Talking TIFF: Gravestock on Canadian film selection

The festival's Canadian Programming exec talks to Playback about this year's selection process.

The TIFF team saw its largest-ever number of submissions for this year’s festival, TIFF associate director of Canadian Programming, Steve Gravestock, told Playback following the Canadian press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve never experienced that kind of volume before,” he explained, adding that there was no obvious reason for the spike, but that the lower costs of digital technologies and film school attendance could have contributed.

“One of the other compelling things is that all the films link up in some weird way. There is a kind of anxiety that percolates through many of the films.”

He points to Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks’s Surviving Progress, a documentary about progress traps inspired by Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress, Canada’s role in Afghanistan (Afghan Luke, Mike Clattenburg) and previous wars (Billy Bishop Goes to War, Barbara Willis Sweete).

Identity is another theme in the fest this year, Gravestock said, present in films such as Doppelganger Paul by Dylan Akio Smith and Kris Elgstrand in the Vanguard category or Canada First! selection Romeo Eleven (Romeo Onze) by Ivan Grbovic.

To lighten the mood, the fest’s programmers also sought to include a good selection of comedy, Gravestock said, such as Michael Dowse’s Goon starring Jay Baruchel, which Baruchel co-wrote with fellow Canadian scribe Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express) and road-trip romance I’m Yours by Leonard Farlinger.

Programming the fest, he said, is never easy.

“In the end, you have to make tough decisions. We have films from across Canada and it’s important to us to represent various filmmaking schools and groups across the country. And that’s not so hard because there are good films being made everywhere.”

And quality has definitely been on the rise over the years.

“There are always more films that we like and always more varied films,” added Gravestock. “Scripts are getting tighter and it’s very interesting that you see homegrown talent like Scott Speedman (Edwin Boyd) coming back to Canada to work on films. They obviously like working here because of the scripts.”