TIFF announces Canadian lineup

Aug 03, 2004 by Ian Evans

The 29th Toronto International Film Festival held another press conference today to announce films that would be part of its Canada First! and Short Cuts Canada programmes.

Director Olivier Assayas’ Clean will get the gala treatment, when it has its North American premiere this September. Starring Maggie Cheung and Nick Nolte, the film also features Don McKellar, Martha Henry, Béatrice Dalle and Jeanne Balibar. Clean is the story of a mother’s struggle to regain control of her life so that she may win back what she desires most, the love and custody of her son.

The Canada First! programme will open with Michael McGowan’s latest, Saint Ralph, the unlikely story of Ralph Walker, a ninth grader whose mother is sick. Hoping to create a miracle that will bring her back to health, Ralph outruns everyone’s expectations except his own in his deluded quest to win the 1954 Boston Marathon. Set in Hamilton, Ontario, the film stars Campbell Scott, Gordon Pinsent, Jennifer Tilly, Adam Butcher, and Shauna MacDonald.

The Canada First! programme will also feature the North American premiere of Carole Laure’s CQ2 (Seek You Too); director Chris Abraham’s I, Claudia from Kristen Thomson’s play of the same name; the world premiere of Ill Fated, an ironic fable from Vancouver’s Mark A. Lewis; Mike Dowse’s film, It’s All Gone Pete Tong; Simon Sauvé’s Jimmywork; Wajdi Mouawad’s Littoral; Daniel Roby’s Peau Blanche; Rob Stefaniuk’s Phil the Alien a comic odyssey told through the bloodshot eyes of an alcoholic alien that festures Rob Stefaniuk and Joe Flaherty; and Gary Yates’ Seven Times Lucky which stars Kevin Pollak, Liane Balaban, James Tolkan, Gordon Tootoosis, Babz Chula, and Jonas Chernick.

The Canada First! programme is, as its name suggests, for directors tackling their first feature. More established Canadian directors are seeing their works moving into the Festival’s other programmes.

Don McKellar’s Childstar joins the Special Presentation programme and will unspool at the VISA screening room at the historic Elgin Theatre in the coveted early Friday (September 10) evening time slot. The film follows American sitcom icon Taylor Brandon Burns (Mark Rendall) as he gets is shipped off to Canada. Experimental filmmaker Rick Schiller (Don McKellar) is hired as the 12-year-old’s driver, and has to ensure that Taylor shows up to set to save the world in The First Son, an action-comedy blockbuster. The kid is a monstrous brat, but the job does have its side benefits, liberally provided by Taylor’s mom, Suzanne (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The film also features Brendan Fehr, Kristin Adams, Dave Foley, Gil Bellows, Eric Stoltz, and Alan Thicke.

The Contemporary World Cinema programme welcomes Anais Granofsky’s The Limb Salesman which stars Peter Stebbings , Jackie Burroughs, Ingrid Veninger, Clark Johnson, and Charles Officer; DAvid Weaver’s Siblings, with Alex Campbell, Nicholas Campbell and Sonja Smits; Daniel McIvor’s Wilby Wonderful with Jim Allodi, Ellen Page, Callum Keith Rennie, Rebecca Jenkins, Maury Chakin, Paul Gross, and Sandra Oh; and Blaine Thurier’s Male Fantasy a Canadian premiere that features Robert Dayton.

The Short Cuts Canada programme will be highlighting 38 Canadian shorts…some shorter than the descriptions below. The shorts this year are:

