Each year people from around the world travel to Canada to attend the Toronto International Film Festival. Last year, Canada’s History celebrated the festival’s fortieth anniversary by sharing the top three films about Canadian history that stood out to us.
This year is a bit different. In addition to sharing our favourite three TIFF Canadian history films, we are including three amazing movies about history in general. These films highlight momentous moments and people from the past that we could stand to learn a bit more about today. We hope you enjoy!
Nelly directed by Anne Émond
This 101-minute French film is based on the life of — and the fictional lives written by — Nelly Arcan, one of the most controversial writers in Quebec’s history. Arcan was born in 1973 as Isabelle Fortier in Lac-Mégantic and died in 2009 in Montreal. She published her first novel Putain (Whore) in 2001, it was translated into English in 2004. Putain, a novel about a prostitute named Cynthia that was based on Arcan’s own experiences as a sex worker, shocked and challenged the French literary world. The success of this novel challenged and fuelled Arcan to write three more books focusing on themes such as gender, power, the commodification of female beauty, loneliness, and suicide. In Nelly, filmmaker Anne Émond blends the controversial Quebec writer’s life with the lives of her fictional characters that gives viewers “…the intoxicating feeling that [they] are seeing all sides of the talented, broken, beautiful, and haunted woman.”
A Cool Sound from Hell directed by Sidney J. Furie
This seventy-two-mintue black-and-white English film from 1959 was discovered in the depths of the British Film Institute by Furie’s biographer Daniel Kremer. The film was misnamed as The Beat Generation in the archives and had been considered lost for decades. Filmed in 1958 on location at Toronto’s Union Station, A Cool Sound from Hell “follows a bored young man who kicks his middle-class destiny to the curb and plunges into the Hogtown netherworld of jazz, sex and narcotics.”
Tshiuetin: North Wind directed by Caroline Monnet
Take a trip on an Indigenous-owned train line in northern Québec with the world premiere of Tshiuetin, a ten-minute black and white French film that symbolizes the pride and dignity that come with autonomy.
Three films to watch for that don’t relate to Canadian history:
Denial directed by Mick Jackson, screen play by David Hare
The 110-minute world premiere of Denial will shake our understanding of what we learned in school and what parts of history we believe is to be true. This film depicts a true-life drama about the courtroom showdown between historian Deborah Lipstadt and notorious Holocaust denier David Irving. This film will challenge our understanding of history and ask each of us to think more critically when faced with both truth and denial.
Lumiere!: Lumière ! directed by multiple directors
This ninety-minute silent film is a compilation of ninety-eight restored films made by the Lumière brothers between 1895 and 1907 and assembled by film historians Thierry Frémaux and Bertrand Tavernier in for screening in 2016. Louis and Auguste Lumière are the inventors of an early motion-picture camera that gave birth to cinema as we know it.
Marie Curie, The Courage of Knowledge directed by Marie Noëlle
Marie Curie is a household name around the world when talking about women in science. This ninety-five-minute French film presents “a biography of the legendary, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and chemist, who courted controversy with both her challenging of France’s male-dominated academic establishment and her unconventional romantic life.”
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