TIFF Announces Canadian Documentaries

Alanis Obomsawin’s Our People Will Be Healed
Courtesy of TIFF

By Pat Mullen

Three of Canada’s pre-eminent and most prolific documentary veterans return to the Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF announced today the Canadian programming for the 2017 edition of the festival and Toronto staples Alanis Obomsawin, Alan Zweig, and Denis Côté are back with new docs.

Obomsawin returns to the prestigious Masters programme and it’s exactly where she belongs while offering her whopping fiftieth film with the NFB feature Our People Will Be Healed (previously titled Norway House during production). Our People Will Be Healed marks the fifth entry in Obomsawin’s recent body of work that focuses on the rights of Indigenous children, including last year’s acclaimed TIFF selection We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice, which introduced many audiences to the story of Jordan River Anderson, a child from the Cree community of Norway House who died following inadequate medical treatment and inspired the legal case depicted in the film.

“Young people are leading the way,” said Obomsawin in a statement from the NFB. “Their leadership and strength is beautiful and inspiring. We are on the road to a place we’ve never been before, to a new age for Indigenous peoples, and it is our youth who are leading us. This is what I am trying to show in these films.” Obomsawin’s new film sets up her next feature, Jordan’s Principle, and the 85-year-old filmmaker shows no signs of slowing down. Other NFB selections at TIFF this year are the animated shorts Charles directed by Dominic Etienne Simard, Threads from Oscar winner Torill Kove, and the excellent The Tesla World Light by Matthew Rankin.

Alan Zweig’s There is a House Here
Courtesy of TIFF

Zweig, on the other hand, makes a one-two punch by hitting Hot Docs and TIFF in the same year. After April’s Hot Docs premiere Hope, the sequel to Hurt, which won TIFF’s inaugural Platform award and remains the only documentary to screen in the prestigious competitive programme, Zweig returns to Toronto with the Nunavut-shot film There is a House Here. It’s something of a downgrade for Zweig to screen in the TIFF Docs programme after winning Platform—he should really be in Masters after getting the Festival’s boost—but this topical and personal film for the director might play just as well with the eager doc crowd and the placement shows that Zweig hasn’t lost his underdog status despite his recent success. Zweig touched upon the film a little during an interview at Hot Docs and it sounds intriguing.

Rounding out the TIFF veterans is Denis Côté, who returns to the festival’s Wavelengths programme with A Skin So Soft. This dryly funny deconstruction of masculinity is a fine companion piece to his TIFF hit Bestiaire. We won’t say too much about the film, since we have an interview with Côté coming out in our Fall issue.

On the shorts front, Michelle Latimer reps documentary with Nucca, produced by Oscar winner Laura Poitras, while Alanis Obomsawin appears in Caroline Monnet’s Creature Dada. TIFF previously announced Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier’s Tragically Hip doc Long Time Running as a Gala selection.

Newly announced Canadian Docs at TIFF 2017 are:


Our People Will Be Healed
Dir. Alanis Obomsawin | World Premiere
Our People Will Be Healed is the latest feature documentary by distinguished Montreal-based Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin. The film takes audiences inside the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre, an innovative N-12 school in the remote Cree community of Norway House, 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg, whose educators and programs are helping First Nations children to learn and thrive, growing up strong and proud. The school’s name honours a young woman from Norway House whose notorious 1971 murder was left ignored and unsolved for 16 long years, with the film providing a sobering look at the painful history endured by Cree people in northern Manitoba. But in her 50th film, Obomsawin offers a tremendously hopeful vision for First Nations peoples, showing us how improved education can save lives and change the future for Indigenous youth.


The Carter Effect
Sean Menard, Canada/USA | World Premiere
In his latest documentary, Sean Menard gives viewers an unprecedented look at Vince Carter: the six-foot-six, eight-time NBA All-Star from Daytona Beach who made waves in the Canadian basketball scene when he was transferred to the Raptors in 1998.

Living Proof
Dir. Matt Embry, Canada | World Premiere
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, documentarian Matt Embry takes viewers on a transnational journey — from Italy to Canada, and from the lab to the home — in order to examine the politics of the condition.

There is a House Here
Dir. Alan Zweig | World Premiere
Spanning years of correspondence and three separate trips to Iqaluit, Alan Zweig’s latest documentary navigates issues of culture and identity with his pen-pal and semi-reluctant guide, Tatanniq Idlout, a.k.a. Inuk rock singer Lucie Idlout.


Ta peau si lisse (A Skin so Soft)
Dir. Denis Côté, Canada/Switzerland | North American Premiere
Jean-François, Ronald, Alexis, Cédric, Benoit and Maxim are modern-day gladiators. The group includes high-level bodybuilders, a strongman and an ex-championturned- trainer. As they prepare for future competitions, they follow extreme diets and slave away at the gym. Each man pursues his own personal goals, but all share the same obsession: overcoming the limits of their bodies. A Skin So Soft is an open exploration of the regimented daily lives of these misunderstood monsters.

Short Cuts

Creatura Dada
Dir. Caroline Monnet, Canada | Toronto Premiere

Dir. Michelle Latimer, Canada | World Premiere

Wavelengths – shorts

Palmerston Blvd.
Dir. Dan Browne, Canada | World Premiere

Turtles Are Always Home
Dir. Rawane Nassif, Canada/Lebanon/Qatar | Toronto Premiere

TIFF Cinematheque

Picture of Light
Dir. Peter Mettler, Canada, 1994 *New digital restoration: Work carried out at Technicolor, Toronto and Montreal, with soundtrack restoration by Lou Solakofski of
Tattersall Sound and Picture, and Peter Bräker sound design, Switzerland, under the supervision of Director Peter Mettler.

North of Superior
Graeme Ferguson, Canada, 1971 *Special IMAX screening at Cinesphere

TIFF runs Sept. 7 – 17.