A Canadian co-production based on the Emma Donoghue novel of the same name, about a mother and young son held in captivity for several years, "Room" screened at TIFF 2015 and then went on to win Best Motion Picture at the the Canadian Screen Awards where it also nabbed lead acting awards for Brie Larson and Canada's own Jacob Tremblay. The film was also nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture and Brie Larson walked away with the statue for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
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This drama, featuring Julianne Moore, was a Special Presentation film at TIFF 2008. Starring Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Sandra Oh, the film is an adaptation from a novel of the same name with Canadian filmmaker Don McKellar writing the script. The thriller introduces us to a society plagued by an epidemic of sudden blindness. Moore plays a woman seemingly immune to the blindness epidemic. "Blindness" also screened at the Cannes Film Festival where it opened the fest.
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Festival favourite filmmaker Atom Egoyan returned to TIFF in 2002 to premiere "Ararat" starring Canadian luminaries like Christopher Plummer, Bruce Greenwood, and Elias Koteas. The film introduces us to a family and film crew in Toronto working on a film based on the Armenian genocide. "Ararat" was nominated for eight Genie Awards and won five including Best Motion Picture for Egoyan and Canadian powerhouse producer Robert Lantos.
'The Sweet Hereafter'
Written, produced, and directed by Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan and based on the 1991 novel of the same name, "The Sweet Hereafter" made its Canadian debut at TIFF after making its world premiere at Cannes where it was nominated for Grand Jury Prize. The drama, which stars Sarah Polley, Ian Holm, Maury Chaykin, and Bruce Greenwood, tells the story of a town reeling after a school bus accident claims the lives of several of the town's children. It won Best Canadian Feature Film at TIFF and went on to win seven Genie Awards (the precursor to The Canadian Screen Awards) including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Ian Holm. Egoyan was also nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Awards. "This is one of the best films of the year," wrote Roger Ebert of "The Sweet Hereafter" calling it "an unflinching lament for the human condition."
'The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan'
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After several highly-acclaimed French films, director Xavier Dolan premiered his first English feature at TIFF 2018. "The Death and Life of John F. Donovan
The film boasts an impressive cast with Canadian Jacob Tremblay playing a young boy who develops a pen pal relationship with a Hollywood actor played by "Game of Thrones" star Kit Harrington. Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Kathy Bates, and Thandie Newton also appear alongside Canadian stars like Sarah Gadon, Emily Hampshire, and Jared Keeso.
'The Grand Seduction'
This 2013 charming Canadian comedy directed by Don McKellar stars "Friday Night Lights" alum Taylor Kitsch and tells the story of a down-and-out small town in Newfoundland and Labrador coping with unemployment and facing an exodus of the population. The town has the chance to be the home to a new petrochemical factory but won't win the bid without first landing a new doctor. The townspeople go to great length to seduce a young doctor, played by Kitsch, to stay. Canadian talent like Gordon Pinsent, Mark Critch, Mary Walsh, and Liane Balaban round out the cast and Pinsent earned a Best Supporting Actor Genie Award for his performance.
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Opening the 2007 fest, this drama, which TIFF brass chose as the opening film over the David Cronenberg film "Eastern Promises" is based on the best-seller by Canadian poet Anne Michaels. "Fugitive Pieces" tells the story of a Jewish-Polish boy rescued from Nazi Germany by a Greek archaeologist who raises him as his son in Greece and eventually Toronto. The drama is written and directed by Toronto-born filmmaker Jeremy Podeswa who has also had a prolific career in television, directing episodes of shows like "Six Feet Under" "Nip/Tuck" and "Game of Thrones." Nina Dobrev and Rosamund Pike are among the talented cast.
'The Barbarian Invasions'
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The French Canadian comedy "The Barbarian Invasions" or "Les Invasions barbares" made its debut at TIFF in 2003 after a world premiere early that year at the Cannes Film Festival where it won Best Director for filmmaker Denys Arcand and Best Actress for Marie-Josée Croze of Montreal. The comedy, a follow up to Arand's 1996 film "The Decline of the American Empire" also cleaned up at the Genie Awards and also on Best Foreign Language Film at the 2004 Academy Awards.
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Director Deepa Mehta's "Water" premiered at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival. It was the third and final film in her 'elements trilogy' of films after 1996's "Fire' and 1998's "Earth." Set in the late 1930s takes place in an ashram where widows are sent to live the rest of their lives following the deaths of their husbands. Lisa Ray stars as a widow forced into prostitution who then begins and affair with a wealthy Gandhi follower. "Water" was a commercial and critical success and was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
A film by renowned French Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, "C.R.A.Z.Y." screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005 and TIFF later named it as one of the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time. Also co-written by Vallée, the film is a coming-of-age story about a young gay man growing up in 1960s/1970s Quebec as he deals with homophobia, a conservative father and four brothers. The movie boasts an impressive soundtrack featuring artists like Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, and Patsy Cline. "C.R.A.Z.Y." went on to win the Genie Award for Best Motion Picture.
