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Seagrass Wins at CinéFest Sudbury

Seagrass, movie, image,

Seagrass Wins at CinéFest Sudbury
by Staff Editors

(September 27, 2023 – Toronto ON) The 35th annual edition of the CinéFest in Sudbury, Ontario has wrapped with an announcement of those films honoured by the festival, and Seagrass, which is still on the festival circuit has been named Outstanding Canadian Feature Film. Directed by Meredith Hama-Brown, Seagrass follows a Japanese-Canadian woman grappling with the death of her mother as she brings her family to a retreat. When her relationship with her husband begins to affect the children’s emotional security, the family is forever changed.

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, movie, image,

The French Language Feature Film Award was given to Vampire humaniste cherche suicidaire consentant, starring Sara Monpetit (pictured above) as Sasha. Our Québec Correspondent, Maurie Alioff, who screened the feature at TIFF, lamented in his review that “Humanist Vampire” was overlooked for awards. In the film, Sasha is a young vampire with a serious problem: she’s too sensitive to kill. When her exasperated parents cut off her blood supply, Sasha’s life is in jeopardy. Luckily, she meets Paul, a lonely teenager with suicidal tendencies who is willing to give his life to save hers. But their friendly agreement soon becomes a nocturnal quest to fulfill Paul’s last wishes before day breaks.

Close To You, movie, image,

Other awards included the Austraila/UK copro The Royal Hotel, which was given the Outstanding International Feature Film Award; The Cinema Indigenized Outstanding Talent Award, which was given to Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun, directed by Banchi Hanuse; the Outstanding Female-Led Feature Film Award was given to the Estonia film Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (Savvusanna sõsarad). Directed by Anna Hints and set in the darkness of a smoke sauna, women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences, washing off the shame trapped in their bodies and regaining their strength through a sense of communion. The Inspiring Voices & Perspectives Feature Film Award was given to Close to You (pictured above). Directed by Dominic Savage, the film follows Sam (Elliot Page) who has the chance to encounter with an old friend on his way back home to a dreaded family reunion that forces him to confront long-buried memories.

The Outstanding Short Film Award went to I Promise You Paradise (Paradis). Directed by Morad Mostafa it is a 2023 France/Egypt/Qatar co-production, being distributed in Canada by H264. Walter’s Room from director Austin Lindsay picked up The Outstanding Northern Ontario Short Film Award, and Daniel Gies won the Outstanding Animated Short Film Award for Return to Hairy Hill (Retour à Hairy Hill), which tells the story of Ethel, whose childhood ends abruptly when her mother flies away, leaving Ethel alone to care for an isolated homestead and her younger siblings. As a merciless winter descends upon them, Ethel must decide whether to resign herself to fate or to try her luck in the wide world.

Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, movie, image, documentary,

In the Audience Choice section of CinéFest awards, the UK/France/Belgium co-production, The Old Oak won the Award for Best Feature; Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe was the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary; À mort le bikini! (Death to the Bikini!) from director Justine Gauthier was honoured with the Audience Choice Award for Best Short.

SOURCE: CinéFest Sudbury.

Carry It On gets Emmy Nom

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, image,

Carry It On Gets Emmy Nom
by Staff Editors

(September 27, 2023 – Winnipeg, MB) Eagle Vision, White Pine Pictures and Paquin Entertainment have announced that Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, the documentary film celebrating the legendary singer-songwriter, activist, and trailblazer, has been nominated for an International Emmy Award. This prestigious recognition marks a milestone for the documentary, as the documentary is the sole Canadian nominee.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On shines a spotlight on the remarkable life and career of Buffy Sainte-Marie and captures the essence of her profound impact on music, Indigenous rights, and social justice.

The 90-minute film delves into Sainte-Marie’s influential journey, from her early days as a groundbreaking artist in the 1960s folk music scene to her tireless advocacy for Indigenous rights and environmental causes. It showcases her resilience, creativity, and unwavering commitment to making the world a better place through her art and activism. Buffy Sainte-Marie shares her life story from her early love of music to the activism she continues to this day, despite her career being suppressed because of it.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, documentary, image,

The documentary also features in-depth conversations with prominent musicians, activists, and friends, including Alanis Obomsawin, Joni Mitchell, the late Robbie Robertson, Bird Runningwater and Taj Mahal, who offer insights into her impact on their lives and the broader cultural landscape.

“Buffy Sainte-Marie is the original influencer,” said Eagle Vision’s Lisa Meeches. “Her powerful message and unique style laid the cornerstone for Indigenous artists all across North America. Our team at Eagle Vision is truly honoured with the Emmy nomination. It was a humbling experience to be in the grace of such an iconic individual and to call her my Sister.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, Crave, poster, The International Emmy Awards are among the most prestigious honours in the global entertainment industry, recognizing outstanding content from around the world. Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On stands as a testament to the power of storytelling and the enduring impact of artists like Buffy Sainte-Marie. This nomination follows a list of other awards and recognition for the film including the Allan King Award For Excellent In Documentary at the DGC Awards, five Canadian Screen Awards nominations, and two wins for Best Direction and Best Sound in a Documentary.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On had its world premiere at TIFF in Canada and DOC NYC in the U.S. It is available to stream on Crave in Canada and PBS American Masters in the U.S. The film is distributed internationally by Off The Fence.

The winners of the International Emmy Awards will be announced during a gala ceremony on November 20, 2023, in New York City.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On was directed by Madison Thomas, produced by Lisa Meeches and Stephen Paniccia and Executive Produced by Lisa Meeches, Peter Raymont, Kyle Irving, Steve Ord, Rebecca Gibson, Andrew Munger, Gilles Paquin, and Randy Lennox, Michael Kantor, Ray Halbritter, and Francene Blythe-Lewis. A Crave Original Documentary, it was produced by Eagle Vision, White Pine Pictures, and Paquin Entertainment in Association with Bell Media Studios, American Masters Pictures, Vision Maker Media, and APTN and with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Canada Media Fund, Ontario Creates, Rogers Documentary Fund.

Unsyncable – Coming Soon

Unsyncable, movie, documentary, image, news,
Sue Baross Ross (68) and the Unsyncables of La Mirada compete at the U.S. Masters.

Unsyncable – Coming Soon
by Staff Editors

(September 26, 2023 – Toronto ON) It used to be called synchronized swimming, but in 2017 it was renamed artistic swimming. A group of participants in the sport drew the attention of award-winning Nova Scotia filmmaker Megan Wennberg. Known for films like Drag Kids and The Killing of Phillip Boudreau, and known for be drawn to unique characters, she decided to focus her camera on six senior artistic swimmers.

They make up an eclectic group. Their ages, at time of fiiming, range from 63 to 82. One is going for gold, another knows she’ll come last, and others are going for community and the love of their team. They will all push physical, emotional and societal boundaries to get there. Collectively, they have lost partners, suffered injuries and contended with ageist assumptions about what they can do. But through it all, they keep swimming and they do it with a smile.

Unsyncable, movie, documentary, image, news,
Masters synchronized swimmer Sue Baross Nesbitt practices her solo routine as she prepares for the U.S. Masters.

