TIFF’s annual Canada’s Top Ten list favours emerging voices this year. The list released today from the Toronto International Film Festival highlights the programmers’ picks for 2023’s best films with six of the ten features representing feature debuts. Representing the maple leaf with their feature debuts are Fawzia Mirza with The Queen of My Dreams, Ariane Louise-Seize with Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, Cody Lightning with Hey, Viktor!, Meredith Hama-Brown with Seagrass, Carol Kunnuk and Lucy Tulugarjuk with Tautuktavuk (What We See), and Zack Russell with Someone Lives Here. The latter marks the only documentary to make the features list for its portrait of Toronto’s housing crisis.
Other films in Canada’s Top Ten include Matt Johnson’s acclaimed BlackBerry about the rise and fall of Research in Motion, which just earned a Spirit Award nomination for Oscar hopeful Glenn Howerton. Sophie Dupuis also makes the cut for her drag drama Solo, which offers a dazzling performance by star Théodore Pellerin. The two films bring some energy and style to the relatively muted micro-budget list, while Henri Pardo joins the crew with his acclaimed second feature Kanaval. Finally, perennial Canadian film list staple Atom Egoyan makes the cut for his Seven Veils, which critics generally saw as an improvement over his recent works.
Besides giving the cold shoulder to documentaries (Swan Song? Mr. Dressup?), the list overlooks a number of titles that helped revitalise Quebec’s box office. Denys Arcand’s latest film Testament is the province’s biggest hit since theatres reopened following COVID-19 lockdowns, while Louise Archambault’s One Summer and Anik Jean’s My Mother’s Men also saw audiences turn out in droves for deeply moving ensemble films—and would have been worthy choices for a festival that often pats itself on the back for supporting women directors. Heck, Archambault could have made the list twice considering her popular Holocaust drama Irena’s Vow. Also absent despite generally being regarded as one of the most notable feature debuts is M.H. Murray’s nerve-wracking I Don’t Know Who You Are, which features a breakout performance by TIFF Rising Star Mark Clennon as a Toronto man in a race against time to procure HIV-preventative medication after a potential exposure. They also forgot about Brandon Cronenberg’s squishy star-studded Sundance hit Infinity Pool, which was among the more well-received Canadian films this year.
This year’s Canada’s Top Ten lists draw from consultations with programmers from various festivals with TIFF’s Canadian programmers and senior programming team making the final calls. The selections will screen at TIFF Lightbox from January 25 to 28.
The full list of Canada’s Top Ten for 2023 is as follows:
BlackBerry | dir. Matt Johnson | Ontario
Hey, Viktor! | dir. Cody Lightning | Alberta
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person | dir. Ariane Louis-Seize | Quebec
Kanaval | dir. Henri Pardo | Quebec
The Queen of My Dreams | dir. Fawzia Mirza | Nova Scotia/Ontario
Seagrass | dir. Meredith Hama-Brown | British Columbia
Seven Veils | dir. Atom Egoyan | Ontario
Solo | dir. Sophie Dupuis | Quebec
Someone Lives Here | dir. Zack Russell | Ontario
Tautuktavuk (What We See) | dir. Carol Kunnuk, Lucy Tulugarjuk | Nunavut
Baigal Nuur – Lake Baikal l dir. Alisi Telengut | Quebec
Gaby’s Hills | dir. Zoé Pelchat | Quebec
I Used to Live There | dir. Ryan McKenna | Quebec
Katshinau | dir. Julien G. Marcotte, Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush | Quebec
Madeleine | dir. Raquel Sancinetti | Quebec
Making Babies | dir. Eric K. Boulianne | Quebec
Motherland I dir. Jasmin Mozaffari | Ontario
Mothers and Monsters | dir. Edith Jorisch | Quebec
Sawo Matang | dir. Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto | Ontario
Thriving: A Dissociated Reverie | dir. Nicole Bazuin | Ontario