TIFF2006: Coming to a Theatre Near You

What to Watch at TIFF 2006?

The 2006 Toronto International Film Festival is mere days away, and the city is getting ready for the deluge of film enthusiasts and celebrities that are going to be crowding the streets over the next two weeks.

You've already heard Matt's picks in the moviesTO podcast, and NOW Magazine has already published a full festival schedule, but for those of you that are still looking for those last minute movies to rush, here's a look at two or three films from each programme at the festival that you may not have noticed.

Canada First!
Showcasing homegrown Canadian talent, the Canada First! programme has been the launching pad for some of Canada's best filmmakers. This year's Sur la trace d'Igor Rizzi takes a look at the unglamorous life of a destitute former soccer pro in glamorous Montreal with comedic results. Iranian-born and Ryerson-educated Mazdak Taebi launches his first feature film Mercy, a Persian mythology-inspired satire on mass media featuring fairy giants all around the world.

Contemporary World Cinema
It might seem odd to highlight a film made by an American filmmaker in the Contemporary World Cinema section, but Scott Burns' The Half Life of Timofey Berezin — a film about a Russian man with only days to live after radiation poisoning — is worth mentioning. Francisco Vargas Quevedo has gone through the process of making a feature film out his wonderful short The Violin, bringing his unique storytelling technique to a larger audience. Niki Karimi stars and directs A Few Days Later..., showing the unsettling beauty of Iran and the blur of a confused mind all in one film that is quiet and simple.

Dialogues: Talking with Pictures
Featuring music and acting by Jimmy Cliff, Bobby Carlton, and Toots & the Maytals, The Harder They Come was a groundbreaking Jamaican film when it was released in 1972. With director Perry Henzell coming to the Dialogues programme to speak about his masterful movie, this is definitely one screening you don't want to miss, even if you have seen it before.

A showcase for emerging filmmakers, the Discovery programme this year is full of gems. From Jean-Pascal Hattu's love-triangle story 7 Ans, to Sheng Zhimin's cultural commentary Fu Sheng, to the Daniel Sanchez Arevalo's tale of family woes AzulOscuroCasiNegro, there's no shortage of new talent to discover in the programme.

Gala Presentations
Galas traditionally get all the media attention during the festival, but even with names like Babel and All the King's Men being thrown around, it's important not to forget some of the other Gala Presentations. Karan Johar's Never Say Goodbye has already become a Bollywood classic in the few weeks since its release, and Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration features some of the funniest people in the world.

The Masters programme is known for bringing out the cream of the crop, and this year is no exception. Ken Loach's Palme d'Or-winning The Wind that Shakes the Barley is but one example of the great filmmaking you'll find, and Benoit Jacquot's L'Intouchable may be the best film featured in the programme. Spike Lee's four-hour opus When The Levees Broke will be a highlight for many festival-goers

Midnight Madness
One of the most talked-about programmes at the festival — thanks in part to the buzz surrounding the Borat movie — Midnight Madness assembles the quirky and the creepy. Jonathan Levine's All the Boys Love Mandy Lane promises to be sexually-charged and far-from-innocent, while Danish film Princess is sure to be controversial as an animated film about the porn underworld.

New Crowned Hope
This programme celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart features films that explore political freedom and social inclusion. Of particular note is Hei Yan Quan, being directed by master of minimalism Tsai Ming-liang.

Real to Reel
Deliver Us From Evil — a look at the allegations of sexual abuse that has rocked the Catholic church — and My Life as A Terrorist — the story of real life terrorist Hans-Joachim Klein and his motivations — are but two of the many films that make up this programme featuring non-fiction cinema.

Short Cuts Canada
With Canadian short film makers being recognized around the world, the Short Cuts programme is a great way to see the boundary-pushing films that put Canada on the map. Among the highlights include Jamie Travis' The Saddest Boy in the World and Hubert Davis' Aruba.

Special Presentations
Seeing as Zach Braff is my favorite actor, I may be partial to Tony Goldwyn's The Last Kiss, but the Special Presentations features many many more high profile films. Critics at the Telluride Festival this week are already hailing Todd Field's Little Children as one of the best movies of the year, and Paris, Je T'aime assembles some of the best filmmakers from around the world in a tribute to the French city.

Sprockets Presents...The Family Zone
The Ugly Duckling and Me, the animated story of a rodent who finds a very ugly duckling, is one of the highlights in this showcase of the best in children's cinema.

My favorite programme in the entire festival, the Vanguard films are all sexually-charged and criminally-edgy, and each one is worth its own mention, so highlighting a few is near impossible. Thalluri's 2:37, Volckman's Renaissance, and Goldman's Suburban Mayhem are all brilliant films to check out that aren't necessarily getting the buzz they deserve.

The big news in this programme was the addition of D.O.A.P., a film about the aftermath of the fictional assassination of George W. Bush. If you can't get into that one, there's lots of great films in the programme that shouldn't be missed like Turkish film Taqva - A Man's Fear of God , Australian movie Ten Canoes, and South Korea's Shi gan.

Though it may not be a programme that will appeal to everyone, Wavelengths definitely showcases some wonderful avant-garde cinema. Renown Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's Roads of Kiarostami is a look back at the director's wonderful photographs, and screens as part of the Wavelengths 2 screening.

There's so many other films that I could have included here, but this post is definitely long enough. If you have any other movies that might not be getting the biggest press coverage but are still worth checking out, do let us know!

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