They include synchro legend Sue Baross Nesbitt (68, pictured above), rookie Ellen Scott (63), Cris Meier-Windes (68) of the San Francisco Tsunami LGBTQ+ team, former marine Luther Gales (82) and his teammates Monica Hale (68) and Joyce Clarke (71) of the Harlem Honeys and Bears (North America’s only all Black artistic swimming team). Together these athletes are a testament to perseverance, the resilience of the human spirit, and our endless capacity for growth at any age.

“By jumping in the pool and pushing their limits every practice, Sue, Ellen, Cris, Monica, Luther and Joyce kick back against the expectation that getting older means slowing down and succumbing to our limitations,” says Director Megan Wennberg. “I hope they will inspire audiences to see aging in a new light – not as something to dread, but as something to aspire to as we all ‘rage against the dying of the light’ in our own unique ways.”

Unsyncable, movie, image, documentary,
Masters synchronized swimmer Sue Baross Nesbitt (68) and the Unsyncables of La Mirada.

After 2 massively successful sold out screenings this past spring at Hot Docs, Unsyncable continues its festival run having screened this month at the Atlantic Film Festival, the Calgary International Film Festival and Lunenburg Doc Festival. Now, this feature-length documentary comes to the smaller screen and Vision TV on Monday October 9, at 9pm ET / 6pm PT.

Written and directed by Megan Wennberg, Unsyncable is produced by Tell Tale Productions with producer Edward Peill and producer Erin Oakes.

SOURCE & images: Tell Tale Productions

OIAF 2023 Wraps with Awards

OIAF 2023 Wraps with Awards, When Adam Changes, movie, image, news,
When Adam Changes image courtesy of OIAF.

OIAF 2023 Wraps with Awards
by Staff Editors

(September 25, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Over the weekend, the 2023 edition of the Ottawa International Film Festival closed with the announcement of this year’s awards. It was a great year for Canadian animated films.

The Grand Prize for Feature Animation was given to Adam change lentement (When Adam Changes, pictured above), directed by Joël Vaudreuil. Adam is a highly impressionable teenager. The examples are at first funny. For example, when he goes to visit his grandmother in the hospital for a final goodbye, she croaks her final words, a comment about his “long torso”, which causes his body to literally extend. It’s been this way all his life. Whenever his body is mocked, it distorts to reflect the callous comments of relatives and his fellow teens. His physical transformations are in some ways the least of his worries as he tries to navigate teenage life in late 1990s Québec complete with an impossible crush, pool parties, summer jobs, and a bit of existential dread. Remember this name because Adam change lentement (When Adam Changes) is the feature debut for director Joël Vaudreuil.

OIAF 2023 Wraps with Awards, movie, image, news,
Image from Miserable Miracles courtesy of OIAF.

Miserable Miracle from director Ryo Orikasa) won the Grand Prize for Short Animation. The Canadian animated short, Albums de familles (Families’ Albums) from director Moïa Jobin-Paré, was honoured with the award for Best Non-Narrative Short.

This year’s DGC Award for Best Canadian Animation winner, Un trou dans la poitrine (A Crab in the Pool) by directors Alexandra Myotte and Jean-Sébastien Hamel, dared to show audiences how imagination can transform trauma.

The Hélène Tanguay Award for Humour is the latest OIAF award and was created in memory of the late Hélène Tanguay. It was awarded to Pipes by directors Kilian Feusi, Jessica Meier, and Sujanth Ravichandran.

OIAF 2023 Wraps with Awards, Electra, movie, image, news,
Image from Electra courtesy of OIAF.
 
Coming off its recent win at the Toronto International Film Festival, Electra, directed by Daria Kashcheeva, is a film that blends live-action and stop-motion animation. It was awarded the Wacom Public Prize. The Best Narrative Short Award went to Tomek Popakul and Kasumi Ozeki for Zima, which painted a portrait of a world turned inhospitable leaving audiences to question their perception of self.

The DGC Award for Best Canadian Animationwas given to Un trou dans la poitrine (A Crab in the Pool) by co-directors Alexandra Myotte and Jean-Sébastien Hamel. Honourable Mentions went to La fille au béret rouge (The Girl with the Red Beret) (dir. Janet Perlman) and A Bear Named Jesus (dir. Terril Calder).

In keeping with tradition, the OIAF 2023 award statues were designed by Ottawa-based scrap metal artist Tick Tock Tom. The statues are working phénakisticopes featuring an animation by New York artist George Griffin.

Click here for a full list of all the award-winners at the 2023 Ottawa International Film Festival.

SOURCE: OIAF

Swan Song

100 minutes – Documentary
Language: English
Festival release date: September 9, 2023 – Toronto International Film Festival
Release date: September 29, 2023 – Toronto
Production company: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mercury Films, Quiet Ghost, Visitor Media
Canadian distributor: Blue Ice Docs

Swan Song immerses viewers inside one of the world’s leading ballet companies as it mounts a legacy-defining new production of Swan Lake, directed by ballet icon Karen Kain on the eve of her retirement. With full access granted to the filmmakers, the verité-driven documentary closely follows Karen Kain and a group of young dancers drawn from across The National Ballet of Canada’s ranks, weaving Swan Lake’s dramatic creation process with intimate scenes from the subjects’ personal lives as they push toward one of the most significant nights in their company’s history. The film’s intimate, character-driven approach chronicles creative conflicts, devastating injuries and personal sacrifices amongst its subjects who, in various ways, confront ideals of race, class and body standards as they navigate a tradition that has historically valued uniformity and compliance.

Swan Song had its World Premiere as a Gala Presentation at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. An expanded four-part limited series will premiere on CBC Gem and CBC TV November 22, 2023.

Also see: Swan Song at TIFF 2023.

Swan Song, movie, documentary, poster,

Crew:

Producer:

Sean O’Neill
Christina Carvalho

Executive Producer:

Neve Campbell
Sean O’Neill
Chelsea McMullen
Jennifer Baichwal
Nicholas de Pencier
Anna Godas
Oli Harbottle

Associate Producer:

Lucy Cameron

Supervising Producer:

Kelly Spinelli

Director:

Chelsea McMullen

Screenwriter:

Chelsea McMullen
Sean O’Neill

Story Editor:

Victoria Abolarinde

Cinematographer:

Nicholas de Pencier
Tess Girard
Shady Hanna
Derek Howard
Catherine Lutes
Maya Bankovic

Editor:

Brendan Mills
Sabrina Budiman (Additional Editing)
John Gallagher (Additional Editing)

Composer:

Katie Stelmanis

Production Designer:

Daria Savic

Cast: Roles:

Karen Kain
Shaelynn Estrada
Jurgita Dronina

Ariane Louis-Seize

Ariane Louis-Seize, film director,

B: in Gatineau, Québec

Ariane Louis-Seize is a Montréal-based filmmaker, who studied at the National Institute of Film and Sound. Her short films, ranging from 4 to 23 minutes, have screened at festivals around the world. Her 2016 short Les petites vagues (The Little Waves), was selected to screen at the Berlinale and was named to Canada’s Top Ten at TIFF. Her 2023 feature Vampire Humaniste Cherche Suicidaire Consentant, was shortlisted for the 2023 Jean-Marc Vallée DGC Discovery Award, and she was given the Best Director award in the Giornate degli Autori program at the Venice International Film Festival.

Also see: Maurie Alioff reviews Vampire Humaniste Cherche Suicidaire Consentant.

