TIFF brings 'Ten Best' showcase to Beijing

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Soon after Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's blockbuster Blade Runner 2049 saw its Chinese release in late October, his Academy Award-nominated film Incendies was seen by audiences in Beijing on Nov 3.

Mommy is part of the Canada's Ten Best: New Cinema from the North showcase in Beijing. [Photo provided by TIFF to China Daily]

The movie was the opening film in the Canada's Ten Best: New Cinema from the North showcase being presented by the China Film Archive from Nov 3 to 12-a collection of classic and contemporary Canadian films making their screen debuts in Beijing.

The Toronto International Film Festival organized the screening of Canada's top films in Beijing, and they include several highlighted in TIFF's annual Canada's Top Ten Film Festival, as well as a selection of retrospective titles from TIFF's Canada on Screen sesquicentennial series.

Besides Incendies, the selection features Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, Xavier Dolan's Mommy and Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell.

"Denis Villeneuve, Xavier Dolan and Sarah Polley are only the latest acclaimed filmmakers to show the power of Canadian creativity to the world," says Piers Handling, director and CEO of the TIFF. "We can't wait to bring our very best screen storytelling to audiences in the world's fastest-rising film capital."

"It's a selection of very representative films shot both inside and outside of Canada, and in a mix of languages."

TIFF's annual top 10 program has been touring Canada for many years but started to expand its horizons when it moved to New York in 2015, and then onto Los Angeles. Beijing is its third international destination.

Canadian cinema has for decades enjoyed an international reputation for its documentaries and animation, but Canadian feature films only started to gain recognition in the 1960s, says Handling.

"David Cronenberg was the first filmmaker who showed new ways for Canadian film. He was much more interested in imagination, in the things you couldn't capture in a documentary," says Handling.

In Handling's opinion, Canadian films before the 1990s tended to focus more on subjects close to home. But for the past 20 years the situation has changed significantly as Canadian filmmakers began adopting a more outward-looking stance to the world.

Founded in 1976, the TIFF is often considered a reliable forecast for the outcome of the Academy Awards. Handling, who has been running TIFF since 1994, finds it rewarding to see the festival turn into one of the most important in the world, and see the focus of the international film industry turn to Toronto.

Meanwhile, Chinese films have done well at the festival in recent years. Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi was selected to join the jury in 2016, and acclaimed director Chen Kaige led the jury in 2017.

"I think China has created some of the most incredible films of the past 30 years. And I began to come into contact with Chinese cinema through the works of filmmakers like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige," says Handling.

"Chinese films like House of Flying Daggers hold a certain attraction for commercial audiences, and they speak about China in a different kind of way, which is extraordinary."

Sun Xianghui, director of the China Film Archive, watched the Chinese classic film Struggling together with Canadian audiences during the 42nd TIFF in September.

"I am excited to provide a space that allows Beijing audiences to discover and appreciate Canadian cinema. This partnership will serve as an opportunity to celebrate our common love of films," says Sun.

John McCallum, Canada's ambassador to China, is delighted that Canadian cinema is coming to Beijing and "sharing with the world Canada's rich history, diversity and unique perspectives".


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