured debut at the age of 20. That film went onto become of the biggest successes on the festival circuit that year. In 2010, he returned with the love-triangle drama Heartbeats, solidifying his role as a natural-born filmmaker. His new one is no less ambitious, following a couple where one of the pair goes through the arduous process of a sex change, and the ramifications involved with their friends and family and outside world as a result. Suzanne Clement took the Best Actress prize from the Un Certain Regard jury at Cannes this year. Can’t wait.
Liverpool Manon Briand (Heart: The Marilyn Bell Story) returns after a decade-long hiatus to direct this romantic-thriller involving a coat check girl at a bar who decides to return a coat left behind one night, only to find that it brings her trouble in the criminal variety.
Rebelle (War Witch) A story set in an unnamed Sub Saharan African country–though shot in the Congo–tells of 14 yr-old Komona, just one of the many young people who are forced into becoming child soldiers. Montreal filmmaker Kim Nguyen returns TIFF for the first time since The Marsh (2002), and this one has tons of buzz and Best Actress prizes from Berlin and Tribeca for newcomer Rachel Mwanza, who Nguyen found while he was location scouting.
Still Michael McGowan gets to make amends two years after the stinker that was Score: A Hockey Musical, which opened with TIFF ’10 with a thud. His new one is a star-studded drama that sees James Cromwell (The Artist, L.A. Confidential) playing an 89 yr-old New Brunswicker who gets into all kinds of trouble with local authorities for the house he’s building for his ailing wife (Genevieve Bujold). Campbell Scott co-stars. Everyone’s allowed a dud, so here’s hoping McGowan (Saint Ralph) gets back on the saddle with this one.
Stories We Tell Sarah Polley (Away From Her, Take This Waltz) directs her first feature doc in a story about a family of storytellers, who entangle us in a web of mysticism and old family mythology, and who often contradict each other amusingly throughout. An intriguing look into families, storytelling, and memories.
Blackbird Jason Buxton‘s first feature is a teen drama about a death threat uttered online and the fear of a small community that turns the threat into a wrongful accusation of a mass-shooting against the kid.
Krivina Short-film director Igor Drljaca makes his feature debut about an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia now living in Toronto, who treks back to Sarajevo in order to find a friend who has been accused of war crimes. I hate when that happens.
Picture Day Toronto native Kate Melville–with extensive T.V. credits including Degrassi and Being Erica–makes her feature debut with this teen drama that centers on Claire, a young woman forced to redo grade 12. Starring the underrated Tatiana Maslany (Violet & Daisy, The Vow).
Tower Another Toronto native, Kazik Radwanski–known for festival shorts such as Princess Margaret Blvd.–makes his feature debut with this dramedy following a 30-something loser who lives with his parents, forever keeping the outside world at bay.
Contemporary World Cinema
Camion Rafael Ouellet, who took home the directing prize as well as the Jury Prize at the Karlovy Vary fest, returns to TIFF with this drama of a family spread out over Quebec and the maritimes who re-connect after the father is involved in a deadly car wreck.
The Crimes of Mike Recket Bruce Sweeney (The Last Wedding) returns with this drama that follows a down-on-his-luck real estate agent and the rich widow he entangles himself with.
Home Again Scarborough native Sudz Sutherland brings us this intriguing drama about three Jamaicans deported from the U.S., Canada and the UK, and how they adjust to their “homeland”.
My Awkward Sexual Adventure Inertia and Lucid helmer Sean Garrity returns to TIFF with this comedy about a man who enlists the help of an exotic dancer in order to help get his wife back.
The Lesser Blessed This First Nations coming-of-ager (co-starring Benjamin Bratt and David Boyce) tells of a teen (played by Twilight’s Kiora Gordon) trying to find his place in the modern world.
I Declare War The film’s neat little trailer tells of the story of neighborhood boys and the little war games they play with each other. Toronto writer-director Jason Lapeyre is set to make a splash this year with this, his first feature to appear at TIFF, while he simultaneously tours two other features as well–a thriller titled Cold Blooded, which just took the audience prize at Fantasia; the other a doc filmed at Toronto General Hospital last year. There’s a good chance that by the end of TIFF he will have been one of its major discoveries; a new Canadian talent arriving on the scene with three aces up his sleeve already.
All That You Possess Bernard Emond, whose La donation took the Best Canadian Feature award at TIFF ’09, returns with this drama about a scholar who refuses a large inheritance because of it was earned dishonestly.
The End of Time Feature doc vet Peter Mettler (Gambling, Gods and LSD) returns with another existential project, this one a poetic and sometimes abstract journey into the notion of time and its meaning among several different people from various backgrounds across the world.