À l’horizon (2013, short)
D’encre et de sang (2016)
La peau sauvage (2016, short)
Les petites vagues (2018, short)
Rituels (2019, short)
Les profondeurs (2019, short)

Comme une comète (2020, short)
Rencontres nocturnes silencieuses (2022, short)
Vampire Humaniste Cherche Suicidaire Consentant (2023)

Humanist Vampire: Reluctant Bloodsucker

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, movie, image,

Ariane Louis-Seize’s Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person: Reluctant Bloodsucker
Review by Maurie Alioff

(September 22, 2023 – Montréal, Québec) Québec, which is continuing to carry more than its weight in the Canadian film industry, scored at the Toronto International Film Festival’s 2023 edition. Sophie Dupuis’s Solo was named Best Canadian Feature, and Henri Pardo’s Kanaval took a Canada Goose Amplify Voices award, specifically BIPOC and Canadian Best Feature in that designation.

My big disappointment in the aftermath of the festival is that Ariane Louis-Seize’s Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (Vampire humaniste cherche suicidaire consentant), did not get the official honour it richly deserves. A TIFF regular, Louis-Seize’s short Little Waves (Les petits vagues) was on TIFF’s Top Ten Canadian films list in 2018.

Humanist Vampire did take the best director prize in the Giornate degli Autori (GdA)section of Venice 2023. And I have little doubt distributor H264, which is handling world sales, will find US buyers. In fact, I think a re-make in English is likely, even though it couldn’t capture the specifically Québécois humour, irony, and sense of absurdity that blesses the movie.

In the picture, vampire Sasha, (who looks 17, but is actually 68 once the film gets rolling) wants nothing to do with biting humans and sucking out their blood. As a child she refuses to feast off an incredibly annoying clown her parents offer her as a birthday present.

Death triggers compassion in Sasha (Sara Montpetit) not blood lust. Early on, we discover that her fangs haven’t popped out, which in a film loaded with references to teenage life, suggests delayed puberty. When her fangs finally do appear, it’s like a first period.

In an early scene, Sasha’s typically middle-class, suburban family is deeply concerned, as if they had an impaired child. They take her to various apparently vampire specialists who study her condition. Sasha’s father (Steve Laplante) shows understanding, but her mother (Sophie Cadieux) bitches she refuses to do all the hunting for the next twenty years.

Like a teenage girl who refuses to start taking care of herself, Sasha pulls plasma bags out of the fridge and sips blood out of a straw as if she’s enjoying a smoothie. The unavoidable fact is that her life depends on drinking blood. With her jet-black bangs, finely pretty face, and slim body, Montpetit recalls Krysten Ritter, who played Jesse Pinkman’s smart punk girlfriend Jane in Breaking Bad and the hip, sardonic Jessica Jones in the eponymous Marvel series.

Throughout the picture, Louis-Seize and her co-writer Christine Doyon come up with swift and smoothly engineered plot twists. One perilous and/or absurd situation dovetails into the next without fuss or muss. The big turn happens when Sasha meets teenage Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard)at a group meeting for depressed and suicidal people. The sequence is a letter perfect parody of smug, rosy-eyed therapy sessions. Sasha confesses that if she doesn’t perform a certain bad act, she will die. The group leader ignores the implications.

Meanwhile, Paul, rather than attaining “positivity” about coping with a miserable, bullied outsider life, says “Death can be an interesting solution.” Sasha and Paul gaze at each, smitten. She needs to kill; he wants to die. The movie mockingly depicts a teen world that is relentlessly and stupidly cruel. All the boys are idiotic wannabe party animals. Sasha and Paul, as their relationship blossoms, become the ultimate misfits endangered by the goons.

Naturally, Sasha has a huge collection of vinyl. In a key scene, she lip-synchs to a 50s-style love song, and then in one shot, they’re ready for consummation. He tilts his head back ready for her bite. The scene is a witty take-off of first teenage sex, complete with hesitation.

Of course, Sasha and Paul can’t do without one another, and the story heads toward an ironic, touching, and entirely logical resolution.

Humanist Vampire is scheduled for release October 13, 2023.

Northernstars logo image Maurie Alioff is a film journalist, critic, screenwriter and media columnist. He has written for radio and television and taught screenwriting at Montreal’s Vanier College. A former editor for Cinema Canada and Take One, as well as other magazines, he is affiliated with the Quebec media industry publication, CTVM.Info. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Canadian Cinematographer, POV Magazine, and The New York Times. He is the Québec Correspondent for northernstars.ca.

Fall 2023 Film Festival Roundup

Fall 2023 Film Festival Roundup, image, news,
Promotional still for La passion de Dodin Bouffant (The Taste of Things).

Fall 2023 Film Festival Roundup
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(September 22, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Earlier this month I mentioned I’d be updating information about some of the fall film festivals we’ve been listing for years. Fall arrives tomorrow, and I’m a little late getting to this.

First, a change. For years we have also listed non-Canadian film festivals, but the task of keeping up with what was screening where and trying to ascertain if the opening and/or closing dates had changed, it just became too much. Since our focus has always been on Canadian film and filmmakers, as Publisher I decided our focus on festivals would also be strictly Canadian.

Secondly, I apologize to mobile users for any issues you’re having with our website. We are aware of the problem and have been trying to figure out what went wrong and why, so when it gets fixed it doesn’t break again. To see the full page of cast and crew information for films or someone’s filmography, please use a desktop computer.

I am pleased to announce that we will soon begin to redesign and rebuild the website and I hope work on that will begin in early October. Earlier this year we registered the domain filmfestivalscanada.com and I hope we can spin off our film festival lists into a far more robust, functional and attractive website. Northernstars.ca will continue covering film festival news from coast-to-coast. Okay. Here goes…

First up, I must mention a new film festival and a new film contest I heard about from the Montreal Film Industry Network. The challenge, open to Québec residents only for this particular event, is to produce a short film, no longer than 5 minutes and with a budget not to exceed $200. They are looking for something weird to reflect the festival, which is the Festival Cabane à Sang. They’ve been celebrating short horror and sci-fi films since 2017. You have fewer than 40 days to enter. Those shorts selected by the judges will screen on December 1st of this year. The next festival is in May, 2024.

October begins with some major film festivals being carried over from September. These include the Edmonton and Calgary festivals, which kicked off yesterday and end on October 1st and 2nd, respectively. Also ending on October 1st is the Montréal International Black Film Festival and the Toronto Palestine Film Festival.

The Vancouver International Film Festival starts on September 28 and continues to until October 8. The opening film is the Finland/German copro Fallen Leaves (aka Kuolleet Lehdet) directed by Aki Kaurismäki. It will close with La passion de Dodin Bouffant (aka The Taste of Things, pictured above) from Tran Anh Hùng, the same film that will open Le Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.

Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, movie, image, documentary,

Canadian films on VIFF’s schedule include Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, Seven Veils, Swan Song and Close to You, among others.

The first new festival of October is, appropriately, Le Festival du Nouveau Cinéma. It runs from October 4 to 15 and as mentioned kicks off with La passion de Dodin Bouffant (The Taste of Things) from Tran Anh Hùng at the Cinéma Impérial. Shot in France and running 134 minutes, it will be followed by an opening night “soirée” at 10PM that is free to attend.

