Ours is famously a nation of two solitudes, but if the list of films selected for TIFF’s newly minted Canada’s Top 10 Film Festival (formerly Canada’s Top 10) is any indication, Quebec should be feeling the lion’s share of love. Half the titles on the list (which was selected by a coast-to-coast jury of critics, filmmakers, and industry professionals) were the work of directors based in la belle province. With all due respect to the worthy Anglo picks on the list (i.e., Jennifer Baichwal’s magisterial Watermark),
the writing is on the wall, and it’s en francais.
I might prefer the oblique rural menace of Denis Côté’s Vic and Flo Saw a Bear to the bluntly obvious rural melodrama of Xavier Dolan’s Tom at the Farm, but both represent the sort of heady auteur work that defines a national cinema. Both Chloé Robichaud’s debut feature, Sarah Prefers to Run, and Louise Archambault’s Gabrielle were feted at international festivals before touching down at TIFF, which suggests that the film world’s cultural gatekeepers are hip to this artistic shift. And what does it say that Enemy, perhaps the most quintessentially Torontonian thriller of the last decade, was helmed by a Francophone? (Only a satirically clever director from Montreal like Denis Villeneuve would shoot our famously horizontal city to look as vertical as Dubai.)
Conspicuous in their absence are the old-guard members of English-Canadian cinema (Atom Egoyan, Don McKellar, Bruce McDonald), whose new films failed to secure unified support. Canada’s Top 10 Film Festival is hardly definitive, of course, also conspicuously absent: Matt Johnson’s attention-getting black comedy The Dirties—but the gauntlet has been dropped at the feet of English-Canadian filmmakers. Check back this time next year to see if anyone picked it up.