10 must-see Canadian films playing at TIFF 2018

We can't wait to see these homegrown movies from directors Jennifer Baichwal, Denys Arcand, Kim Nguyen, Rob Stewart and Patricia Rozema

While everyone else lines up to see if Xavier Dolan’s The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan actually exists in its finished form, or if Don McKellar’s film of Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce can transcend the ongoing debate over who gets to tell Indigenous stories, here are 10 other Canadian features worth keeping an eye on over the course of the festival. From coast to coast to coast, from emerging talents to revered masters, the entire range of our national cinema can be found right here.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch

The new documentary from Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky continues the collaboration that began with 2006’s Manufactured Landscapes and continued with 2013’s Watermark. The three filmmakers, all sharing directorial credit for the first time, delve deeper into the impact of human development on the planet, and the slow-motion disaster of climate change. Expect Burtynsky’s stunning visuals organized with Baichwal and de Pencier’s signature intellectual rigor. (I’ll also be looking for a note or two of hope, but then I’m an optimist.)

Sep 6, 6:30 pm, Winter Garden Sep 12, 12:30 pm, TBLB.

Edge Of The Knife

Gwaii Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown’s thriller dramatizes the legend of the Gaagiid (“the wildman”) as a story of death and revenge in 19th century Haida Gwaii. It’s also the first feature shot in the endangered Haida language, which gives it a cultural relevance that no other Indigenous film can claim this year.

Sep 7, 9:45 pm, TBLB Sep 10, 2:15 pm, TBLB Sep 13, 2:30 pm, Scotiabank.

The Fall Of The American Empire

Denys Arcand completes the trilogy he began with The Decline Of The American Empire and continued in his Oscar-winning The Barbarian Invasions with another study of free-floating social commentary, this time following an academic (Alexandre Landry) who finds himself in possession of a life-changing sum of money, and must decide what to do. The themes of social status and personal responsibility do line up nicely with the other films in the series, but it’s still weird that we’re all pretending Days Of Darkness – which was billed as the final film in the American Empire trilogy when Arcand brought it to TIFF in 2007 – no longer exists.

Sep 6, 6 pm, Elgin Sep 7, 9:45 am, TBLB.

Falls Around Her

Darlene Naponse and Tantoo Cardinal, director and star of the 2010 drama Every Emotion Costs, reunite for a drama about an Anishaabe musician who comes home to Northern Ontario to spend some time with her sister (Tina Keeper)… but soon begins to exhibit some distressing behaviour. Naponse shot the movie in her birthplace of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, which should inform the drama considerably.

Sep 9, 5 pm, Jackman Hall Sep 11, 2:15 pm, TBLB Sep 14, 11:45 am, Scotiabank.


Jasmin Mozaffari’s drama about best friends (Michaela Kurimsky, Karena Evans) planning to flee their small town (and the small-minded men who surround them) for New York could be one of the Canadian breakouts of the festival. It feels perfectly timed to ride the wave of female-forward cinema, and Mozaffari’s 2013 short film was almost vibrating with raw talent. Let’s see how she handles a feature.

Sep 8, 6:45 pm, Scotiabank Sep 10, 4:30 pm, Scotiabank.

The Fireflies Are Gone

The remarkable Quebec actor Karelle Tremblay (Corbo, Our Loved Ones, and Hochelaga, Land Of Souls) finally gets a lead role as a 17-year-old girl just beginning to understand she’s in control of her own future – for better or worse – in the new drama from Sébastien Pilote, director of The Salesman and The Auction. Bound to be worth a look.

Sep 11, 6:30 pm, Scotiabank Sep 12, 4:15 pm, Scotiabank.

The Hummingbird Project

After the evocative Two Lovers And A Bear and the more grounded Eye On Juliet, writer/director Kim Nguyen delivers a character piece starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård as cousins determined to land a contract to build a fiber-optic network between Kansas and New Jersey, and Salma Hayek as their former employer and current competitor. It sounds like a very conventional film, but the fact that Nguyen is making it suggests that it won’t be.

Sep 8, 3 pm, Princess Of Wales Sep 9, 11:15 am, Scotiabank.


Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava collaborate with director Patricia Rozema for this cinematic adaptation of their award-winning experimental play in which they both interpreted the same character, a journalist struggling to compose her mother’s eulogy. In the film, they’ll be sharing space with other actors (including stage actor Maev Beaty in a rare big-screen role) in familiar Toronto locations, which should make for a rather different sort of experiment.

Sep 6, 9:15 pm, Winter Garden Sep 7, 12:45 pm, TBLB Sep 15, 6 pm, Jackman Hall.

Les Salopes, Or The Naturally Wanton Pleasure Of Skin

Renée Beaulieu’s drama casts Brigitte Poupart – who co-starred in last year’s Les Affamés – as a married dermatological researcher who embarks on a string of sexual relationships. It’s being discussed as a film that considers eroticism and arousal from a distinctly female perspective, which isn’t exactly new to observers of Quebec cinema (Anne Émond’s Nelly came out just two years ago, after all), but everyone interprets desire differently, and I’m curious to see what Beaulieu has to say.

Sep 7, 7 pm, Scotiabank Sep 9, 12 pm, Jackman Hall.

Sharkwater Extinction

Rob Stewart’s final documentary returns to the activism he began in 2006’s Sharkwater, travelling around the world to tell stories of sharks being hunted by humans, and the efforts to save them. Completed after his accidental drowning death during production, it’s likely to be as much of a tribute to Stewart himself as to his ecological mission. TIFF is presenting the world premiere of Sharkwater Extinction as a special event.

Sep 7, 2 pm, Roy Thomson Hall.

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