New flicks from Polley, McGowan, Dolan among TIFF slate
Co-Director of the Toronto International Film Festival Cameron Bailey speaks at the opening press conference highlighting the 11-day line up for the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Tuesday, July 24, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Michelle Siu)
Published Wednesday, August 8, 2012 4:59PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2012 6:45PM EDT
TORONTO -- Canadian filmmaker Jason Lapeyre is brushing off any apparent similarities that may exist between "The Hunger Games" and his upcoming tale "I Declare War."
Yes, it centres on an all-out brawl among teenagers, and yes, blood will be shed, he said Wednesday as the Toronto International Film Festival revealed a Canadian program heavy on youth-meets-violence themes.
Lapeyre said his bloody kids saga centres on the vivid imaginations of 13 neighbourhood children who gather for a forest-set game of war and get carried away.
"I actually wrote the script 10 years ago so it predated 'The Hunger Games' a little bit," said Lapeyre. "But it's an instant coincidence that they came out at the same time."
Something must be in the water, then, because youth and violence seem to figure prominently among this year's batch of homegrown flicks.
The most high-profile projects include new work from Sarah Polley, Xavier Dolan, Michael McGowan and Brandon Cronenberg, but festival programmer Steve Gravestock listed a slew of provocative features exploring young people and violence.
There's Anita Doron's "The Lesser Blessed," which deals with bullying in a community in the Northwest Territories; Kim Nguyen's African drama "Rebelle" ("War Witch"), about a 14-year-old child soldier; Jason Buxton's "Blackbird," in which an alienated teen's online threat ignites fear in a small community; and Lapeyre's "I Declare War," which straddles fantasy and reality.
"The film deals with how kids take on the statements they get from adults about violence and what that constitutes," says Gravestock.
"And it's also magnified, what goes on in the film, because of course with a kid or a teenager ... it's a much more emotionally intense time of life so it's about that sort of collision between ... dealing with adult views and children's interpretations of them."
As for the rest of the lineup, Gravestock touted a broad selection ranging from perverse farce to intense drama, among them seven documentaries and seven films from female filmmakers.
They include Polley's documentary "Stories We Tell," in which she serves as both filmmaker and detective as she interrogates various family members who each recount their version of events.
Meanwhile, "One Week" director McGowan returns to the festival with "Still," starring James Cromwell as an 89-year-old who defies the government to build a home for his ailing wife, played by Genevieve Bujold, and Quebec phenom Dolan returns with his gender-bending love story "Laurence Anyways."
Films from rookie directors include Kate Melville's "Picture Day," about a high school senior torn between a nerdy freshman and a 33-year-old wannabe rock star, and Cronenberg's sci-fi tinged feature "Antiviral," which skewers celebrity obsessions.
Despite having grown up with a famous father, Cronenberg said he was still trying to learn how to deal with the spotlight.
"All of this is totally unnatural to me, I feel extremely awkward doing interviews and talking to people like this," Cronenberg said as reporters lined up to talk to him following TIFF's afternoon press conference.
"I went to TIFF and saw (my father's) films but you don't have to do interviews and there's no attention or pressure on you when you're just going to watch a film."
Previously announced titles include works from acclaimed homegrown directors Deepa Mehta and Ruba Nadda, and new features from Hollywood heavyweights Ben Affleck, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Terrence Malick and Joss Whedon.
Established directors also pop up in TIFF's Short Cuts Canada program, which includes 44 shorts picked from nearly 700 entries.
Charles Officer's eight-minute film "100 Musicians," centres on lovers who quarrel over what they hear on the radio while "Trailer Park Boys" creator Mike Clattenburg examines "primal urges and the power of suggestion" in the 10-minute "Crackin' Down Hard."
And a two-minute sequel to the online sensation "S--- Girls Say" debuts from actors-directors Graydon Sheppart and Kyle Humphrey, who offer up a new instalment of their outrageous pop-culture phenomenon.
Meanwhile, four emerging actors will benefit from the festival's second annual "rising stars" program: Charlie Carrick ("Flashpoint," "V," "The Borgias"), Connor Jessup ("Falling Skies," "Blackbird"), Tatiana Maslany ("Grown Up Movie Star," "The Vow," "Picture Day") and Charlotte Sullivan ("The Kennedys," "Rookie Blue").
The performers will get "intensive professional development" with international casting directors, filmmakers and producers throughout the festival.
The Canadian feature slate includes several titles that have already won accolades on the festival circuit.
Rafael Ouellet's "Camion" earned the best director award and the Ecumenical prize at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and "Laurence Anyways" actress Suzanne Clement won the best actress prize in the Cannes Film Festival's sidebar competition, Un Certain Regard.
"Rebelle" won best film and its 15-year-old star earned best actress at the Tribeca Film Festival and a special mention from the Berlin International Film Festival.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 6 to 16.