Canada’s Top Ten Starts this Week!
Don’t let Friday the 13th keep your indoors: there’s ample reason to escape the house and celebrate the maple leaf this weekend as the Toronto International Film Festival’s annual Canada’s Top Ten festival returns this Friday. Screenings of Canada’s ten best features, short films, and student films—as determined by panels—take place in Toronto at TIFF Bell Lightbox, in Vancouver at The Cinematheque, in Calgary at Globe Cinema, in Montreal at the Phi Centre, and in additional cities throughout the year. (Check TIFF’s Film Circuit as well for screenings around the country.)
Here’s a look at highlights from documentary culture at this year’s fest:
Canada’s Top Ten kicks off with Zacharias Kunuk’s Maliglutit, a visionary re-interpretation of John Ford’s classic western The Searchers set in the expansive frontier of the Canadian North. POV editor Marc Glassman and publisher Judy Wolfe spoke with Kunuk and co-star/co-director Natar Ungalaaq at TIFF following its premiere last year. In this POV interview, the four discussed the process of re-writing the western from an Inuit perspective, drawing upon documentary roots, and using the voice of Tanya Tagaq as a pulse for the film. Kunuk also participates in an extended conversation at the Lightbox during Canada’s Top Ten. Read more about Maliglutit in this POV interview.
In this power and passionate advocacy piece, filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril joins her peers in fighting a ban on the trade of seal fur, which sustains a significant portion of the Inuit community. The doc confronts misrepresentations of the seal hunt circulated by the media and endorsed by celebrities like Pamela Anderson and Brigitte Bardot, and Arnaquq-Baril takes the audience on a traditional hunt to counter these images. As she speaks with members of the community and joins the campaign at the United Nations and on the streets of Toronto, Angry Inuk shows a cause worth fighting for. Read more about Angry Inuk in the POV review and cover story ‘Why Are the Inuit So Angry?’.
This year’s winner for Best Canadian Feature at TIFF, Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves is radical filmmaking. This rebellious hybrid film from Quebecois filmmaking duo Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie puts drama in dialogue with documentary as four Montreal radicals disenchanted by the 2012 student protests take to the streets. Bold performances, split-screen images, and morphing aspect ratios mix with snippets of archival images that range from old NFB films to cheesy Justin Trudeau campaign videos, this film breaks all the rules. It’s one of the boldest and most exciting Canadian films in years. The directors discuss their innovative film—a manifesto of sorts—and its documentary elements in the POV feature ‘You Say You Want a Revolution?. (Pick up a copy of the current issue at the TIFF gift shop!)
This year’s selection of shorts and student shorts includes some docs worth a peek. The must see of the group is Frame 394, an extraordinary—and Oscar shortlisted—doc that probes found footage of a police shooting to reveal startling details about the death of an unarmed man. This doc is especially urgent and topical in the wave of shootings of unarmed black men that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for action. Given the expected changes south of the border with President-elect Trump, Frame 394 is essential viewing about the power that images have to reveal, distort, and provoke. On the student shorts front, Pascal Huynh’s My Invisible Mother offers a mixed-animation hybrid, Ella Mikkola’s Saari (Island) adds an archival experiment, Étienne Lacelle’s minimalist Les beiges takes audiences to the ‘Maple Leaf Bash’ in St-Eustache, Québec
Screening as part of TIFF’s Canada on Screen retrospective, Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes gives audiences the big screen experience for one of the best Canadian docs of all time. Baichwal joins producer Nick de Pencier and cinematographer Peter Mettler to discuss this acclaimed film following the screening. Baichwal and de Pencier also lead the industry talk ‘Documenting Landscapes’ and their experience tackling stories of global concern. Big screens were made for this doc! Read more about Manufactured Landscapes in the POV feature Spending Time in You Own Head.
The new contemporary classic of Canadian documentary is Sarah Polley’s soulful and mysterious Stories We Tell. Using fragments of her family’s stories, Polley plays with perception and twists documentary form by mixing contemporary digital images, grainy Super 8 footage, authentic home movies and staged recreations. The film celebrates the act of sharing stories and shows that something intimate and personal can be universal. Read the POV review of Stories We Tell here.
Docs for Social Justice
This year’s festival features the doc-focused industry panel ‘Cinema for Social Justice’, which looks at the relationship between art and activism. The talk offers a conversation between the directors of some of the year’s top docs: Jamie Kastner (The Skyjacker’s Tale), Tiffany Hsiung (The Apology), Hugh Gibson (The Stairs), and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Angry Inuk). Hot Docs’s Sarafina Difelice moderates.
Please visit TIFF.net for more info on this year’s festival.