When you think of the Toronto International Film Festival, Hollywood Oscar contenders and international arthouse films are usually what come to mind. And with good cause: Those are the movies that tend to get the bulk of the spotlight at TIFF every year.
But the annual festival is also showcase for the best actors, filmmakers, and films that Canada has to offer. With new work from established Canuck filmmakers and rising stars alike, TIFF 2013 is a particularly good year for Canadian movies. If you’re looking for something homegrown to see at the festival, here are five Canadian films to watch for at TIFF 2013.
“The F Word”
One of three TIFF films starring former “Harry Potter” Daniel Radcliffe, “The F Word” is the latest from “Goon” director Michael Dowse. A romantic comedy about being in the “friend zone,” the movie follows Wallace (Radcliffe), a lovelorn med-school dropout who falls for Chantry (Zoe Kazan), a girl with whom he feels an instant connection but who just so happens to be in a relationship. Since his 2002 breakout “FUBAR,” Dowse has become one of Canada’s top comedic filmmaking talents. With a tragicomic subject matter familiar to most and a stellar cast that includes Radcliffe, Kazan, “Girls” standout Adam Driver, and TIFF Rising Star Megan Park, “The F Word” is sure to be a bright spot in a festival dominated by serious, “ripped from the headlines” dramas and depressing documentaries.
While not quite as buzzed-about as his other TIFF 2013 film (the star-studded thriller “Prisoners”), Quebec director Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” is sure to make an impression on festivalgoers, thanks to its dark and twisted subject matter. Based on Nobel laureate author José Saramago’s novel “The Double,” the mind-bending psychological drama follows a teacher (“Prisoners” star Jake Gyllenhaal) who embarks on a search to find his exact lookalike (also played by Gyllenhaal) after spotting him in a rented movie. Boasting an impressive international cast that includes Gyllenhaal in dueling roles, French actress Mélanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds”), Toronto native Sarah Gadon (“Cosmopolis”), and Isabella Rossellini (“Blue Velvet”), the film is a disturbing exploration of split personalities and double lives.
“Sarah Prefers to Run”
After making waves in previous years as part of TIFF’s short film programme, rising filmmaking star Chloé Robichaud makes her highly anticipated feature film debut with “Sarah Prefers To Run.” A coming of age story about a competitive runner (Sophie Desmarais) who sacrifices almost everything else in her life to pursue the sport she loves, the Quebec dramedy earned a standing ovation when it played the Cannes Film Fest earlier this year. “Sarah Prefers to Run” has been lauded by critics as one of the best directorial debuts to come out of Quebec in recent years (big praise considering the amazing filmmakers who have emerged from la belle province over the past decade), making it a definite must see for anyone interested in Canadian cinema.
"The Animal Project"
The newest film from TIFF darling Ingrid Veninger ("i am a good person/i am a bad person"), "The Animal Project" follows Leo (Aaron Poole), a creatively frustrated acting teacher plagued by personal and professional problems, who revives a childhood project (involving bunny suits and free hugs) in an effort to change the way things are going for himself and those around him. Partly improvised and built around its actors (who were actually cast before the script was written), "The Animal Project" was envisioned by Veninger as a sort of cinematic "leap of faith." If you're looking for something a little different, take a chance on "The Animal Project."
“The Grand Seduction”
It’s not very often that a Canadian film gets remade, let alone remade within our own borders, but “The Grand Seduction” is just that -- an English-language reimagining of the 2003 Quebec comedy “La Grande Seduction.” The latest from Toronto actor/filmmaker Don McKellar (his first since 2004’s “Childstar”), the film follows the residents of a tiny Newfoundland town as they attempt to convince a big city doctor to become the village’s full-time physician. Starring Taylor Kitsch, Brendan Gleeson, Liane Balaban, and Gordon Pinsent, “The Grand Seduction” was co-written by “The F Word” director Michael Dowse and Ken Scott (“Starbuck”), writer of the original version. The film is sure to be big on laughs, and full of small town charm and gorgeous Newfoundland landscapes.
With more than 70 Canadian features, documentaries, and short films playing the festival this year, there is plenty of homegrown fare to take in at TIFF 2013. For more Canadian options, be sure to take a look at the full schedule here.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs from Sept. 5 to 15.