1. HURT – Alan Zweig’s portrait of Steve Fonyo won the coveted inaugural Platform section of #TIFF40, beating such brilliant films as The Clan and Neon Bull. The reason that the film was so successful is not because of a Canadian bias, in fact, far from it, explains the writer and director of the documentary: “Of all the awards I’ve won, which isn’t many, I’ve won four or five in my long career, that one was by far the best because, you know, the jury was international film-makers, both renowned and very talented, and me being like the local boy, they said, in their jury speech, we didn’t want to give the TIFF award to somebody from Toronto when we’re international, but we couldn’t help it, it was the best film. There was no reason for them to give me the prize except that they thought I deserved it. That was probably the most positive reinforcement I’ve ever had”. For those who have yet to see HURT, the film is pretty devastating, and makes for a solid and tone-setting opening night choice (screening Friday at 7 pm with director Alan Zweig in attendance).
2. Continuing in this line of dialogue, TIFF senior director of programming Steve Gravestock remarked, “To me, what unifies the films this year and the film in the festival this year is films that question how we see ourselves and assumptions of ourselves. You see that in a film like Mina Shum’s Ninth Floor, which takes issue with the motion of the super-tolerant country. It’s really there in HURT, Closet Monster and The Demon. These are all films where people are left behind”. What a way to tie together disparate films by Gravestock. Films like these definitely give us an idea of where we stand in 2016.
3. Closet Monster is a must-see as well. Stephen Dunn is on point in all facets of his work. The three shorts that he wrote, known as Pop-Up Porno, were extremely well-received at Sundance and Hot Docs and he was chosen as the first participant of the Len Blum residency program at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The film is funny and moving, and, as a point of pride, features emerging actor, and filmmaker in his own right, Connor Jessup, and Isabella Rossellini as a talking hamster.
4. Speaking of the legendary Isabella Rossellini, the actress appeared in Guy Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World. The director’s most recent film, The Forbidden Room, a collaboration with Evan Johnson, has been selected to play as a part of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The Forbidden Room is weird and wild and wonderful and features layer after layer of story (and teaches us how to take a bath!).
5. If that isn’t enough Maddin and Johnson goodness, the remarkable short Bring Me The Head of Tim Horton, by Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, and Galen Johnson which previously screened as an installation in the TIFF Bell Lightbox during TIFF, Now, the behind-the-scenes irreverent look at the filming of Paul Gross’s Hyena Road is a part of the shorts program, which also features work from Sol Friedman and Steven McCarthy.
6. Ann Shin’s Oscar shortlisted My Enemy, My Brother, which premiered at Tribeca and played at Hot Docs, is a part of the shorts program, and packs quite an emotional punch into its brief running time. Hopefully we will see Shin at the Oscars this year for Best Documentary Short Subject.
7. This event is not just confined to Toronto. Montreal and Vancouver are also hosting Canada’s Top Ten! In fact, the venerable Patricia Rozema is hosting a Q & A at the TIFF Bell Lightbox after a screening of her majestic Into The Forest that will be simulcast in Montreal and Vancouver so that audiences across the country can ask Rozema a question. Canada’s Top Ten will also be playing in other cities later in the month.
8. The classic Canadian film My American Cousin is screening for free on Friday, January 15th at 3 p.m. for free accompanied by director Sandy Wilson. Female directors are extremely prevalent at the festival, with Rozema, Michelle Shephard, Mina Shum, and the touching film Les Etres Chers by emerging director Anne Emond in the main program alone.
9. The In Conversations with Tatiana Maslany and Kiefer Sutherland on back to back Saturdays should be enlightening and more than a little bit revealing. Maslany burst onto the scene in festival film Picture Day back in 2012 and her star has shone bright ever since. Additionally, the velvet voiced Sutherland is likely to offer up some fascinating anecdotes about his career in film and television.
10. If we don’t support Canadian film, then who will? From Philippe Falardeau’s My Internship in Canada to the student shorts to Philippe Lesage’s chilling The Demons, our votes and our voices belong to us. We may as well use them. Remember to #SeeTheNorth