TIFF Keeps Things Close To Home
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TIFF Keeps Things Close To Home

The festival announced its Canadian offerings, with a little help from John Tory.

Still from Bruce McDonald’s Hellions.

TIFF CEO Piers Handling and Artistic Director Cameron Bailey took to the stage of the Royal York Fairmont Hotel yesterday to unveil the now 40-year-old festival’s Canadian offerings as well as a slate of industry initiatives for burgeoning filmmakers. According to Bailey, the films — which were scooped a few hours before the event by the festival’s own press release — profile not just strong Canadian talent but “extraordinary Canadian lives.”

Still from How Heavy This Hammer.

Of all the afternoon’s titles, we’re probably most excited for critically acclaimed local filmmaker and MDFF programmer Kazik Radwanski’s sophomore feature How Heavy This Hammer, about a middle-aged man who turns to online gaming. We’ve been fans of Radwanski since his formally accomplished, empathetic early shorts, and we regard Tower as one of the best portraits of contemporary Toronto on film, so we’re eager to see his newest. Radwanski’s film even got a rare shout out from John Tory, mangled title and all. (The mayor, ending his predecessor’s string of no-shows, also professed an interest in Bruce McDonald’s horror film Hellions, quipping that it must be about city council.)

Still from Into the Forest.

The starriest title announced was probably Patricia Rozema’s Into the Forest, starring festival favourites Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as sisters holed up in their home in a not-too-distant dystopian future. Rozema sang TIFF’s praises, prematurely blurted out the film’s premiere screening date, and proclaimed herself a “re-emerging filmmaker,” though she’s been keeping busy writing and directing television since 2008’s Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.

Still from Sleeping Giant.

We’re also curious about Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant, which platformed from a TIFF short celebrated in the festival’s Canada’s Top Ten programme this winter to a minor critical darling at Cannes in the International Critics’ Week sidebar. The film is a coming-of-age tale set (and shot) on Lake Superior. Cividino was visibly moved at the launch, calling the film’s TIFF bow a homecoming of sorts after the short’s successful run at the festival and after his own time in TIFF’s Talent Lab.

Speaking of the Talent Lab, an intensive, five-day artistic development programme headed by a changing cast of mentors, the fest announced director Wim Wenders and producer Jim Stark (of Jim Jarmusch fame) as two of this year’s governors. TIFF also unveiled their new slate of Rising Stars, including Stephan James (very good in Selma and posed to break through with the upcoming Jesse Owens biopic, Race), Deragh Campbell, Aliocha Schneider, and Karelle Tremblay.

The Canadian film launch is a gentler (not to mention boozier) affair than the opening press conference, a sort of unofficial orientation for Canadian filmmakers and media types regrouping before the first day of school. Bailey read the good spirit in the room and encouraged both industry and press to make it last, entreating everyone to “take care of our filmmakers.” It’s a nice sentiment, and one we hope will bear out as long as the talent onscreen demands it.