Canadian movies scoop the spotlight at TIFF 2008
Updated Tue. Aug. 26 2008 5:10 PM ET
by Constance Droganes, entertainment writer, CTV.ca
Canadian filmmakers are unspooling some of the most-anticipated flicks of the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival, with Atom Egoyan's futuristic fable on terror to Deepa Mehta's drama on domestic violence. Check out the hot, homegrown festival entries the world is waiting to watch. 'Passchendaele' is set during the bloody 1917 battle fought
by 50,000 Canadians in the fields of Ypres, BelgiumPasschendaele Paul Gross, director
The Opening Night film of TIFF 2008, Paul Gross' $20-million epic honours forgotten war veterans everywhere. Set during the bloody 1917 battle fought by 50,000 Canadians in the fields of Ypres, Belgium, "Passchendaele's" inspiration came from Gross' grandfather, Michael Dunne. As a young soldier in the 10th Battalion, CEF Dunne bayonetted a German through the face during a battle. He had killed men before, as Dunne's gripping letters on the website www.passchendaelethemovi e.com
reveal. Yet this incident tormented him all his life.
On his death bed years later Dunne's family was mystified when he repeatedly asked for forgiveness. They did not know Dunne's story. But Gross did. "He went completely out of his mind at the end," Gross told Now Magazine in the UK in 1998. "He started telling me about a hideous event that happened during a skirmish in a little ruined town ... As my grandfather died, in his mind he was back in that town trying to find a German boy whom he'd bayonetted in the forehead. He lived with that memory all his life - and he was of a time when people kept things to themselves. When he finally told the story it really affected me and I've not been able to get it out of my head." C'est pas moi, je le jure! (It's Not Me, I Swear!) Philippe Falardeau, director
Based on Bruno Hébert's critically acclaimed novel, Falardeau's oddball comedy proves that love and a fertile imagination can get you through anything. Its star, 10-year-old Léon Doré, is a kid with problems. At 8 he "accidentally" tries offing himself in the freezer but is saved by his mother. She's also there to save his ass when he "almost" hangs himself and tries drowning in the pool. Fed up with his antics, Léon's mother abandons her family to start a new life in Greece. Racked with guilt Léon does anything to ease the pain: trash the neighbour's house, tell lies 24/7 and, to his amazement, fall in love with the annoying, know-it-all girl next door. One Week Michael McGowan, director
A lousy job, an impending wedding and a devastating medical diagnosis send young Ben Tyler (Joshua Jackson) on a reckless motorcycle trek across Canada. Determined to find the meaning to his unfulfilled life, Tyler sets off solo on his vintage wheels to contend with Canada's vast landscape and the enormity of his medical condition. Lost in his thoughts as he confronts his mortality, Tyler sticks to the road until iconic tourist landmarks and a few quirky sages slow him down. He does not have all of life's answers as he reaches Tofino, British Columbia, the end of his 4,000 kilometre trek. But Tyler, and audiences, learn an invaluable lesson about love, courage and accepting life's uncertainty with grace and gratitude. Fifty Dead Men Walking Kari Skogland, director
Based on a shocking real-life story, Kari Skogland's gripping world premiere drama is filled with treachery, violence and irrepressible human spirit. Twenty-two-year-old Martin McGartland (Jim Sturgess) is recruited by the British police to spy on the Irish Republican Army in the late 1980s. Keeping his secret double life from his family, McGartland works his way up through the IRA ranks while simultaneously feeding information to the Brits. When his cover is blown McGartland is captured and tortured within an inch of his life. Yet the resilient spy manages a daring escape. To this day McGartland is still on the run. Heaven on Earth Deepa Mehta, director
The universal shame of domestic violence drives Deepa Mehta's tough new drama. Bollywood superstar Preity Zinta plays Chand, a vibrant young woman who travels from India to Canada to join her new husband Rocky (Vansh Bhardwaj) and his traditional family. Meeting for the first time at the airport, Chand walks into her new life with optimism. That hopefulness passes quickly when Rocky, a man burdened with familial obligations, unleashes his frustrations on her with his fists. To save her marriage Chand accepts a magical root from a co-worker, one that promises to snag her husband's love. Soon magical events mirroring an old Indian fable occur and blur the lines of their true relationship Blindness Fernando Meirelles, director
Don McKellar, screenplay
Based on the international bestseller by José Saramago, this chilling post-9/11 tale hits close to the bone. A strange city-wide contagion leaves all but one citizen (Julianne Moore) completely blind. Every semblance of ordinary social order quickly fades, leaving the first victims of this "White Sickness" rounded up and quarantined in a dilapidated mental asylum. Feigning blindness to remain with her husband (Mark Ruffalo), our heroine cannot explain why her sight has been spared. But she's certain that she may be the city's only hope. Determined to survive she breaks out of the hospital, taking her blind hospital family (Gael García Bernal, Don McKellar, Maury Chaykin and Danny Glover) into a terrifying new world. Adoration Atom Egoyan, director
Modern terrorist neuroses, religious prejudice and the power of the Internet to bury the truth drive Atom Egoyan's challenging new drama. Likened by some critics to his 1997 hit "The Sweet Hereafter," Egoyan's 12th showcases an orphaned high school student (Devon Bostick) caught up with the idea of family history. Reacting to a class assignment by his French teacher (Arsinée Khanjian), the teen becomes fascinated by the possibility that two historical figures might be his real parents. He announces on the Internet that his father was a Palestinian terrorist and that his mother carried a bomb on a plane for Israel. Soon this teen's convoluted fiction morphs into explosive reality.