Entertainment

TIFF 2018: Xavier Dolan's star-studded English-language debut joins Canadian lineup

Xavier Dolan's star-studded The Death and Life of John F. Donovan will make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Final film by late conservationist filmmaker Rob Stewart set for world premiere

Jacob Tremblay stars in The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. Xavier Dolan's star-studded English-language debut will make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Shayne Laverdiere/EOne Films)

Xavier Dolan's star-studded The Death and Life of John F. Donovan will make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The movie is the Quebec phenom's highly anticipated English-language directorial debut starring Kit Harrington, Natalie Portman, Thandie Newton, as well as Canadians Jacob Tremblay and Sarah Gadon.

Contemporary anxieties and Indigenous issues are among the themes in the rest of the Canadian lineup for this year's movie marathon, which also includes works by directors Denys Arcand, Jennifer Baichwal and Rob Stewart.

Filmmaker Denys Arcand's 'pointedly political' movie, The Fall of the American Empire, will screen at TIFF in September. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

A total of 20 Canadian features were announced on Wednesday, including Arcand's crime thriller The Fall of the American Empire, which has already screened in French in the Oscar winner's home province of Quebec.

Alexandre Landry stars as a lonely man who finds two bags filled with money after witnessing a deadly armed robbery.

"I think it's one of his more pointed political films in quite some time," senior programmer Steve Gravestock said in an interview before Wednesday's press conference announcing the lineup.

"In a weird way, even though it looks at all sorts of corruption, it's also quite hopeful."

Jennifer Baichwal, left, and Nicholas de Pencier explore environmental issues with the forthcoming Anthropocene, the final title in their stunning trilogy with photographer Edward Burtynsky. (Arthur Mola/Invision/Associated Press)

Baichwal explores environmental issues with Anthropocene, the final title in a trilogy with producer Nicholas de Pencier and photographer Edward Burtynsky after Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark.

"It's quite stunning to look at but also I think, in some ways, this is quite painful to watch because it is very much about extinction, what we're doing to animals," said Gravestock, who worked on the lineup with Danis Goulet, the TIFF Canadian features programmer.

Other docs exploring a feeling of unease include Astra Taylor's What is Democracy? Starting in Greece, it looks at the history of democracy and the dangers facing it.

Sharkwater Extinction, the final feature from award-winning director Rob Stewart, will open in theatres across Canada on October 5, following its world premiere at TIFF. (D Films Corp)

Sharkwater Extinction is the final work by the late filmmaker and conservationist Stewart, and Barry Avrich's Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz is about the United States' chief prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials.

Meanwhile, Ron Mann looks at gentrification in the documentary Carmine Street Guitars, about a Greenwich Village shop that makes custom guitars out of material from historic sites and torn-down buildings.

Indigenous talent showcased

The lineup also has world premieres of three films that showcase Indigenous talent, including Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown's Edge of the Knife. It's billed as the first feature-length film made in Haida, which is classified by UNESCO as an endangered language.

Meanwhile, renowned Mé​tis actor Tantoo Cardinal stars in Darlene Naponse's Falls Around Her.

And Anne with an E executive producer Miranda de Pencier makes her feature directorial debut with The Grizzlies, a creative collaboration between herself and Inuit producers Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Stacey Aglok MacDonald.

The lineup also has the sci-fi drama Clara by Akash Sherman, starring Patrick J. Adams of Suits fame as a depressed astronomer who gets a new outlook on life after meeting a woman.

There are a lot of films that ... don't shy away from difficulties that people are facing — and even in some cases, some tragic circumstances — but really look at people's resiliency.- Steve Gravestock , TIFF senior programmer

Supernatural tales are found in The Great Darkened Days by Maxime Giroux, Fausto by Andrea Bussmann, and The Stone Speakers by Igor Drljaca.

Stories featuring teens and young adults include Keith Behrman's Giant Little Ones, Thom Fitzgerald's SplintersFirecrackers by Jasmin Mozaffari, and Sé​bastien Pilote's The Fireflies Are Gone.

TIFF says 40 per cent of the Canadian film slate this year is directed by women.

Previously announced Canadian features include Giant Little Ones as well as Kim Nguyen's The Hummingbird Project, Patricia Rozema's Mouthpiece, and Don McKellar's Through Black Spruce.

"There are a lot of films that we have this year that don't shy away from difficulties that people are facing — and even in some cases, some tragic circumstances — but really look at people's resiliency," Gravestock said.