Ranking the Canadian Films at TIFF By Audience Screams

Yes, you can choose what to watch based purely on the volume of reactions.

by Noel Ransome
Aug 2 2018, 2:03pm

The late Rob Stewart of 'Sharkwater: Extinction.' Photo courtesy

Remember that moment in Goon (2012) when Keanu Reeves attempts a French Canadian accent and fails miserably? Of course you don’t, it never happened, and practically no one outside of Canada would have known this (as my very Canadian PEI-born editor made me aware of) and Goon is what passes as a successful English-Canadian film. I obviously count myself among those who skipped it despite my citizenship. In addition to that, I proudly declare that I’m no fan of maple syrup, I’m not a hockey guy, and Celine Dion is not my queen. While I may not be the most enthusiastic consumer of Canadiana, I went to a TIFF press conference to scope out the movies this country has to offer in 2018.

In total, there were 19 Canadian projects that included nine films directed by women and six exciting debut features across narrative and documentary genres. So I ranked these the easy way—via audience applause—because what other choice do I have. Here’s a list of the Canadian content you probably should look forward to checking out at TIFF purely based on the audience screams that damaged my ears.

Sharkwater Extinction, directed by Rob Stewart
Volume: Deafening

Toronto conservationist and filmmaker Rob Stewart unfortunately died last year during the making of Sharkwater Extinction, the follow up to his critically acclaimed debut of Sharkwater (2006). Stewart, 37, drowned during a scuba diving incident during filming near the coast of Florida. The new movie that will make its world-premiere at TIFF as an event tribute will resume Stewart’s globe-trotting mission to stop illegal poaching within the shark fin industry-killing millions of sharks on an annual basis. Even if for some reason you could care less about sharks, you should catch this one if not for the buzz, to pay tribute to a great guy.

Courtesy of Lyla Films Sons of Manual.

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, directed by Xavier Dolan
Volume: Deafening.

Cheers aside, the folks over at TIFF chose to make it pretty clear how anticipated film happened to be. The Life of John F. Donovan which will make its world premiere at TIFF, revolves around a young actor (Jacob Tremblay) as he looks back on the letters he shared with an American TV star who passed several years earlier and the impact it had on both parties. Packing american talents from Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Ben Schnetzer, Kathy Bates all the way to Kit Harington (Jon Snow). It’s guaranteed to bring something compelling on name brand alone.

Firecrackers, directed by Jasmin Mozaffari
Volume: Very loud

Filmmaker Jasmin Mozaffari was only 15 when she endured a terrible incident of sexual harassment that influenced her worldview and drove a concern around patriarchal society surrounding her art. Plot wise: it focuses on Lou and her best friend Chanel who plan to get out of their run-down town and move to a far away city far. Once an unstable ex violates her during a night of partying, the girls decide on a plan of revenge through a night of vandalism.

The Grizzlies, directed by Miranda De Pencier
Volume: Loud

Toronto-born Miranda De Pencier is making her directorial debut set in the Canadian Arctic. Written by Graham Yost ( The Americans, Justified) and Moira Walley-Beckett ( Breaking Bad) and starring Ben Schnetzer ( The Book Thief, Pride), this selection tells the true story of a high school teacher Russ Sheppard who creates a lacrosse league to aid a community ravaged by abuse, alcoholism and a suicide rate classified as the highest in North America.

The Hummingbird Project, directed by Kim Nguyen
Volume: Loud

Writer and director Kim Nguyen prepped his follow from Two Lovers And A Bear with Hollywood-actors Alexander Skarsgard and Jesse Eisenberg. It also happens to be executive produced by Fred Berger (La la Land). Story wise, this one centres on two cousins from New York who are players in a high-stakes game of high-frequency trading, where a win is "measured in nanoseconds." The dream? To build a fiberoptic cable straight between New Jersey and Kansas. Come to think of it, there’s is absolutely nothing Canadian sounding about this film, but it most definitely sounds like a good watch.

Mouthpiece, directed by Patricia Rozema
Volume: Loud

Inspired by the stage play of the same name, and written by Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, comes a film that follows Cassandra, played by two women, as she expresses two voices that exist inside the woman’s head during a 48-hour period. So one could see it like Dexter, absent all the stabby killing parts.

Les Salopes or the Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin, directed by Renée Beaulieu
Volume: Medium loud, with a bonus of “yes!”

This, debut film by female director Renée Beaulieu reads like a drama about female pleasure, which probably explains the “yes!”

Giant LIttle Ones, directed by Keith Behman
Volume: Medium loud

Saskatchewan native Keith Behman wrote and directed this feature about childhood friends Franky Winter and Ballas Kohl (Josh Wiggins and Darren Mann) who are considered high-school royalty—handsome, popular, the whole shebang. Until a single night of Franky’s 17th birthday, when an unexpected incident changes their lives forever. As the synopsis goes, one should expect a coming-of-age story about friendship, self-discovery and that standard adolescent shit.

The Great Darkened Days, directed by Maxine Giroux
Volume: Medium loud

Montreal-based director Maxine Giroux has made a historic drama centered on Phillipe (Martin Dubreuil), a draft-dodger from Quebec who takes refuge in America (so much better…?), while making ends meet by way of Charlie Chaplin impersonating contests, just because. A varying degree of interesting (i.e. weird) characters come his way during an obviously chaotic time which makes for a fascinating and violent initiation into the American dream. Good ol’ American pessimism—sounds properly Canadian.

Follow Noel on Twitter.