The Toronto International Film Festival might have fewer Hollywood stars on the carpet this year as the actor and writers strikes continue. But during a pre-festival event on Thursday announcing this year’s Canadian films, homegrown talent were front and centre — an exciting prospect for the festival organizers, programmers and talent.
“The great news is that Canadian films and filmmakers always have a prominent place at our festival. But I think this year they’ll be even more prominent,” TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey said during an interview with CBC News.
“They’ll emerge more to a wider range of people who are seeking out something new.”
Bailey pointed to Canadian actors such as Theodore Pellerin in Sophie Dupuis’s Solo, who “gives one of the best performances I’ve seen all year in this great story, love story set in the drag community in Montreal.”
“Canadian talent is strong enough that they can attract actors and artisans from all over the world,” he said.
Bailey noted that American actor Amanda Seyfried reunited with Canadian director Atom Egoyan for the film Seven Veils, a psychological drama about a young theatre director.
There will be 50 Canadian titles at this year’s festival, including 21 features, 20 shorts, six documentaries and three television series, said chief programming officer Anita Lee during a presentation focusing on Canadian contributions on Thursday. The full festival schedule was released earlier in the week.
During an interview, Lee acknowledged that it’s been an unusual year leading up to the festival because of the strikes.
“At the same time, I think as related to Canadian cinema, we’re really, really excited. It’s an incredibly strong area,” she said. “We have 50 films in series in the festival this year from very celebrated veteran directors — from Atom Egoyan, Deepa Mehta — to really, really unknown discoveries that we’ll be presenting this year.”
TIFF’s galas and special presentations include Solo and Seven Veils; ballet doc Swan Song by Chelsea McMullan; rock doc Hate To Love: Nickelback by Leigh Brooks; Elliot Page-led drama Close To You by Dominic Savage; coming-of-age tale Ru by Charles-Olivier Michaud; and orchestra drama Days of Happiness by Chloé Robichaud.
TIFF will take place from Sept. 7 to 17 in Toronto. The typically celebrity-heavy festival is facing an unusual year as the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America are on strike, potentially impacting the number of high-profile guests in attendance. The strikes forbid actors and writers from doing any promotional work.
However, directors are unaffected by the strike — and several actors-turned-directors will be there, including Ethan Hawke, Anna Kendrick and Michael Keaton, Bailey confirmed.
Canadian movies at this year’s TIFF
Christian Sparkes’s The King Tide will screen in the festival’s Platform section, which spotlights director-led cinema.
Films in the Centrepiece section include Fitting In by Molly McGlynn; Hey, Viktor! by Cody Lightning; Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person by Ariane Louis-Seize; In Flames by Zarrar Kahn; Irena’s Vow by Louise Archambault; Kanaval by Henri Pardo; and The Nature of Love by Monia Chokri.
Canadian documentaries in the TIFF Docs showcase are Boil Alert by James Burns and Stevie Salas; I Am Sirat by Deepa Mehta and Sirat Taneja; Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe by Robert McCallum; and Summer Qamp by Jen Markowitz.
The Discovery section highlights emerging talent. D.W. Waterson’s Backspot got big cheers from the crowd — the film is produced by Elliot Page’s production company, Pageboy.
“Canadian artists are doing things here and it’s great that we have an opportunity to come together and go, ‘What stories do we want to be telling as Canadians?'” Waterson told CBC News on the carpet.
“And so that’s what TIFF is. It’s a huge platform for us to be in dialogue with who we are as a country.”
Canadian films I Don’t Know Who You Are by M. H. Murray; Seagrass by Meredith Hama-Brown; Tautuktavuk (What We See) by Carol Kunnuk and Lucy Tulugarjuk; and The Queen of My Dreams by Fawzia Mirza will also screen in this section.
Three Canadian TV series will also get some airtime at the film fest, including Black Life: Untold Stories; Bria Mack Gets A Life; and Telling Our Story. The Wavelengths section, which highlights experimental and avant-garde film, includes He Thought He Died; Mademoiselle Kenopsia; and Laberint Sequences.