Sarah Polley’s Alias Grace series to world premiere at TIFF

Decades in the making, the CBC adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel leads the Canadian titles at this year's fest... but still no sign of Xavier Dolan's English-language debut

Alias Grace, the hugely anticipated CBC miniseries production of Margaret Atwood’s historical novel – written and produced by Sarah Polley, directed by Mary Harron and starring Sarah Gadon – will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival before airing nationwide later in September.  

The miniseries will be the sole Canadian entry in TIFF’s Primetime program, the festival announced this morning in a press release detailing the 2017 lineup of Canadian features, documentaries and shorts. (The series will stream globally outside of Canada on Netflix.)

Kim Nguyen’s Eye On Juliet, a drama about the unexpected connection between a pipeline worker operating a remote vehicle from America and a Middle Eastern woman facing an arranged marriage, will screen in the Special Presentations program, while Alanis Obomsawin’s new documentary Our People Will Be Healed plays in the Masters section.

TIFF Docs will welcome three Canadian entries: Sean Menard’s The Carter Effect, about Vince Carter’s tenure with the Toronto Raptors Matt Embry’s Living Proof, a film about multiple sclerosis, and Alan Zweig’s There Is A House Here, about which literally nothing could be gleaned at press time.

Eight features will bow in the Discovery program, eight more in Contemporary World Cinema and two in Wavelengths.

The Discovery features – all world premieres – include Molly McGlynn’s Mary Goes Round, starring Aya Cash (You’re The Worst) as a troubled addiction counsellor and Black Cop, a “satirical exploration of police-community relations” from Trailer Park Boys actor and director Cory Bowles.

Grayson Moore and Aidan Shipley’s Cardinals is a thriller starring Sheila McCarthy, Katie Boland and Grace Glowicki, while Indigenous filmmaker Wayne Wapeemukwa’s Luk’Luk’I shifts between fiction and documentary to tell the story of Vancouverites displaced by the Winter Olympics of 2010.

Evan Rachel Wood and Weirdos’ Julia Sarah Stone co-star in A Worthy Companion, a love story from Carlos Sanchez and Jason Sanchez, while Quebecois cinematographer Ian Lagarde (Vic + Flo Saw A Bear) makes his feature directorial debut with All You Can Eat Buddha, a comedy-drama-fantasy set at a Caribbean resort.

Sadaf Foroughi’s Ava is a Farsi-language drama about an Iranian teenager sent reeling by revelations of her mother’s past, while Shirley Henderson stars as a woman coping with Parkinson’s disease in Kathleen Hepburn’s Never Steady, Never Still.

Canadian entries in Contemporary World Cinema – again, all world premieres – include Tarique Qayumi’s Black Kite, a drama set in Afghanistan, and The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond Of Matches, an adaptation of Gaétan Soucy’s 1998 novel from Simon Lavoie, who was at TIFF last year as co-director of last year’s Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves.

Mina Shum, whose documentary Ninth Floor screened at TIFF in 2015, returns with Meditation Park, her first dramatic feature in 15 years. Sandra Oh stars as a Vancouver woman who suspects her husband of cheating the cast also includes Tzi Ma, Don McKellar, Liane Balaban and Hong Kong action legend Cheng Pei Pei.

Pat Mills’s Don’t Talk To Irene (co-starring Geena Davis and Scott Thompson) and Kyle Rideout’s Public Schooled (with Judy Greer and Russell Peters) are comedies about precocious students, while Robin Aubert’s Les Affamés – which literally translates as “the hungries” – is a verite zombie thriller starring Marc-André Grondin of C.R.A.Z.Y. and the Goon films.

Northern Ontario figures prominently in two films from TIFF veterans: Ingrid Veninger’s Porcupine Lake stars Lucinda Armstrong Hall and Charlotte Salisbury as teenage girls bonding over a summer in Parry Sound, while Adam Macdonald’s Pyewacket (which reunites the director with his Backcountry star Missy Peregrym) mines the isolation of the woods for occult horror.

The two Wavelengths titles are Denis Côté’s bodybuilding documentary A Skin So Soft and Blake Williams’s experimental feature Prototype, about the construction of “a mysterious televisual device” in Texas at the turn of the last century.

Conspicuous by its absence once again was Xavier Dolan’s English-language debut The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan, which has been coming up in TIFF conversations ever since Dolan announced the film wouldn’t be ready for this year’s Cannes festival. (Perhaps there’ll be a surprise announcement at the Canadian press conference this afternoon? If so, we’ll update the story as quickly as possible. But don’t hold your breath.)

There will be 24 Canadian entries screened in the Short Cuts programs – including Bird, the directorial debut of Molly Parker, and new work from Connor Jessup, Daniel Cockburn, Trevor Mack, Sol Friedman and Chandler Levack – and five shorts in Wavelengths.

TIFF also announced its 2017 Rising Stars, and they are: actor Daniel Donehy, who co-stars with Judy Greer and Russell Peters in Public Schooled actor/filmmaker Mary Galloway, who appears opposite Shirley Henderson in Never Steady, Never Still Théodore Pellerin, who also appears in Never Steady, Never Still, and Ellen Wong, of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Glow, who does not currently have a film in the festival lineup but does have a role in the Toronto-shot US television series Condor, so maybe keep an eye out for that to appear in the Primetime lineup.

TIFF Cinematheque will premiere the digital restorations of Patricia Rozema’s I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing, Peter Mettler’s Picture Of Light and Clement Virgo’s Rude, and celebrate IMAX with special screenings of Graeme Ferguson’s 1971 large-format documentary North Of Superior, at Ontario Place Cinesphere.

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Armando Iannucci’s The Death Of Stalin will open the Platform program

Last week, TIFF announced the lineup of this year’s Platform program, which will place 12 feature films in competition for a $25,000 prize. The series opens with The Death Of Stalin, a historical epic from political satirist Armando Iannucci (The Thick Of It, In The Loop, Veep), and closes with Warwick Thornton’s Australian western Sweet Country, starring Sam Neill, Ewen Leslie and Bryan Brown.

Platform will also feature the world premieres of Michael Pearce’s Beast, a thriller starring Johnny Flynn and Geraldine James Clio Barnard’s Dark River, a drama starring Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley Mike White’s Brad’s Status, starring Ben Stiller as a father visiting colleges with his teenage son (Austin Abrams), among others. This year’s jurors are filmmakers Chen Kaige, Malgorzata Szumowska and Wim Wenders. The cash prize is sponsored by Air France.

The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 7 to September 17, 2017. For full details visit .

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