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culture

TIFF Unveils Its 2014 Canadian Programming

The festival's homegrown slate features a host of familiar faces and plenty of young blood.

Still from Mommy.

TIFF CEO and director Piers Handling and artistic director Cameron Bailey took to the snazzy environs of the Fairmont Royal York’s concert hall this afternoon to regale a room full of industry and press with the fest’s Canadian offerings for 2014. Following the already announced gala presentation of David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, the lineup featured a host of familiar faces and young blood.

On the more established end of the spectrum, TIFF gave a platform to First Nations filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin. The venerable festival staple has been upgraded from her usual home in TIFF Docs to the swankier Masters program for her newest film, Trick or Treaty?, a documentary about First Nations activists who seek to confront the federal government about its history of land appropriation, among other sour legacies. The film, Obomsawin promised, gives voice to a group of young, politically engaged activists who want to “make their will be known.”

Still from Bang Bang Baby.

If Obomsawin was the press conference’s established star, then rising-star honours went to debut feature director Jeffrey St. Jules, who showed off a trailer for Bang Bang Baby, a musical about a small-town teenager in the 1960s whose world is upended by the mutations coming out of the local chemical plant. If we had to describe the footage, we’d say it was a mix of Twin Peaks and ‘90s Canadian sitcom Maniac Mansion.

Still from Monsoon.

Given Canada’s rich history of nonfiction filmmaking, it was no surprise to see TIFF close their highlights reel with another documentary, Sturla Gunnarsson’s Monsoon. Described by Bailey as “part road movie, part spectacle, part drama,” the film puts together a multi-faceted portrait of contemporary India using the titular weather system as connective tissue.

Still from Preggoland.

Programmers Steve Gravestock and Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo were also on hand to give an overview of Canadian offerings in other programs. Most of these, like Xavier Dolan’s Cannes Jury Prize winner Mommy, were expected, but a few offbeat titles caught our eye as well. Among the films we’re especially looking forward to, there’s director Jacob Tierney’s archly titled Preggoland, about our cultural obsession with babies; local filmmaker and critic Blake Williams’ short Red Capriccio, an anaglyph found-footage film, and, in the Midnight Madness program, Matthew Kennedy and Adam Brooks’s The Editor, a sendup of Italian giallo horror movies.

Like always, shorts fans will be well-served at TIFF, which reserves its shorts slots almost entirely for Canadian films (excepting the more international Wavelengths program). Programmers Magali Simard and Alex Rogalski emphasized the diversity of this year’s 42 titles, which range from science-fiction to domestic drama, and include newcomers as well as a pair of restored animated shorts from pioneer Norman McLaren.

As per tradition, the press conference also made time for some yearly industry housekeeping. Among the news was the announcement of this year’s TIFF Rising Stars lineup, which should give a professional leg-up to the fresh-faced Sophie Desmarais, Shannon Kook, Alexandre Landry, and Julia Sarah Stone; and the more surprising list of governors for this year’s Talent Lab, which includes American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani and the inestimable Claire Denis—the latter whose work was featured in a TIFF Cinematheque retrospective last fall.

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