April Mullen, Xavier Dolan, Deepa Mehta films to debut at TIFF 2016

by Christopher Heard
Below Her Mouth

Between the two Toronto International Film Festival press conferences each year, announcing all the excitement and the celebrities and the hoopla that comes with the action packed ten September days of the fest–this year from the 8th through the 18th–I always find the press conference devoted exclusively to the Canadian films and documentaries to be the most vibrant. That’s because a number of the filmmakers and actors and writers and producers are right there mingling with the crowd of press and publicists in the ballroom at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

There are a number of familiar faces in the Canadian filmmaking landscape returning with their latest works–and their new films look very interesting to say the least.

Anatomy of Violence is the new film by Deepa Mehta and it takes a stark, unflinching look at a real life incident that took place in New Delhi involving the gang rape on a bus of a 23-year-old young woman.

Internationally red hot Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s film It’s Only the End of the World (Juste la fin du monde), which won one of the major prizes at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, will make its North American big screen debut here.

The always interesting filmmaker Bruce McDonald has his new film unspooling at TIFF 16 as well, Weirdos, and it sounds like it will be a pure McDonald film in that it is a kind of teenage 70s road movie, shot in black and white and set in Nova Scotia.

Perhaps the most challenging of the feature films announced comes from director April Mullen; Below Her Mouth. Set in Toronto this is a passionate lesbian romance that tries to break down the boundaries, striving to simply be a complicated, endearing, hot love story that involves two women falling for each other–word is that Mullen, an actor herself, captured powerful performances from her leads, Natalie Krill and Erika Linder.

It was the documentary category that pricked up my ears as well this year in that it features two films from filmmakers I have known and followed for a number of years.

Black Code is a new film from the wonderful director/cinematographer Nick de Pencier. I remember first meeting Nick about twenty odd years ago when I was doing a show at the CBC with Nick’s partner Jennifer Baichwal (a fine documentarian herself). His new film is an examination of the underhanded ways governments are using and manipulating the Internet.

The first Oscar statue I ever got to hold in my hands belonged to ace Canadian documentarian Brigitte Berman. I was visiting her in her downtown apartment many years ago, after she won an Oscar for her feature documentary on the life of jazz great Artie Shaw. The Oscar was just sitting there and I simply had to ask, “would you mind if I…” Brigitte’s new film, debuting at TIFF 16 is called The River of My Dreams, a film about the life and career of one of our most beloved actors, the Rowdyman himself, Gordon Pinsent.

Every year it seems the same chorus of cynics sing the same song about TIFF being taken over by Hollywood–it started a few weeks ago with the announcement of the mega-budget remake of The Magnificent Seven being the big opener this year–but the facts say that the festival is about 10% “Hollywood” (although that 10% usually gets 94% of the media coverage).

What we need to do as Canadians and Canadian film lovers is seek out Canadian films featured at this 2016 edition of TIFF (26 Canadian films announced so far with another 37 Canadian short films)–by seeking them out and getting behind them we will guarantee there will be more Xavier Dolans and more Bruce McDonalds and more April Mullens riding up each and every year.

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