Canada’s Token 10?

The Toronto International Film Festival’s 2011 Canada’s Top 10 list is receiving some unexpected scrutiny. The 10 selections of TIFF’s annual list of the best Canadian feature films of the year, picked by a panel of 10 specially appointed film writers, filmmakers, programmers and ex-bureaucrats, are been questioned far more in the press than perhaps ever before, an interesting trend that seems to mirror the evolving approach critics and audiences are taking towards Canadian film.

If you only read one article about the Top 10, make it Norman Wilner’s recent piece for Toronto alt-weekly NOW, “Canuck Conundrum,” which takes issue with the TIFF panel’s reliance on established and celebrated Canadian directors–even when their latest work is not considered up to par. Noting his reservations about nine of the list’s 10 selections (including Sarah Polley’s sophomore effort TAKE THIS WALTZ), Wilner zeros in on Cronenberg’s new psychiatry melodrama, A DANGEROUS METHOD, as an example of a less-than-essential work from a minted Canadian icon that may have been recognized at the expense of a “hungry” up-and-coming director.

Looking back over TIFF’s lists for the last 11 years, it’s hard to argue with Wilner’s point–every single Cronenberg film made since TIFF started this initiative in 2001 has been listed (yes, even SPIDER), and the only Atom Egoyan film of the last decade not officially recognized is 2009’s CHLOE. Wilner argues that such selections amount to little more than pandering; that we should constantly reassess the quality of the films of our most visible filmmakers like Cronenberg (or Egoyan, or Polley, for that matter) instead of automatically including them on “best of” lists.

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