TORONTO – A revered movie master and a much-feted up-and-comer — both from Quebec — are set to make a splash at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival.
Organizers revealed Wednesday afternoon that Oscar-winning movie-maker Denys Arcand is slated to unveil his latest, An Eye for Beauty, at the fest, while Xavier Dolan will promote his Cannes smash Mommy.
The celebrated pair of directors are at distinctly different stages of their careers.
Arcand, 73, is a celebrated veteran who won the foreign-language Academy Award in 2004 for The Barbarian Invasions. At age 25, the prodigious Dolan has been on a white-hot career ascent with a flurry of acclaimed films including Mommy, which made a serious run for the Palme d’Or earlier this year at the Cannes fest.
“I think the Quebecois are really hungry to see themselves on screen,” said senior programmer Steve Gravestock. “But Xavier’s a unique talent no matter where he came from. He’s quite young and he’s an extraordinary voice and he’s a born filmmaker. That’s very rare.”
Dolan also stars in another feature set to unspool at the festival, Charles Biname’s The Elephant Song. The adaptation of the Nicolas Billon play also features Bruce Greenwood and Catherine Keener.
In announcing its Canadian lineup Wednesday, the Toronto fest also revealed it would screen new documentary Trick or Treaty? from acclaimed filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin.
The documentary follows the journey of First Nations in northern Ontario as they seek to affirm their treaty rights. Obomsawin, 81, became emotional as she spoke about youth activism in the film.
“I also wanted to show in the film a wonderful large group of young people who have made up their minds to walk, some of them 1,600 kilometres, to Parliament Hill to let their will be known. It’s a time that is very different from before. It says … our young people are recognizing themselves and their ancestors,” she said, her voice breaking.
The festival is also set to screen new works by Sturla Gunnarsson, Ruba Nadda and Jacob Tierney.
Nadda — who won the best Canadian feature award at the Toronto fest in 2009 — will be on hand with October Gale, which stars Patricia Clarkson and Scott Speedman and tells the story of a grieving widow who rescues a potentially dangerous stranger.
Tierney, who charmed Toronto audiences a few years back with The Trotsky, returns with Preggoland, about society’s obsession with babies.
Gunnarsson, meanwhile, will reveal his documentary Monsoon, about how the vast weather system affects India.
“Some people say that the monsoon is the soul of India,” the 63-year-old director said. “It’s a massive weather system that governs the conditions of existence for all of India. It’s a subject of ritual and prayer and science. It’s as close to God as a non-believer like myself is ever going to get.”
Other Canadian documentaries set to screen at the fest are Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan’s The Wanted 18, about how 18 cows in a Palestinian village became symbols of resistance, and The Price We Pay, a study of corporate tax evasion from director Harold Crooks.
“It’s about how corporations, large corporations, and individuals are undermining the global economy by funnelling money through tax havens … It’s actually one of the most unsettling films I saw all year, and one of the smartest,” said Gravestock.
From up-and-coming director Jordan Canning, We Were Wolves will premiere at the fest. The drama stars Peter Mooney of the drama series Rookie Blue and Steve Cochrane as estranged brothers who return to the family cottage after the death of their father.
Another buzzed-about film set to premiere is Bang Bang Baby, from director Jeffrey St. Jules. The film follows a small-town teenager whose dreams of becoming a famous singer are threatened by a nearby chemical plant leak believed to be causing mass mutations.
Festival programmer Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo called Bang Bang Baby a “sly, genre-twisting movie” that is a prime example of a major theme in this year’s lineup.
“This year we noticed there’s a lot of filmmakers playing with genre in really interesting ways, either providing fresh perspectives on traditional genres or blending genres in really interesting ways to create their own style,” she said.
She also noted that there were a number of strong, female-driven narratives this year — including Albert Shin’s In Her Place, a story of three Korean women of different ages, and Andrea Dorfman’s Heartbeat, about a musician trying to reconnect with her songs.
“The other really great thing this year is the wonderful geographical mix that we have. We have films from right across the country, from Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Alberta, and lots of films as usual from Ontario and Quebec, so it’s really nice to see that,” she said.
Stephane Lafleur, who won Best Canadian First Feature Film at the festival in 2007 for Continental, a Film Without Guns, will screen his latest Tu dors Nicole this year. The comedy-drama about a 22-year-old spending the summer at home while her parents are away garnered strong reviews at Cannes.
As for Short Cuts Canada, witty animation Me and My Moulton from Academy Award winner Torill Kove and Noah’s Ark-inspired Day 40 from Toronto filmmaker Sol Friedman are among the 42 shorts set to screen this year.
The festival received a staggering 841 entries to the short film program — about 200 more than they did last year.
“I think more people are watching short films than ever before and that’s encouraged people to make work, knowing that they will find an audience,” said programmer Alexander Rogalski.
“At TIFF, we’ve really championed those Canadian short films for so many years and we’ve seen our audience and our fan base grow.”
The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 4 to 14.
– with files by Victoria Ahearn / The Canadian Press
© The Canadian Press, 2014