There are some amazing Ontario productions getting the spotlight at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. The economic impact of Ontario production is significant ($1.7 billion in annual expenditures), and it is great to see these features at TIFF this year:
Alias Grace: A layered historical drama based on of Margaret Atwood’s Giller Prize–winning novel about a poor Irish servant accused and convicted of murder, from screenwriter Sarah Polley and director Mary Harron.
An Imagined Conversation: Kanye West & Stephen Hawking: Over a picnic at the beach, Stephen Hawking and Kanye West discuss quantum mechanics, private insecurities, and Drake. In this wickedly hilarious alt-memoir, Hawking unlocks the coded language of the universe to lead them both closer to personal liberation.
Bickford Park: After a chance encounter, a Toronto woman discovers she’d rather take skateboarding lessons from a handsome teen than contend with the grown-up complications in her marriage. Elegant black and white cinematography and terrific performances — including a charming lead turn by Liane Balaban — enrich this wry story about the challenges of adulthood.
Bird: Molly Parker makes a remarkably self-assured debut as a writer and director with this richly nuanced family drama. Amanda Plummer stars as a woman whose daily struggles with her ailing parents are compounded when a beloved pet makes the kind of escape she herself longs for.
The Breadwinner: Based on Deborah Ellis’ award-winning novel, director Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner tells the extraordinary story of an 11-year-old Afghan girl who finds strength in the love of her family and the power of storytelling.
Cardinals: When Valerie (Sheila McCarthy) returns home from prison years after killing her neighbour in an apparent drunk driving accident, she wants nothing more than to move on — until the deceased’s son shows up at her door and it becomes clear that the past is not easily forgotten.
The Carter Effect:In his latest documentary, Sean Menard gives viewers an unprecedented look at Vince Carter: the six-foot-six, eight-time NBA All-Star from Daytona Beach who made waves in the Canadian basketball scene when he joined the Raptors in 1998.
Don’t Talk to Irene: An overweight teenage girl follows her passion for cheerleading and signs up for a talent-search reality show in order to prove that “physical perfection” isn’t everything.
Downsizing: Matt Damon headlines a cast that includes Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Alec Baldwin, and Neil Patrick Harris in Alexander Payne’s sci-fi social satire about a man who chooses to shrink himself (literally) to simplify his life.
The Drop In: On a night like any other, Joelle is closing up her hair salon when a mysterious visitor appears asking too many questions about her citizenship. Nothing is what it seems in this fierce and stylish genre-bending allegory on immigration and belonging.
For Nonna Anna: In this raw and graceful testimony of intersectional womanhood, a trans girl has to care for her Italian grandmother. She assumes that her Nonna disapproves of her — but instead discovers a tender bond in their shared vulnerability.
The Girlfriend Experience Season 2: The second season of Starz’s chilling serialized drama — about highly paid sex workers who provide their clients with the full sexual and emotional girlfriend experience — focuses on the lives of Anna, caught up in the corrupt world of Washington politics, and Bria, an ex-sex worker in hiding who can’t escape her past.
homer_b: From some of Winnipeg’s weirdest minds comes a nightmarish vision that seems to have leaked out from the darkest recesses of Matt Groening’s subconscious and then been somehow preserved on the world’s last VHS cassette. Just who is this clown behind the microphone stand and what does he want?
Indian Horse: Adapted from Richard Wagamese’s award-winning novel, Stephen Campanelli’s moving drama sheds light on the dark history of Canada’s residential schools and the indomitable spirit of our nation’s Indigenous peoples.
I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing: Patricia Rozema’s internationally acclaimed debut feature was a watershed moment in Canadian film.
Kodachrome: Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen, and Ed Harris star in this touching road movie that doubles as an elegy for analog in the digital age.
Latched: A choreographer pursues creative inspiration at a cottage retreat while attempting to wean her demanding toddler — and unknowingly awakens a vile fairy corpse in the process. When she discovers the creature’s terrifying intentions, she will have to put her creativity to good use to lure the repugnant beast.