Some of the larger festivals, in terms of length, include Toronto’s The Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival, Planet in Focus, which should be a “must attend” as it is now totally apparent our planet is no longer in focus, and the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

Fall 2023 Film Festival Roundup, Fancy Dance, movie, image,

imagineNATIVE opens with the US production Fancy Dance (pictured above). The 145 minute feature in Cayuga and English tells the story of Jax (played by Lily Gladstone). Since her sister went missing, she has cared for her niece Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson) by scraping by on the Seneca-Cayuga Reservation in Oklahoma. Every spare minute goes into finding her missing sister while also helping Roki prepare for an upcoming powwow. At the risk of losing custody to Jax’s father, the pair hit the road and scour the backcountry to track down Roki’s mother in time for the powwow. What begins as a search gradually turns into a far deeper investigation into the complexities and contradictions of Indigenous women moving through a colonized world and at the mercy of a failed justice system. Directed by Erica Tremblay it screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox at 7PM on October 17.

Fall 2023 Film Festival Roundup, Party Pirate, movie, image,

Shorter, but no less important October festivals include the Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ film festival in Ottawa. It runs for 4 days, October 6 to 8. The Toronto Art House Film Festival also runs 4 days, October 17 to 20. 

Running for October 17 to 21, the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. The opening night Gala is a screening of Ruth Lawrence’s Party Pirate (pictured above). Synopsis: When Tommy is fired twice in the same week and finds out his brilliant best friend and lifeline, Costa, is leaving the country for a better job, he seizes an opportunity to prove his worth by taking his friends on a trip – in a stolen boat. Look for a hilarious cameo by none other than Mary Walsh. The festival launches on Tuesday, October 17 and Party Pirate unspools at the Majestic Theatre at 7PM.

In short, between September festivals drifting into October and October festival getting started, there are 19 film festivals worth investigating and, I am proud to say, they range from coast to coast, from St.John’s to Victoria, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. There’s a lot to see on screen across Canada. Click here for links to our October Film Festivals.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is a former broadcast executive and award-winning director in high-end corporate video production. The founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca, online since 1998, he began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.



Legacy Awards – Coming Soon

Legacy Awards - Coming Soon, image, news,

Legacy Awards – Coming Soon
by Staff Editors

(September 18, 2023 – Toronto, ON) With the rush and bother of TIFF behind us, it’s time to look at another major September event, the 2nd annual Legacy Awards to be held at Live Nation Canada’s HISTORY.

The Legacy Awards is an offshoot of The Black Academy, established in 2020, a membership-based, national, year-round Canadian organization that operates at the intersection of Black popular culture and social justice. It celebrates, empowers, and showcases Black Canadian talent and inspires generations to come. Co-founded by actors, producers, and Scarborough-born brothers Shamier Anderson and Stephan James, The Black Academy is born out of a longstanding commitment to their community and is dedicated to dismantling systemic racism in Canada.

Last month, The Legacy Awards announced the names of the first four recipients of the 2023 Legacy Awards, pictured above: Canadian screen industry godmother Tonya Williams, legendary filmmaker Julien Christian Lutz (pka Director X), platinum-selling artist Jully Black, and rising star LU KALA.

Tonya Williams will receive the 2023 Visionary Award, for her “exceptional leadership, contagious tenacity, innovation, activism, and fierce dedication to uplifting communities of colour.”

Director X, (Julien Christian Lutz) will receive the 2023 Trailblazer Award for “creating some of the most indelible music videos ever, for pioneering a visual aesthetic that is both lauded and much-copied, and for his enduring impact and mentorship.”

Jully Black will be recognized with the 2023 Icon Award for “all her music and unforgettable live performances, her stamina and lasting popularity, and for her ally-ship and the impact she has made internationally.

LU KALA will receive the 2023 Emerging Artist Award Recipient for “creating upbeat, infectious songs of female empowerment, her undeniable talent, and for all she will inevitably accomplish in the future.”

Many other awards will be handed out during a live broadcast on CBC and CBC Gem on Sunday, September 24, 2023, at 8 p.m. ET. Click here to vote for The Digital Creator Fan Choice Award. Click here for tickets.

The Legacy Awards is executive produced by Shamier Anderson and Stephan James of The Black Academy and Bay Mills Studios. John Brunton, Lindsay Cox, and Shannon Farr are the executive producers for Insight Productions (a Boat Rocker company). Jordan Rudder is the producer/talent producer and André Williams is the line producer. Daniel Abrams also serves as EP. For CBC, Sally Catto is General Manager, Entertainment, Factual & Sports; Jennifer Dettman is Executive Director, Unscripted Content; and Nic Meloney is Executive in Charge of Production, Unscripted Content. The 2023 edition of The Legacy Awards marks the second of an exclusive three-year partnership with CBC.

TIFF Final – Awards 2023

Solo, movie, image, news,

TIFF Final – Awards 2023
by Staff Editors

(September 18, 2023 – Toronto, ON) The 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) came to a close last night. As is the tradition of the festival, a variety of awards were handed out in the closing hours. The big news, for us anyway, was the naming of Sophie Dupuis’ Solo as Best Canadian Feature Film. The announcement was made at the TIFF 2023 Awards Breakfast by the jury of V.T. Nayani, Susan Maggi, and Ricardo Acosta. Starring Théodore Pellerin, Félix Maritaud, Vlad Alexis and Anne-Marie Cadieux, Solo is a vibrant coming-of-age story taking place in Montréal’s drag community.

The jury statement read, in part, “Sophie Dupuis’s Solo is a specifically intimate and deeply affecting film, full of palpable care and honesty. Whatever your entry point to this film, there is a place for you as part of a larger story and conversation, which is more critical than ever. This coming-of-age narrative is ultimately a film about family, both blood and chosen, and the complications and beauties of both. And it is a story of love, in all of its iterations, of how it can both fail us and set us free.”

“I am thrilled with this honour and I share it with the cast and crew who became my family while filming,” said Dupuis. “Solo is a story of the universal themes of love, intimacy and healing that connects us all.”

Produced by Étienne Hansez on behalf of Bravo Charlie, with the financial participation of SODEC, Telefilm Canada, Société Radio-Canada and Super Ecran, Solo is distributed in Canada by Axia Films. The film is currently playing in Québec and will open in the rest of Canada on October 6, 2023. Also read our review of Solo, by Québec correspondent Maurie Alioff, who was in Toronto to cover the festival.

Kanaval, which was also reviewed for us by Maurie Alioff, was honoured with the Amplify Voices Award for Best BIPOC Canadian Feature. The film also picked up an Honourable Mention for Best Canadian Feature Film. The story behind the film inspired by writer-director Henri Pardo’s own story of his family immigrating to Canada from Haiti in the 70’s.

“I salute all the BIPOC filmmakers at TIFF 2023, their presence and determination encourage me to shout out who I am and where I come from,” said Henri Pardo.

Motherland, set in 1979 at the height of the Iran hostage crisis and featuring Behtash Fazlali, was named Best Canadian Short Film. “I’m incredibly honoured to win the Best Canadian Short Film this year at TIFF. Motherland is a very personal story for me honouring my father, an Iranian immigrant who was on the ground in the US during the height of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis,” said writer-director Jasmin Mozaffari. “I hope this story is a reminder of the journey of diaspora from the perspective of Iranian storytellers and a reminder of the strength and resilience of the Iranian people.”

