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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

5 must-see Canadian films at TIFF 2013

Canadian Films TIFFThe top Canadian films at TIFF are a consistent indicator of future success. It should come as no surprise that the festival is the premiere platform for launching the most critically acclaimed Canadian films of the year. For the last two years, eight of the films selected for Canada's Top Ten features were TIFF alumni, and you can be sure most of this year's crop will be films playing in the festival this September.

This year there are 32 Canadian features spread across nine different programmes. Since there are probably enough non-Canadian films you'll want to see to make it impossible to see all of these, I've pared the selection down to five priorities, excluding some of the more anticipated films because they'll be coming out in cinemas not long after the festival. (Don't take it personally, Dolan, Vallée, and Egoyan.)

The picks below are films that either I've seen and know are good, are coming from filmmakers with a great track record, or look like interesting projects and seem to be worth taking a chance on.

Gerontophilia [VANGUARD]

I know what you're thinking. I was thinking it, too. The idea of Bruce LaBruce tackling a story involving a pretty Québécois boy and his bed-ridden, octogenarian lover is enough for anyone familiar with the provocative filmmaker's filmography to buckle an eyebrow. But it's pretty harmless, really; "Like a gay Harold and Maude," exclaimed a sweet old lady at the press screening I attended. Misguided as that sounds, she's kind of right.


Gabrielle just picked up an Audience Award at the Locarno film festival, and it's easy to see why. Telling the story of a girl with Williams syndrome (a genetic disorder marked by cognitive underdevelopment) and her relationship with another mentally challenged boy named Martin, the film pulls on the heart strings (think I Am Sam territory). Already predicted to run along a similar trajectory to success as Monsieur Lazhar, the film is impressive in the way it effortlessly draws out great performances from its (almost entire) cast of actually disabled individuals, allowing them to tell their own story themselves, in a way.


Catherine Martin directed the very good 2010 film Trois temps après la mort d'Anna (Mourning for Anna), and this film was inspired by Robert Bresson's Mouchette and is already drawing comparisons to Agnès Varda's Vagabond. In the film, a teenage girl, who has just lost her ailing mother, "flees an unbearable home life for the rugged beauty of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula."

Sarah Prefers to Run [DISCOVERY]

The only Canadian film to screen in Cannes' Official Selection this year, Chloé Robichaud's feature debut is a controlled and methodical film about a controlled and methodical young woman. Sarah is interested in pursuing an athletic career as a runner, and decides to move to the city and enroll in McGill to begin the next phase of her training. It soon becomes clear that she is so goal-oriented, though, that she's cornered herself into an ascetic lifestyle, which has made her allergic to any form of genuine social or sexual connections with her peers. This is a confident and effective character study.

Burt's Buzz [TIFF DOCS]

Jody Shapiro is probably best known as Guy Maddin's regular producer. After some gigs working as the cinematographer on a few films - including Maddin's My Winnipeg - Shapiro took a stab at a solo directing effort. The result was TIFF10 alum How to Start Your Own Country, a weird, curious, and highly original documentary about "communities" of micro-nations (the title is fairly literal, actually). This sophomore feature looks just as idiosyncratic and fascinating. Not really about bees per se, it's a portrait of Burt Shavitz, the founder of Burt's Bees health products.

Thanks to Grolsch for sponsoring our coverage of TIFF13 Grolsch TIFF

Lead still from Gerontophilia.

by Blake Williams via blogTO

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