Revolution Toronto native Rob Stewart follows up his huge festival hit Sharkwater with another personal, impassioned take on his love for marine life and callous disregard for our environment from world governments. He travels to international conferences and rallies, where much is said but no action is ever taken. Formerly a wildlife photographer, Stewart bathes us once again in aquatic life and finds hope in a younger generation that understands that taking care of our planet is a moral imperative.
The Secret Disco Revolution This doc goes behind the love-it-or-hate-it music genre and finds that it was the soundtrack to the liberation of women, African Americans and gays. Directed by Jamie Kastner.
Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky Barry Avrich loves telling stories of the moguls behind the scenes, and this time he takes on the legendary Canadian founder of Cineplex and Live Ent, Garth Drabinsky.
Lunarcy! York Grad Simon Ennis‘ doc follows devotees to all things having to do with the moon.
Bestiary Denis Cote (Curling) returns with this meditation on animal life within the confines of a zoo, and the chasm that exists in perception between animals and humans.
Accompanying my list of 13 films I can’t wait to see at TIFF12 is this special list devoted to the unfairly neglected, the overlooked, and the hidden gems I hope have big debuts in Toronto this year. Here are the Secret 7, in alphabetical order.
The Act of Killing Exec-produced by Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, this doc about Indonesia death squad leaders of the 60′s after the overthrow of their president looks amazing. The directors have them recreating some of their brutal former acts as if they are making a fiction film, which causes regret in the men. Intriguing.
I Declare War Clever, entertaining and very funny, this coming-of-ager uses a game of capture-the-flag as a backdrop in a study of the way kids begin to understand and enforce their perception of themselves. It announces the debut of a promising newcomer in Toronto writer-director Jason Lapeyre, who handles this material with skill and a perceptive wit for tween banter.
Penance Suspense master Kiyoshi Kurosawa made a mature straightforward drama with Tokyo Sonata (2008), one of the best movies at TIFF that year. He’s back with another drama this year, about a mother whose elementary school-aged daughter was kidnapped and killed, and the resentment that she carries through the ages against her child’s friends, who witnessed the event. Looks great.
Pieta South Korean helmer Kim Ki-Duk is a festival favorite. You ought it to yourself to check out Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…Spring (2003) and 3-Iron (2004), two totally engrossing and philosophical entertainments. I can’t wait for his new one, which details a guy who works for a loan shark who suffers a crisis of values when a woman who claims to be his mother drifts back into his life.
Underground Aussie helmer Robert Connolly made a smart, literate political thriller in 2009 with Balibo, starring Anthony LaPaglia. His star is back along with Rachel Griffiths in this drama that sees them playing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange‘s parents during his more formative years. Newcomer Alex Williams plays the younger Assange.
When Day Breaks Serbian helmer Goran Paskaljevic made the dark masterpiece Cabaret Balkan in 1998. His new one has one of the more intriguing premises at TIFF this year, about a retired music professor who is contacted by a German museum owner when artifacts that are found from a Nazi death camp serve to reveal the true origins of the man.
Historically, the Discovery lineup tends to feature directors making either their first, second, or third features. Some of these films go back to where they came from and are never heard from again, remaining regional hits in their places of origin, while others break out and find an audience outside of the festival circuit.
Here are the films in the Discovery lineup this year, beginning with the 10 we’re most excited about here at Xavierpop. And what a strong female-centric lineup it is this year, in particular.
Note: The Canadian flicks in this programme are featured in their own article detailing the plethora of Canuck talent at TIFF this year.
The Hot List
7 Boxes A critical hit in Paraguay this summer, this action-thriller follows 17 yr-old Victor and the boxes that he must deliver in order to earn $100. Their contents are the film’s McGuffin, as everyone wants them while no one knows precisely what’s inside of them. From the directing team of Tana Schembori and Juan Carlos Maneglia.
Burn It Up Djassa Filmed as the Ivorian civil war broke out, director Bamba Souleymane (credited as Lonesome Solo), intends for this film to do for Africa what Italian neo-realism and the French New Wave did for European cinema, with its focus on the “real speak of folk on the streets” in Abidjan. This noir-drama is set to to the rhythm of slam poetry in a story lifted from an urban legend. If something completely different is your game, this film is the one for you.
The Deflowering of Eva van End In a story that reminds me of Todd Solondz‘ Welcome to the Dollhouse, the homely grade-schooler of a middle-class Dutch family gets some kind of awakening when a handsome young German exchange student comes to live with the family.
Detroit Unleaded This culture-clash dramedy follows Sami, an Arab-American who works at one of those generic 24-hour gas stations along with his cousin Mike. Sami was once meant to go to college, but his dreams are on hold in a mundane existence, until a beautiful young woman walks into the picture. Directed by Rola Nashef, from the short film of the same name.
Eat Sleep Die This Swedish film tells of a Muslim-Balkan emigre with little education or prospects who finds herself downsized from her factory job and having to navigate unemployment.