Seagrass, movie, image,

Seagrass, which premiered to a sold out crowd on September 8th, 2023 as a part of TIFF’s Discovery Programme, has won the International Film Critics Awards FIPRESCI Prize. The award, which promotes film-art and new and young cinema, was selected by a jury of members of the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique (FIPRESCI), which consists of international film journalists and is awarded at international film festivals or at film festivals of particular importance. Written and directed by Meredith Hama-Brown, it is her debut feature film. It will also sceen at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Tautuktavuk (What We See), co-directed by Lucy Tulugarjuk (Tia and Piujuq, One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner) and Carol Kunnuk (Welcome to my Qammaq, Being Prepared, Attagatuluk), won the Amplify Voices BIPOC & Canadian First Feature Award presented by Canada Goose. It will also be screening at the Atlantic International Film Festival (AIFF) and due to the hurricane, the screening has been rescheduled for 6:15 PM on Wednesday, Sept. 20 in Cinema Park Lane Theatre 2.

Also, TIFF 2023 People’s Choice Award was given to Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction. First Runner-up was Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers and the Second Runner-up: Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron, which opened the 48th edition of the festiva.

TIFF 2023 People’s Choice Documentary Award was given to Robert McCallum’s Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe. First Runner-up was Jen Markowitz’s Summer Qamp and the Second Runner-up was Lucy Walker’s Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa.

TIFF 2023 People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award went to Larry Charles’s Dicks: The Musical. First Runner-up was Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s KILL and the Second Runner-up was Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk’s Hell of a Summer.

SOURCE: TIFF 2023

TIFF #48 – It’s a Wrap

Quiz Lady, Sandra Oh, Tiff, news, image,

TIFF #48 – It’s a Wrap
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent

(September 17, 2023 – Toronto, ON) The last day of the festival is also the day you can see films for free, at least the TIFF2023 People’s Choice Award (yet to be announced).

On the Canadian film front (and who’s to say the People’s Choice Award won’t go to a Canadian film) there is one more screening of Quiz Lady.

Quiz Lady, poster, Sandra Oh, Sandra Oh and Awkwafina star as sisters, Jenny (Oh) and Anne (Awkwafina). Anne is the younger, smart, well-behaved, and organized to the point of being obsessive. Jenny is her sisters opposite. She’s the rebel, reckless and not unafraid to do whatever is necessary to get what she wants. When the women’s mother goes missing from her retirement home, the sisters must work together to find her, bring her back and drum up the money for her care. Their best chance is to have reserved; homebody Anne compete in a television quiz show (modelled loosely on Jeopardy! with Will Ferrell stepping in doing a vague non-specific version of the late Alex Trebek) that Anne has watched religiously without fail since a little girl. But Anne does not want to appear on television, and Jenny is not capable of taking no for an answer.

Quiz Lady is broad comedy with a few hardly laughs but much of the humour gets lost in Oh’s and Awkwafina’s blustering performance. Their physical take on comedy seems to be based on a belief that frantic and loud is funnier than quiet and subtle. But director Jessica Yu does find places in the film where Oh’s and Awkwafina’s energies meet—Awkwafina auditioning while stoned is one such moment—and in those moment the film soars.  

Your last chance to catch Quiz Lady at the festival is at 3 pm this afternoon at the Scotiabank Theatre.

Northernstars logo imageThom Ernst is a Toronto based film critic and writer and an active member of the (TFCA) Toronto Film Critics’ Association. His work has appeared in various publications including Playback Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. He is known to CBC Radio listeners for his lively contributions to Fresh Air, Metro Morning, and CBC Syndication as well as appearing on-air for CTV News Channel and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He was host, interviewer and producer of televisions’ longest running movie program Saturday Night at the Movies. Currently he can be heard interviewing Canadian filmmakers on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival podcast, Rewind, Fast-Forward.

I Am Sirat

I Am Sirat, movie, image,
Image courtesy of TIFF.

87 minutes – Documentary, LGBTQ2+,
Language: Punjabi, English subtitles
Festival release date: September 14, 2023 – TIFF (World Premiere)
Release date: TBA
Production company: NHNT Productions Ontario Inc.
Canadian distributor:

Caught between duty and self-determination, Sirat Taneja is a transgender woman who must act as her mother’s son when at home in New Delhi, but can be the woman she really is with her friends and at work with the Government of India. A collaboration between director Deepa Mehta and Sirat, the film has been constructed around Sirat’s lens. Shot on smartphones, Sirat controls her narrative and makes it accessible to its viewers.

No Poster Available, Northernstars, image,

Crew:

Producer:

David Hamilton

Executive Producer:

Geeta Sondhi
Dilip Mehta

Associate Producer:

Neil Mathieson

Director:

Deepa Mehta
Sirat Taneja

Cinematographer:

Deepa Mehta
Sirat Taneja

Editor:

Kabir Singh Chowdhry

Production Designer:

Maithili Venkataraman

Cast: Roles:

Sirat Taneja

TIFF #48 – Day 10

Hell of a Summer, movie, image,

TIFF #48 – Day 10
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent

(September 16, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Billy Bryk and Finn Wolfhard co-write, codirect, and co-star in Hell of a Summer, a satirical tip-of-the-old hatchet to 70s camp-counselor slasher flicks. Despite taking the lead in nearly all aspects of the film, neither Wolfhard nor Bryk assigns themselves starring roles. Hell of a Summer, movie, poster, They generously pawn that role onto Fred Hechinger who plays Jason, a too-eager, too-friendly, too-old, 6-year camp veteran. Jason is everyone’s kicking bag, and he barely notices it; or does he? Being the summer camp scapegoat just might be reason enough to start secretly slaughtering camp staff.

Hell of a Summer works as a low-grade mystery; with a ‘who’s the killer?’ vibe. The movie clocks in with more pranks than kills, coasting on a goofy charm even while skewering the characters with sharp objects. Bryk and Wolfhard (pictured above) envelop some minor social issues about beauty and the drive for infamy, but their efforts to be relevant come second to their efforts to be fun and to keep their inner Friday the 13th close at hand.

Hell of a Summer gets its final screening today at 4:30 pm Scotiabank Theatre 7.

Swan Song at TIFF, movie, image,

The final screening of Swan Song, a documentary around the rehearsals leading to The National Ballet of Canada’s production of Karen Kain’s direction of Swan Lake. Directed by Chelsea McMullan who co-directed the documentary Ever Deadly with Tanya Tagaq which screened at TIFF22.

Swan Song is in a word phenomenal. It’s an exhilarating, thorough (or so it seems from an outsider’s perspective), frank, revealing, and beautiful film. McMullan has perfectly chosen the right characters to tell this story. Karen Kain, of course. But here too is the principal dancer, Jurgita Dronina, and two young BIPOC dancers.

The film rewards viewers with breathtaking access to the lives of the dancers, choreographers, and director. But it’s the way the camera catches the dancers in motion.

Swan Song exceeds the expectations of film to become an experience.