  • Accordéon[Michèle Cournoyer, QC, 62] A beautifully animated film about a woman who truly embraces technology, by connecting to cyberspace and downloading her body and soul for her electronic lover.
  • Almost Forgot My Bones[Katrin Bowen, BC, 52] When transplanted to a new city, an African-Canadian woman undertakes a transformative journey in search of her roots.
  • Between Science and Garbage[Pierre Hébert and Bob Ostertag, QC, 492] Based on a live performance, this is a visually inventive film that focuses on pop culture and the build-up to the Iraq war.
  • Birdlings Two[Davina Pardo, ON, 62] An experimental film, in which Pardo ruminates on her father’s short-lived career as an animator at the NFB, where he worked with Norman McLaren.
  • Boyclops[Jay Dahl, NS, 72] A dark comedy about “Johnny,” a typical teenager whose everyday teenage problems intensify because he is a Cyclops.
  • Build[Greg Atkins, ON, 242] A young man’s desire to build — both buildings and a life for himself — is hampered by the need to care for his alcoholic mother.
  • Choke.[David Hyde, ON, 122] A lyrical dark comedy about three people who are sure of their dreams, but lack the talent to realize them.
  • Corps Étrangers[Simon Lavoie, QC, 292] A man invites a prostitute to his apartment believing that he can escape his loneliness.
  • Desastre[Jay Field, ON, 222] A comedic tale about a French child born into an American family who must struggle with his roots and identity.
  • Deux Enfants Qui Fument[Sarah Fortin, QC, 152] A young couple decides to pack up their belongings and escape, vowing to begin a new life wherever their car runs out of gas.
  • Elephant Shoe[Christopher Behnisch, ON, 202] Ross teaches his best friend lessons in love, co-dependence, and in the importance of keeping a promise. A dark comedy with Swedish delicacies.
  • Elliot Smelliot[Anita Doron, ON, 232] A precocious 12-year-old falls for the twenty-something college gal he’s tutoring in chemistry.
  • Encre Noire Sur Fond d’Azur[Félix Dufour-Laperrière, QC, 52] A high-contrast, animated short that leads, between the paper’s whiteness and the ink’s blackness, to the appearance of some colour.
  • Filth[Wrik Mead, ON, 42] A simple cleaning job becomes a nightmare in this pixilated tale that combines both the action in the film with the action on the film.
  • Girl Cleans Sink[Sook-yin Lee, ON, 102] A lonely couple meet in a Laundromat, where their clumsy attempt at a sexual liaison leads to revelations, embarrassments, and a little bit of compassion.
  • Groomed[Joseph Raso, ON, 192] Two buddies come up with a unique solution to their problems with women in this sly parody of romantic comedies.
  • the hill[Deborah Chow, ON, 122] A young couple leaves a party to discuss their relationship and calamity ensues in this post-modern take on a familiar tale.
  • Hogtown Blues[Hugh Gibson, ON, 182] An immigrant woman estranged from her father attempts a reconciliation so that her ailing son will know his grandfather before he dies.
  • Hotel Saudade[Cameron Bailey, ON, 242] Part essay, part documentary, HOTEL SAUDADE is a meditative journey exploring the personal choices we make and their often painful repercussions.
  • The Human Kazoo[Fabrizio Filippo, ON, 102] Art and commerce wage a metaphorical war as, in the final moments of his life, a failed writer considers his perpetual battles with his archenemy — his successful, action-movie-star brother. Starring Fabrizio Filippo and Luke Kirby.
  • Man Feel Pain[Dylan Akio Smith, BC, 112] A comic story about a young man who inadvertently becomes a martyr to his neighbours.
  • Mary/Me[Kelly Egan, ON, 42] Literally cut from the pages of Cosmo, this collage explores the prevalence of the virgin/whore dichotomy in the popular media.
  • Milo 55160[David Ostry, ON, 212] A dark comedy about a lonely bureaucrat (Patrick McKenna) on a purgatorial odyssey through the afterlife in search of a missing boy
  • more sensitive[Gail Noonan, BC, 22] A witty animated piece focusing on a lounge singer who sings about his superior sensitivity.
  • Mothers, Fathers and Other Strangers[Carl Knutson, ON, 162] A donor (Jim Allodi) breaks into the sperm bank in search of clues as to whether his deposits were ever used. His interception by one of the clinic’s employees leads to some unexpected results.
  • My Old Man[Alex Levine, BC, 72] Based on a Charles Bukowski story, a struggling writer succeeds even in the face of his alcoholic father’s continual abuse.
  • Pigeon[Anthony Green, ON, 112] In Nazi Germany during the Second World War, a train passenger’s life (Michael Lerner) may be saved by a stranger’s (Wendy Crewson) dangerous split- second decision.
  • Le Pont[Guy Edoin, QC, 132] Things take a decidedly dark turn when a couple arrive at a river with a disabled, wheelchair-bound child and attempt to drown her, or possibly themselves, out of misery.
  • Rodéo[Mélanie Dion, QC, 102] A woman who tries various ways to get the attention of her oblivious, beer swilling, rodeo-watching husband escalates her efforts, with dire results.
  • Ryan[Chris Landreth, ON/QC, 152] This startling mix of animation and documentary, about Ryan Larkin, the Oscar®-nominated NFB animator who, to this day, struggles against cocaine and alcohol dependency. Winner of three awards at Cannes.
  • The Sadness of Johnson Joe Jangles[Jeffrey St. Jules, ON/MB, 192] Crazy musical numbers give birth to a fantasy set in the Wild West where two male lovers set out to have a child despite many obstacles.
  • Sissy Boy Slap Party[Guy Maddin, MB, 42] On a sultry, hot, summer afternoon, a group of scantily clad young men get slap happy.
  • Sombra Dolorosa[Guy Maddin, MB, 42] A crazed technicoloured Mexican melodrama, with a grieving widow, a donkey, a wrestling angel of death, and an impending eclipse.
  • Stronger[Debra Felstead, ON, 112] A discussion between a woman and her manicurist shifts from the trivial to the life-shattering when casual conversation reveals that their lives are intricately connected.
  • Superhero Wannabe[Patricia Harris Seeley, AB, 52] A gangly teenage boy who longs to be a superhero finds that his misguided acts of bravery may not actually be helpful.
  • A Tale of Bad Luck[Brad Peyton, ON, 82] This stop-motion fairytale looks at how an old, weathered, stuffed bear pursues fleeting love in a dark and frightening world far removed from the realities of most plush characters.
  • Trouser Accidents[Semi Chellas, ON, 52] A faux documentary about the unlikely prevalence of hospitalization due to malfunctioning pants, this modern fable examines the danger in everyday things.
  • White Out[Matt Sinclair-Foreman, ON/BC, 132] A teenage boy is visited by his undead friend who was killed in a fatal school-bus accident.
The Festival also announced that the life and achievements of the late Brian Linehan, Canada’s premiere celebrity interviewer, will be feted on September 17, during the 29th Toronto International Film Festival. Celebrating Brian Linehan is a collaboration between the Toronto International Film Festival Group and Mr. Linehan’s estate, and will include on-stage reminiscences from a select group of US and Canadian celebrities who knew and loved him, as well as clips from Mr. Linehan’s career. Hosted by Roger Ebert, Celebrating Brian Linehan will take place at the Winter Garden Theatre, and confirmed celebrity guests include long-time friend Martin Short, known for his Linehan impressions on SCTV. Tickets will be available to Festival Pass and Coupon Book buyers with their orders, or as single Gala tickets, available to VISA cardholders beginning Saturday, August 28. The celebration starts at 8 p.m.

“Brian’s longstanding relationship with our organization endures through the archive at The Film Reference Library,” said Piers Handling, Director & CEO, Toronto International Film Festival Group. “And Brian’s contributions to Canadian culture and the international film scene are impossible to overstate. We’re honoured to join with his estate in this public celebration.”

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