TIFF unveils Canadian slate for this year’s fest

TORONTO — The world premiere of Mary Harron’s TV miniseries “Alias Grace” and films starring Evan Rachel Wood, Geena Davis and Sandra Oh are in the homegrown lineup for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

The Canadian slate announced Wednesday includes a first look at “Alias Grace,” which Sarah Polley wrote and produced based on Margaret Atwood’s novel. It’s set to premiere on the CBC this fall and stream internationally on Netflix.

In the drama “A Worthy Companion” by Carlos Sanchez and Jason Sanchez, Wood stars as a troubled woman who bonds with a teenage pianist, played by Canadian actress Julia Sarah Stone. Stone starred in Bruce McDonald’s “Weirdos” at last year’s fest and was deemed one of the Rising Stars in the 2014 instalment, when she starred in “Wet Bum.”

Meanwhile, Davis stars alongside Scott Thompson of “The Kids in the Hall” fame in the comedy “Don’t Talk to Irene” by Pat Mills, about a teen who auditions for a dance-themed reality show with a group of senior citizens.

And Oh is in the dramedy ”Meditation Park” by Mina Shum, which also stars Liane Balaban and Don McKellar and is set in Vancouver.

Some cinephiles had speculated that the Canadian lineup might include Xavier Dolan’s upcoming English-language drama “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan.” But it seems it’s not ready.

“Like any festival, a lot of what happens is based on timing and when the films are ready, and my understanding is that they’re still working on the film,” said Steve Gravestock, senior programmer at TIFF.

“That happens every year…. Sometimes they don’t pan out, they’re just not ready for us.

“There may be a few more Canadian titles announced but my understanding is that Xavier’s film just isn’t ready. It’s a drag because we’re really looking forward to it.”

Other highlights of the homegrown lineup include “Eye on Juliet” by Kim Nguyen, whose previous features include “Two Lovers and a Bear” and the Oscar-nominated “Rebelle.”

“Eye on Juliet” stars Joe Cole as a hexapod operator who is in the middle of a bad breakup when he meets a young woman from the Middle East, played by Lina El Arabi.

The film is “a take on modern relationships in the 21st century,” Nguyen told The Canadian Press at last year’s fest.

Judy Greer and Russell Peters star in the comedy “Public Schooled” by Kyle Rideout, about a home-schooled teen who enrols in public school.

“I’m thrilled to be (at the festival),” said Rideout, the director and co-writer.

“When I found out, I was in a locker room just finishing a workout and I had no pants on and I looked at my phone and found out I got into TIFF and I was just really excited and happy in the locker room — and the other guys … thought it was very strange.”

Celebrated Indigenous documentary maker Alanis Obomsawin will be at the fest with “Our People Will Be Healed,” about an innovative school in a remote Cree community north of Winnipeg.

Another noteworthy doc in the lineup is Sean Menard’s “The Carter Effect,” about the impact NBA all-star Vince Carter made on Toronto.

Organizers say this year’s Canadian roster has one of the highest numbers of feature directorial debuts ever, at over 30 per cent.

Directors making their feature directorial debut include “Trailer Park Boys” star Cory Bowles with ”Black Cop,” a satirical exploration of police-community relations.

The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off Sept. 7 with the opening film “Borg/McEnroe,” a tennis drama starring Shia LaBeouf.

A total of 25 Canadian feature films are in the lineup, and all are eligible for the Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film.

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