TORONTO — From teen tales to timely stories and documentaries about the environment, the Canadian lineup for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival offers up a mix of big names and rising talent from across the country.
The Canadian Press spoke with five homegrown filmmakers headed to the festival, which runs Sept. 6 to 16.
Karena Evans, who directed several of Drake’s latest music videos, is one of the stars of this debut feature from Jasmin Mozaffari. Evans and Michaela Kurimsky play best friends whose plans to escape their small town are stifled when one of them is violated by her on-again, off-again boyfriend.
“Firecrackers” was shot in the summer of 2017 throughout Ontario in Hamilton, St. Thomas, and London.
The story is an expansion of a short film that Mozaffari, the writer-director, made while studying at Ryerson University in 2012.
“I also thought the time was right to explore these themes about women seeking freedom in a patriarchal system,” says Mozaffari, who was born in Saskatoon, grew up in Barrie, Ont., and now lives in Toronto.
“I had written this film before the allegations of the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up had come out. It was just interesting that that aligned after I had written the script.”
The Toronto-shot sci-fi drama stars Toronto actor Patrick J. Adams of “Suits” fame as an obsessive astronomer dealing with a personal tragedy. “Pretty Little Liars” actress Troian Bellisario, who also happens to be Adams’ wife in real life, plays an inquisitive artist who helps him with a scientific discovery.
Writer-director Akash Sherman says he got the idea for the film after reading about NASA’s plan to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope.
“Essentially they’re going to revolutionize the way we’re able to find habitable planets,” Sherman says.
“So I wanted to tell a story about space on Earth, about an astronomer who’s looking for life out there. The TESS telescope actually just launched, as did our film, so it’s very timely.”
“Anthropocene: The Human Epoch”
Twenty countries and six continents are explored in this documentary about environmental issues caused by humans.
It’s the final title in a trilogy from director Jennifer Baichwal, producer Nicholas de Pencier and photographer Edward Burtynsky, after “Manufactured Landscapes” and “Watermark.”
“The anthropocene means the human epoch,” says Baichwal.
“It means that humans are affecting the Earth on a geological scale; we are changing the systems of the Earth as a species.”
The three co-directors say the film is part of a larger project that will include museum exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada this fall.
“Giant Little Ones”
Josh Wiggins and Darren Mann star as best friends whose lives are changed after an expected incident at a party. Golden Globe-nominated actors Maria Bello and Kyle MacLachlan play the divorced parents of Wiggins’ character.
Writer-director Keith Behrman, who was born in Shaunavon, Sask., says the spark for the drama came to him several years ago.
“I was really concerned with all the negative things that were happening to young people who were struggling with their sexual identity and the suicides that were happening,” says Behrman.
Finding his leading actors was a long process, he admits.
“Because of the nature of the film, which is a question exploring sexuality, we actually were surprised to find that we were having a hard time getting some young men to come out,” Behrman says.
“Our casting agents told us that a lot of young men were passing on the auditions, which we were shocked by. We thought (in these) contemporary times, people would be willing to play these roles.”
“Les Salopes or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin” (Les salopes ou le sucre naturel de la peau)
Brigitte Poupart, star of last year’s acclaimed film “Les Affames,” plays a 45-year-old professor with a promiscuous secret life in this drama from Quebec’s Renee Beaulieu.
The film celebrates female sexuality and desires, particularly those of a more mature woman, says Beaulieu.
“I want to talk about women, I want to focus on women, because there are not enough women in movies,” adds the writer-director.
“And I want to talk about sexuality of women in a positive way, not negative like usual.”