TIFF Announces Canadian Films, Includes 8 Feature Docs

The River of My Dreams
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

By Pat Mullen

The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its Canadian programming for the 2016 edition of the festival and it includes a healthy dose of docs. The fest offers eight Canadian feature documentaries, up from last year’s total of seven.

The docs of #TIFF16 have a high bar after last year when Toronto filmmaker Alan Zweig scooped the inaugural prize at the Festival’s new Platform sidebar for his excellent Steve Fonyo doc Hurt. (Read our TIFF interview with Zweig here.) Zweig returns to TIFF this year as an Executive Producer on The Stairs, a new doc from Hugh Gibson that challenges images and stereotypes of street persons in Toronto. Make sure to subscribe to POV and read more on The Stairs in our upcoming Fall issue.

The Stairs
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

It wouldn’t be a TIFF issue of POV without a look at the new Alanis Obomsawin film, either. The doc master returns to TIFF’s Masters sidebar with her new NFB doc We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice, which examines a landmark court decision about the rights of First Nations children. Expect more of Obomsawin’s signature passion and rage, which you can read about in pieces on her early career and POV, profiles on the full circle of her career, and peeks at docs such as Trick or Treaty?.

Also coming to the pages of POV is a chat with Fred Peabody, director of All Governments Lie. This doc is the latest effort from White Pine Pictures and producer Peter Raymont, who previously gave audiences the docs Glenn Gould’s Inner Life and A Promise to the Dead.

Rounding out the Canadian docs is a new feature from Dilip Mehta, whose sister Deepa (Water) has a new drama at the fest, while it’s a family affair with Jamie Kastner, nephew of filmmaker John, debuting a a new work at TIFF. Outstanding cinematographer and filmmaker Nick de Pencier (Watermark) returns to TIFF with a glimpse into cyberspace with Black Code. (Watch our chat with him above!) Oscar winner Brigitte Berman offers a profile of iconic Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent, who also lends his voice to dramatic feature Two Lovers and a Bear as the titular bear, and Hugh Gibson shoots some hoops in Giants of Africa, which adds a global scope to Canadian perspectives.

Class of #tiff16!

A photo posted by POV Magazine (@pov_magazine) on

Docs screening at TIFF this year are:


We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice
Alanis Obomsawin | Canada | World Premiere
In 2007, the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a landmark discrimination complaint against Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. They argued that child and family welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserves and in the Yukon were underfunded and inferior to services offered to other Canadian children. Veteran director Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice documents this epic court challenge, giving voice to the tenacious childcare workers at its epicentre.


All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and The Spirit of I.F. Stone
Fred Peabody | Canada | World Premiere
Investigative journalists Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Matt Taibbi, and others are changing the face of journalism, no longer tied to mainstream media, choosing independent alternatives. Cameras follow as they uncover government and corporate secrets, just as ground-breaking and influential American journalist I.F. Stone did decades ago.

Black Code
Nicholas de Pencier | Canada | World Premiere
Based on the book by Professor Ron Deibert, Black Code is the story of how the internet is being controlled and manipulated by governments in order to censor and monitor their citizens. As they battle for control of cyberspace, ideas of citizenship, privacy, and democracy are challenged to the core.

Giants of Africa
Hubert Davis | Canada | World Premiere
On a continent where dreams are often displaced for necessity and survival, the game of basketball brings hope to many young men in Africa. Masai Ujiri, president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors, returns to Africa each summer to stage basketball development camps. Young men from across the continent overcome staggering odds, with an unwavering spirit, to attend these camps that are held in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda. As Masai and his team of coaches work to train and inspire the raw talent that they encounter, Giants of Africa captures the amazing physical and emotional journey that these young African men pass through.

Mostly Sunny
Dilip Mehta | Canada | World Premiere
Growing up in small-town Sarnia as the daughter of strict Sikh parents, no one anticipated Sunny Leone’s remarkable transformation into an adult film star and Penthouse cover girl — not even Sunny herself. More astonishing still, she has reinvented herself in India as a mainstream reality TV star and Bollywood actress, beloved by millions despite widespread awareness of her spicy past. Mostly Sunny asks what makes Sunny tick, and explores the birthplace of the Kama Sutra’s paradoxical relationship with sex.

The River of My Dreams
Brigitte Berman | Canada | World Premiere
Actor-writer-director Gordon Pinsent is one of Canada’s most beloved artists. Filled with humour, passion, and complexity, this film by Academy Award–winning filmmaker Brigitte Berman tells Gordon Pinsent’s story, as well as a universal story about the human condition, while making creative use of state-of-the art digital technology.

The Skyjacker’s Tale
Jamie Kastner | Canada | World Premiere
The Skyjacker’s Tale is a documentary thriller about Ishmael Muslim Ali (né Labeet), one of the most wanted U.S. fugitives ever, who successfully hijacked a plane to Cuba after being convicted of murdering eight people on a golf course owned by the Rockefellers.

The Stairs
Hugh Gibson | Canada | World Premiere
The Stairs tells the story of Marty, Greg, and Roxanne, each of whom survived decades of street involvement in Toronto. Using that experience, each works in public health to help their old neighbourhood, while struggling to maintain their newly-found stability. Told over five years, The Stairs defies stereotypes about drug use, sex work, and homelessness through an intimate portrait that is by turns funny, surprising, and moving.

TIFF 2016 runs Sept. 8-18. Please visit www.tiff.net for the full line-up of films announced so far.