The programme used to be called Perspective Canada, and it was exactly that: a cross-section of Canadian perspectives on Canadian story, with an increasingly diverse collection of filmmakers and filmmaker origins adding to those perspectives. Then it was cut and a series of smaller programmes were created. The selection of home-grown product seems to shrink as each year passes, while every indication exists to prove that the actual quantity and quality of production only increases in this country. (See Playback for instance). TIFF would like us to believe that more Canadian films are actually present in the festival - spread out across the other programming categories and that this is good news – and I agree, it is. But the focus on Canadians trying to break into an international pool of talent should still be a very valuable and important goal of this festival. TIFF has lost its commitment to new and emerging Canadian artists and prefers those artists to be already mainstream before it offers support. What is up with that? This festival has given birth to many now world-renowned artists (Jeremy Podeswa, Atom Egoyan, Léa Pool, Patricia Rozema, and even David Cronenberg owes a thing or two to TiFF).
This year, TIFF has programmed a shocking six films in its Canada First programme, a categorty that presents first features by Canadian filmmakers. I have trouble believing there were only six worthy submissions this year: why a cap on this category!? Of the six, I find myself most interested in Katrin Bowen’s Amazon Falls, only because anything that discourages young people from moving with a dream to Los Angeles I would love to endorse. Daniel Cockburn’s eclectically multi-storied You Are Here offers a chance to see the late Tracy Wright in one of her last roles, although you can also see her in Bruce MacDonald’s Trigger, about a female rock’n roll duo who reunite a dozen years after the bust-up of their band.
A more likely place to find the filmmakers of tomorrow is in the Short Cuts Canada programme offering more than 40 shorts. Like Wavelengths, it is broken into programmes of 6 or 8 shorts each, offering a wide and impressive variety of formats and genres. I have quite often really enjoyed at least one slate of films in this category. Trying to see specific films is often hard to do because of these random groupings (they lack the thematic thinking that is found in Wavelengths). Best to just pick a collection that works with your schedule and enjoy. There are always at least two or three that stay memorable. This is the category where I first found the work of Helen Lee, whom I have followed as she moved into feature filmmaking since. I will say, however, that I have noted the following: Champagne, On the Way to the Sea, La Métropolitaine, Green Crayons, Eggcellent, Sophie Lavoie (by Anne Émond), The Trenches and Woman Waiting. Which means I’m probably looking at Programmes 3, 4 and 5.
Elsewhere in the Canadian programming, in other categories, is Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies. The story of twins who go to the middle east to understand their mother’s death, it promises to be a welcome return of this French-Canadian master.