Brandon Cronenberg, Xavier Dolan in TIFF Canadian lineup

Antiviral and Laurence Anyways, both of which played Cannes earlier this year, are among the Canadian films at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
Xavier Dolan arrives for the premiere of his new movie Laurence Anyways in Montreal on May 14. It will have its Toronto debut at TIFF. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral and Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, both of which earned Cannes screenings earlier this year, are among the Canadian films to get special presentations at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

On Tuesday, TIFF programmer Steve Gravestock announced the Canadian films, including shorts and documentaries, that earned berths at the prestigious festival.

TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey said there will be three prizes awarded just to Canadian filmmakers during this year's festival. (Geoff Nixon/CBC)

"Every year it gets tougher and tougher because each year we see more quality work from across the country, from veterans to filmmakers barely out of film school," said Gravestock, when explaining the challenge of selecting the films that get shown at TIFF.

Antiviral, a horror thriller about people obsessed with viruses from their favourite celebrities, is directed by Brandon Cronenberg, son of veteran director David Cronenberg. It played in the Un Certain Regard program at Cannes in May.

TIFF Rising Stars

TIFF is once again helping publicize "emerging talent" from Canada, as part of its Rising Stars program.

Cameron Bailey, the festival's artistic director, said the program aims to provide these young stars with "more profile, networking opportunities and access to industry experts to help them get their careers to the next level."

Charlie Carrick has appeared in various TV and stage productions. He will soon have a recurring role on Showtime's The Borgias.

Connor Jessup is an actor from Toronto who produced a film that played at TIFF last year. This year, he stars in Blackbird, which is playing at this year's festival.

Tatiana Maslany was born in Regina and has "amassed an impressive resume in both film and television," according to TIFF organizers. She stars in Picture Day, which plays at this year's festival.

Charlotte Sullivan is from Toronto and has appeared in a number of TV and film projects, including The Kennedys miniseries and ABC's Rookie Blue TV series.

Laurence Anyways is the third film directed by Quebec whiz kid Dolan, who made his debut in 2009 with I Killed My Mother.  His latest film is the story of a romance between a man who becomes a woman and his long-time friend. 

Gravestock told CBC News that Dolan’s latest film has both "exquisite visuals" as well as powerful turns by its two leading actors.

"Great performances by the male lead, but also Suzanne Clément, who is amazing in it," he said.

Audiences may remember Clément from Dolan’s first film, which won prizes at TIFF, Cannes and other film festivals.

However, Gravestock said "this is a much bigger role and she’s sensational in it."

Also coming is Montreal director Kim Nguyen’s war survival tale, Rebelle, which earned accolades for young star Rachel Mwanza at the Berlin International Film Festival.

"Kim Nguyen has made a number of interesting films and I think this is a really big breakthrough for him," said Gravestock.

Among the Canadian features having their world premieres at TIFF:

  • Inch’Allah:  by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, about a young Canadian obstetrician working in a Palestinian refugee camp.
  • Still: by Michael McGowan, about a New Brunswick man who faces jail time when the government tries to stop him from building a more suitable house for his wife.
  • Blackbird: by Jason Buxton, about a teen who makes an online threat that ignites fear in a small community.
  • Picture Day: by first-time director Kate Melville, a coming-of-age story about a young woman torn between a would-be rock star and a nerdy classmate.
  • The Crimes of Mike Recket: by Bruce Sweeney, a police procedural about a failed real estate agent who is a suspect in a criminal investigation.

TIFF programmer Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo said that this year's festival also features more documentaries than in years past and prominent features made by women.

"Women's voices are being heard loud and clear with seven feature films being helmed by female directors," Del Sorbo said during Wednesday's press conference.

'I devoured films'

Melville was one of two Canadian filmmakers who spoke at Wednesday's press conference.

Kate Melville's debut film Picture Day is making its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Geoff Nixon/CBC)

The Toronto native said she was "just over the moon" to have her first film have its premiere at TIFF.

Twenty years ago, she was thinking about the characters that appear in Picture Day when she was still in high school.

Now, she will get to show those characters to film fans attending her hometown film festival.

"Even as a teenager, I loved TIFF," said Melville.

"I went all the time, I devoured films here and this really is a remarkable and amazing opportunity."

The Short Cuts program, featuring short films, will bring works by directors such as Toronto’s Charles Officer, Halifax’s Mike Clattenburg, Vancouver’s Kelvin Redvers and Quebec’s Martin Thibaudeau.

Cameron Bailey, the artistic director for TIFF, said there will be three prizes handed out for Canadian films:

  • $30,000 for the best Canadian feature film.
  • $15,000 for the best debut film from a Canadian filmmaker.
  • $10,000 for the best Canadian short film.

The international galas and special presentations and the documentary and Midnight Madness programs were previously announced.

TIFF is scheduled for Sept. 6 to 16. It kicks off four weeks from this Thursday.