Fill the Void This sounds as heartbreaking as it does interesting: An Orthodox Hassidic girl is set to marry the man of her dreams until her older sister dies in childbirth, at which point the older sister’s husband will have to marry her in order to keep the grandchild in the country, forcing the girl to choose between her own happiness and her duty to her family. Yikes.
Janeane from Des Moines Study the pics of Janeane closely. I want Meryl Streep to play her in the fiction film. This doc follows an ultra-conservative Tea Party supporter in America and her quest to get real answers from the field of Republican candidates as the looming Iowa caucuses are on the horizon. The film sees her at rallies and at smaller events as she tries to figure out which of Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul will be the best option to get elected and kill Obamacare, among other so-called “leftist” initiatives. But as the economic crises in the country continues and health problems arise, it causes Janeane to self-reflect about her long held beliefs. Can’t wait.
Satellite Boy Legendary Aboriginal-Aussie actor David Gulpilil (Walkabout, Rabbit-Proof Fence) is the most famous tracker in the world, playing another one here in a story about a boy and his smart-ass friend who go missing in the outback on their original journey to stop their homes from being taken over by developers. Can’t wait.
Augustine This Parisian drama, set in 1885, follows a professor and his young female guinea pig at a hospital where he studies the strange illness of hysteria. Vincent London (also at TIFF with A Few Hours of Spring) is the professor, while Chiara Mastroianni (Chicken With Plums) is the young woman he is obsessed with.
Blancanieves Spanish helmer Pablo Berger pays homage to silent films of the 20′s with this story of a bullfighter, his daughter, and her evil stepmother.
Boy Eating the Bird’s Food Kurt Hamsun‘s 1890 novel Hunger is updated to the streets of Athens, where a 22 yr-old young man tries desperately to survive with nothing but a fine singing voice.
The Brass Teapot Juno Temple (Killer Joe) and Michael Angarano (Snow Angels, The Forbidden Kingdom) star in this comedy-fantasy as a couple who discover that their little teapot makes them money every time they hurt themselves. Co-starring Alexis Bledel (Rory from Gilmore Girls).
Call Girl This Scandinavian political-drama considers the plight of a young woman in late 70′s Stockholm who is recruited as an escort among powerful circles. David Dencik, who also stars in A Royal Affair at TIFF, co-stars here.
Clip This postwar Bosnia coming-of-ager follows Jasna, a hard teenage girl from an even harder family who escapes into boozing, drugging and partying in order to distract herself from all she hates, including herself.
The Color of the Chameleon This Bulgarian effort from longtime cinematographer Emil Christov follows a phantom secret-police outfit created by an informant of the government in this dark police-thriller.
The Interval A chubby teenager is enlisted by a Camorra gang to watch over a mysterious young woman all day in this Italian drama where that studies the strange power dynamic shift that occurs between jailer and captive.
The Land of Eb This family drama follows a man living in the Marshall Islands (contaminated by long ago thermonuclear military tests) who is diagnosed with stomach cancer, but who keeps it a secret in order to pay down family debt.
Mushrooming This Estonian satire on fame follows a middle-aged politician and his misadventures with his wife on an expedition to pick mushrooms and what happens when they decide to try to avoid the throng of vacationers there.
Nights with Theodore Buttes-Chaumont Park in Paris is essentially the main character in this film, involving a young man and woman who meet one night at a house party and who go back to the park time and again throughout their romance in this fantasy-drama.
Nono, the Zigzag Kid This adventure film, also in the TIFF Kids lineup, follows a young man on the eve of his Bar Mitzvah who is sent to his uncle in order to live out a more tranquil life because of all his trouble-making. But like his father, a world-renowned police inspector, the kid begins a series of adventures while on the train ride to the uncle.
Our Little Differences This German drama involves a 1%’er physician and his Bulgarian housemaid and their clash in cultures and class when each of their children disappear with each other after a night of partying.
Out in the Dark This character drama follows two men: an Israeli lawyer and a Palestinian grad student who fall in love but then are confronted with the conflict of such a union in that part of the world.
Wasteland This UK police-procedural sees Luke Treadaway getting his first lead role (Clash of the Titans, Attack the Block) as a beat-up young man under interrogation for a heist. Like The Usual Suspects, the film’s narrative is told from his p.o.v. from those interrogation scenes.
The Towrope (La Sirga) A teenage girl from a war-torn region of Colombia tries to put her life back together on a waterfront hostel until armed conflict resurfaces once more.
After having researched and written about all 300 or so films for TIFF12, the idea of forming a shortlist of the ones I’m most excited about seeing is a daunting task. The list just keeps changing and morphing. But by hell or high water, here are 13 films that I can’t wait to see, including a couple that I have seen, in alphabetical order.
