Filmmakers hail strong Canadian crop at Toronto festival

The Toronto film festival has been a regular champion of Canadian film, but many are hailing the strong Canuck contingent at this year's event, with new offerings from a host of Canadian filmmakers.

The Toronto film festivalhas beena regular champion of Canadian film, butmany are hailing the strong Canuck contingent at this year's event, with new offerings from a host of Canadian filmmakers.

Jeremy Podeswa, seen Thursday in Toronto with actress Nina Dobrev, left, and writer Anne Michaels, is enthusiastic about his fellow Canadian directors also screening films at this year's festival. ((Philip Cheung/Getty))

"There's a new movie from Denys Arcand, from François Girard, David Cronenberg, Clement Virgo. And lots of first-time filmmakers as well," Toronto director Jeremy Podeswa told CBC Radio on Thursday evening, just before his Fugitive Pieces screened as this year's opening gala presentation.

Cronenberg's Eastern Promises and Arcand's Days of Darkness (L'Âge des ténèbres) have already garnered a high profile on the international film festival circuit.

Girard returns to the scene this year after nearly a decade since The Red Violin withhis period piece Silk. Guy Maddin is offering a homage to his hometown in My Winnipeg and Virgo is screening the Halifax-set dramaPoor Boy's Game.

Altogether, more than 40 Canadian features will unspool at this year's event.

Other Canadian offerings at TIFFinclude:

  • Shake Hands with the Devil, starring Quebec star Roy Dupuis as General Roméo Dallaire.
  • Closing gala film Emotional Arithmetic by Paolo Barzman.
  • Montreal director Bernard Émond's Contre toute esperance.
  • Kari Skogland's The Stone Angel, an adaptation of the classic Margaret Laurence novel filmed in Manitoba.
  • Bruce McDonald's Winnipeg-set film The Tracey Fragments.
  • Laurie Lynd's Breakfast With Scot, starring Ottawa's Tom Cavanagh as a gay Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player.
  • Young People F---ing, Martin Gero's comedic feature debut.

An increasing number of Canadian filmmakers are alsoseeking out international partners for co-productions, TIFF CEO and director Piers Handling acknowledged.

"It's a very international industry. It's a very mobile industry," he said. "Hollywood was basically constructed in the pre-war period of people coming [from] all over the world."

However, some directors cite more freedom in keeping a film 100 per cent Canadian, including film and TV producer Laszlo Barna, at this year's festival with Shake Hands with the Devil.

Quebec star Roy Dupuis, shown at right with Roméo Dallaire in 2006, portrays the retired general in the new film Shake Hands with the Devil, based on Dallaire's book. ((Ian Barrett/Canadian Press))

"If we got hedge-fund money in Hollywood, it would be starring, well, certainly not Roy Dupuis," he said.

"For us the comfort level of [someone] playing that part, who intrinsically and culturally understands that character, was irreplaceable."

Regardless, thereis a growing crop of emerging Canadian filmmakers making names for themselves in the global film scene. And this group has its roots in predecessors like Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan who decided to remain based in Canada, says TIFF co-director Noah Cowan.

"They decided, when they probably could have gone to Hollywood or Paris, to continue their career, to stay right here and to mentor and develop new talent in this country," Cowan said.

The 32nd Toronto International Film Festival continues through Sept. 15.