Now in its seventh year in Toronto, the European Union Film Festival is still a little under the radar for most film fans in our city, and that’s a shame. For one, it’s the only film festival I’m aware of where all screenings are FREE. But quite apart from that, it offers a huge selection of cinema from a wide range of cultures, and in a multicultural city like Toronto, that makes some of the screenings feel like impromptu gatherings for various outposts of the European diaspora. Just last year, I was in a screening of Slovenian film Landscape No. 2 (review) and realized that long-distance swimmer (and subject of the fascinating documenary Big River Man (review)) Martin Strel was in the audience too.
This year’s festival takes place from November 17-30th and all screenings take place at the Royal Cinema (608 College Street).
The films are a mix of new and old, stuff that plays high profile festivals like TIFF and films that rarely play outside their country’s borders. In other words, it’s really an unmissable opportunity to peer into some rarely-glimpsed corners of the world through cinema. Here are a few I’m looking forward to seeing:
The Other Side of Sleep (Ireland, Director: Rebecca Daly) — screening Tuesday November 29th at 6:00pm
Having recently played at Cannes and TIFF, this film might have the finest pedigree in the program. Arlene is a young woman prone to sleepwalking. One morning she wakes up outside next to the dead body of another young woman. As suspicion grows in her small community, Arlene finds she’s unable to sleep, mixing her dreams and reality.
Stricken (The Netherlands, Director: Reinout Oerlemans) — screening Tuesday November 29th at 8:30pm
Featuring the gorgeous Carice van Houten (Black Book) as a woman diagnosed with breast cancer, Stricken focuses on her husband Stijn and his choices. When her illness shatters his perfect life, he escapes into a world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And soon into the arms of another woman.
Lapland Odyssey (Finland, Director: Dome Karukoski) — screening Wednesday November 23rd at 6:00pm
A treat from TIFF 2010, Lapland Odyssey is a road comedy about a trio of losers who head out one winter night in search of a “digibox” for Janne’s girlfriend’s television. He’s screwed up so many times with her that her ultimatum (get one by morning or I’m out of here) sends the friends off on a ridiculous and frozen quest. I’ve seen and reviewed this already but would recommend it if you like Nordic comedy. I’m hoping to catch it again, in any case.
P.S. Vancouver also has a European Union Film Festival running from November 25-December 8. They might have a nicer website and get to see The Artist, but they also charge for tickets. Ours is FREE!