At Any Price Iranian-American helmer Ramin Bahrani is one of the leaders in the new generation of great American directors. He leaves his neo-realistic style and makes a more purely classic American piece that recalls films such as Breaking Away (1979) and Silkwood (1983). Dennis Quaid delivers one of his very best performances as a tragic figure in the mold of Willy Loman in this mid-western drama about modern agri-business and the price to be paid in the soul when winning at all costs is a detriment to your neighbor. Zac Efron stars as his rebellious, race-car driving son. I think this is a great American film.
Bad 25 I can’t wait to see what Spike Lee does with this celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Michael Jackson‘s album Bad, the only album to feature 5 consecutive #1 singles. I was coming of age at the time of this album’s release and remember it like it was yesterday wearing out that tape in my walkman. You listen to songs like “Man in the Mirror” now and they’re still just as powerful.
Berberian Sound Studio Peter Strickland‘s 70′s-set thriller about a UK editor sent to Italy to sound-engineer a new Argento-like horror flick has been all the rage at the horror and fantasy fests leading up to TIFF. A great movie about the movies. Seems appropriate viewing for TIFF.
Cloud Atlas I hope this is a great movie. The extended trailer is glorious as 6 different story threads involving fate, chance and destiny weave together. Great cast, including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, and a neat directing team-up of Tom Tykwer (Perfume, The Princess & The Warrior) and the Wachowski siblings (Bound, The Matrix).
Passion I’m hoping this will be more Femme Fatale (2002) than Black Dahlia (2006). The Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace factor makes me hopeful.
Rebelle (War Witch) One of the few movies on my list that I’ve had the privilege of already discovering, this is one of the best Canadian-produced films I’ve seen. The idea of going to see a film about child soldiers in some unnamed, war-torn African nation probably sounds too depressing for even many film lovers. But this is not a depressing film. Montreal writer-director Kim Nguyen tells it with urgency, purpose, and assurance. The debut of Rachel Mwanza is in league with Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple and more recently, Gabourey Sidibe in Precious. She plays Komona, a young teenager kidnapped by local rebel militias, forced to kill her parents, and then trained as a child soldier. Mwanza appears in every scene, evolving from victim to soldier, from being someone’s daughter to becoming a parent. It’s a brave performance that earns our tears while she never asks for an ounce of our sympathy, playing Komona as a girl who must rely on her inner strength and resourcefulness to survive.
Rhino Season Iranian writer-director Bahman Ghobadi is probably my favorite director from that region in the world. His deeply humanistic films cast spell after spell over me, from A Time For Drunken Horses (2000) to Turtles Can Fly (2004) to Half Moon (2006). This is another travelogue and it details the release of a Kurdish-Iranian poet who makes his way across Turkey in order to try to locate his wife.
Seven Psychopaths Martin McDonagh made one of the best first-films in a long time when In Bruges was released in 2008. I love, love, love that movie and I hope his new one does well here.
Something in the Air Olivier Assayas has been one of my favorite directors in recent years with the riveting crime-saga series Carlos (2010) and his romantic-drama Summer Hours (2008). His new one just got a hot reception at Venice. Can’t wait.
The Suicide Shop Patrice Leconte is one of my favorite French directors. The creepy Monsieur Hire (1990), the sexy The Hairdresser’s Husband (1992), the sensuous black & white Girl On the Bridge(1999), and the magical drama The Man on the Train (2003) are some of my favorite of his. This marks his first animation effort, about a euthanasia shop that ensures you can have the death that suits you best. Can’t wait.
To the Wonder I won’t miss Terence Malick‘s first trip to TIFF for the world, particularly after directing this only a year after his thoughtful and moving masterpiece The Tree of Life. Starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams.
The Contemporary World Cinema (CWC) programme rivals Special Presentations in total number of titles, but make no mistake: CWC is the lineup for film lovers who appreciate international cinema and who tailor their schedules around the numerous titles that may never see a release in North America after their premieres in Toronto.
Here is a rundown of this year’s vast CWC lineup, starting with picks that have the most buzz. Of course, by the middle of the festival, some of these overlooked gems not yet on the radar will no doubt make a huge splash, since there are always a number of surprises from this lineup.
Note: Canadian films appearing in the CWC programme are featured in our article detailing all of the Canuck talent at TIFF this year.
The Hot List
Dead Europe From the producers of Shame and Animal Kingdom comes this atmospheric Australian pic by first-time TIFF attendee Tony Krawitz (Jewboy). It follows a young photographer charged with bringing his father’s ashes to Europe and the family secrets that are revealed as a result. Ewen Leslie (Sleeping Beauty) stars, along with Kodi Smit-McPhee (voice of Norman in ParaNorman). Based on the epic novel by Christos Tsiolkas.