Deepa Mehta’s I Am Sirat screens for the last time at noon today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Finally, a shout-out to my colleague, Norm Wilner who has programmed some of the festival’s better selections this year, and then went a step further proving himself to be one helluva congenial, crowd-pleasing festival host. Norm’s lively, heart-felt enthusiasm before every film he introduces is infectious. Wilner reminds you that film festivals are fun.

Northernstars logo imageThom Ernst is a Toronto based film critic and writer and an active member of the (TFCA) Toronto Film Critics’ Association. His work has appeared in various publications including Playback Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. He is known to CBC Radio listeners for his lively contributions to Fresh Air, Metro Morning, and CBC Syndication as well as appearing on-air for CTV News Channel and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He was host, interviewer and producer of televisions’ longest running movie program Saturday Night at the Movies. Currently he can be heard interviewing Canadian filmmakers on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival podcast, Rewind, Fast-Forward.

Hell of a Summer

Hell of a Summer, movie, image,

88 minutes – Comedy, Horror
Language: English
Festival release date: September 10, 2023 – TIFF (World Premiere)
Release date: TBA
Production companies: Aggregate Films, 30West, Parts & Labor, Kid Brother Productions
Canadian distributor:

Jason Hochberg (played by Fred Hechinger) is a 24-year-old counsellor at his beloved Camp Pineway. The oldest person around, he feels out of touch surrounded by teenage co-workers. The plot thickens as he is totally unaware that a masked killer has murdered camp owners John and Kathy and…is preparing to strike again. Hell of a Summer marks the directorial debut from actors Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk, and is a United States-Canada co-production with an international cast and crew.

Also see: TIFF #48 – Day 10.

Hell of a Summer, 2023 movie, poster,

Crew:

Producer:

Fred Hechinger
Jay Van Hoy

Executive Producer:

Jason Bateman
Drew Brennan
Michael Costigan
Micah Green
Sarah Hong
Kristy Neville
Daniel Steinman

Co-Producer:

Trevor Groth
Maren Olson

Line Producer:

Gharrett Patrick Paon

Director:

Finn Wolfhard
Billy Bryk

Screenwriter:

Finn Wolfhard
Billy Bryk

Cinematographer:

Kristofer Bonnell

Editor:

Christine Armstrong
David Marks

Composer:

Jay McCarrol

Cast: Roles:

Fred Hechinger
Abby Quinn
Billy Bryk
Finn Wolfhard
Pardis Saremi
D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai
Krista Nazaire
Matthew Finlan
Julia Lalonde
Daniel Gravelle
Julia Doyle
Susan Coyne
Rosebud Baker
Adam Pally

Jason
Claire
Bobby
Chris
Demi
Mike
Shannon
Ezra
Noelle
Ari
Miley


Simple comme Sylvain

110 minutes – Romantic comedy
Language: French, English subtitles
Festival release date: – May 18, 2023 – Cannes Film Festival
Release date: September 22, 2023 – Québec
Production companies: Metafilms, MK2 Films
Québec distributor: Immina Films
International sales: MK2 Films

Sophia, 40 ans, qui souffre en permanence de migraines, professeure de philosophie à l’université du troisième âge, vit en couple depuis dix ans avec Xavier, professeur de science politique. Ils ont une vie confortable et leur couple est plutôt stable malgré une vie sexuelle en veilleuse. Ils ne s’en plaignent pas, mais visiblement, quelque chose est bien éteint de ce côté-là. En contrepartie, ils ont une vie sociale riche et heureuse entre leurs amis et beaux-parents respectifs. L’existence de Sophia bascule le jour où elle fait la rencontre de Sylvain, un entrepreneur des Laurentides aux antipodes de son mode de vie. À l’aube de l’hiver, elle quittera tout pour vivre cette passion brûlante. Peut-être la dernière de sa vie.

– –

Simple comme Sylvain, aka The Nature of Love (which enjoyed a 7 minute standing ovation at Cannes) is a rather complex observation of infidelity (or at least the perception of infidelity) and class conflict. Magalie Lépine Blondeau stars as Sophia, a professor who is smitten by Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) the contractor—masculine, capable, confident, and rural—who’s been hired to fix up the summer place Sophia shares with her partner. The romance is hot and heavy, which Chokri directs her characters to dive into with inhibited passion. But can passion withstand disparaging glances from the academics who flaunt their perceived intellectual superiority at dinner parties? Simple comme Sylvain manages both humour and charm despite putting its characters through a gauntlet of misgivings, failures and frustrations. – Thom Ernst, for Northernstars.ca

Crew:

Producer:

Sylvain Corbeil
Nancy Grant
Nathanaël Karmitz

Director:

Monia Chokri

Screenwriter:

Monia Chokri

Story Editor:

Nathalie Paquette

Cinematographer:

André Turpin

Editor:

Pauline Gaillard

Composer:

Emile Sornin

Production Designer:

Colombe Raby

Art Director:

Kimberley Thibodeau

Costume Designer:

Guillaume Laflamme

Cast: Roles:

Magalie Lépine-Blondeau
Pierre-Yves Cardinal
Francis-William Rhéaume
Monia Chokri
Steve Laplante
Marie-Ginette Guay
Micheline Lanctot
Guillaume Laurin
Linda Sorgini
Mathieu Baron
Christine Beaulieu
Lubna Playoust
Guy Thauvette
Karelle Tremblay

Sophia
Sylvain
Xavier
Françoise
Phillipe
Sylvie
Madeleine
Olivier
Guylaine
Kevin
Karine
Josephine
Pierre
Camelia

Mademoiselle Kenopsia: Who Is In There?

Mademoiselle Kenopsia: Who Is In There?, movie, image, review,

Mademoiselle Kenopsia: Who Is In There?
Review by Maurie Alioff

(September 15, 2023 – Toronto, ON) A TIFF regular, who has screened at Cannes and frequently the Locarno Film Festival, Denis Côté couldn’t make Tiff 2023 because he’s recovering from a kidney transplant. At a screening of his latest low budget, unconventional film, Mademoiselle Kenopsia, he introduced the movie via video he shot himself. Frank about what he’s been through recently, Côté says that his latest is more about atmosphere than narrative, but that’s not entirely true.

The movie does open with a very long hold on a vacant, derelict space. Another room is dominated by fluorescent light and the noise it makes. Côté transitions to montages of more empty spaces, and eventually shadows, light moving on walls, and an industrial hum. He focuses on a dismantled door, peeling paint, a tree through window (one of the few glimpses of nature), and so on. The images become evocative abstract art, both seductive and unsettling.

Mademoiselle Kenopsia: Who Is In There?, Larissa Corrriveau, image, review,
Photo of Lariss Corriveau © by Maurie Alioff at TIFF #48, 2023.
Mademoiselle Kenopsia (Côté regular Larissa Corriveau) is at first the only occupant of the abandoned whatever-it-is. She wanders around examining the rooms, the shadows, some kind of electrical energy sparking on a door. For much of the film, she talks on one of several phones to a person or entity, perhaps some kind of authority. Her monologues recall Jean Cocteau’s The Human Voice (La Voix humaine) in which a young woman dumped by a lover talks on a telephone about her suicide attempt.

With a fixed gaze, Mademoiselle Kenopsia tells her listener that the booming sounds we hear might be the “wind inside.” She philosophizes with one idea tumbling after another. Life is like a thriller trailer that moves too slow, she says. She wants to fast forward to 2050 and see what happens.

