August 16th 2006
Independent Filmmakers Alliance Newsletter
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As fall approaches, we take a sneak preview at the Independent Films being showing at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.

The Independents - TIFF 2006 Preview
by Anya Wassenberg

The end of summer may carry bittersweet connotations, but for Canadian film fans, the return of cooler evenings also means the highly anticipated return of the Toronto International Film Festival (September 7-16), ten days where the city becomes a veritable mecca for all things film.

This year's line-up includes a healthy quotient of Canadian films, as well as a sampling of independent releases from around the globe. Among the most high-profile is Sarah Polley's directorial debut, Away from Her. Polley, known to Canadian audiences since her days as a fresh-faced Prince Edward Islander on Road to Avonlea, gets behind the lens to direct the story of a philandering husband, played by Gordon Pinsent, who must put his wife, Julie Christie, ailing from Alzheimer's, into a home, and then watch as she slips into another world without him, falling in love with another resident.

Guy Maddin, another familiar name, returns with the world premiere of his film Brand Upon the Brain! in the Special Presentations program. Brand is a new silent film, screened with live music and foley effects. In a trailer currently making the rounds on the web, Maddin describes the film, shot in the Seattle area and based on his own childhood, as his “first foreign film.” He credits The Film Company, known as the world's only non-profit film company, for giving him a completely free reign to create the feature that he wanted. Nine days of shooting later, Brand Upon the Brain!, a beautiful and luminous black and white feature, was the result.

The Special Presentations program also includes the North American premiere of Philippe Falardeau's Congorama, a satirical drama about a hapless Belgian inventor who travels to rural Quebec in search of his biological family. Congorama premiered at Cannes to much critical acclaim. Jennifer Baichwal's Manufactured Landscapes also premiers in this series, a collaboration between Baichwal and Peter Mettler, himself the subject of this year's Canadian Retrospective. Mettler's films typically represent a blend of documentary and experimental forms, along with dramatic elements. The TIFF group has published a book on Mettler, entitled Of This Place and Elsewhere: the Films and Photography of Peter Mettler, written by Jerry White, an assistant professor of film studies at the University of Alberta.

From the Canadian Open Vault series, this year's entry is Peter Pearson's Paperback Hero, starring Keir Dullea and Elizabeth Ashley in a story about a man who can't come to grips with the changing times. It is a story that is both funny and ultimately tragic. Nine films make up the Canada First! Program, including eight world premieres. One of these is Andrew Currie's FIDO, with Carrie- Anne Moss and Henry Czerny, which portrays a journey into the future where zombies are house pets and domestic servants. Also featured are films by BC's Carolyn Combs (Acts of Imagination) and Paul Fox (Everything's Gone Green), Quebec's Patrice Sauve (Cheech), Jean Chateauvert (La Coupure), Noel Mitrani (Sur la trace d'Igor Rizzi) and Maurice Devereaux (End of the Line), Nova Scotia's Carmelia Frieberg (A Stone's Throw) and Toronto’s own Mazdak Taebi, whose film Mercy looks at family ties, duty and Iranian mythology.

TIFF is known for its Hollywood quotient and big star appeal, but the real goldmine is the opportunity to see so many innovative films, like Catherine Martin's Dan les Villes, starring Robert Lepage, a look at the human condition being screened as part of the Visions program, and Reginald Harkema's Monkey Warfare in the Contemporary World Cinema screenings. Monkey Warfare stars another Canadian film icon, Don McKellar, as half of a counter culture couple who survive by scrounging usable items from the garbage and selling them over the internet. Carl Bessai's Unnatural and Accidental presents a harrowing look at the disappearance of Aboriginal women in downtown Vancouver, shot in a dreamy, hallucinatory style, and starring Callum Keith Rennie and Tantoo Cardinal. Robert Favreau's Un Dimanche a Kigali tells a love story between a journalist and a Rwandan waitress, set against the horrific genocidal wars. The popular Short Cuts Canada program features the work of both established and emerging talents in 38 short films, including everything from drama to documentary to experimental and flat out funny, such as Alison Maclean's Intolerable, an intense look at fear through an audition.

Along with over 80 Canadian films, TIFF prides itself on featuring outstanding and emerging talents from around the world in a few different programs. The Discovery Program features several world and international premiers, including King and the Clown, a film by South Korean director Joon-ik Lee. King and the Clown is a period comedy/drama portraying the messy love affair between the King, his concubine and a pair of court clowns that was a record-breaking box office sensation in Korea. Vanguard, a brand new program, showcases films that are bold and breathtaking in both style and subject matter. The program is designed to appeal to more adventurous film-going audiences with offerings like Jade Warrior, a Finland/China/Estonia collaboration under director Antti-Jussi Annila featuring beautiful cinematography and stunning action sequences in a romantic melodrama. Another film to watch out for in the program is Renaissance, by Christian Volckman, a France/UK/Luxembourg production described as a motion capture anime film noir about a soulless future.

Mainstream media will no doubt run all the expected stories about the foreign celebs and the parties, but the organizers of TIFF seem to understand that there is an audience for films that stray off the beaten path.

Find out more....