A Hijacking Tobias Lindholm is here at TIFF with two films: he’s the screenwriter of the highly-anticipated Cannes-winner The Hunt (directed by Thomas Vinterberg) and the director of this picture, a psychological thriller at sea about Somali pirates and the European vessel they intercept. Highly topical stuff and a hot writer-director should send this selection onto the radar by the time the credits roll after its big premiere up here.
The Holy Quaternity TIFF veteran and Oscar-nominee for Divided We Fall (2000), Jan Hrebejk returns with this drama about two couples who fancy each other and the desert island getaway where their suppressed feelings blossom.
In the Fog The FIPRESCI winner from Cannes from Belarusian director Sergei Loznitsa is an atmospheric WWII drama about a man suspected of being a traitor who is sent out to be executed.
Middle of Nowhere Toronto ReelWorld Festival winner in 2008 for her doc This Is the Life, and Sundance-winner for Best Director earlier this year for her new film, Ava DuVernay arrives at TIFF with this sombre character drama about self-discovery. The film follows Ruby, a young woman torn between two men after her husband is incarcerated.
Paradise: Love What I consider to be the Austrian Michael Haneke, Ulrich Seidl (Dog Days, Import/Export) returns to TIFF with the first in a trilogy of films, this one about the topical issue of sex tourism in Kenya, following a middle-aged Viennese man on his quest for love.
The Patience Stone Last at TIFF in 2004 with his highly-acclaimed festival hit Earth & Ashes, Afghan director Atiq Rahimi is back with this interior drama that follows a young Afghan woman who confesses everything about herself to her husband, who lies in a vegetative state due to a bullet wound to his neck. Based off Rahimi’s own novel, Valmont (1989) and Birth (2004) screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere is on board with the novel’s screenplay adaptation.
Penance Cannes winner for Un Certain Regard and TIFF smash hit Tokyo Sonata in 2008, Japanese helmer Kiyoshi Kurosawa returns with another intimate drama, this time about four girls who have grown up with the burden of a penance by their friend Emili’s mother after the girls can’t remember who abducted and killed their friend. Fifteen years later, the women still carry the burden of the gruesome discovery of her dead body.
Shores of Hope Student Academy Award-winner for Best Foreign Film for Nevermore (2006), German helmer Toke Constantin Hebbeln (isn’t that the coolest name at TIFF this year?) comes to Toronto with the 80′s East German drama about two best friends who are dockworkers promised an escape by the secret police if they rat out their co-workers. It stars up-and-comer Alexander Fehling, who played a prison guard in Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds.
Underground Last at TIFF with the overlooked Anthony LaPaglia political thriller Balibo, Aussie helmer Robert Connolly returns with another huge thriller, this one zeroing in on the teenage years during the 80′s of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (played by newcomer Alex Williams). LaPaglia is back as a co-star once again, along with Rachel Griffiths. Can’t wait. Munk School of Global Affairs cyber security and freedom of expression expert Ron Deibert will be featured in one of the screening’s Q&A sessions.
The Good, the Overlooked, the Hidden Gems
3 (Tres) Uruguayan director Pablo Stoll has a track record of giving us generous character studies filled with sympathy for his characters. At TIFF ’04 he brought us Whisky, a gem of a movie that followed a woman who works at a sock factory, the husband who takes her for granted, and a long lost friend who re-enters the picture, practically sweeping her off her feet. His new one is another character dramedy, and if you like the work of Aki Kaurismaki, you’ll love discovering Stoll.
After the Battle Egyptian helmer Yousry Nasrallah brought the Venice-winning Scheherazade: Tell Me a Story to TIFF ’09, with its topical story about a female tv personality who creates a stir when she focuses her show on women’s issues. After the Battle is another hotly topical drama, this time centering on last year’s Egyptian revolution. The film follows the relationship between one of former dictator Mubarak’s hired stooges and a secular revolutionary he meets in Tahrir Square. International conflict-resolution expert and Order of Canada recipient Janice Gross Stein will be at TIFF to discuss the film in a Q&A session after one of its screenings.
All That Matters is Past Norwegian writer-director Sara Johnsen arrives at TIFF for the first time with this haunting tale of two lovers, William and Janne, who reunite and are forced to confront their past, which includes William’s jealous brother.
Baby Blues Polish helmer Kasia Roslaniec–at TIFF ’09 with the edgy teen drama Mall Girls–returns with another female-centric drama, this time focusing on a 17 yr-old who gets pregnant because it seems like it would be “cool thing to do”.
Barbara German helmer Christian Petzold first came to TIFF in 2008 with his Afghan war drama Jerichow, a festival hit. He returns with this suspense-drama, set in East Germany in the years just before the fall of the Berlin wall, following a physician who has been banished to work in a country hospital.
