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Canadian Films In The Spotlight at Toronto Fest

The 34th Toronto International Film Festival which opens on Thursday evening is a golden opportunity for Canadian filmmakers, producers and distributors to showcase their latest work for the international guests that will begin arriving. A stunning number of new Canadian films are making their debuts at the event. Most are World or North American Premieres.

No Canadian survey is complete without a film from Canada's film laureate Atom Egoyan. His newest film CHLOE, starring Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, will have its World Premiere at the event. Moore plays a successful doctor who suspects her husband of cheating so she hires an irresistable young woman (MAMA MIA's Amanda Seyfried) to test his fidelity. Other highlighly anticipated Canadian films being showcased in the TIFF Gala and Special Presentation sections include COOKING WITH STELLA, filmmaker Dilip Mehta's delicious social satire about a Canadian diplomat (Lisa Ray) and her chef husband Michael (filmmaker/actor Don McKellar) who are posted to New Delhi; THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, a Canadian/UK co-production directed by the ever imaginative Terry Gilliam; and CAIRO TIME, a world premiere Canadian/Irish co-production by Ruba Nadda, starring Patricia Clarkson as a magazine editor who falls in love with Cairo and her Egyptian interpreter while visiting her ambassador husband.

Other anticipated Canadian titles include: DEFENDOR, an arch satire by director Peter Stebbings that stars Woody Harrelson as an avenging superhero; HUGH HEFNER, an intimate and controversial look at the flamboyant founder of the Playboy empire, directed by Brigitte Berman; the French Canadian J'AI TUE MA MERE (I Killed My Mother) by Xavier Dolan, about a brash teenager who is locked in a love-hate relationship with his mother; and THE TROTSKY, a charming coming-of-age tale by Jacob Tierney about a young man who is convinced that he is the reincarnation of Soviet leftist Leon Trotsky.

In the French Canadian film CARCASSES, noted Québec auteur Denis Côté brings us a beautiful story about an elderly man who lives in a junkyard surrounded by the detritus of culture and who is paid a surprise visit by a group of youths. Another recognized Quebec director Bernard Émond will present LA DONATION, the story of an aging country doctor with a deep attachment to his patients, who is about to retire and is looking for a successor.

Ontario-based directors dominate the Canadian entries in this year’s Festival. Ontario writer/director Reginald Harkema offers a beguiling tale of hidden urges and secrets in LESLIE, MY NAME IS EVIL, which is world premiering in Toronto. The film tells the tale of Perry, a sheltered chemist, who falls in love with Leslie, a former homecoming princess, when he is selected to be a jury member at her hippie, death-cult murder trial.

Other Ontario-based filmmakers presenting their films for the first time in Toronto include: Gary Yates, who is presenting the crime comedy HIGH LIFE, about two drug-addled brothers who go for one last major score; Matthew Bissonnette, whose intimate and amusing road movie PASSENGER SIDE focuses on two talkative brothers who tour Los Angeles while trying to reconcile their romantic lives; and Robert Stefaniuk, who is presenting the World Premiere of the rock-n-roll vampire comedy SUCK, about a down-and-out band that will do anything for a record deal. Music mavens will delight in the featured cameos by such icons as Alice Cooper, Moby, Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins.

Vancouver, which is hosting the next Olympic Games, is also a hotbed of contemporary film talents. The Festival is showcasing a trio of very strong debut films by British Columbia-based talents. In A GUN TO THE HEAD, director Blaine Thurier offers an eye-opening tour of the crime underworld, as a reformed criminal escapes his wife’s dinner party for a quick beer, but becomes dragged back into a world of drugs, women, guns and gangsters. In the romantic drama COLE, director Carl Bessai details the struggles of a young writer who hopes that his new romance with a woman from his writing class will release him from the dull life of working at the family gas station. From director Bruce Sweeney comes the romantic comedy EXCITED, about a man who may have just met the woman of his dreams, but whose romance is complicated by his meddling, officious mother.

Canada has a strong documentary tradition and this year’s Canadian contribution to the Real To Reel section are impressive works of non-fiction art. In GENIUS WITHIN: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, co-directors Peter Raymont and Michèle Hozer turns their focus on the enigmatic musical poet and world-renowned pianist Glenn Gould, who continues to captivate international audiences twenty-six years after his early death. In PETROPOLIS, filmmaker and visual artist Peter Mettler takes audiences on an eye-opening aerial tour of Alberta’s beautiful and haunting tar sands. For the film REEL INJUN, director Neil Diamond offers a long-needed corrective to the wildly inaccurate portrayals of native peoples in Hollywood films. The film features revealing and often poignant interviews with key players like actors Wes Studi, Adam Beach and Sacheen Littlefeather. As hockey fans are used to yelling: go Canada…….

by Sandy Mandelberger, Toronto Festival Dailies Editor


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