TIFF 2014 Spotlight Series: Directorial Debuts

By September 7, 2014 No Comments

Every year, the Toronto International Film Festival attracts a host of star directors, many of whom are veterans of this Fest. Although these filmmakers are certain to draw a crowd, TIFF is always sure to include films by new and more inexperienced directors as well. This year, the Discovery program at TIFF draws the attention of curious filmgoers to new directors on which we should keep our eyes. Here are a few films from first time filmmakers – including some headliners – that we find particularly fascinating.

St. Vincent

Theodore Melfi was able to attract an impressive cast for his film St. Vincent (2013), even though said work marks his feature film directorial debut. Personal favourite actor Bill Murray stars as grumpy retiree Vincent who is less than thrilled when single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door. When Vincent finds himself working as Oliver’s babysitter, however, the two form an unlikely yet meaningful friendship, and hilarity is sure to ensue. With Murray as his leading man, there can be no doubt that Melfi has created a gem of a film.

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Infinitely Polar Bear 

First time filmmaker Maya Forbes debuts at the Festival with Infinitely Polar Bear (2014), which also boasts an impressive cast with the likes of Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana. Cameron (Ruffalo) is a father who has been diagnosed with manic depression in the 1970s and cannot find work. When he is forced to care for his two beloved young daughters while his wife (Saldana) pursues a degree, Cameron faces a struggle unlike any he has ever encountered before. Based on Forbes’ own childhood, this film promises to provide an emotional and personal experience.

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Bang Bang Baby 

Not only is Jeffrey St. Jules, director of Bang Bang Baby (2014), a first time feature filmmaker, but he is a Canadian as well, so naturally we had to include his film on our list. In this genre-defying sci-fi musical, high school student Stepphy dreams of escaping from the fictionalized Canadian small town of Lonely Arms and making it big in the music industry. When her celebrity crush, singer Bobby Shore, comes to town, Stepphy just may get her chance. Already known for his outlandish short films, it will be exciting to see what St. Jules does with an entire feature film full of music and style.


Canadian filmmaker Pat Mills wrote, directs, and stars in Guidance (2014), his feature directorial debut. When former child star David (Mills) fakes his credentials in order to become a high school guidance counsellor, he soon finds himself hated by the teachers at the institute. The students, however, love him due to his unconventional suggestions, which include the usage of alcohol, drugs, and mind games. Mills, who is the winner of the 2008 Telefilm Canada PITCH THIS! Competition, graduated from Ryerson University right here in the city of Toronto, and we are excited to be presenting his first feature film to the world.

We Were Wolves

Finally, another Canadian artist, Jordan Canning, presents a film that she co-wrote and directed, We Were Wolves (2014). Two brothers are forced to come to terms with their disagreements after the death of their father in what promises to be a witty yet emotional family drama. Co-writer Steve Cochrane stars in the film. Although We Were Wolves marks her feature film debut, Canning is already a Festival veteran, as her short films Bedroom (2008) and Seconds (2012) – which won the TIFF and RBC Emerging Filmmakers Competition – both enjoyed TIFF premiers. We cannot wait to see what she will deliver next!

Talia C.

Talia C.

Talia is a film fanatic proudly working in the Canadian publishing industry. She loves movies of all kinds, but recommends that you read the book first.

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