Bwakaw Filipino writer-director Jun Robles Lana makes his first appearance at TIFF with a character drama about a closeted retiree and his last shot at real happiness.
Children of Sarajevo This character drama follows Rahima, 23, and Nedim, 14, two siblings who were orphaned by the 90′s conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina as they make their way in Sarajevo. Writer-director Aida Begic returns to TIFF with this follow-up to her festival circuit hit Snow from 2008.
Clandestine Childhood First-time Argentine feature writer-director Benjamin Avila brings us the politically-charged family drama focusing on 12 yr-old Juan and what it’s like for him to go around with a secret identity as his folks are revolutionaries against the Military Junta back in ’79. Foreign military affairs correspondent Brian Stewart will join the Q&A after one of the film’s screenings.
Comrade Kim Goes Flying Anja Daelemans, Nicholas Bonner and Gwang Hun Kim bring us this intriguing drama, partially shot in secretive North Korea, about a female miner who dreams of becoming a trapeze artist, and the trapeze star who tries to dash her hopes.
The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky Based on the novel of the same title, Japanese helmer Yuki Tanada brings us this hyperlink character drama following a group of wounded characters and the connections they seek in their lives.
The Cremator When he discovers that he has a terminal illness, a lonely cremator sets out to marry a dead woman, which is further complicated by a young child who enters his life, looking for her sister. This represents Peng Tao‘s first TIFF effort, in a most unusual and intriguing premise.
Dust Guatemalan helmer Juan Hernandez Cordon makes his first appearance at TIFF with a painful character study about memories and loss in a small village hit hard by the disappearance of many during the country’s civil war.
Eagles Israeli director Dror Sabo is another TIFF first-timer with this tense drama following Efraim and Moshka, two retired soldiers of the Israeli army who go on a vigilante campaign in Tel Aviv. Special guest Ron Levi, Director of the Master of Global Affairs at the Munk School will speak about the film in an extended Q&A after one of its screenings.
Fin (The End) This apocalyptic drama involving a group of mountain climbers at the Pyrenees is Spanish helmer Jorge Torregrossa‘s feature film debut.
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullen) returns behind the camera and stars in this Irish-American family dramedy following seven adult siblings and their father, who wishes to return for a visit after being estranged for 20 years.
Fly With the Crane Another cremation drama to premiere at TIFF, this one from first-time TIFF attendee Li Ruijun follows an old man dead-set against the new Chinese government’s urbanization measure saying that dead folks must be cremated.
Ghost Graduation Billed as a “raucous Spanish comedy” recalling The Breakfast Club and Ghostbusters, Modesto is a schoolteacher who sees dead people, which gets him fired from nearly every teaching job he is assigned. He is transferred to a high school where he is tasked with helping 80′s-era teens complete their final exam.
God Loves Caviar Greek helmer Iannis Smaragdis returns to TIFF for the first time since 2007′s El Greco, with this epic period piece following Iaonnis Varvakis, the 18th century pirate who rose to become one of the largest heads of a mercantile empire in Europe.
Gone Fishing Argentine helmer Carlos Sorin comes to TIFF for the first time with this character drama involving a drunk who decides to clean up and find his estranged daughter.
The Great Kilapy Kilapy, Angolan for “swindle”, is the sardonic tale about a man who pulls a huge one off at the expense of the Portuguese administration of his country on the eve of Angola’s independence. From director Zeze Gamboa, who was last at TIFF ’04 with the festival circuit hit The Hero.
Him, Here, After Sri Lankan helmer Asoka Handagama arrives at TIFF for the first time with this post-civil war drama following a Tamil rebel known as “Him” and the recriminations he faces after the conflict. Foreign affairs expert, journalist, and former politician Michael Ignatieff will be featured in a Q&A after one of the film’s screenings.
Imagine Polish helmer Andrzeg Jakimowski–responsible for the 2007 festival smash hit Tricks–comes to TIFF for the first time with this Lisbon-set drama about an instructor for the blind who takes a young woman under his wing.
In the Name of Love This Vietnamese love triangle follows a woman who turns to a man in her village when her husband is not able to give her a child.
Jackie Dutch helmer Antoinette Beumer tells a cross-cultural story about twin sisters who travel from the Netherlands to America in order to help the mother they’ve never met, played by Holly Hunter.
Jump When Brendan Met Trudy director Kieron J. Walsh returns to TIFF with this hyperlink drama out of Ireland about four twentysomethings who collide on New Year’s Eve.
Just the Wind Hungarian helmer Benedek Fliegauf brings this hard-hitting drama to TIFF, based on real events, about a Gypsy family’s hopes of emigration and a horrible act committed against them that hinders that process.
Juvenile Offender TIFF FIPRESCI winner from 2005 with Sa-kwa, South Korean helmer Yi-kwan Kang returns with this drama about a young offender, the reformatory he’s sent to after getting into more trouble, and the mother he thought was dead.
