The Toronto International Film Festival returns tomorrow (September 10th) and we’re once again celebrating Ontario! We are thrilled to see a number of produced-in-Ontario features screening at this year’s festival – read on for details and showtime and ticket links for the hotly-anticipated Akilla’s Escape, Falling and Trickster. Join us on Twitter this year as we celebrate #TheStrengthOfOurScreens in Ontario at #TIFF20!
When a routine deal goes bad, a drug trader tries to set things right while unexpected circumstances force him to confront his traumatic origins.
During what is supposed to be a simple, routine handoff, 40-year-old drug trader Akilla Brown is suddenly caught in the middle of a violent robbery. Narrowly making it out alive, he captures one of the thieves, a teenaged Jamaican boy named Sheppard. Under the pressure of the criminals who hired him, Akilla must set things right and retrieve the stolen goods over the course of one arduous night.
When Akilla discovers that Sheppard’s gang has ties to the Garrison Army, the same crime organization he fell into as a child, he has to confront his own traumatic origins and becomes compelled to help the boy survive — and possibly even make the escape that he never could. Set in parallel timelines in present-day Toronto and 1990s Brooklyn, Akilla’s Escape illustrates how the oppressive cycle of violence manifests in different generations and just how difficult it is to break.
Poet-musician-actor Saul Williams — who also collaborated with Massive Attack’s 3D on the soundtrack — brings a subtle gravity to the role of the film’s quietly tortured protagonist. Returning to the landscape of the urban drama that helped make his name with Nurse.Fighter.Boy (2008), award-winning writer-director Charles Officer circumvents the sensationalism of the crime genre in this intelligent, distinctive, and sensitively rendered neo-noir–meets–coming-of-age story. With Jamaican gang culture and the reach of its rampant international drug trade as a biting political backdrop, Akilla’s Escape is a wide-eyed look at social violence and the toll it takes on Black lives.
In his feature directorial debut, Viggo Mortensen stars as a gay man on a patience-testing mission to care for his ailing, solitary, and homophobic father (Lance Henriksen).
Viggo Mortensen remains a marvel. A star who could simply have coasted on his big-screen luminosity, he has chosen instead complex character roles for David Cronenberg, lead performances in Spanish and French, and a vital body of work in poetry and painting. Now we learn he’s a hell of a director, too. Falling, which he wrote, directed, and co-stars in, is a crackling revelation of the wounds and responsibilities that come with family.
John was born into the storm of his father’s rage. His father, Willis, resents everything about his child’s presence, and what he sees as the trap of family life. Early on, the film shifts between scenes of John as a boy, forced by Willis into regular tests of masculinity, and John as an adult (Mortensen), living happily as a gay man. But when Willis (Lance Henriksen), now in the grip of dementia, descends back into John’s life, his usual vitriol and rancid homophobia flow unchecked. As a son still bound by duty, John must care for the man who hurts him the most.
Falling lays out this family’s emotional battleground with careful attention to nuances that complicate the conflict. Mortensen uses sophisticated visual and aural techniques to take us inside the experience of both son and father. Henriksen delivers a towering performance as a man roiling with rage he can barely understand, and Laura Linney is terrific as John’s sister, Sarah. Mortensen, working with longtime Cronenberg collaborators in production designer Carol Spier and editor Ronald Sanders, weaves the whole tale together to devastating effect.
Based on Eden Robinson’s bestselling novel, this series follows an Indigenous teen struggling to support his dysfunctional family as myth, magic, and monsters slowly infiltrate his life.
In myth and folklore, the character of the trickster is by turns cunning, foolish, and a devilish rule breaker. The shape of the archetype varies from one culture or community to another. For the Norse, the trickster is Loki. In Polynesian mythology, it’s Māui. For the Haisla, it’s Wee’git. Storytellers use the trickster to instill moral codes in younger generations; that includes award-winning Haisla and Heiltsuk novelist Eden Robinson (Monkey Beach), who celebrated and contemporized the figure in her 2017 novel Son of a Trickster.
Director and co-creator Michelle Latimer (ALIAS, Rise) and co-creator Tony Elliott (ARQ, which premiered at TIFF 2016) have now followed Robinson’s lead by bringing Wee’git to the screen in the CBC series Trickster, the highly anticipated adaptation of Robinson’s novel.
The series follows Jared (Joel Oulette), an Indigenous teen whose extracurricular activities include a part-time job selling drugs at a fast-food drive-through, protecting his wild-child mother (Crystle Lightning), and financially supporting his father (Craig Lauzon), who is struggling with addiction. Although Jared’s routine seems unstable, it is very familiar to him. What is unfamiliar are the talking ravens, doppelgängers, and shapeshifters who start appearing at local bus stops, house parties, and Jared’s makeshift ecstasy lab. Are these drug-induced hallucinations, or signs that a mythical figure has invaded Jared’s reality?
Latimer’s young characters are multifaceted, her interplay between score and imagery sets an energetic pace, and, most importantly, her respect for the trickster in Indigenous storytelling is evident. If the archetype can truly impact younger generations, that respect is paramount — and Latimer’s version exemplifies why it matters who gets to tell the story.
Images and film descriptions courtesy of TIFF.