TIFF 2015 Previews

Andrew Martin and Harley Legarde in Fire Song
Andrew Martin and Harley Legarde in Fire Song

Torontonicity was given the opportunity to preview a few films for the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, including Fire Song, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi and The Ardennes. The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the premiere Toronto events and runs from September 10-20, 2015.

Fire Song at TIFF

(Previewed by Lori Bosworth.) Fire Song, written and directed by Canada’s Adam Garnet Jones, will make its World Premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Andrew Martin and Harley Legarde in Fire Song
Andrew Martin and Harley Legarde in Fire Song

Set on the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation and Fort William First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, Fire Song focuses on the struggle of Shane (Andrew Martin), an Aboriginal teen, after the suicide of his sister. Desiring to help his mother (Jennifer Podemski) financially and emotionally, Shane also has conflicting aspirations to move to Toronto with his secret boyfriend (Harley LeGarde-Beacham) unbeknownst to his girlfriend (Mary Galloway).

There is not much to aspire to on this Northern Ontario reserve: there is a dearth of opportunities for youth and Saturday nights consist of getting drunk or high. Fire Song touches on many themes rampant in Canada’s Aboriginal community including suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault and incestual relationships. We also see Shane and his mother torn between Native traditions and the pull of modern society. Fire Song is directed with an economical hand and features honest performances and some gorgeous photography of Wabigoon Lake, which underscores the fertility of the land versus the utter barrenness of life on the reserve. Hopefully, the film will open many eyes and hearts to the frustrating conditions for youth in many of Canada’s Aboriginal communities.

Adam Garnet Jones is a gay Cree/Metis filmmaker originally from Edmonton. His short films have been broadcast widely on television and at film festivals. In 2008, Adam received the imagineNATIVE/Canwest Mentorship Award and was the recent recipient of the RBC Emerging Artist Award and the Jim Burt Screenwriting prize for the script for FireSong. He recently wrapped production on his second feature film, Great Great Great.

Canada | 85 minutes | World Premiere

Fire Song World Premiere

Sunday, September 13, 4:30 PM – Scotiabank 

Public Screenings of Fire Song at TIFF

Tuesday, September 15, 9:30 PM – Scotiabank

Sunday, September 20, 10:15 PM – Scotiabank

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi at TIFF

(Previewed by Diana Condolo.) Internationally acclaimed director Jafar Panahi drives a cab through the vibrant streets of Tehran with his camera placed on the dashboard. His “candid” camera mobile film studio captures a colourful slice of Iranian society as he picks up and drives passengers, sometimes to their destinations – sometimes not. Each passenger whether it be a man, woman, or child candidly expresses his or her own view of the world, while being interviewed by the curious and friendly driver.

Jafar Panahi's niece Hana Saeidi, credit Kino Lorber
Jafar Panahi’s niece Hana Saeidi, credit Kino Lorber

The intriguing array of passengers includes Panahi’s feisty niece, two pesky ladies precariously carrying a goldfish in an open fish bowl, a wailing woman with her hurt husband, and an unlicensed DVD dealer who claims he once gave Panahi a copy of “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”.

Overall the film is light-hearted and humourous, but it is punctuated by somber scenes. The passengers and driver share both humour and weighty subjects. The taxi driver invites his passengers to speak about their fears and hopes, revealing things we may never think to share with our drivers.

In the opening scene, I believed the film was a documentary, but it eventually became clear that the lines are scripted and delivered by non-professional actors. Panahi is a lovable, but hopeless cabbie. He often does not know where places are and he often lets passengers ride for free. We know this isn’t exactly a documentary, but it is a beautifully humane fable offering a multilayered mosaic glimpse of life in Iran.

Jafar Panahi was born in Mianeh, Iran. He has directed the feature films The White Balloon (95), The Mirror (97), The Circle (00), Crimson Gold (03), Offside (06), This Is Not a Film (11), Closed Curtain (13), and Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (15), all of which have been Festival selections.

In 2010, Panahi was jailed for “propaganda against the regime” and banned from making films for 20 years. “Taxi” is his third production made in defiance of the ban.

Due to the restricted nature of Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, there is no billing block and no credits for this film; only the name of Jafar Panahi as writer, producer and director. There is no music cue sheet for this banned film; the music is original and gifted to the director.

Iran | 82 minutes | Canadian Premiere
In Persian with English subtitles

Public screenings of Jafar Panahi’s Taxi

Thursday, September 17, 2015, 5:00 PM at Elgin/Winter Garden Theatres Winter Garden Theatre
Saturday, September 19, 2015, 3:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema

The Ardennes at TIFF

(Previewed by Lori Bosworth.) In this crime thriller directed by Belgian Robin Pront, Kenneth (Kevin Janssens), upon being released from prison for a home invasion conviction, is reunited with his brother Dave (Jeroen Perceval), his unnamed accomplice in the crime. Kenneth longs to take up where things left off with his former girlfriend, Sylvie (Veerle Baetens), however, she has since become involved with Dave. While Sylvie and Dave are now clean, Kenneth persists in maintaining the drug-addled lifestyle that led him to commit the original crime. Much of the action takes place in The Ardennes mountains in Belgium, a favourite childhood vacation spot of the brothers.

The Ardennes at the Toronto International Film Festival
The Ardennes at TIFF

Reminiscent of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo and full of Quentin Tarantino’s dark humour, The Ardennes, is a fast-paced film with several white-knuckle moments, balanced by superb acting from the cast. Making its World Premiere at TIFF, The Ardennes is sure to be a sleeper hit at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Adapted by Pront from a play by Perceval, The Ardennes is directed by Robin Pront, written by Jeroen Perceval and Robin Pront, produced by Bart Van Langendonck, co-produced by Peter Bouckaert and Ellen Havenith, and Associate Produced by Oscar nominated director Michaël R. Roskam.

Robin Pront was born in Belgium and studied at LUCA School of Arts in Brussels. He has directed the shorts Plan B (08) and Injury Time (10). The Ardennes (15) is Pront’s first feature.

Belgium | 90 minutes | World Premiere
Dutch and French with English subtitles

World Premiere of The Ardennes at TIFF

Monday, September 14, 2015, 6:45 p.m. – Scotiabank

Public screenings of The Ardennes at TIFF

Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 1:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sunday, September 20, 2015, 9 PM at Scotiabank