Is anybody listening? Who is she talking to? Is the wind a hallucination? Is she? If the place is haunted, is she the ghost? Did Côté make a movie from the “pov of a sad ghost in The Shining?” as a Tiff interviewer said in a Q and A.

Mademoiselle Kenopsia, movie, image, review,

Clues do suggest that Mademoiselle Kenopsia is a spirit. “I don’t have access to everything,” she says at one point. (A ghost wouldn’t.) She also believes people only remember a few highlight moments from life. The rest is To Do lists. “It’s as if the spaces don’t want us to leave,” she says. Each new person that comes in is like a fresh coat of paint.

In fact, other people do show up. An elegantly dressed woman needs a light for cigarette and talks about passion. In a comic episode, a tradesman on a ladder installs a video camera. “They” told him to do it. Mademoiselle Kenopsia stares at him to the beat of a techno track and the words, “You are magnificent inside me.” Eventually, the guy fixes a doorknob and evaluates the space for possible renovations! Is there a toilet, he asks. No, she answers. As for her body functions, “I have my ways.”

Whatever is real or unreal in Denis Côté’s movie, it embeds itself in your consciousness, a mind-altering meditation. You close your eyes for a second, and you see your own spaces and phantoms.

Images courtesy of TIFF 2023. Click here to watch the trailer and learn more about Mademoiselle Kenopsia.

Northernstars logo image Maurie Alioff is a film journalist, critic, screenwriter and media columnist. He has written for radio and television and taught screenwriting at Montreal’s Vanier College. A former editor for Cinema Canada and Take One, as well as other magazines, he is affiliated with the Quebec media industry publication, CTVM.Info. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Canadian Cinematographer, POV Magazine, and The New York Times. He is the Québec Correspondent for northernstars.ca.

TIFF #48 – Day 9

TIFF #48, image, Summer Qamp, movie, news,

TIFF #48 – Day 9
By Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent

(September 15, 2023 – Toronto, ON) To be a working critic at a film festival is a privilege. To express it as anything else would be ungrateful. I attribute that sentiment to a tweet film critic Richard Crouse posted a few years back, something to the effect that “whoever complains about the number of films they’ve seen, the crowds they’ve fought, the line-ups they waited in, how tired they are, or how poorly they’ve been eating, will immediately be unfollowed.”

Crouse had worded it better but the point (as I understand it) is, if you make your living by going to the movies, then you have no complaint.

It’s been my privilege for many years. And an even greater privilege to cover Canadian cinema.

I can’t confidently state that the Canadian films are stronger in TIFF2023 than any other year, but I can confidently state that the Canadian films in TIFF2023 are strong. And there is more to come.

A film mentioned in an earlier column, is Summer Qamp from director Jen Markowitz. For reasons that remain my own, I re-watch Summer Qamp; let’s just say, the opportunity arose, and I grabbed it. Markowitz’s film is filled with so much affection and affirmation that the camp would do well to hand out registration forms with every ticket.

Summer Qamp, movie, image,

The camp is for kids who are in transition, or have transitioned, and all other factions falling beneath the LGBTQ2S umbrella. The camp is in rural Alberta, a hub, as one subject mentions, for Christian beliefs and conservative values (or was it the other way around?). But Summer Qamp is not about the friction between locals and campers. The movie’s about the campers. There’s not even a lot of staff appearing on camera to interfere with the experience.

What Summer Qamp does well, is give voice—a strong, self-assured, yet vulnerable voice—to the subjects. Markowitz captures these youth in the act of being themselves; smart, witty, authentic, articulate, and not the crushed wounded souls some of us might imagine.

Sadly, I come to you with this information late. Summer Qamp is no longer at the festival. It is now up to the airwaves as to where and when you can see this gem of a documentary.

Swan Song, an inside look at Karen Kain’s rehearsal leading up to the 2022 production of Swan Lake, is getting rave notices from critics and festival goers.

Films that are screening today:

RU, 11:30 am, Scotia 12
Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, 11:40 am, Scotia 14
Hate to Love: Nickelback, 11:40 am, Scotia 12
In Flames, 12:20 pm, Scotia 13
Swan Song, 1 pm, Scotia 1
I Am Sirat, 4:15 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
Telling Our Story, 7:35 pm, Scotia 11
Black Life: Untold Stories, Scotia 6
The Dead Don’t Hurt, 8:45 pm, Scotia 3
Short Cuts 2023 Programme 5, 9:15 pm, Scotia 13
The Nature of Love, 9:15 pm, Scotia 10
Backspot, 9:45, Scotia 14

Images courtesy of TIFF.

Northernstars logo imageThom Ernst is a Toronto based film critic and writer and an active member of the (TFCA) Toronto Film Critics’ Association. His work has appeared in various publications including Playback Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. He is known to CBC Radio listeners for his lively contributions to Fresh Air, Metro Morning, and CBC Syndication as well as appearing on-air for CTV News Channel and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He was host, interviewer and producer of televisions’ longest running movie program Saturday Night at the Movies. Currently he can be heard interviewing Canadian filmmakers on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival podcast, Rewind, Fast-Forward.

TIFF #48 – Day 8

The Nature of Love, movie, image, news, Tiff #48, Day 8,
Magalie Lépine Blondeau and Pierre-Yves Cardinal in Simple comme Sylvain.

TIFF #48 – Day 8
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent

(September 14, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Director Monia Chokri tackles the romantic comedy with The Nature of Love, titled Simple comme Sylvain in French. In its way, The Nature of Love is a rather complex observation of infidelity (or at least the perception of infidelity) and class conflict.

The Nature of Love, movie, image, news, Tiff #48, Day 8, Magalie Lépine Blondeau,

Magalie Lépine Blondeau stars as Sophia, a professor who is smitten by Sylvain (a charismatic performance from Pierre-Yves Cardinal) the contractor—masculine, capable, confident, and rural—who’s been hired to fixiup the summer place Sophia shares with her partner. The romance is hot and heavy, which Chokri directs her characters to dive into with inhibited passion. But can passion withstand disparaging glances from the academics who flaunt their perceived intellectual superiority at dinner parties? The Nature of Love manages both humour and charm despite putting its characters through a gauntlet of misgivings, failures and frustrations.

The Nature of Love screens:
Thursday, September 14 at 4:00pm at the Scotiabank Theatre
Friday, September 15 at 9:15 pm, at Scotiabank Theatre.

Quick takes: Other Canadian Features (and shorts) to watch out for today:

RU, 11 am, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
In Flames, 2 pm, Scotiabank 3
I Am Sirat, 6 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Mademoiselle Kenopsia, 8 pm, Scotiabank 12

Meteor and Gaby’s Hills are part of the Short Cuts Programme 01, 6:15 pm, at Scotiabank 13.




Northernstars logo imageThom Ernst is a Toronto based film critic and writer and an active member of the (TFCA) Toronto Film Critics’ Association. His work has appeared in various publications including Playback Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. He is known to CBC Radio listeners for his lively contributions to Fresh Air, Metro Morning, and CBC Syndication as well as appearing on-air for CTV News Channel and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He was host, interviewer and producer of televisions’ longest running movie program Saturday Night at the Movies. Currently he can be heard interviewing Canadian filmmakers on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival podcast, Rewind, Fast-Forward.