Lira’s Forest: As she approaches the end of her life, an elderly woman encounters a masked visitor who has emerged from the forest near her home. A testament to the unique directorial vision of former TIFF Rising Star Connor Jessup, the result is as beautifully realized as it is genuinely magical.
Long Time Running: Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier capture the emotional and powerful 2016 final tour of Canadian rock icons The Tragically Hip.
Mary Goes Round: When a substance abuse counsellor gets arrested for a DUI and returns to her hometown of Niagara Falls, she learns that her estranged father is dying of cancer and wants her to form a bond with her teenaged half-sister that she’s never met, in this family drama from writer-director Molly McGlynn.
Meditation Park: Mina Shum directs an all-star cast — including Cheng Pei Pei, Sandra Oh, Tzi Ma, and Don McKellar — in her latest feature, about a devoted wife and mother (Pei Pei) who is forced to reassess her reverence for her husband after she finds another woman’s thong in his laundry.
Molly’s Game: Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut stars Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in the true story of Molly Bloom, proprietor of Hollywood’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being shut down by the FBI.
North of Superior: This very special TIFF Cinematheque presentation of IMAX® co-inventor Graeme Ferguson’s 1971 masterwork, North of Superior, takes place in the very theatre where it premiered: Ontario Place’s beloved Cinesphere, the world’s first permanent IMAX® cinema.
On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi: Roman (Popi) and Ruth (Nani) Blank have been married for 65 years, but at age 95, Roman reveals a secret that tests their seemingly invincible union, in Brandon and Skyler Gross’ touching portrait of their grandparents.
Picture of Light: Peter Mettler and Andreas Züst’s attempt to capture the aurora borealis on film became a meditation on nature and technology, and on the very act of image-making itself.
Porcupine Lake: Two girls dangling on the brink of adulthood enjoy a summertime of fleeting childhood adventures, in the latest by Slovakian-Canadian director Ingrid Veninger.
PROTOTYPE: In his feature debut, experimental short filmmaker Blake Williams transforms images of the aftermath of the catastrophic 1900 Galveston Hurricane into a sci-fi landscape.
Public Schooled: After being homeschooled his whole life, wannabe physicist Liam (Daniel Doheny) “drops out” and enrolls in public school to chase the girl of his dreams, in this hilarious and heartwarming comedy from Kyle Rideout (Eadweard).
Pyewacket: A frustrated girl attempts an occult ritual in order to kill her mother, but awakens something sinister in the woods instead, in the latest from director Adam MacDonald (Backcountry).
Rude: The groundbreaking debut feature from Jamaica-born, Toronto-raised filmmaker Clement Virgo interweaves five urban narratives signalling an important departure from the traditional filmic depictions of Black Canadian life.
The Shape of Water: At the height of the Cold War, circa 1962, two workers in a high-tech US government laboratory (Sally Hawkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) discover a terrifying secret experiment, in this otherworldly fairytale from Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).
Stronger: David Gordon Green (George Washington, All the Real Girls) directs Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany in this adaptation of the memoir by Jeff Bauman, recounting his struggles to adjust after losing his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing.
There is a House Here: Spanning years of correspondence and three separate trips to Nunavut, Alan Zweig’s latest documentary navigates issues of culture and identity with his pen-pal and semi-reluctant guide, Tatanniq Idlout, a.k.a. Inuk rock singer Lucie Idlout.
Tulipani, Love, Honour and a Bicycle: In this wonderfully wooly tale about rediscovering one’s roots, a young Montrealer arrives in a small Italian village to scatter her mother’s ashes, and finds herself embroiled in a bizarre series of family histories and feuds.
We Forgot to Break Up: After a few years absence, Evan unexpectedly returns one night to face his now-famous former bandmates. The surprise reunion is bittersweet, in this intimate depiction of the knotty complexities of relating to old friends after everything has changed.
See you at TIFF!
(All images and film descriptions courtesy of TIFF)