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TIFF 2010: Interview with Steve Gravestock, Associate Director, Canadianan Programming (TIFF)

donna g: Why should people consider seeing Canadian films at TIFF? I love and support Canadian films but many people tell me they choose foreign films over Canadian because they may not get a chance to see those films again.

Steve Gravestock: One of the reasons to see Canadian films at the Festival is that some may not show up in Toronto again (especially the Quebecois films -- though this will change with the opening of the Bell Lightbox). More significantly, the directors and in many cases the performers will be present at the screenings -- and that kind of situation is unique and unlikely to be duplicated. (This would apply especially to this year since there are a large number of very prominent international performers in a large number of productions -- as well as Canadian performers who have become internationally known.) Also, there's a certain excitement in seeing films first. That said, it's always a good idea to mix up things and see films from a variety of different countries, regions, etc. Frankly, I think this kind of approach shows how well we stack up against other countries.

More importantly, these films show us where we are now – and I don’t know why any Canadian wouldn’t want to know about that..

donna g: Could you share with new attendees to TIFF, the different areas of Canadian films to choose from at the festival?

Steve Gravestock: There are two specifically Canadian programmes: Canada First! and Short Cuts Canada. The former is a showcase for emerging Canadian filmmakers and is primarily comprised of first time feature filmmakers. The second is made up of short films. These include filmmakers who will go on to make features as well as artists who specialize in the short film form, a form Canadians have always excelled at.

The other films are spread across the Festival in a variety of programmes: Contemporary World Cinema, Visions and Real to Reel; Special Presentations and Galas (there are a very high number of these this year); and Midnight Madness--in fact, this year marks the first time a Canadian film (Mike Dowse's FUBAR 2) will open that section.

donna g: Could you please give some highlights from the different programme areas?

Steve Gravestock: I love everything in Canada First! It's a very wide-ranging programme including everything from Katrin Bowen's AMAZON FALLS, a neo-noir about a fading actress in L.A.; Daniel Cockburn's meta-detective story YOU ARE HERE; and of course the opener Mike Goldbach's comedy drama DAYDREAM NATION which is a small indy film with a big cast (Kat Dennings, Josh Lucas, Katie Boland) where Dennings plays a teenager whose father relocates her to a small rural town where all the high school students are permanently stoned. They do some very interesting things with household products.

There's way too many good films to pick out a few, but we're thrilled to be showing INCENDIES, the amazing and emotionally devastating new film from Denis Villeneuve (the director of POLYTECHNIQUE, which won every major award in Canada and Quebec last year); the new film from Jacob Tierney, GOOD NEIGHBOURS (an off-the-wall macabre thriller with Scott Speedman, Jay Baruchel -- who starred in Tierney's last film, THE TROTSKY, a big hit at TIFF last year --and the luminous Emily Hampshire); and Carl Bessai's REPEATERS. Bessai is a very interesting director and we've shown a lot of his work over the years, but this one is bigger in scope and on a larger scale than some of his earlier work. REPEATERS focuses on three teens in a rehab centre who wake up to find they're repeating the same day over and over again. It's pretty intense, with a great young cast and it uses the thriller genre as a means of addressing some pretty big, possibly even existential issues, in a very smart way. And of course Bruce McDonald's TRIGGER, a phenomenal piece of work, starring Molly Parker and Tracey Wright, one of our finest actresses, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

Contemporary World Cinema, which is sort of the backbone of the Festival and includes a wide range of different kinds of films, there's CRYING OUT or A L'ORIGINE D'UN CRI, the latest from one of Quebec's most interesting young filmmakers Robin Aubert, which marries some truly intense domestic drama (think Eugene O'Neill and Michel Tremblay) with a baroque visual and symbolic landscape that evokes David Lynch. It's about three generations of alcoholic men careening around the Quebecois countryside. It shares some affinities with Ed Gass-Donnely's film, SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS, which also takes place in a rural area, and focuses on a cop, played by the great Peter Stormare, who's haunted by his violent past. We also have MODRA, a beautiful, lovely new film by Ingrid Venninger -- it's her first solo feature -- about the relationship between two teenagers starring her daughter Hallie Switzer. The film was shot almost entirely in Slovakia -- in fact there are a lot of films that have an international scope or setting this year.

In Vision, we have two major works, MOURNING FOR ANNA or TROIS TEMPS APRES LA MORT D'ANNA, the latest from Catherine Martin, a devastating drama about a woman mourning the sudden death of her daughter, and Denis Cote's CURLING, which already won the director's prize in Locarno and is possibly his best and most accessible film to date.

In Real to Reel, we have two great documentaries: Bill MacGillivray's portrait MAN OF A THOUSAND SONGS about East Coast singer-songwriter Ron Hynes and Jody Shapiro's funny and very compassionate piece HOW TO START YOUR OWN COUNTRY, about micro-nations, small (even tiny) countries that aren't usually acknowledged by other nations.

Gala-wise, we're obviously looking forward to the world premiere of SCORE, the new movie by Michael MacGowan; Richard J. Lewis's BARNEY'S VERSION, the adaptation of the Mordecai Richler novel produced by one of the country's most prominent producers; A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO ENDINGS, a very funny, sometimes macabre family comedy written and directed by Jonathan Sobol, and starring Harvey Keitel; Jason Jones; Paulo Costanzo; and Tricia Helfer; Stephen Silver's THE BANG BANG CLUB, a very powerful and visceral drama about photo-journalists in the lead-up to the first free elections in South Africa which stars Ryan Philippe and Malin Ackerman.

What CANADIAN FILMS will you see at TIFF 2010?
Thanks to Steve Gravestock, you now have on excuses not to see Canadian Films at TIFF 2010. Enjoy! and don't forget to share you feedback by leaving a comment.

Photos: Crying Out/L'origine d'une cri (top); MODRA (second)
Photos courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival


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