TORONTO – Contemporary anxieties and Indigenous issues are among the themes in the Canadian lineup for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, which includes works by directors Denys Arcand and Jennifer Baichwal.
A total of 19 Canadian titles were announced on Wednesday, including Arcand’s “The Fall of the American Empire,” which has already screened in French in the Oscar winner’s home province of Quebec.
Alexandre Landry stars as a lonely man who finds two bags filled with money after witnessing a deadly armed robbery.
“I think it’s one of his more pointed political films in quite some time,” senior programmer Steve Gravestock said in an interview before Wednesday’s press conference announcing the lineup.
“In a weird way, even though it looks at all sorts of corruption, it’s also quite hopeful.”
Baichwal explores environmental issues with “Anthropocene,” the final title in a trilogy with producer Nicholas de Pencier and photographer Edward Burtynsky after “Manufactured Landscapes” and “Watermark.”
“It’s quite stunning to look at but also I think, in some ways, this is quite painful to watch because it is very much about extinction, what we’re doing to animals,” said Gravestock, who worked on the lineup with Danis Goulet, the TIFF Canadian features programmer.
Other docs exploring a feeling of unease include Astra Taylor’s “What is Democracy?” Starting in Greece, it looks at the history of democracy and the dangers facing it.
“Sharkwater Extinction” is the final work by the late filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart, and Barry Avrich’s “Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz” is about the United States’ chief prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials.
Meanwhile, Ron Mann looks at gentrification in the documentary “Carmine Street Guitars,” about a Greenwich Village shop that makes custom guitars out of material from historic sites and torn-down buildings.
The lineup also has world premieres of three films that showcase Indigenous talent, including Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown’s “Edge of the Knife.” It’s billed as the first feature-length film made in Haida, which is classified by UNESCO as an endangered language.
Meanwhile, renowned Metis actor Tantoo Cardinal stars in Darlene Naponse’s “Falls Around Her.”
And “Anne with an E” executive producer Miranda de Pencier makes her feature directorial debut with “The Grizzlies,” a creative collaboration between herself and Inuit producers Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Stacey Aglok MacDonald.
The lineup also has the sci-fi drama “Clara” by Akash Sherman, starring Patrick J. Adams of “Suits” fame as a depressed astronomer who gets a new outlook on life after meeting a woman.
Emile Hirsch stars in the sci-fi thriller “Freaks” by Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein, playing a father who locks his daughter in a dilapidated house, warning of her of dangers outside.
Supernatural tales are found in “The Great Darkened Days” by Maxime Giroux, “Fausto” by Andrea Bussmann, and “The Stone Speakers” by Igor Drljaca.
Stories featuring teens and young adults include Keith Behrman’s “Giant Little Ones,” Thom Fitzgerald’s “Splinters,” “Firecrackers” by Jasmin Mozaffari, and Sebastien Pilote’s “The Fireflies Are Gone.”
TIFF says 40 per cent of the Canadian film slate this year is directed by women.
Previously announced Canadian features include “Giant Little Ones” as well as Kim Nguyen’s “The Hummingbird Project,” Patricia Rozema’s “Mouthpiece,” and Don McKellar’s “Through Black Spruce.”
“There are a lot of films that we have this year that don’t shy away from difficulties that people are facing — and even in some cases, some tragic circumstances — but really look at people’s resiliency,” Gravestock said.