Canadians are proud of our own. This is the message that was on point during the 2015 TIFF Canadian Press Conference.
Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF says it best. Speaking from the red carpet, he stated: “Look, this is us. We’re a big international film festival that happens to take place in Toronto. We’ve really drawn in the energy and the creative capital of the city. But what we really care about most is our own artists, the ones we live with and are inspired by every day”.
Magali Simard, Canadian Features Programmer and Manager of Film Programmes at TIFF, reiterates Bailey’s point by stating “we have five really strong Canadian docs (playing at the festival so far). We have such a rich history of Canadian docs since the 1930’s. It’s alive and kicking”.
And lest we think that this sentiment just comes from the programmers, consider Patricia Rozema. The acclaimed filmmaker is coming back to the festival with the intriguing film Into The Forest, starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood. When asked why her film is premiering at TIFF, she enthusiastically gushed that, “TIFF is one of the best film festivals in the world, and it’s one of the biggest film festivals in the world, and everybody comes”.
In fact, as one performer, the amiable Chloe Rose, star of Bruce McDonald’s Hellions, revealed, “I’m really excited to see Patricia Rozema’s new film”. This was unprompted, though Rozema was standing close by on the carpet, leading to this exchange: In the midst of an interview, Rozema said “What?” Replied Rose, “Sorry. I didn’t know you were right beside me”. “(Huge laugh from Rozema) Yes you did. But I love it”. Rose: “I’m really excited to see it. It was cool to see your speech”. Rozema: “Oh, you’re in Hellions? Congratulations”.
It was this sort of spirit that infused the day. Of Hellions, Rose declared: I want people to go in with the idea that it’s not your average horror film. It’s very much in its own league, primarily shot in infrared. There are so many different things that are breaking the barrier of what are considered “films”.
One film that is destined to be a sensation at the festival is The Rainbow Kid. Director Kire Paputts described the film as having “a lot of improv, and that the only way you can change is push against what is out there”. Incredibly charming star Dylan Harman revealed “My favourite experience was riding a bike for the first time. As a kid, I’ve always hated riding bikes, I would always fall. But then, I said, you know what, why not? I’ll give this one more try. Even though I did fall once, I got back up and I kept going like a boss”.
Another film with great buzz is Born to be Blue, which was being represented by producers Jennifer Jonas and Leonard Farlinger of New Reel Films, partners of work and life. Of the movie, featuring Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker, Jonas and Farlinger reveal of their star that “It’s all Ethan singing, they’re all our arrangements and it’s all Kevin Turcotte playing. He spent six months learning the trumpet. In the last month, he went up to Denzel Washington and said ‘how did you play trumpet so well in Mo’ Better Blues, and Denzel states ‘I learned how to fake it, man’. Ethan was really devoted huge time, everything you sort of think about him you see how he acts, it’s totally true times ten to the fourth. He’s a writer-artist-performer. He’s everything”.
Finally, perhaps the biggest highlight of the day is finding out the TIFF Rising Stars, and it was such a pleasure to hear that star of Selma and the upcoming Race, Stephan James of Scarborough has been selected. Said the humble James, “I’m so honoured to be a part of the TIFF Rising Stars program this year. It’s such an amazing experience for us coming here, having the opportunity to build relationships and promote ourselves”. James also revealed that “I’m looking forward to seeing Black Mass with Johnny Depp. And can’t forget Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ll be first in line”.
It was also a pleasure to speak with Connor Jessup, starring in Stephen Dunn’s Closet Monster and directing his own short, Boy, Barry Avrich who is directing the short The Man Who Shot Hollywood, Jamie M. Dagg and Rossif Sutherland of the Discovery selection River, (Sutherland is also in Hellions and Hyena Road), Danis Goulet, programmer of Short Cuts, Igor Drjlaca of the hugely anticipated The Waiting Room, Kazik Radwanski and Erwin Van Cotthem of How Heavy the Hammer, a quirky delight, Adam Garnet Jones of Fire Song, Michelle Shephard and Patrick Reed, co-directors of Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr and Mina Shum, director of Ninth Floor, about the 1969 Sir George Williams Riot at Montreal’s Concordia University.
There are many incredible Canadian films playing at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Make sure to catch them.
Photography Credit: Marc Levy