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Canada’s Top Ten: A Look Back

Xavier Dolan’s Mommy was a notable Canadian film as it looked ahead. The narrative’s implementation of the S-14 law suggested that the film took place in the distant future, a mere year ahead of when the film was made by Dolan.

In Mr. Dolan’s absence this year at Canada’s Top Ten, still playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until Sunday, we have ten films that seem to emphasize looking backwards. With the exception of Patricia Rozema’s Into the Forest, which is set in the near future, but does not specify as to when, exactly, most of the films in the main program have an emphasis on viewing the past through a contemporary lens.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in 2015’s bumper crop of Canadian documentaries. Alan Zweig’s portrayal of Steve Fonyo in Hurt jumps out immediately, but so does Mina Shum’s examination of the Sir George Williams riots in Ninth Floor, as the message appears to be that we aren’t as far removed from 1968 as we wish to be. As well, the changing political landscape is present in Michele Shepherd’s examination of Omar Khadr, who was not once acknowledged by Stephen Harper in Guantanamo’s Child, and My Internship in Canada, while fictional, had extra resonance in a year when Justin Trudeau unseated Stephen Harper to became the new prime minister (the film features a fairly inept Conservative Prime Minister as well as inspired performances by Suzanne Clement and Irdens Exantus).

Of course, coming of age is noted in the grouping of Closet Monster, My American Cousin and The Sleeping Giant, which is another form of looking backwards. Even the films of Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson (and Galen Johnson), playing on the final weekend, represent a look backwards (as the entire construction of The Forbidden Room is based upon a classic “lost movie”, and the impetus driving Bring Me The Head of Tim Horton is nostalgia, combining Maddin’s childhood passion for war movies and hockey stars (Tim Horton is the player, not the eponymous chain).

To round it out, French Canadian films Les √ątres Chers and The Demons both find their inspiration in the eighties, as a family saga and a Haneke-esque tale of creepiness both look back (and forwards) at dark secrets and a measured response. It seems that for most of the strong Canadian films this year, we must look backwards in order to see forward.

Canada’s Top Ten plays throughout this weekend with first time screenings of The Forbidden Room and The Sleeping Giant and an In Conversation with…Kiefer Sutherland. Check tiff.net for more details.