Key of Life First-time TIFF attendee, Japanese helmer Kenji Uchida brings this intriguing drama about a contract killer who in a fall, suffers amnesia. A peasant man then takes on his identity while the killer, who can’t remember a thing, takes on the simple life of the peasant.
Kinshasa Kids Belgian director Marc-Henri Wajnberg arrives at TIFF ’12 for the first time with this Congolese musical-drama about a pack of street kids labelled as “witches”.
The Land of Hope Here last year with the post-tsunami drama Himizu, Japanese helmer Shion Sono returns with another said drama, this time following a dairy farming family whose property resides halfway in the government zone that is being ordered to clear out after the big earthquake, and halfway in the zone where it is okay for them to stay. The family must decide what is in their best interests.
Museum Hours Afghan-American writer-director Jem Cohen arrives at TIFF for the first time with this Vienna-set drama about a museum guard and a visitor to Austria who find solace in each other and in artworks, with the great Kunsthistorisches Art Museum serving as a backdrop.
Once Upon a Time Was I, Veronica Brazilian festival vet Marcelo Gomes (I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You) is another TIFF first-timer with this contemporary female-centric drama about self-discovery involving a young med student.
Road North Finnish festival circuit vet Mika Kaurismaki (Brothers, Three Wise Men) returns to TIFF with this dramedy that follows abandonment issues between concert pianist son Timo and his estranged father, Leo.
Sleeper’s Wake This English language South African drama follows a fortysomething man who lost his wife and child when he fell asleep at the wheel. Seeking refuge and healing time on a remote coastal town, he begins a dangerous relationship with a strange and beautiful 17 yr-old girl.
Smashed Special Jury Prize winner this year at Sundance, this indie alcoholism drama features a breakthrough performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). Co-starring Nick Offerman (Parks & Rec) and last year’s Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress, Octavia Spencer (The Help).
The Thieves South Korean helmer Choi Dong-hoon arrives at TIFF for the first time with this action-caper involving a plot about a $20 million jewelry heist.
Three Kids (preceded by the short Peripeteia) First-time feature director Jonas D’Adesky brings this coming-of-age docudrama to TIFF, featuring three 12 yr-old non-actors who must cope with life the best they can in Port-au-Prince after the devastating Haitian earthquake strikes. Peripeteia, an 18-minute short by John Akomfrah that imagines the lives of a black man and woman who appear in a 16th century art work by German Renaissance master Albrecht Durer, precedes Three Kids.
Three Worlds French helmer Catherine Corsini returns to TIFF three years after her romantic-drama Leaving, starring Kristin Scott Thomas. Three Worlds follows a young man on the eve of his wedding who is responsible for a hit-and-run accident. The story details the young man, the victim, and a young eyewitness to the crime.
Thy Womb Filipino festival regular Brillante Mendoza (Slingshot, Kinatay) returns to TIFF with this character drama involving an infertile woman who sets out to find a woman who can help bear her husband a child.
The Tortoise, An Incarnation Indian director Girish Kasaravalli arrives at TIFF for the first time in his over 30 year career with this intriguing docudrama about a humble civil servant cast as Gandhi for TV, and the parallels he finds between himself and the iconic figure.
Virgin Margarida This hard-hitting Mozambique film gleans from the real-life stories of women who were forced to endure “re-education camps” in first-time TIFF helmer Licinio Azevedo‘s drama.
Watchtower Turkish helmer Pelin Esmer brings his moody drama to TIFF, involving a man who escapes out of guilt into a job in a watchtower out in the middle of nowhere, and the young woman he relates to who has problems of her own.
A Werewolf Boy TIFF auds get to make a discovery here with Jo Sung-Hee from South Korea and this edgy-looking fantasy-thriller about a woman that a generation ago discovered a wolf boy out in the woods. The pic shows her 50 years later, visiting the same cottage she used to go to as a child, when she found him.
What Richard Did Irish writer-director Lenny Abrahamson was last at TIFF with the gas station drama Garage in 2007. He returns this year with a high school drama involving a star rugby player who, one night at a party when an act of sudden violence occurs, changes his life forever.
When I Saw You Palestinian helmer Annemarie Jacir‘s drama, set in Jordan in 1967, follows an 11 yr-old and his mother who are held in refugee camps after their West Bank village has been occupied.
Zabana! Algerian helmer Said Oulf-Khelifa tells the story of the short life of freedom fighter Ahmed Zabana, whose execution in 1956 by French colonialists helped kick off the Battle of Algiers.
