The Toronto International Film Festival is recognized as the world’s leading public film festival. This year’s edition lights up the big screens Sept. 8 to 18 with 336 films from more than five dozen countries. As always, York filmmakers are part of the action. This is the first of a two-part overview of productions by York faculty, alumni and students in TIFF 2011.
|Above: The talented York faculty, grads and students involved in this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. From left: Carl Bessai, Barbara Willis Sweete, Teresa Przybylski, Leonard Farlinger, Ingrid Veninger and Vinay Virmani|
Acclaimed filmmaker Carl Bessai (MFA ‘89) premieres Sisters&Brothers, the third instalment in his family trilogy, in the festival’s Contemporary World Cinema program. Brimming with affection, hostility and a healthy dose of guilt, it is an entertaining and penetrating look into the lives of four sets of siblings. As well as directing, Bessai served as screenwriter and cinematographer for the film, which features an ensemble cast that includes Cory Monteith from the hit TV series Glee.
Right: Carl Bessai’s film Sisters & Brothers features an ensemble cast that includes Glee star Cory Monteith (right)
TIFF touts Sisters&Brothers as “a rich and gratifying journey through familial love and dysfunction by one of Canada’s most prolific and intriguing filmmakers.” With a steady stream of major projects and numerous TIFF screenings to his credit, Bessai’s recent works include Mothers&Daughters (2008), Cole (2009), Repeaters (2010) and Fathers&Sons (2010).
Also in the Contemporary World Cinema series is Billy Bishop Goes to War, directed by celebrated filmmaker and former York student Barbara Willis Sweete. The film stars Canadian acting legend Eric Peterson and eminent writer/composer John Gray in a made-for-the-screen adaptation of their iconic performance in their Governor General’s Award-winning musical that has captivated audiences worldwide for more than three decades.
Sweete, who holds a joint honorary doctorate from York University (DLitt ’98) with her former classmates Niv Fichman and Larry Weinstein as co-founders of the renowned art film production company, Rhombus Media, enjoys an international reputation for translating live performance from stage to screen. Her long list of honours includes three international Emmys, dozens of Gemini Awards and three Grammy nominations. Her credits include Elizabeth Rex featuring Diane D’Aquila and Brent Carver, Don Giovanni Unmasked starring Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach and more than ten live HD transmissions for New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
Production design for Billy Bishop Goes to War is by York theatre Professor Teresa Przybylski, whose film credits include a Gemini for art direction for Rhombus Media’s Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen.
The third York filmmaker in the Contemporary World Cinema program is contract faculty member Leonard Farlinger. I’m Yours, his fourth feature (and third TIFF premiere), is a romantic comedy starring rising Canadian talent Rossif Sutherland and Karine Vanasse and veteran actor Don McKellar. Riffing on the classic road-trip movie, it sets an unlikely couple on an unexpected journey to northern Ontario. As they gradually wear down one another’s defences, we learn that each is carrying more baggage than they can handle on their own.
I’m Yours is already charting a strong course on the national festival circuit. Hard on the heels of its TIFF debut, it is slated to screen at the international filmfests of Sudbury and Calgary.
|Above: Ingrid Veninger (right) in a scene from her second solo film i am a good person/i am a bad person|
Showing in the festival’s cutting-edge international Vanguard series i am a good person/i am a bad person, the second solo feature written, directed and produced by Film Department contract faculty member Ingrid Veninger. (Her first, Modra, was named by TIFF as one of the ten best Canadian films of 2010.) Starring Veninger and her real-life daughter as the mother/daughter characters on screen, i am a good person/i am a bad person depicts how a sudden change of travel plans leads to transformative experiences. NOW magazine gives the film its top four-N rating. Read the Globe and Mail’s interview with Ingrid Veninger.
York grad Vinay Virmani (BA ‘08), who studied acting in New York after completing his business degree at York, conceived, wrote the screenplay and takes the lead role in the cross-cultural romantic sports comedy Breakaway, making its world premiere as a TIFF Special Presentation. Virmani plays a young Sikh-Canadian in suburban Toronto grappling with the expectations of his traditional family as he pursues his dream of hockey stardom – and the coach’s daughter.
Right: Rob Lowe (far left) is part of the stellar cast actiing in Vinay Virmani’s film Breakaway
Breakaway has been generating major media buzz around the world. Directed by Robert Lieberman, the film features Rob Lowe as the coach and cameos by Bollywood idol Akshay Kumar, superstar Canadian comic Russell Peters, and hip hop chart-toppers Drake and Ludacris. See the National Post story about the making of the film.
TIFF 2011 screenings take place over 10 days at a number of downtown Toronto cinemas. For more information about the festival and a detailed film schedule, visit the TIFF website.