For ten days in September, filmgoers are treated to some of the best in national and international cinema, as well as the opportunity to see some of their favourite stars in-person. The 32nd year of the Toronto International Film Festival will prove no different. Festivalgoers can have their heartstrings pulled, insides tickled or hair raised, depending on their preference.
In a news conference Tuesday at Toronto’s Fairmount Royal York Hotel, the festival’s Canadian selections were announced. With the largest event turnout to date, the crowd not only included press and industry members but also acclaimed Canadian feature-film director David Cronenberg, actor Viggo Mortensen and writer/director Martin Gero.
Two more titles join Jeremy Podesawa’s opening night film Fugitive Pieces (the story of a man haunted by his childhood experiences during the Second World War) as Canadian Gala presentations. Academy Award-winning director Denys Arcand returns to the festival with his latest feature and Cannes closer, L’Âge des Ténèbres (Days of Darkness), in which a man becomes stuck between his dreamland and reality while struggling to find a place to belong. Cronenberg reunites with his History of Violence leading man, Mortensen, in his new thriller, Eastern Promises. Also starring Naomi Watts, the film follows a mysterious and ruthless Russian gangster in London, whose life is complicated by an innocent midwife who accidentally uncovers evidence against the family.
Thrilled to be a part of this year’s festival, Cronenberg told the hushed crowd he doesn’t feel his film is complete, “until it’s been shown at the Toronto Film Festival.”
The Special Presentations of big films and big stars includes Shake Hands with the Devil . Based on Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire’s award-winning book of the same name, the film stars Roy Dupuis as the Canadian commander torn between conscience and duty during the Rwandan genocide. With his first film since 1998’s The Red Violin, Francois Girard brings Silk, the tale of a 19th century French silkworm merchant (Michael Pitt) and his forbidden love for a Japanese nobleman’s concubine. Also screening are Clement Virgo’s racy drama Poor Boy’s Game and Guy Maddin’s personal portrait of his hometown, My Winnipeg .
Eight Canadian titles will be presented in the Contemporary World Cinema program, including the long-anticipated return of Bruce Sweeney and his American Venus (an exploration of a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship). Carl Bessai brings his latest feature, Normal, starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Callum Keith Rennie as unrelated characters seeking closure after a tragic death and veteran director Allan Moyle’s Weirdsville follows two men in over their heads when one of their friends overdoses and they try to hide the body.
Gero joins the program for Canadian newcomers, Canada First!, with Young People Fucking (twenty-something couples discover casual sex is complicated). He delighted in the opportunity to drop the f-bomb repeatedly in front of such a large and captive audience but announced he had yet gained the courage to reveal the title to his grandmother, who would be doubly disappointed because the film was not a musical.
The other seven films screening in the newcomers category includes a portrait of contemporary India (Amal, Richie Mehta); disconnected French sisters (Le Cèdre Penché, Rafaël Ouellet); a dark comedy about greed, sex and death (Just Buried, Chaz Thorne); the unexpected intersection of four people when a fifth disappears (Continental, Un Films Sans Fusil , Stéphane Lafleur); a ghost story based on true events (They Wait, Ernie Barbarash); the connection of five residents by a woman’s balcony fall (The Beautiful City, Ed Gass-Donnelly); and, starring multiple Golden Globe nominee Leelee Sobieski, a masquerading dominatrix becomes the target of betrayed criminals (Walk All Over Me, Robert Cuffley).
Reel to Reel will feature three powerful Canadian documentaries: Peter Raymont’s A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman (an exploration of exile, memory, longing and democracy, as seen through Dorfman’s experiences as cultural advisor to Chilean President Salvador Allende); John Zaritsky’s The Wild Horse Redemption (hardcore criminals are given 90 days in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains to tame a mustang); and Suroosh Alvi and Eddy Moretti’s Heavy Metal in Baghdad (the search for Iraq’s only heavy metal band, Acrassicauda).
In addition, 43 titles will screen in the Short Cuts Canada program. Embracing a variety of genres, the program focuses local and international attention on some of Canada’s most innovative filmmakers. All participants are also eligible to win the Short Cuts Canada award, which carries a $10,000 cash prize (enough to make a modest feature-length film).
Finally, the festival organizers announced this year’s Canadian Retrospective will pay tribute to one of Canada’s most influential directors and cinematographers, Michel Brault. Brault has revolutionized the way the world perceives contemporary Quebecois cinema and identity with such films as 1974’s Les Ordres (docudrama about the October Crisis) and 1958’s Les Raquetteurs, which profoundly influenced the emergence of direct cinema.
For a taste of events to come, Brault’s work will be showcased at The Gladstone Hotel August 23. The event will celebrate the release of Cinema as History: Michel Brault and Modern Quebec, published by the Toronto International Film Festival Group.
As the countdown to September 6 grows shorter, more films will be revealed as well as the names of the many faces that will grace the red carpets and adorn the downtown bars and restaurants.
For updates and information, check out www.tiff07.ca.