Historically speaking, when a film gets tapped by the Telluride Film Festival in the mountains of Colorado, it’s among the cream of the crop. Founded in 1974, Telluride has become the first North American venue to exhibit some of the early front-runners in the fall awards season–albeit geared more towards press and industry types. Over the years, they’ve broken the news and offered first impressions of films like Roger & Me, El Mariachi, The Crying Game, Brokeback Mountain, and The Wrestler.
The stipulation for their main program–titled “The Show”–is that the film must be a North American premiere. Every year, the intimate festival and its two or three programmers take on a guest programmer. Some years it’s a personality like Salman Rushdie, other years it’s movie industry people like documentarian Errol Morris. This year, Telluride has chosen English writer-journalist Geoff Dyer. His latest book is titled Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room (About Tarkovsky‘s Stalker, which he has programmed in a sidebar at the fest that annually shows older classics).
For TIFF fans, the fests in Venice and particularly Telluride offer us clues in our never-ending adventure in tinkering with our schedules in order to ensure we program a strong lineup of films for our own individual sake. And because Telluride only picks a couple dozen films to play over Labor Day weekend, that these selections were chosen gives movie lovers a little more certainty–as well as direction–in selecting from the vastness of the TIFF lineup, which leaves everyone dizzy with 300 films before us.
Looking over the 39th Telluride picks, it is heartening that TIFF is playing most of them. Films without asterisks will be skipping Toronto, and this year that number is only four. The rest of them will arrive here next week. They are:
*THE ACT OF KILLING (Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark, 2012)
*AMOUR (Michael Haneke, Austria, 2012)
*AT ANY PRICE (Ramin Bahrani, U.S., 2012)
*THE ATTACK (Ziad Doueiri, Lebanon-France, 2012)
*BARBARA (Christian Petzold, Germany, 2012)
*THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon, U.S., 2012)
*EVERYDAY (Michael Winterbottom, U.K., 2012)
*FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach, U.S., 2012)
*THE GATEKEEPERS (Dror Moreh, Israel, 2012)
*GINGER AND ROSA (Sally Potter, England, 2012)
*THE HUNT (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark, 2012)
*HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (Roger Michell, U.S., 2012)
*THE ICEMAN (Ariel Vromen, U.S., 2012)
*LOVE, MARILYN (Liz Garbus, U.S., 2012)
*MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN (Deepa Mehta, Canada-Sri Lanka, 2012)
*NO (Pablo Larraín, Chile, 2012)
*PARADISE: LOVE (Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 2012)
PIAZZA FONTANA (Marco Tullio Giordana, Italy, 2012)
*A ROYAL AFFAIR (Nikolaj Arcel, Denmark, 2012)
*RUST & BONE (Jacques Audiard, France, 2012)
*THE SAPPHIRES (Wayne Blair, Australia, 2012)
*STORIES WE TELL (Sarah Polley, Canada, 2012)
SUPERSTAR (Xavier Giannoli, France, 2012)
WADJDA (Haifaa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia, 2012)
WHAT IS THIS FILM CALLED LOVE? (Mark Cousins, Ireland-Mexico, 2012)
Now, Telluride will often show a couple or more secret screenings that pop up out of the blue, and word has it that they’ll show a sneak of Ben Affleck‘s new political-thriller Argo, which bodes well for him in his third outing as director.
Some big titles appear in “The Show” this year, but what’s remarkable so far is that the gossip apparently must be true about Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained not being ready yet, since it has skipped Venice, Telluride and Toronto. If New York doesn’t announce it in their lineup, that means he’ll be polishing it up until its holiday release. Same goes for the 60′s music drama Inside Llewyn Davis, the new Coen Bros. pic. And yet other absentees would have to include Sofia Coppola‘s celebrity-obsessed crime-caper The Bling Ring as well as Kar Wai Wong‘s The Grandmasters, the film that details Ip Man, better known as Bruce Lee‘s trainer.
Among the films present here, TIFF auds should put little stars next to more overlooked titles such as The Act of Killing, the new doc–exec produced by Errol Morris and Werner Herzog–that shows former death squad leaders re-enacting some of their brutality; The Attack, which follows an Israeli-Palestinian surgeon who goes on a quest to understand how his wife was implicated in a suicide bombing; Barbara, which is set in 80′s East Germany about a physician banished to the country who is pulled between two tough personal choices; and Ginger & Rosa, the new one by Sally Potter (Yes) set in 60′s London, following a pair of teen girls.
In the hours after I will have written this article, first impressions will come out from the screening of Midnight’s Children, one of TIFF’s most anticipated films, from Deepa Mehta and based off the Salman Rushdie bestseller, which he also wrote the screenplay for.
It has little to no bearing on whether they are actually any good, but huge TIFF releases like Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master as well as the co-production by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis in Cloud Atlas not appearing at Telluride does have me somewhat concerned, since I thought they were a good bet to show there. By Monday, however, it might just be that they do show as secret screenings. Stay tuned.