For years Canadian cinema was referred to as invisible cinema for its lack of global impact and struggle to compete with Hollywood’s massive export of blockbuster films. Each year film festivals around Canada aim to disprove this notion and push the potential and visibility of Canadian cinema to other parts of the world – and more importantly to other Canadians.
One such film festival is Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Every year they release their Top 10 Canadian film list.
If you’ve attended the Available Light Film Festival (ALFF) in recent years it is likely you have seen films from these list. The films Mommy (Xavier Dolan), Sol (Cousineau, Avingaq), Violent (Huculiak), or my personal favourite of the ALFF2015 Tu dors Nicole (Stéphane Lafleur), were all among the films included in TIFF’s best of 2014.
Thanks to the programming team at ALFF(Andrew Connors and Erin Corbett) they have
again included five films from the festival circuit from the TIFF Top 10 List.
Hurt by Alan Zweig
One of the most anticipated films of ALFF 2016 is HURT, directed by Alan Zweig. Arguably the most tragic and volatile Canadian documentary this year, it is a portrait of Steve Fonyo, who in 1985 at 19 years of age, completed his run across Canada after having lost his left leg to cancer.
At first denounced as a Terry Fox copycat and unable to generate many donations, it was an uphill battle until Fonyo ran past the spot where Terry Fox had been forced to stop. Suddenly, publicity picked up, donations poured in and by the time he reached the Pacific Ocean, he had raised $13 million for cancer research and was named to the Order of Canada.
The next 30 years were straight downhill: petty theft, larceny, and drug addiction until the Order of Canada was rescinded in 2010.
Steve Fonyo today is a mass of contradictions. Spend a year in the world of this one-time hero
and see how the run has nothing — and everything — to do with his life.
The Forbidden Room by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson
Filmmaker Guy Maddin’s (My Winnipeg, The Saddest Music in the World) latest opus is The Forbidden Room. A submarine crew, a feared pack of forest bandits, a famous surgeon and a battalion of child soldiers all get more than they bargained for as they wend their way toward progressive ideas on life and love. Guy Maddin’s depraved fever dream in glorious over-saturated colour.
Maddin and co-director Evan Johnson take us high into the air, around the world, and into dreamscapes, spinning tales of amnesia, captivity, deception and murder, skeleton women and vampire bananas. Playing like some glorious meeting between Italo Calvino, Sergei Eisenstein and a perverted six year-old child, The Forbidden Room is Maddin’s grand ode to lost cinema.
Into the Forest by Patricia Rozema
Acclaimed Canadian cinema icon Patricia Rozema (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, When Night is Falling) took TIFF by storm with her latest film Into the Forest, which stars Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood.
Based on the novel by Jean Hegland, Into the Forest is a raw and elegant “fable” that explores the beauty that can come of painful beginnings, the denial we resort to in a world come unhinged and the strength that we find when our plans for our lives have been obliterated.
It follows the relationship of two sisters struggling to live in a remote forest as they discover the world around them is on the brink of an apocalypse. Informed only by rumor, they fight intruders, disease, loneliness and starvation.
My Internship in Canada by Philippe Falardeau
From Quebec comes the comedy My Internship in Canada (Guibord s’en va-t-en guerre) directed by Philippe Falardeau. Steve Guibord, independent Member for Prescott-Makadew à Rapides-aux-Outardes, ends up, despite himself, holding the balance of power in Parliament. While travelling through his riding to consult his constituents accompanied by Souverain, an idealistic Haitian trainee, Guibord and Souverain are caught in a crossfire of peace activists, miners, truckers, politicians, Aboriginal groups… and it will be up to the young Haitian, far more astute a politician than his boss, to decide if Canada goes to war.
Ninth Floor by Mina Shum
Finally, the hard-hitting documentary Ninth Floor joins ALFF 2016. Over four decades after the infamous Sir George Williams Riot in which students protested racism at the Montreal university in 1969, Ninth Floor reopens the file on a watershed moment in Canadian race relations and one of the most contested episodes in the nation’s history.
Making an audacious foray into nonfiction, writer and director Mina Shum engages the original protagonists in a compassionate cinematic exercise of reckoning and redemption. Ninth Floor is a remarkable film about human rights and the struggle for equality.
The Yukon Film Society presents the 2016 Available Light Film Festival Feb. 7 to 14, with screenings at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre and the Yukon Arts Centre. For the festival schedule go to YukonFilmSociety.com/ALFF.