'Stories We Tell'
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Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley turns the camera on her own family in this intensely personal documentary which was featured at the 2012 festival. "Stories We Tell" focuses on Polley's immediate family, specifically the rumour that her father Michael wasn't actually her biological father, rather the result of an affair had by her mother, actress Diane Polley. The documentary was included in TIFF's "Canada's Top 10" of 2012 and three years later, added to the festival's "Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time" list. It also won the Best Documentary Feature award at the Canadian Screen Awards. The Writers Guild of America named "Stories We Tell" the Best Documentary Screenplay.
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Based on the 1981 Salman Rushdie novel of the same name, the 2012 film was directed by Indo-Canadian director Deepa Mehta. The filmmaker and the author decided to collaborate back in 2008 and eventually decided on adapting "Midnight's Children." Rushdie spent two years pairing down the 600 page book into a 130 page screenplay.
'Maps To The Stars'
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After an initial premiere at the Cannes Film Festival where Canadian director David Cronenberg was nominated for the prestigious Palm d'Or and Julianne Moore won Best Actress, "Maps to the Stars" made its way to TIFF in 2014 with its impressive cast including Moore, Sarah Gadon, Mia Wasikowska, and John Cusack. The film is an unflinching look at Hollywood and celebrity culture and was nominated for ten Canadian Screen Awards including Best Motion Picture, Best Direction, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role which John Cusack won.
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The epic war drama received the prestigious distinction of being selected as the opening film at the 33rd annual Toronto International Film Festival in 2008. "Passchendaele" told the story of battle of Passchendaele in World War I. It was a passion project and labour of love for actor/director Paul Gross whose grandfather fought in the war. Gross plays a soldier scarred by the battle at Vimy Ridge, who comes home to Calgary, falls in love with a nurse, and then returns to the battlefield to play an important role in the battle of Passchendaele. The 20-million dollar epic as a stark departure from Gross' directorial debut, the 2002 curling comedy "Men With Brooms."
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No stranger to TIFF, filmmaker Deepa Mehta returned to premiere her movie "Beeba Boys" in 2015. Known for her sweeping dramas, this slick crime thriller was a departure for the filmmaker. The movie introduces viewers to the Beeba boys, a group of Indo-Canadian twenty-something gangsters who go to war with an older mobster.
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A Canadian film festival is the perfect place to debut a Canadian comedy about Canada's national sport. "Goon" a hockey comedy premiered at TIFF in 2011 directed by Michael Dowse, the filmmaker behind cult classics like "It's All Gone Pete Tong" and "Fubar." Starring Jay Baruchel, who also wrote the script, Sean William Scott, and Liev Schreiber, the comedy tells the story of a dimwitted bouncer, played by Scott, who unwittingly becomes the enforcer of a minor league hockey team. Eugene Levy and Kim Coates also appear in the movie. "Goon" was nominated for four awards at the very first Canadian Screen Awards (the amalgamation of the Genie and Gemini Awards) for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay for Jay Baruchel and writing partner Evan Goldberg as well as Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Coates. The movie spawned a sequel in 2017, "Goon: Last of the Enforcers" which as directed by Baruchel.
'Long Time Running'
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A year after The Tragically Hip's historical final performance in their hometown of Kingston was broadcast to millions of tearful Canadians on CBC in 2016, a behind-the-scenes documentary companion piece called "Long Time Running" premiered at TIFF 2017. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, the doc tells the against all odds story of how the band's 'Man Machine Poem' tour came together, which, with the brain cancer diagnosis of singer Gord Downie, would be the band's last. The emotional film, a mix of interviews and concert footage offers viewers a glimpse into Downie's illness as well as the unbreakable bonds of brotherhood between the longtime band members coping with knowing they were coming to the end of the road. Downie passed away a month after the film premiered.
'Take This Waltz'
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Canadian actress-turned-filmmaker debuted her second film, the followup to her heartbreaking dementia drama "Away From Her" at TIFF in 2011. "Take This Waltz" was filmed around Toronto and is an intimate look into the complexities of relationships with Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams playing a married couple whose relationship is put to the test when a Michelle's character is taken with a handsome neighbour played by Luke Kirby. Sarah Silverman plays Seth Rogen's sister.
The premiere of "Sharkwater Extinction" at the 2018 was the culmination of a filmmaking career and life cut tragically short. Filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart, whose very first film "Sharkwater" debuted at TIFF 12 years earlier in 2006, died during the making of his final film, drowning during a dive in Florida in 2017. Completed posthumously by friends, family and associates, the doc picks up where his previous films left off - shining a light on poachers putting the world's shark population at risk.
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Premiering at TIFF 2019, "White Lie" stars Vancouver-born actress Kacey Rohl as a university student who finds herself in a spiral of lies and deception after faking a cancer diagnosis for financial gain and attention. Her treachery eventually comes back on her with her own father calling her out. The film was nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards and the Globe and Mail referred to it as "a wild, nail-biting look at our immeasurable capacity for self-deception."