The top films of 2011 were two from 2010: Richard J. Lewis’s Barney’s Version (a Canada/Italy co-production) at 25 weeks and Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies at 23. The buzz on both of these Oscar-nominated films didn’t pick up until the end of last year and should rightly be considered the outstanding hits of 2011. In the 17 years I have been keeping this survey, there have only been two films to play longer than 25 weeks: The Red Violin (27) and Les Invasions barbares (29).
The next two were international co-productions with no Canadian content whatsoever: at 14 weeks, Warner Herzog’s mesmerizing Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D (a multi-national co-production), and at 11 weeks Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower, a Canadian/German thriller starring the Oscar-winning British beauty Rachel Weisz and filmed in Romania. It should be pointed out that Kondracki, whose debut feature this is, was born in Toronto and studied film at Columbia University, and the film features Canadian actor David Hewlett (Splice, Foolproof) in a small role. The music was by Atom Egoyan’s regular composer, Mychael Danna. Cave of Forgotten Dreams was produced by Creative Differences for History Films. Creative Differences is a Canadian documentary production company headquartered in Los Angeles.
The top purely domestic release in 2011 was Robert Lieberman’s Punjabi hockey ‘dramedy’ Breakaway at 11 weeks. Although the reviews were mixed, Breakaway did well outside of the Toronto downtown core, and found its audience in Mississauga and Brampton. Its box office success is a clear indicator of the demographic shift in the GTA and the popularity of Bollywood and Bollywood-style films. The glitz 2011 Bollywood film awards where held in Toronto, another indicator of the importance of GTA audiences to the worldwide growth of the Indian film industry.
Jason Eisener’s boisterous celebration of the splatter genre, Hobo with a Shotgun starring Rutger Hauer, came in at six weeks, which is the same for Jean-Marc Vallée’s complex, time-tripping love story, Café de Flore. That film was still playing at the end of 2011 and looks to continue its run into 2012. Jacob Tierney’s mystery thriller/black comedy starring Jay Baruchel and Scott Speedman, and set in the NDG neighbourhood of Montreal, Good Neighbours was one week behind at five. Five films played a month: Steven Silver’s The Bang Bang Club, a Canada/South Africa co-production; two comedies from Quebec, Kevin Tierney’s French Immersion and Ken Scott’s Starbuck; Warren Sonoda’s romantic comedy Textuality and Mathieu Roy & Harold Crook’s documentary Surviving Progress.
At three weeks: Stephen Kay’s Cell 213; Mike Goldbach’s Daydream Nation; Don Shebib’s Down the Road Again; Daniel Roby’s Funkytown; Carl Bessai’s Repeaters; Tara Johns’ The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom; and Daniel Cockburn’s You Are Here.
Wyndham Wise is the former publisher and editor-in-chief of Take One: Film in Canada. Currently, he is a contributing editor with Northernstars.ca and consultant with The Canadian Encyclopedia online. Visit wyndhamsfilmguide.ca.