Canadian Micro-Budget Movies Shine in Karlovy Vary Competition

Courtesy of the Karlovy Vary film festival

Top Canadian financier Telefilm Canada is banking on next-wave movies to build momentum after popular Cannes success.

Feeding off the success of Canadian films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, Telefilm Canada continued its charge into micro-budget movies with breakout competition screenings at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this week.

Canada's top film financier is backing Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallee wannabes with unique and highly personal projects to maintain the Cannes momentum after last year, when three Canadian films competed in official competition. “Following the next generation of Canadian talent that hit the Croisette in May, we were proud to see that Karlovy Vary also included a number of first features, namely debuts by Francois Peloquin, Andrew Cividino and Sonia Bonspille Boileau,” said Carolle Brabant, Telefilm Canada executive director, on Saturday.

Films by three Canadian directors, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Xavier Dolan, competed for the Palme d'Or in Cannes last year, with Dolan's Mommy eventually sharing the Jury Prize and Julianne Moore earning the best actress trophy for her star-turn in Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars.

Despite that success, Telefilm Canada is keen to find new, less costly ways to finance homegrown movies as a cash-strapped federal government cuts back on taxpayer support. In the process, the film financier has uncovered new voices producing their first features, with a focus on digital production tools and innovative marketing plans.

"In just three years, the program has proven that it can deliver in discovering new talent — which is the best means of ensuring the future success of our industry," Brabant said. Telefilm's micro-budget film branch backed Bonspille Boileau's Le Dep, an Innu psychological thriller about a general store clerk in a First Nations community in rural Quebec, played by Eve Ringuette, who is held at gunpoint by a masked robber.

Boileau, a TV director debuting her first feature at Karlovy Vary, said Le Dep as a family drama was conceived in an aboriginal context, but is intended to be universally embraced. "I wanted the film to resonate with anyone who has a family. There's family dynamics that go way beyond whether you're aboriginal or not. It could be anyone," she said.

Le Dep competed in the Forum of Independents competition. Peloquin's first feature, The Sound of Trees, starring Antoine L’Ecuyer and Roy Dupuis, competed in Karlovy Vary for the Crystal Globe in the official competition.

"It's unexpected. It's a chance and I feel honored. I didn't dream of doing cinema when I was a kid. This thing came up later when I was more mature, and felt confident I could do it. Now I'm very pleased with the result," Peloquin said after positive reviews followed his world premiere this week.

Andrew Cividino's feature film debut, Sleeping Giant, selected for the Cannes’ Critics’ Week sidebar in May, also screened this week in Karlovy Vary. "The (European) audiences have been so far really great. It's fun to sit with an audience for your film and experience how they shift as they respond to your material. They've responded well to the humor in the film," he said. 

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