Film Festival Season begins

Well, at least around here it does. And when I say around here, I mean both in Nova Scotia and across the country.

For reasons that should be obvious to everyone, film festivals this year have had to reinvent how they bring films to audiences. Cannes didn’t happen, but they did share the list of films they would’ve programmed if they’d been able to go forward, as did Telluride.

The Toronto International Film Festival, showing approximately 20% of the number of films the fest would screen on any other year, is doing a mix of in-person events, drive-in screenings, and digital screenings. Most of the latter are available to anyone in Canada with an internet connection and a credit card.

Some of the tickets went on sale this weekend and I managed to nab a few of them — prices range between free screenings, $19 and $26. The TIFF website is a little confusing — I was unable to secure some of my choices as tickets weren’t available at the time they were supposed to be,  and some because they’re not available on the digital platform.

The films that caught my eye include the following:

Francis Lee’s follow-up to God’s Own Countryentitled Ammonite, a love story starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. Another Round (Druk), starring Mads Mikkelsen, is the new drama from Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg. Beans is the debut feature from Mohawk Girls creator Tracy Deer, about a girl growing up during the Oka Crisis. Idris Elba is in Concrete Cowboy, which is about the relationship between an urban horseman and his teenaged son.

David Byrne’s American Utopia is the document of the former Talking Heads frontman’s Broadway show, directed by Spike Lee. An American military family’s hacker son draws the attention of the FBI in the documentary Enemies of the StateFalling is an aging-father-son drama from actor and director Viggo Mortensen. And speaking of aging fathers, one of the year’s sharpest casts is in The Father, including Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman, and Olivia Williams.

Thomas King’s book, Inconvenient Indian, about colonialism in North America, gets the documentary treatment. The New Corporation is the sequel to the hit documentary The Corporation, Chloé Zhao’s new film is Nomadlandabout a destitute woman (Frances McDormand) who travels around the American southwest in a van.

No Ordinary Man is a Canadian documentary from directors Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt telling the story of Billy Tipton, a jazz musician who was revealed after his death to be transgender. Oscar winner Regina King has her first feature as a director at TIFF, One Night In Miami…, imagining Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke all meeting in a hotel room in 1964 — sounds, excitingly, a little like Nic Roeg’s Insignificance. Did I say The Father had a great cast? Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Molly Parker, and Ellen Burstyn all star in a drama exploring grief, called Pieces of a Woman.

And there are a lot more here. TIFF runs from September 10 to 19.

This year the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival is also all online, branded as FIN Stream. As per usual, they’ve an excellent program of cinema, features, documentaries, and shorts.

I’ll start with mentioning a few highlights from ’round here:

Taylor Olson is having a breakout year, starring, directing, and adapting Catherine Banks’ play for a feature, Bone Cage. Bread In The Bones is a documentary from Darrel Varga that explores “the poetry, the pleasures, and the politics” of bread. The Forbidden Reel is Ariel Nasr’s look at Afghani cinema.

Little Orphans is the tale of sibling dysfunction from Newfoundland actor-turned-director Ruth Lawrence. From New Brunswick’s Jillian Acreman is a near-future drama, Queen of the Andes. Veteran documentarian William D. MacGillivray returns to feature filmmaking with family drama Under The Weather.

Also on my list of considerations: an adaptation of the Clive Barker horror anthology Books Of Blood from Brannon Braga, best known as writer-producer of Star Trek: Next Generation. It was shot in Halifax. Chad Faust’s Sudbury-shot revenge thriller, Girl, starring Bella Thorne and Mickey Rourke has a sleazy appeal. A couple of documentaries — I Am Greta, a documentary about Greta Thunberg, Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President, about the 39th American head of state — both look good. Clark Johnson’s Percy, about a farmer taking on a Monsanto-esque corporation, stars Christopher Walken, which is all the incentive I need. And Rosamund Pike always does interesting work, and she’s Marie Curie in the biopic, Radioactive. 

Another Round (Druk), Falling, No Ordinary Man, and The New Corporation, which I mentioned above as part of the program at TIFF, will also be at FIN.

FIN runs from September 17 to 24. You can see the full program here, and tickets are now on sale.

Also online this month, from September 19-22, is the Lunenburg Doc Fest.

A few titles that jumped out at me include the opening night film, Bloodless: The Path To Democracyabout Armenian revolution, The Last Ice, about how opening up the Arctic  threatens the Inuit way of life, Margaret Atwood: A Word After A Word After A Word is Power, a look at the life of the award-winning Canadian author, and Sex, Sin & 69, about decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada. And Bread In The Bones, mentioned above as part of the FIN program, is also at the Lunenburg Doc Fest.

There are many more, and you can see the full list here.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.