TIFF Names Canada’s Top Ten of 2016
By Pat Mullen
Documentary culture finds two representatives in this year’s Canada’s Top Ten list put out by the Toronto International Film Festival. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuk continues its success as the activist film about the Inuit’s fight to preserve the seal hunt is the lone doc on the list. (Read more about the film in the POV cover story ‘Why Are the Inuit So Angry?’.) Also on the list is the provocative doc-drama hybrid Those Who Make Revolution Only Dig Their Own Graves, a radical work from Quebecois filmmakers Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie. An interview with the filmmakers appears in the current issue of POV. Pick up a copy at the TIFF gift shop during the festival!
The ten features on Canada’s Top Ten are:
Dir. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril
Seal hunting, a critical part of Inuit life, has been controversial for a long time. Now, a new generation of Inuit, armed with social media and their own sense of humour and justice, are challenging the anti-sealing groups and bringing their own voices into the conversation. Director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Sol) joins her fellow Inuit activists as they challenge outdated perceptions of Inuit and present themselves to the world as a modern people in dire need of a sustainable economy.
Dir. Kevan Funk
A young junior hockey player’s life is shattered by an in-game act of violence. In an instant his life is abruptly turned upside down; torn from the fraternity of the team and the coinciding position of prominence, he is cast out and ostracized from the community. As he struggles with the repercussions of the event, desperate to find a means of reconciliation and a sense of identity, his personal journey illuminates troubling systemic issues around violence. Featuring TIFF Rising Star Jared Abrahamson.
It’s Only the End of the World (Juste la fin du monde)
Dir. Xavier Dolan
After 12 years of absence, a writer goes back to his hometown, planning on announcing his upcoming death to his family. As resentment soon rewrites the course of the afternoon, fits and feuds unfold, fuelled by loneliness and doubt, while all attempts of empathy are sabotaged by people’s incapacity to listen, and to love. Starring Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye and Léa Seydoux.
Dir. Zacharias Kunuk
Nunavut, Canada circa 1913. Kuanana returns from a caribou hunt to discover his wife and daughter kidnapped, and the rest of his family slaughtered. His father’s spirit helper, the loon Kallulik, sets him on course to overturn fate and reunite his family. Starring Benjamin Kunuk, Karen Ivalu and Jonah Qunaq. Co-directed by Natar Ungalaaq, the star of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.
Dir. Nathan Morlando
Mean Dreams is a tense coming-of-age thriller about a 15-year-old boy who steals a bag of drug money and runs away with the girl he loves. While her violent and corrupt cop father hunts them down, they embark on a journey that will change their lives forever. A potent fable at its heart, Mean Dreams fuses the desperation of life on the run with the beauty and wonder of first love. Featuring TIFF Rising Star Sophie Nélisse, Josh Wiggins, Bill Paxton and Colm Feore.
Dir. Anne Émond
A film inspired by the life and work of Nelly Arcan. Nelly is a portrait of a fragmented woman, lost between irreconcilable identities: writer, lover, call girl, and star. Several women in one, navigating between great exaltation and great disenchantment. The film mirrors the violent life and radical work of its subject, paying tribute to a writer who insisted on taking risks. Featuring TIFF Rising Star Mylène Mackay.
Old Stone (Lao shi)
Dir. Johnny Ma
When a drunken passenger causes Lao Shi to swerve and hit a motorcyclist, the driver stops to help the injured man. When no police or ambulance arrive, he drives the victim to the hospital, checks him in, and finds himself responsible for the man’s medical bills. The repercussions of Shi’s selfless act expose a society rife with bone-chilling callousness and bureaucratic indifference. On the verge of losing his cab, his job, and his family, Lao Shi has to resort to desperate measures to survive. Starring Chen Gang.
Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves Mathieu (Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau)
Dir. Denis and Simon Lavoie
Klas Batalo, Giutizia, Tumulto, and Ordine Nuovo, four twenty-somethings from Québec, reject the world in which they live. Three years after the collapse of the Maple Spring protest movement, they resort to a form of vandalism that gradually leads them closer to terrorism. But their revolutionary avant-garde is far from society’s prevailing aspirations and threatens to blow up in their faces. Starring Charlotte Aubin, Laurent Bélanger, Emmanuelle Lussier-Martinez and Gabrielle Tremblay.
Dir. Ashley McKenzie
Blaise and Nessa are marginalized methadone users in a small town. Each day they push their rusty lawn mower door-to-door begging to cut grass. Nessa plots an escape, while Blaise lingers closer to collapse. Tethered to each other, their getaway dreams are kept on a suffocatingly short leash. A daring first feature from Canada’s most promising young directors.
Window Horses (The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming)
Dir. Ann Marie Fleming
Window Horses is a feature-length animated film about a young Canadian poet who embarks on a whirlwind voyage of discovery — of herself, her family, love, history, and the nature of poetry. Featuring the voices of Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, Don McKellar, Nancy Kwan, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, the film is filled with poems and histories created by a variety of artists and animators, who set out to blend a vast myriad of differences between cultures, philosophies, arts, and time frames.
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