CDN Picks at TIFF
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(August 20, 2019 – Toronto, ON) At some point today, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will announce its complete schedule and festival-goers can begin the task, and it is a task, of sorting out what they want to see and hope they will get into one of the usually three screenings each film has. As our focus is strictly on Canadian films, here’s a few of our picks based on synopsis and the person behind the camera. To be clear, these are five films we think you should put on your schedule of festival films.
First up is Atom Egoyan and his latest feature, Guest of Honour. An international cast is led by a highly experienced, highly talented director working from his own screenplay. Once again Egoyan tackles the mysteries of the family dynamic, in this case a father-daughter relationship, and the story is enhanced by the cast and the characters they portray. Guest of Honour screens at the Venice Film Festival on September 3rd and we’ll all know it’s TIFF schedule later today where it will be given Special Presentation status. We have a clip you should watch, more detail about the content and cast and crew. Our recommendation: Must See.
Semi Chellas is usually thought of as a screenwriter with a few short films to her credit as a director. She makes her feature directorial debut when American Woman receives its Gala screening. Based on the novel by Susan Choi, the titular American woman is Jenny Shimada (Hong Chau). Anti-American to a violent degree she agrees to watch over three fugitives, one of them the kidnapped granddaughter of a wealthy newspaper magnate (Sarah Gadon). If you’re thinking Patty Hearst, you’re right. The story is all from Jenny’s perspective and this is not an action-thriller. While some will find it slow, this is a methodical examination of a situation and event that was seared into American history. Learn more about the cast and crew and watch a clip (with some mature language) of American Woman, which first screened at Tribeca earlier this year. Our Recommendation: Should See.
Another gala comes from a renowned Québec director with a long track record handling complex stories within the world of music and usually classical music. The Song of Names is set in Europe on the verge of World War Two. It’s a mystery that begns with the disappearance of a child prodigy and what happens decades later. François Girard directs an international cast that includes Tim Roth, Clive Owen and Saul Rubinek. In many ways this is the perfect festival film. The Song of Names is a large story sweeping across generations set in the world of music at a time of war. Our recommendation: Must See.
We like the work of Quebec director Sophie Deraspe, who is probably most remembered for her NFB documentary The Amina Profile. Her feature, Antigone, is set in Montreal and centres on the lead character’s quest for justice for her brother. A justice she bases on her own reliance on love and solidarity. Antigone will have its World Premiere at TIFF in their Contemporary World Cinema program. Our Recommendation: Should see.
Another film in the same program is Tammy’s Always Dying. Directed by Amy Jo Johnson, who many if not most will remember for her four years as part of the cast of the brilliant series Flashpoint. She directed her first short in 2013, her first feature in 2017 and is now at TIFF with a comedy, a dark comedy. This is a mother-daughter relationship where the humour hangs delicately on the mother, the Tammy in the title, not dying when doing just that would be a good thing for her daughter. Our Recommendation: Must See.
With the opening of TIFF 2019 still two weeks away, and with the full schedule being released today, we’ll take another look at more Canadian films closer to opening day. Click here to see our list of September 2019 film festivals with links to them all including the Toronto International Film Festival.
Also see: TIFF Picks – Take 2.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.