TIFF 2013: Spotlight Series – Canadian Films

It is entirely appropriate that a high-profile Canadian film festival such as TIFF would place some of its spotlight on films made right here in our own country or featuring Canadian individuals. Programs such as “Contemporary World Cinema” and “Discovery” feature many films that promise to become Canadian gems. Here are a few films at TIFF 2013 featuring Canadian directors, actors, and landscapes about which we are especially excited.

Labor Day

Although technically an American film, Labor Day is brought to us by acclaimed and much-beloved Canadian director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air). Here, Reitman moves away from his characteristic humorous style, presenting a tense thriller centring on a young boy attempting to care for his ailing mother (Kate Winslet) after she agrees to let a mysterious and potentially dangerous stranger (Josh Brolin) into her home. This film will be worth watching in order to see how Reitman handles this dramatic material.  

The Animal Project

Ingrid Veninger, a well-known name around this festival (MODRA, i am a good person/i am a bad person), returns with this distinctive work about the director of a struggling acting troupe who improvises a unique activity to provide the boost he believes his actors need both for their art and within their own lives. Not only does this film star established Toronto actor Aaron Poole as director Leo, it also features one of this year’s TIFF Rising Stars, Jonathan Sousa, as a member of the troupe.

The Animal Project


The Canadian documentary Watermark was directed by award-winning filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal and environmental photographer Edward Burtynsky, the team that previously brought us Manufactured Landscape. This important piece explores our relationship with water and reveals the ways in which it has been mismanaged and exploited. The wide scope of the film ranges all over the world, from Colorado to India to China, and investigates the importance of water in many aspects of life such as agriculture and religious rituals. While Burtynsky promises to deliver stunning and affecting photography, these images are sure to be complimented by the first-hand accounts captured by Baichwal and the combination will undoubtedly result in a thought-provoking work.

Empire of Dirt

Canadian concerns as well as talent are featured in Peter Stebbing’s new film Empire of Dirt. The plights of three generations of Canadian Aboriginal women are chronicled in this gritty drama written by Cree-Canadian screenwriter Shannon Masters. The weighty issues, ranging from poverty to substance abuse to teenage pregnancy, should hit close to home, and one can hope that a film such as this one will have a positive effect in the ongoing struggle to create change.

Empire of Dirt

The Art of the Steal

High-profile American actors share the screen with talented Canadians in Canadian writer-director Jonathan Sobol’s (A Beginner’s Guide to Endings) new film The Art of the Steal. This comic crime film features Kurt Russell as a former stuntman-turned-thief who reunites with his gang to pull off one last robbery. A stellar ensemble cast promises to deliver humour as well as breathtaking action.

All the Wrong Reasons

Starring the late Canadian actor Cory Monteith and directed by Canadian Gia Milani, All the Wrong Reasons is a funny yet emotional comic drama chronicling the lives of four employees at a department store. Each character carries personal baggage that affects the way in which they interact with their fellow employees, and their stories are revealed with wit and sympathy. The ensemble cast features much home grown talent, and one can hope that this inaugural yet confident film from newcomer Milani will mark the rise of a new directorial star.

All the Wrong Reasons

Photo Credits: Toronto International Film Festival (Cover + Last) and Mongrel Media (1st 2, In-Article)

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