This year marks the 12th Annual European Union Film Festival in Toronto. The festival continues to bring some of the finest films from Europe; including comedies, dramas, action, and documentary films.
From this year’s festival lineup, I have picked five films that I think will be interesting to various audiences.
A Noble Intention (Publieke Werken)
Dir. Joram Lürsen, Netherlands
Thurs, Nov 10 | 8:30 PM | The Royal Cinema
Synopsis: Amsterdam, 1888. Vedder has to step aside when his home must yield for the planned Victoria Hotel. His cousin Anijs, a pharmacist, has gotten into a fix after illegal medical practices and is looking for a way out. Anijs means to find a way to help himself and his wife, but also for some peat cutters whom he promises a future in the United States. Vedder and Anijs think up a scheme from which they all will fully benefit. Is this ‘public works’ or selfishness?
The film is an adaptation of Thomas Rosenboom’s famous novel set in late 19th century Netherlands during the expansion of Amsterdam. Lürsen along with a great cast put together a film that clearly shows how progress affected many in the West. It is a worthwhile film not only from storyline to production design, to acting and directing. A word of caution about a violent opening scene is warranted. Surpass this and you will find a very interesting story.
Silent Heart (Stille hjerte)
Dir. Bille August, Denmark
Mon, Nov 14 | 8:30 PM | The Royal Cinema
Synopsis: Three generations of a family have gathered at the matriarch’s house for the weekend. Terminally ill, she wants them to bid her a final farewell, having decided to end her life come Sunday. The sisters Sanne and Heidi have accepted her desire to die before her disease worsens. But as the weekend progresses, their mother’s decision becomes increasingly hard to deal with, and old conflicts bubble up.
The film deals with many themes. As director Bille August puts it, “This issue of helping people who are suffering to die, for me it’s a question of dignity”. I have yet to see this film but have read positive reviews. Given the issues at hand, the film appears to not be all gloomy.
While Aya Was Sleeping (Dokato Aya Speshe)
Dir. Tsvetodar Markov, Bulgaria
Wed, Nov 16 | 6:00 PM | The Royal Cinema
Synopsis: 7-year-old Aya spends a lot of time in the theater where her father, Asen, is an actor. One night at the end of the show, intrigue, betrayal and tension in the company gradually escalate. Asen’s illusions collapse when he finds out that television star Boyan will replace him.
This film was made with a small budget but with lots of attention and care for its story. Director Tsvetodar Markov and cast do their best to tell a moving story about the drama (pun intended) in a theatre company, which can apply to anyone in any setting. Great to see a film from a country whose cinema I have yet to discover. This was certainly a good place to start.
Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest (Kuun metsän Kaisa)
Dir. Katja Gauriloff, Finland
Thurs, Nov 17 | 6:00 PM | The Royal Cinema
Synopsis: Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest is the story of the remarkable friendship between Kaisa Gauriloff, director Katja Gauriloff’s great grandmother, a legendary Skolt Sámi storyteller, and Russian-born Swiss writer Robert Crottet (1908–1987) and the fate of Skolt Sámi, displaced during WWII. The film fuses sequences of animation, Sámi legends, and rare archival footage in a tale of survival with Crottet as the only advocate of the Skolt Sámi during troubled times.
This documentary screened at Hot Docs earlier this year. Kaisa’s story is deeply linked to Crottet, whose dreams/hallucinations while suffering from tuberculosis, which led him to seek out the magical creatures and stories of northern Finland. In turn, he wrote about and filmed his experiences there. My pal Donna G of The More The Merrier blog, suggested this film for its great storytelling. Read her review for more about the film and its director, Katja Gauriloff.
15 Years + 1 Day (15 años y un día)
Dir. Gracia Querejeta, Spain
Fri, Nov 18 | 8:30 PM | The Royal Cinema
Synopsis: After Jon is expelled from school, his mother sends him away to live with his grandfather in a small village. The absence of a father figure in the young man’s life is then offset by the authority of this ex-military man used to a disciplined, rigid and strict lifestyle, now enjoying his tranquillity to the full. Both characters, the troubled teenager and the retired military man, will have to confront their fears and limitations.
I have not had the chance to see this film yet. But it comes with several awards and recognitions from the festival circuit. As well, it was selected as the Spanish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards. It is described as a “character driven piece about the complexity of parent/children relationships”. Definitely curious to see it with an audience.
- Advance Reservations are highly encouraged. If you want to secure a seat at any of the screenings, you can now book in advance on any of the film pages.
- Advance Reservation: $10 donation (all service fees included)
- General Admission remains FREE to all films. Entrance on a First Come, First Serve Basis.
- All films subtitled in English unless noted. All films 18 and over unless noted
For full list of films, scheduling times, and advance reservations, please visit eutorontofilmfest.ca.