Kanaval: In a Strange Land

Kanaval, movie, review, image, news,
Images courtesy of TIFF 2023.

Henri Pardo’s Kanaval: In a Strange Land
By Maurie Alioff

(September 13, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Set in 1975, the unusual Tiff selection Kanaval focuses on Haiti, one of the most troubled countries on earth, while conflating it with Quebec. Pardo’s movie, which veers between ultra-realism and fantasy, was supported by The Canadian Film Centre/Netflix Project Development Accelerator Program. With its measureless international reach, Netflix can think beyond conventional distribution and exhibition.

While Kanaval does not explore the island’s history, the movie’s Haitians obviously live with the impact of legacy. The African born slaves of Haiti were the first Caribbeans to lead a revolt against their European colonial masters, the French, succeed and establish a republic. Nearby Jamaicans also rebelled against their monstrously cruel British enslavers – a punishment device called the “treadmill” forced victims to walk for hours while they were molested, beaten, and whipped.

But while Jamaican “Maroons” succeeded in overcoming English armies and carving out free territories, Jamaicans, while freed from slavery in 1838, remained under British control until 1962. Sugar plantations on both Haiti and Jamaica provided the French and the British with the sweetener they craved in their lovely pastries and cups of tea. Plantation owners and importers made spectacular fortunes.

When Haiti achieved its status as an independent republic in 1804, eventually the French terms demanded massive compensatory payments that crippled and impoverished the island to this day. Over the years, Haiti has also suffered numerous epidemics, earthquakes, famines, criminality, and violent dictators like Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier. In 2023, it is deemed a failed nation.

Kanaval, movie, image,
Image courtesy of TIFF 2023.

Kanaval plays out from the point-of-view of a young boy, Rico (Rayan Dieudonné). A child with an active imagination, the film introduces him in screen-filling closeups, his face full of wonder, eager to enjoy the annual kanaval (the Creole word for carnival). Pardo offers glimpses of the event: the drumming, dancing, the masks and costumes some of them jokingly mocking authority figures, the hints of magic.

For Rico however, something is amiss. His pregnant mother Erzuile (Penande Estime), insists that he stay away from the kanaval. “We don’t know who is whom tonight!”, she says. Something could happen, a warning she doesn’t explain.

In follow-up reaction closeups, Rico is confronted by a horrific sight in total contrast with the wonders of the carnival. Erzuile is being beaten, tortured by thugs with clubs. We discover she’s been condemned as an activist who teaches “communism” to her students.

Kanaval, movie, image,
Image courtesy of TIFF 2023

The movie segués from drums and tropical heat to Rico and Erzuile crossing a snowy track in rural Quebec. Mother and son have run for their lives. Without much exposition about how they got of Haiti, or why they chose the Quebec countryside, mother and son are ensconced in the comfortable house of an elderly couple, Albert (Martin Dubreuil) and Cécile (Claire Jacques). They have no children, and for them Rico is like a gift from God. Cécile is all hugs, kisses, and comforting embraces. Albert takes Rico hunting and teaches him the ways of the woods.

Kanaval, movie, image,
Image courtesy of TIFF 2023

For much of the film, Albert and Cecile, who would fit into the classic Quebec TV series, Les Plouffes, are kind and welcoming, a little too much so from my perspective. Maybe there’s a bit of White Saviour attitude going down.

Of course, rural Quebec turns out to have snakes in the grass. The film turns into a depiction of black refugee/immigrants in a white world. Rico gets ridiculed by a blatant racist (Sylvain Massé), who at best thinks black people are funny. In the 1950s, there would have been a lawn jockey adorning his house, and he would have taken his kids to a restaurant called Sambo. Even worse, sneering cracker kids attack Rico amd shove him into shit. Erzuile, who has become distant, blames him for the mess, and orders him to get a strap for punishment.

Pressure builds on Rico to the point he commiserates with an imaginary friend, a horned alter ego out of myth, or a carnival. Mother and son escaped a trap, and now they are snagged in another one. Haiti was dangerous, but in the Quebec countryside they are aliens who are not entirely at home. They need to make another move.

Images courtesy of TIFF

Northernstars logo image Maurie Alioff is a film journalist, critic, screenwriter and media columnist. He has written for radio and television and taught screenwriting at Montreal’s Vanier College. A former editor for Cinema Canada and Take One, as well as other magazines, he is affiliated with the Quebec media industry publication, CTVM.Info. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Canadian Cinematographer, POV Magazine, and The New York Times. He is the Québec Correspondent for northernstars.ca.

TIFF #48 – Day 7

TIFF 48, RU, movie, image, news,

TIFF #48 – Day 7
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent

(September 13, 2023 – Toronto ON) The writer’s strike, which has inadvertently cleared a path to consider other roles in the filmmaking process aside from actors and directors, has me thinking about Canadian screenwriters.

Last year, Women Talking premiered at TIFF to great acclaim and went on to earn Sarah Polley, who writes and directs, an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. It’s with the writers in mind that I approach today’s screenings.

Albert Shin is a festival favourite and a known commodity coming out of the Canadian independent filmmaker community. Shin co-wrote The King Tide with William Woods from a story by Kevin Coughlin and Ryan Grassby.

Directed by Christian Sparks, The King Tide tells a contemporary fable of an infant who mysteriously (magically?) appears on the shores of an East Coast community, changes lives, and then, as though reminding us that ‘no good deed goes unpunished’, faces possible persecution from the people she’s helped.

Evidence of the screenwriters—specifically Shin—reverberates in themes of immigration, fear of the unknown, and belonging. Shin left his mark as both screenwriter and director on the Canadian cinema landscape with In Her Place (2014) and Disappearance at Clifton Hill (2019).

The King Tide screens
Wednesday, September 13 at 2:50pm at Scotiabank Theatre.

Director Charles-Olivier Michaud’s RU (still image above) is a story of kindness and compassion as seen through the eyes of a young immigrant who relocates to rural Quebec. In keeping with our acknowledgments of a film’s screenwriter, it’s noted that Michaud is credited as screenwriter, along with Kim Thûy and Jacques Davidts (the latter whose work includes writing Denis Villeneuve’s film Polytechnique).

RU screens:
Wednesday, September 13 at 8:30pm at Scotiabank Theatre
Thursday, September 14 at 11:30 am at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

Director Denis Côté’s Mademoiselle Kenopsia starring Larissa Corriveau gets its first of two screenings tonight. No need to highlight the screenwriter here, as it happens that Côté steps into both the director’s and the writer‘s limelights.

Mademoiselle Kenopsia screens:

Wednesday, September 13 at 1:00pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday, September 14 at 8:00pm at Scotiabank Theatre

Northernstars logo imageThom Ernst is a Toronto based film critic and writer and an active member of the (TFCA) Toronto Film Critics’ Association. His work has appeared in various publications including Playback Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. He is known to CBC Radio listeners for his lively contributions to Fresh Air, Metro Morning, and CBC Syndication as well as appearing on-air for CTV News Channel and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He was host, interviewer and producer of televisions’ longest running movie program Saturday Night at the Movies. Currently he can be heard interviewing Canadian filmmakers on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival podcast, Rewind, Fast-Forward.

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