The immediate future looks promising for Canadian films on this year’s Toronto slate, with the world preems this weekend of acquisition titles like “Incendies” helmer Denis Villeneuve’s psychological thriller “Enemy” (WME Global), starring Jake Gyllenhaal; Michael Dowse’s romcom “The F Word” (UTA, pictured), starring Daniel Radcliffe; and Don McKellar’s “The Grand Seduction” (Jeff Sackman), the English remake of the 2003 Quebec hit “Seducing Dr. Lewis.”
Tuesday will see the North American preem of wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s Venice-bowing thriller “Tom at the Farm” (MK2), which Variety’s review dubbed his “most accomplished and enjoyable work to date” and “his most commercially viable.” The film also nabbed the Venice Fipresci jury’s top prize.
Also screening Tuesday is Richie Mehta’s Venice-preeming “Siddharth” (Fortissimo), an India-set story about a father’s quest for his young son, which Variety’s review called “a small gem whose humanity should play nicely on the international arthouse scene, including Stateside.”
While Canadian filmmakers rubbed shoulders with their compadres at two packed evening socials on the eve of the festival, right now they are mingling with the world.
The festival dropped the feature program Perspective Canada — which to many outsiders was perceived as a sidebar — in 2001 and, quietly last year, shed its Canada First strand — both moves reflecting new realities in the domestic industry.
“Canadian film as a recognizable genre has gone away, and that’s a positive thing,” said eOne senior VP of acquisitions Mark Slone. “For one thing, we’re seeing films with bigger budgets and with bigger stars — which is hugely important. And we’ve now got a pool of directors, particularly in Quebec, that the world is looking at — and they’re all being dragged to the U.S.,” he laughs.
Indeed, Villeneuve is a double threat this year, with his first studio pic, “Prisoners,” world preeming Friday night along with Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Veteran helmer Atom Egoyan’s dramatization of the West Memphis Three story “Devil’s Knot,” starring Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon and produced by Worldview, bows Sunday.
“In general, I’m seeing Canadian features working with bigger budgets and reaching for and attracting a higher level of cast,” said producer Nicholas Tabarrok, who nailed deals with TWC/Radius and eOne (Canada) before shooting a frame of Jonathan Sobol’s “The Art of the Steal,” an ensemble caper starring Jay Baruchel, Matt Dillon and Kurt Russell, which world preems as a Gala next week.
At the start of last year’s fest, eOne confirmed it would purchase Alliance, and a year later the company has a powerhouse presence not only as the distributor/exec producer of several domestic titles seeking U.S. love but also as a market player sparking new projects.
“With the merged companies, I’m seeing an interesting change in the number of people wanting to quiz me about co-pros with Canada,” Slone said, noting that “Enemy,” “Seduction” and “F Word” are all Canada-international productions.
Among this year’s emerging talents, Jeff Barnaby is generating buzz with his eye-catching, 1970s-set feature bow “Rhymes for Young Ghouls” (eOne), about a teenage, aboriginal, revenge-seeking drug-dealer.
“Ghouls” is one of trio of First Nations-themed Canadian films here, along with “Defender” helmer Peter Stebbings moving family drama “Empire of Dirt” (Mongrel for Canada) and veteran documaker Alanis Obomsawin’s “Hi-Ho Mistahey!”
“I just met with an American producer who was telling me I need to watch out for Jeff Barnaby in terms of an up-and-comer,” laughed eOne’s Slone. “I told him we had it covered.”