The Canadian contingent at TIFF seems particularly strong this year, not just in feature films but in documentaries and shorts, too. Here’s a rundown of the faces I’m most looking forward to seeing at the festival.
Long Time Running, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier’s look at the Tragically Hip’s final tour, is the Canadian film I most want to see this year… though a year after that bittersweet Kingston farewell, I’m fully, completely aware that it’s going to be tough to watch. But it’s also going to be exhilarating, because how can anything about this band not be?
Sep 13, 9 pm, Roy Thomson Hall Sep 14, 3:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Now that she doesn’t need to prep for another season of Orphan Black, Maslany can relax and enjoy the TIFF red carpet experience for Stronger, where she co-stars with Jake Gyllenhaal in a story about Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The trailer and poster focus the movie firmly on Bauman, but I don’t think David Gordon Green would have cast Maslany as Bauman’s partner, Erin Hurley, if he didn’t have something for her to do.
Sep 8, 6:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall Sep 9, 10:45 am, Winter Garden
Obomsawin has spent decades exploring the points at which Canada’s infrastructure and bureaucracy collide with its Indigenous people. Our People Will Be Healed – her 50th project in as many years – explores the restoration of Indigenous culture at the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre in northern Manitoba, where Cree students from nursery to Grade 12 are taught their own history.
Sep 9, 4:45 pm, AGO Sep 11, 12:45 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 Sep 15, 6:15 pm, Scotiabank 14
I’ve really enjoyed McGlynn’s short films, among them the moving Given Your History and the dryly funny 3-Way (Not Calling). Her first feature Mary Goes Round seems perched right between the two, starring You’re The Worst’s amazing Aya Cash as a Toronto recovery counsellor forced to confront her own issues when she’s summoned back home to Niagara Falls.
Sep 9, 3 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 Sep 10, 7:15 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 Sep 17, 2:30 pm, Scotiabank 9
As the star of Alias Grace, Gadon is the face of the most prestigious Canadian entry at TIFF, with writer/producer Sarah Polley, author Margaret Atwood and director Mary Harron alongside her. I can’t wait to see what she does with a part as rich as Atwood’s Grace Marks.
Sep 14, 8:30 pm, Winter Garden
He broke out in Quebec as the star of Jean-Marc Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y., but he’s probably best known to English Canada as the sensitive MVP Xavier LaFlamme in the Goon movies. This year, Grondin comes to the festival in Robin Aubert’s cinema vérité Quebecois zombie movie Les Affamés, where he plays an unassuming small-town man witnessing the rise of the living dead. But honestly, they had me at “cinema vérité Quebecois zombie movie.”
Sep 7, 6:45 pm, Scotiabank 1 Sep 8, 2 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Porcupine Lake, microbudget auteur Veninger’s drama about two teen girls (Charlotte Salisbury, Lucinda Armstrong Hall) who forge a powerful bond during a summer vacation sounds a lot like a response to Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant. But Veninger’s movies are never as simple as their summaries. Also, Jane Siberry’s dog is in it. I’m there.
Sep 10, 7:30 pm, Scotiabank 4 Sep 14, 7:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 Sep 15, 8:45 pm, Scotiabank 9
If you only know actor/filmmaker Bowles as Cory from Trailer Park Boys, you’ve missed out on some pretty potent short films. One of them served as the inspiration for his first feature, Black Cop, which follows a Black police officer (Ronnie Rowe Jr., whom you might have seen in The Strain, Dark Matter and The Expanse) on the verge of a violent meltdown.
Sep 12, 9:30 pm, Scotiabank 3 Sep 14, 7 pm, Scotiabank 11 Sep 17, 11:45 am, Scotiabank 9
Moore and Shipley came to TIFF with the sharp-edged short film Boxing in 2015. They’re returning this year with Cardinals, a drama starring Sheila McCarthy in a rare dramatic lead as a woman trying to put her life back together after driving drunk, killing someone and going to prison. Grace Glowicki and Boxing producer Katie Boland play her adult daughters.
Sep 8, 9:30 pm, Scotiabank 13 Sep 9, noon, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 Sep 17, 10 am, AGO
I really liked the way actor-turned-filmmaker MacDonald used emotional tensions to set up an explosion of horror in his first feature, Backcountry, so I can’t wait to see how Pyewacket – about an angry teen (Nicole Muñoz) who impulsively curses her mother (Laurie Holden) only to discover that the curse is real – plays out in a big, dark screening room.
Sep 14, 9:45 pm, Scotiabank 13 Sep 16, 7 pm, Scotiabank 7