Spotlight on immigrant voices at TIFF 2019

posted on October 31, 2019

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

From veteran directors to first-time feature filmmakers, immigrants continued to tell compelling stories at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that was held from September 5-15, 2019. Canadian Immigrant spotlights a few these talented voices who brought their own newcomer experiences to the big screen this year.

The Masters

Atom Egoyan, an Egyptian-born Canadian stage and film director, writer and producer is not new to critical appreciation on the festival circuit. His much-revered 1997 Canadian drama, The Sweet Hereafter won multiple awards and nominations internationally. TIFF critics even declared it as one of the top 10 Canadian films of all time. Egoyan was back this year with Guest of Honour, a quirky, psychological drama about a troubled food inspector who targets ethnic restaurants while dealing with a family crisis. “Human beings are very complex — infinitely complex — and that’s what excites me about making movies,” he said in an interview with the Toronto Star.

He says examining the way food is prepared and viewed offers an interesting window into where our culture sits today. “To close restaurants, or to have the ability to actually cut someone off from their livelihood over something that they see as being essential to their own identity, that to me was a very interesting metaphor to work with for this particular movie,” he told the Star.

American-born, Calgary resident, Semi Chellas is best known for co-writing two Emmy Award nominated episodes of the American television show, Mad Men. The talented screenwriter dazzled TIFF audiences this year with her debut feature, American Woman, inspired by the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst, granddaughter of media magnate William Randolph Hearst. “The best movies for me are about larger-than-life characters, and so many of those are to be found in real stories,” Chellas said in an interview at a TIFF news conference in July. “I think that’s always very inspiring and delicious for storytellers, when they come across those characters in life that are hard to know and ask us to imagine our way into their stories.”

The film was backed by Telefilm Canada, who is committed to supporting female-led projects. They recently announced that 59 per cent of their production funding in the last fiscal year went to projects featuring at least one woman as a lead producer, director or writer.

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