After the pandemic forced most Canadian events online last year, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is back with a hybrid event (some in-person events, plus a virtual screening schedule) and the Canadian representation is killer.
From the highly anticipated adaptation of Miriam Toews’ iconic book All My Puny Sorrows by Toronto-born director Michael McGowan, to Lakewood, which was filmed in North Bay, Ontario late last year, the two-week screening schedule is chock full of Canadian faces, artwork, and iconic locations.
Here, a list of some of the most newsworthy Canadian films screening at TIFF this year.
A stunning animated film, Charlotte brings to life the inspiring true story of Charlotte Salomon, a young German-Jewish painter who created the iconic expressionist painting and autobiography known as “Life? Or Theatre?” before dying in Auschwitz, the most notorious Nazi concentration camp of World War II, at age 26. The film was co-directed by Canadian Tahir Rana, an animator and filmmaker who studied animation at Sheridan College in the Greater Toronto Area. Although he has worked on several well-known shows like Bob the Builder, Charlotte is his directorial debut.
Adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name by author Catherine Hernandez, Scarborough was co-directed by Toronto-based duo Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson. The film digs deep into the myriad socioeconomic factors affecting low-income communities in Scarborough, the city just east of Toronto, highlighting the lives of three families over one year as they battle debt, addiction, job insecurity, and more.
Vancouver-born filmmaker Heather Hatch spent five years documenting the harmful development of British Columbia’s controversial Site C hydro dam project, and her film Wochiigii lo: End of Peace is the final product. Located on Peace River, the massive Site C hydro-electric project has already begun to drastically alter the lives of Indigenous peoples from the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, two of the largest communities living on the river. In this documentary, Hatch brings to light the devastating effects the project could have on the local population and environment, as well as the routine disenfranchisement of Indigenous peoples in British Columbia and across Canada.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be the bearer of bad news… as a full-time job? The Middle Man is a quirky dramedy about a town plagued by life-altering accidents and Frank, who has officially been hired as the middle man. His primary job is simple: inform people about the deaths of their loved ones — but actually fulfilling his role is an entirely different story. What ensues is an incredible study of grief, loss, and human connection. The cast is stacked with Canadian actors, including Rossif Sutherland, Nina Andresen Borud, Kenneth Welsh, and Paul Gross.
Quickening is a startling portrayal of the societal pressures and expectations placed on young women of colour in Canada. Written and directed by Haya Waseem, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Switzerland before emigrating to Canada, Quickening follows Pakistani-Canadian teenager Sheila as she navigates university, romance, and wanting to forge her own path while still feeling like she belongs.
Set in the stunning Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, which is traditional Mi’kmaq territory, Wildhood follows teenage Link and his brother as they flee their abusive father and search for their mother, rediscovering their Mi’kmaq heritage along the way. The film reimagines what it means to come of age, using Link’s road trip as a path to his own self-discovery as a two-spirit Mi’kmaq person. Director Bretten Hannam (they/them) is a two-spirit L’nu filmmaker living in Kespukwitk, Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia) where they were raised, and Phillip Lewitski, who plays Link, was born in Calgary, Alberta.
TIFF runs from September 9-18, 2021, and tickets go on sale to the public on September 6. Follow us on Twitter @TheCdnAcademy and let us know which Canadian films you’re most excited to see.