TIFF: Day 7 lookahead

cooking-with-stella-392.jpg An honest nanny (Shriya Saran) threatens the security of duplicitous cook Stella when the two work for a Canadian diplomat posted to New Dehli in Dilip Mehta's Cooking with Stella. (Mongrel Media)

Clooney, Damon, Soderbergh et al. have long since left town. If it’s star power you’re after, I regret to inform you that we’re into the back half of TIFF ’09, and the wattage has dimmed considerably.

Still, this is shaping up as one of the strongest festivals in years, and there are many tasty offerings left on the table. Here’s a sampling of them, all premiering today.

Dilip Mehta’s Cooking with Stella is probably the highest-profile Canuck entry this year; the comedy gets the gala treatment at Roy Thomson Hall. Lisa Ray plays a Canadian diplomat who gets transferred to New Delhi along with her hubbie, played by Don McKellar. Seemas Biswas is the titular Stella, the chief housekeeper of the residence, who has been indulging in some slightly nefarious work practices before the couple’s arrival. As I wrote on Day One, co-star Ray recently revealed that she’s battling a rare form of blood cancer, so it promises to be an emotional screening for many reasons. McKellar is always wry and fun to watch; click here to read the 2005 diary he wrote for this site about his trip to that year’s Bangkok film fest.

Actor Samantha Morton (Minority Report, In America, Control) makes her directorial debut with The Unloved, a gritty drama about an 11-year-old girl heading into the care of social services. Inspired by Morton’s own hardscrabble childhood, the film is generating comparisons to Ken Loach, director of the stellar working-class dramas Raining Stones and My Name is Joe.

Werner Herzog’s second entry at this year’s fest is My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, and it premieres here just one night after his other new film, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. My Son stars Michael Shannon – who stole the show in Revolutionary Road – as another trademark Herzog obsessive, a guy with serious mother issues.

-- Greig Dymond