Maple leaf leaves mark all over TIFF

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There is no shortage of Canadian filmmakers to fill out the programmes at this year's Festival of festivals.

Canadian programming for the 33rd annual Toronto International Film Festival was revealed at a press conference yesterday. Some returning favourites showcasing their work include Bruce McDonald, Deepa Mehta, Don McKellar, Joshua Jackson, Kari Skogland, Philippe Falardeau, and Kevin Zegers.

Skoglund's Fifty Dead Men Walking and Michael McGowan's One Week join the already announced opening-night film Passchendaele by Paul Gross as Canadian Gala presentations. In One Week, a young man (Jackson) comes to terms with his mortality on a cross-Canada road trip, starring Liane Balaban and Campbell Scott. Set in the late 1980’s, at the height of the Irish civil conflict, Fifty Dead Men Walking follows Martin (Jim Sturgess), a recruit of the British police ordered to spy on the IRA; also starring Sir Ben Kingsley, Rose McGowan and Zegers.

Three titles join Atom Egoyan’s previously announced Adoration in the Special Presentations category. Mehta’s Heaven on Earth is set in the Toronto suburb of Brampton and features Bollywood star Preity Zinta as Chand, a vibrant young woman who comes to Canada to meet her husband and his very traditional family. The Oscar-nominated director of Water was on-hand and said Heaven on Earth is “perhaps my favourite film. It's where my two worlds come together. They come together right here because the film's deeply rooted in my community – which is the Punjabi community – and it's also deeply rooted in my adopted homeland, which is Canada.”

The other Special Presentations are Fernando Meirelles’ Blindness, written by McKellar and starring Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Danny Glover and Gael García Bernal, it’s an apocalyptic tale of a plague that robs people of their sight; and Falardeau’s C’est pas moi, je le jure! (It’s Not Me, I Swear!), which tells the tale of a 10-year-old boy with lots of problems and an overly fertile imagination.

Canada First! gets underway with Edison and Leo, Canada’s first stop-motion animated feature, while Warren Sonada's Cooper's Camera, starring The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s Jason Jones and Samantha Bee, follows the disintegration of a truly dysfunctional family Christmas. That series also includes Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu's Before Tomorrow; Justin Simms's Down to the Dirt; Charles Officer's Nurse. Fighter. Boy; Ingrid Veninger and Simon Reynolds's Only; Randall Cole's Real Time; Terry Miles's When Life Was Good; and Cameron Labine's Control Alt Delete.

The Contemporary World Cinema category will showcase Rodrigue Jean's Lost Song, Léa Pool's Maman est chez le coiffeur, Carl Bessai's Mothers & Daughters, Francis Leclerc's Un Été sans point ni coup sûr, and the multiple-effort production Toronto Stories.

Toronto Stories is a tribute to the city from filmmakers Sook-Yin Lee, Sudz Sutherland, David Weaver and Aaron Woodley. Weaver, who also co-produced, was at the unveiling with all the project’s directors. “I was motivated to make this film because of the fact that Toronto, when it appears in films, very rarely plays itself. With so many people coming to it in the past 10 to 20 years, it's a brand-new city that hasn't really been on the screen before," said Weaver. "I'm hoping this will be a whole new perception of Toronto.”

The Vanguard line-up, dedicated to groundbreaking films that challenge the boundaries of social discourse, now includes McDonald’s first horror film Pontypool and Rafaël Ouellet’s Derrière moi.

Real to Reel added Astra Taylor's Examined Life, Luc Bourdon's La Mémoire des anges, and Malcolm Rogge's Under Rich Earth.

Short Cuts Canada presents 38 innovative shorts, including Denis Villeneuve's Next Floor, Guy Édoin's La Battue, and Helen Lee's Hers at Last.

This year’s Canadian Open Vault selection is François Girard's breakthrough feature 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993), a compelling and striking exploration of the idiosyncratic world of Gould’s ideas and music.

Two renowned international filmmakers will oversee the Talent Lab’s fifth year: French director Olivier Assayas (Paris, je t'aime) and British producer Stephen Woolley (The Crying Game). The program provides 22 emerging filmmakers with a four-day intensive workshop.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs September 4 through 13.

For more TIFF '08 coverage, click here.

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