The Toronto International Film Festival has a rather creative list for the Top Ten Canadian Films of 2017 for its Canadian tour. Like the Windsor International Film Festival, the Top Ten is documentary-dominant. Unlike the Windsor festival, most of the titles never made it to Windsor.
- 2 of those films played at Windsor
- 1 additional film played in Chicago
- 4 of them are documentaries
- 2 of them have changed titles since their 2017 TIFF debut
The list includes significant award winners such as Luk'Luk'I (2017 TIFF Best Canadian First Feature Film); Les Affamés (2017 TIFF Best Canadian Feature Film); and Unarmed Verses (Hot Docs' Best Canadian Feature Documentary).
Here is the list of the TIFF Top Ten:
Adventures in Public School*
The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches
Never Steady, Never Still
Our People Will Be Healed
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
* previously known as Public Schooled ** previously known as A Worthy Companion
Here are the reviews (with permission) from the films we've seen:
The Ravenous (Les Affamés) is a zombie film that starts right in the middle of the battle against the zombies. You can appreciate the need to skip past any explanations. This film is not a typical zombie film in many other ways.
This zombie film isn't very scary. The pace is slow. We meet a few survivors who team up to fight the battle but don't learn much about them. The zombies accumulate very tall piles of chairs.
Rural Quebec, where the film was shot, looks really lovely.
This film won the 2017 TIFF award for Best Canadian Feature Film. My initial reaction was highly negative when I came out of this film. In subsequent days, my mood toward the film got better. This is a film worth seeing purely in the way the horror genre is tinkered: Genius or insanity or a bit of both. As for its award, Black Cop was a much better film.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World spotlights the indigenous influence in the world of rock and roll. The "Rumble" in the title refers to the 1958 instrumental Rumble from Link Wray and his Ray Men.
Though Link Wray ran into controversy with his music, many well-known rock-and-roll stars, including Pete Townshend, list Link Wray as a heavy influence with the power chord.
Canadians in the documentary include Robbie Robertson, from the Mohawk tribe, The Band, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. Prominent musicians include Jimi Hendrix, Redbone, and Jesse Ed Davis.
The latter was known best as a session guitarist, including his work on the solo on Doctor My Eyes from Jackson Browne. Davis was on a few albums from Taj Mahal and played on several Beatles solo albums.
The documentary is pretty straightforward and gives us a nice education without being annoying.
Never Steady, Never Still was covered at some length. Click here to access that review.
Here is what we wrote up (with permission) about some of the films we still haven't seen.
A Worthy Companion from Carlos Sanchez and Jason Sanchez. Evan Rachel Wood appears in another Canadian film after Into the Forest. Wood's character embarks on an intimate relationship with a teenage pianist, played by Julia Sarah Stone.
Daniel Doheny, Russell Peters, and Judy Greer are in Public Schooled from Kyle Rideout. Doheny plays a home-schooled teen who switches gears to public school.
The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes). This film explore the lives of two children after their father’s death who reflect on how they were raised.
Alanis Obomsawin's newest work is Our People Will Be Healed about an innovative school in a remote Cree community north of Winnipeg.
Black Cop and Meditation Park would have made my list. Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is the best from the TIFF list that I've seen, but that shouldn't be considered an endorsement. Adventures in Public School and Allure, even with their new titles, were high on my interest list. The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches, Luk'Luk'I, and Our People Will Be Healed hold mild interest for your humble narrator.
The only part I know about Ava is a lack of Canadian visual presence. Unarmed Verses wasn't on my radar until the list was announced: the documentary focuses on the demolition of a Toronto public housing neighborhood.
Toronto Star movie critic Peter Howell shared some insight on why the list has a different feel this year:
"There’s another reason why TIFF’s Top Ten Canuck tally looks a tad unfamiliar this year. TIFF broke from its tradition of convening a 10-member national panel of filmmakers, journalists, programmers and industry professionals to adjudicate the best in Canadian feature films. … The change this year was to keep everything in-house. TIFF drew on the experience of (artistic director Cameron) Bailey, (programmer Steve) Gravestock, director/CEO Piers Handling, programmers Kerri Craddock and Magali Simard and other TIFF staffers to compile the Top Ten feature and shorts lists. This is undoubtedly partly an economy measure — large projects like these cost money — but it also recognizes the vast expertise TIFF has under its roof.
"This could also explain why eight of the 10 features on this year’s list premiered at TIFF 2017. But I can remember years when members of the press, present company included, were moaning about how TIFF paid too much attention to films made by well-known Canadians."
The Canada's Top Ten Film Festival also includes screenings of 10 Canadian short films and 10 short films by Canadian film students. The event runs January 12-21 in Toronto before traveling across Canada to Edmonton, Montréal, Ottawa, Regina, Saskatoon, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.
video credit: TIFF trailers
photos credit: Les Affamés; Allure