Film Review: Top 10 Canadian Films of 2019

TIFF revealed its Canada’s Top Ten list of features and short films of 2019.  This list is compiled by TIFF’s team of programmers in collaboration with film experts, the list showcases a richness of voices, perspectives, and insights from some of Canada’s finest established filmmakers, as well as emerging directorial talent from coast to coast to coast.

Capsule reviews are provided of the films I have seen:

And the Birds Rained Down (Il pleuvait des oiseaux) Louise Archambault | Quebec

Anne at 13,000 ft Kazik Radwanski | Ontario

ANTIGONE (Canada 2019) ***1/2

Directed by Sophie Deraspe

Antigone Sophie Deraspe | Quebec | (Film opened at TIFF Bell Lightbox December 6)

ANTIGONE is the name of a Lebanese immigrant living in Montreal with her grandmother, sister and two brothers.  Things take a turn one day when cops show up unexpectedly at a playground.  One brother is shot and the other arrested.  Because the arrested brother has got a record, he likely will be deported.  Antigone having a clean record and not yet an adult figures she can pose as her brother and get him out of prison by pretending to be him.  This she does.  But nothing is what it seems.  ANTIGONE is a rough watch and is meant to be so.  It is a film that reveals the hardship of immigration in an extremely cruel world.  But director Deraspe shows that there is hope.  ANTIGONE is a film deserving of the distinguished honour of being selected as Canada’s entry for the Bets Foreign Film Oscar.


Black Conflux Nicole Dorsey | Newfoundland/Quebec

BLACK CONFLUX (Canada 2019) ***
Directed by Nicole Dorsey

BLACK CONFLUX tells the dual stores of two disillusioned people set in 1980’s Newfoundland.  The film could very well be set in the present in Toronto close to where director Dorsey earned her film degree and lives.  The seemingly separate lives of an anxious, disillusioned teen girl and a troubled, alienated man converge fatefully in this haunting exploration of womanhood, isolation, and toxic masculinity.  Fifteen-year-old Jackie (Ella Ballentine) is navigating from vulnerable adolescence to impending adulthood. Dennis (Ryan McDonald) is a socially inept loner with a volatile dark streak and delusional fantasies of adoring women at his beck and call.  Director Dorsey loves to play with symbols.  There are two scenes involving bugs, the significance only realized after a bit of deep thought at the end of the film.  Dennis’ story is more interesting as his character as an ambiguous creepy characters that could explode at any instant is more intriguing.  he film has a solid ending when the two stories eventually converge and the two meet making.  A very assured debut feature from Dorsey again enforcing the power of women.


The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn | British Columbia | Film opens at TIFF Bell Lightbox December 13


Directed by Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Maija Tailfeathers

THE BODY REMEMBERS is a low budget 2-handler about two indigenous women.  It has a simple premise and directors Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Maija Tailfeathers go to great lengths with details.  This is one extremely slow moving film saddled with details.  If one loves details, then this film will be a pleasure to watch.  The directors ensure that one feels for each character down to every moment.  Every movement or action have repercussions.  Rosie at one point takes something from Aila’s handbag.  It does not register what it is till much alter in the film that it is her wallet.  Rosie is particularly rude and ungrateful for Aila’s care and credibility comes into the picture.  THE BODY REMEMBERS is definitely a difficult watch, for its attention to detail, its slow pace and sombre and depressing story.  To the directors’ credit, this is an uncompromising tale that celebrates the the resilience of women, regardless whether the film works or not.

Matthias & Maxime Xavier Dolan | Quebec

Murmur Heather Young | Nova Scotia

One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk Zacharias Kunuk | Nunavut

The Twentieth Century Matthew Rankin | Quebec

THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (Canada 2019) ***1/2
Directed by Matthew Rankin

In Mathew Rankin’s feature debut THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, he draws his inspiration from the old movies in terms of German impressionism and from more recent fellow Winnipeg filmmaker Guy Maddin’s gothic films.  The film has a refreshing humour and it a laugh-out loud moment every minute or so, that one does not want the film to end.  In short, the film is a bizarre biopic of William Lyon Mackenzie King (David Beirne), which reimagines the former Canadian Prime Minister’s early life as a series of abject humiliations, both professional and sexual.  Though cartoonish in its looks, beware as there are segments of S&M, violence, sex, humiliation and other assorted nasties that should all be taken with a grain of salt.  The film is set in Toronto and likely with too Torontonian references like the Baron of of Mississauga and Ossington Apartments that might be over the heads of audiences not living in Toronto.  Still the film is a most original delight.  

Trailer: (unavailable)

White Lie Calvin Thomas, Yonah Lewis | Ontario


Acadiana Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau, Yannick Nolin | Quebec

Cityscape Michael Snow | Ontario

Delphine Chloé Robichaud | Quebec

Docking Trevor Anderson | Alberta

I Am in the World as Free and Slender as a Deer on a Plain Sofia Banzhaf | Ontario

Jarvik Emilie Mannering | Quebec

No Crying At The Dinner Table Carol Nguyen | Ontario

The Physics of Sorrow (Physique de la tristesse) Theodore Ushev | Quebec

Please Speak Continuously And Describe Your Experiences As They Come To You Brandon Cronenberg | Ontario

Throat Singing in Kangirsuk (Katatjatuuk Kangirsumi) Eva Kaukai, Manon Chamberland | Quebec


The Canada’s Top Ten shorts will be screened at TIFF Bell Lightbox in a programme format, on January 26, 2020.

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