Canada’s Top Ten

Canada’s Top Ten

“We have nothing to be embarrassed about,” Toronto International Film Festival CEO Piers Handling intoned to a packed house of Canada’s film elite at the Revival night club on Tuesday night. The chuckles and chorus of “What did he just say?” spasmed through the room.

Handling was no doubt struggling to express how proud Canadians should be of their film industry. 2006 was a huge year for Canadian film. Not only did the industry see its biggest hit in years (the bilingual buddy picture Bon Cop, Bad Cop), but it also experienced its largest English-language film opening weekend to date ($1.5 million for Trailer Park Boys: The Movie—which has just been picked up by Myriad Pictures for American distribution). Handling wanted to say that, even though the Cronenbergs, Egoyans and Mehtas of the industry didn’t release films in 2006, the Top Ten list announced was universally strong. He wanted to gush. But he’s a Canadian. We can’t crow about our successes. Whenever we try, we sabotage ourselves. Negativity creeps into the discourse whether we like it or not.

Thankfully, Handling passed the microphone to co-hosts Dave Foley and Sophie Moreau ( Familia), whose off-beat banter made everyone forget his gaffe. The top ten films in alphabetical order were:

• Sarah Polley’s Away from Her, an obvious industry favourite• Phillipe Falardeau’s quirky picaresque, Congorama• Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn’s The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, a haunting if disappointing follow up to Atanarjuat• Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes, which beat out Polley for Best Canadian feature at TIFF• Reginald Harkema’s Monkey Warfare, a film whose acerbic humour and distinctly New Wave style made it the Marmite of TIFF• Gary Burns and Jim Brown’s Radiant City, a scathing indictment of suburban life and culture• Rob Stewart’s doc Sharkwater, the winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival• Noel Mitrani’s Sur la Trace D’Igor Rizzi, the surprise winner of Best Canadian First Feature at TIFF• Mike Clattenburg’s Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, which managed the tough balance of appealing to neophytes and seasoned fans alike• Robert Favreau’s Un Dimanche a Kigali, an imperfect but compelling adaptation of Gil Courtemanche’s novel of the same name

If there was any surprise, it was the exclusion of Andrew Currie’s Fido, a gorgeous and zany allegory about a boy’s love for his pet zombie. Yes, it was a conceptual. But who cares? Fido was among the most accomplished Canadian films of the year. Look out for it when it’s released in 2007.

From Jan. 26 to Feb. 4, the Toronto Film Festival Group will screen all 10 films and then host panel discussions on three core issues: the documentary form (featuring the insights of Baichwal, Murphy and Burns), the Quebec cinema scene (featuring Falardeau, Favreau and Mitrani) and low-budget filmmaking (featuring the entire Monkey Warfare team).

For more information on Canada’s Top Ten, visit