A Guide to Local Talent at TIFF 2013
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A Guide to Local Talent at TIFF 2013

International stars aren't the only attraction at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

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Maxwell McCabe-Lokos in Bruce McDonald’s The Husband.

The Toronto International Film Festival boasts a reputation for being one of the world’s most important and celebrated film events. This year’s fest will draw plenty of international stars to town, but home-grown talent is also set to make a strong showing. Here are a few Toronto filmmakers and actors to keep an eye on at TIFF 2013.

Jennifer Baichwal

A filmmaker renowned for her exquisite visual storytelling, director Jennifer Baichwal makes documentaries that are as powerfully persuasive as they are aesthetically stunning. Best known for her 2006 film Manufactured Landscapes, which examined the ways industrial production and manufacturing profoundly change the shape of the planet, Baichwal is once again collaborating with photographer Edward Burtynsky on her latest work, Watermark. As much about the value and necessity of water as its beauty and power, the film examines the way that we use, manipulate, and harness earth’s most abundant natural resource, as well as the catastrophic cost of polluting and abusing it.

Atom Egoyan

Egoyan, a Cairo-born, Toronto-based director, has long been fascinated by the ways injustice occurs, becomes narrative, undergoes revision, and is ultimately (maybe) corrected. He has explored these ideas in previous films, like Ararat (which deals with Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide) and Where The Truth Lies (a murder mystery). For his latest film, Devil’s Knot, which premieres this year at TIFF, Egoyan tackles the story of the West Memphis Three. Egoyan’s dramatized version of this legendary miscarriage of American justice focuses on the families of the victims, their grief twisting into (often misplaced) rage.

Cara Gee

Actress Cara Gee appears frequently on stage as an active member of Toronto’s theatre community, with recent roles in shows at Buddies in Bad Times, Tarragon Theatre, and Factory Theatre. This year, she has been named as a TIFF 2013 Rising Star for her appearance in Empire of Dirt (directed by Peter Stebbings). Gee stars in the film as Lena Mahikan, an Aboriginal woman attempting to reconnect with her estranged mother and protect her daughter from the spectre of addiction.

Bruce McDonald

One of Toronto’s most revered film and television directors, Bruce McDonald has a long and storied history with TIFF. His 1989 film Roadkill won an Outstanding Canadian Film Award, his 2008 horror film Pontypool was selected as one of the best Canadian films shown at TIFF that year, and 2010’s Trigger was the first thing ever screened at TIFF’s Bell Lightbox. Frequently inspired by music and psychological decay and horror, McDonald has made films with and about bands like The Headstones, Die Mannequin, and Broken Social Scene. This year, McDonald’s film The Husband, co-written with and starring Maxwell McCabe-Lokos as Henry, tackles darkness from a different angle. Incorporating elements of black comedy and horror, the film explores the limits of Henry’s self control after his wife is imprisoned for sleeping with one of her students, leaving Henry to raise his infant daughter alone.

Aaron Poole

Aaron Poole is a familiar face, thanks in part to his role on the BBC America television series Copper (he plays Robert Cobb Kennedy). At the festival this year, he stars in Ingrid Veninger’s The Animal Project as a frustrated theatre director, Leo, whose solution to his troupe’s creative impasse is to have them dress in animal costumes and interact with the world. Heavy with emotional baggage but imbued with a lightness that comes from being partially improvised, the film looks as though it will demonstrate a different side of Poole.

Jonathan Sousa

Another TIFF Rising Star, actor Jonathan Sousa appears alongside Poole in The Animal Project, as one of Leo’s troupe members. Sousa has also appeared on the television show Rookie Blue, and, (amazingly) in a short comedy/horror film called Rattan, “about a bicycle basket possessed by the spirit of a pimp looking to get revenge on the hooker who killed him.”

Ingrid Veninger

Ingrid Veninger, who directed The Animal Project, is known locally as a huge proponent of DIY filmmaking, capable of producing excellent work on minuscule budgets. She’s also the driving force behind the $1,000 Feature Film Challenge, which invites Toronto filmmakers to make a movie with only $1,000. (In 2012, Veninger contributed $5,000 of her own money, effectively funding 5 films.) Her last two directorial efforts were Modra (which saw Veninger journeying back to her birthplace in Bratislava, Slovakia), and i am a good person/i am a bad person (wherein she starred opposite her daughter, Hallie Switzer). She’s also a member of the film faculty at York University.

Alan Zweig

Toronto-based, Genie-winning filmmaker Alan Zweig’s last film, A Hard Name, was a documentary about seven ex-convicts, full of raw, real stories about childhood abuse and the challenges of transitioning from prison to life outside. For his latest work, When Jews Were Funny, Zweig has taken on lighter subject matter: the history of Jewish comedy. Focusing on comedic legends from the 50s and 60s, he blends interviews with archival footage, exploring Jewish heritage and culture in general, and also within the context of the entertainment industry.

Want more TIFF coverage? Torontoist‘s film festival hub is right over here.