The Toronto International Film Festival announces this year's Canadian programming, from Xavier Dolan to Jennifer Baichwal.
The announcement of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Canadian lineup is a bit like orientation day for Canadian filmmakers and media types—a gathering of old friends and new faces before the first day of school. This year’s edition saw TIFF Director and CEO Piers Handling and Artistic Director Cameron Bailey handing things off to their Canadian programmers to introduce twenty features, six short-film slates, and a host of industry initiatives.
Some of the most anticipated features named today—joining previously mentioned titles like Denis Villeneuve’s Hugh Jackman starrer Prisoners—are from Toronto-based filmmakers. Jennifer Baichwal follows up 2011’s Payback, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Massey Lectures of the same name, with Watermark, co-directed by celebrated photographer Edward Burtynsky—whose stunning large-format photos were the subject of Baichwal’s earlier film, Manufactured Landscapes. The documentary, which according to Baichwal spans ten countries and twenty stories, considers our complex geopolitical relationship with water.
Local auteur and sometime producer Ingrid Veninger also returns to the festival with The Animal Project. In a marked departure from the real-life mother-daughter dynamic of her last film, 2011’s i am a good person / i am a bad person, the new picture focuses on a father, a son, and, as per the cheeky press notes, “six characters dressed in furry suits”—which sounds like a winning formula.
The rest of the features are a mix of heavyweights and emerging talents. On the former end, there’s Goon and Fubar director Michael Dowse’s The F Word, a film that features both a love triangle and a hip cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, and recent Emmy nominee (for Girls) Adam Driver. French Canada is ably represented by Catherine Martin’s A Journey, which deals with a woman’s trip to the Gaspé Peninsula after the death of her mother, and Xavier Dolan’s Tom at the Farm, which follows its protagonist, a young ad man, on a retreat to a farm. Those seeking new voices—Dolan is already an old pro at the ripe age of 24—might may be better served by Chloé Robichaud’s Sarah Prefers To Run, one of only a handful of films by women that made the cut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
In recent years, TIFF’s shorts programming has turned its attention to Canadian filmmakers. This year’s Short Cuts Canada programme, composed of fifteen returning filmmakers and a variety of 3D and animated offerings, is designed to cast even more light on these homegrown artists. Programmers Magali Simard and Alex Rogalski announced that, for the first time, each film would be available to screen on the Festival’s Youtube channel from 24 hours after its premiere until September 19.
As per tradition, the presser was also an opportunity for the Festival to promote its industry projects, including the 2013 edition of Telefilm Canada’s PITCH THIS!, a competition that grants filmmaking teams a nerve-racking six minutes in which to pitch their documentary or feature film idea to a panel of experts in front of a live audience. Handling and Bailey also hailed a new group of young actors as TIFF’s Rising Stars. The initiative, now in its third year, aims to professionalize and bring exposure to new blood like Tatiana Maslany, who landed the lead in BBC America’s series Orphan Black shortly after her selection last year. This year’s crop is Evelyne Brochu, Cara Gee, Megan Park, and Johnathan Sousa, all of whom have films in this year’s festival.