Goin' to T.O.

Justin Brake
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Newfoundland filmmakers heading to the big show: the Toronto International Film Festival

The works of three Newfoundland and Labrador filmmakers have been recognized by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and are among its 2008 official selections.

Sherry White, Jordan Canning and Justin Simms were ecstatic to learn the films they submitted to the festival were chosen by the selection jury, which announced the Canadian programming at a Tuesday news conference in Toronto.

Hugh Dillon, Joel Thomas Hynes, and Sherry White in "Down to the Dirt," directed by Justin Simms. Photo by Justin Hull/Courtesy Newfoundland Films Inc.

The works of three Newfoundland and Labrador filmmakers have been recognized by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and are among its 2008 official selections.

Sherry White, Jordan Canning and Justin Simms were ecstatic to learn the films they submitted to the festival were chosen by the selection jury, which announced the Canadian programming at a Tuesday news conference in Toronto.

Simms' debut feature-length film "Down to the Dirt," an adaptation of Newfoundland author Joel Thomas Hynes' novel of the same title, will be screened as part of the festival's Canada First! series, which focuses on the work of first-time directors as well as those presenting a movie at the festival for the first time.

Hynes stars in the film alongside an all-star cast, including Newfoundlanders Bob Joy, Mary Lewis, Jody Richardson and White (who also shares a co-writing credit for the screenplay). The movie also features the former lead singer of Canadian rock band the Headstones, Hugh Dillon.

"I think the most exciting part about it is it's a really good venue to showcase the film where the whole movie world congregates for a few weeks," says Simms. "We're going to have access to a film-savvy audience."

Meanwhile, Canning and White are being recognized for their short films.

"Spoiled" marks White's second official selection of the festival, following last year's hit short "Diamonds in a Bucket," which also screened at the L.A. Short International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, and St. John's International Women's Film Festival, among others.

"It's a good indicator," White says of her second TIFF selection, "because I wasn't sure if last year's was a fluke."

Canning joins White and 36 other Canadian filmmakers in the Short Cuts Canada category of the festival with "Bedroom," the 25-year-old filmmaker's first submission to the festival.

"This is the first time I've paid attention to TIFF," she says, "the first time it didn't seem completely out of reach."

Short trilogy

Canning's nod for "Bedroom" comes just weeks after her film "Kitchen" earned the award for Best Newfoundland and Labrador Film at the Nickel Independent Film Festival in St. John's.

The two films are part of Canning's trilogy of shorts, two of which were written by Richardson.

"It's the dream," she says. "Me and Jody wrote this. We conceived of (the films) hoping they would be universal and work outside of Newfoundland."

In addition to Richardson's involvement in the film as a writer and actor, the music of his rock band The Pathological Lovers is also featured in "Down to the Dirt."

But he's not the only one who has more than single representation at the festival. White also shares co-writing credits with Hynes and Simms for "Down to the Dirt" and plays the role of Sally Anne in the film.

Additionally, Joy co-stars in "Bedroom," giving him dual representation at the festival.

"Getting your name known outside of Newfoundland is very important," Canning admits. "Justin and Sherry both know this, too."

The three filmmakers agree having their work screened at TIFF is an important step for a Canadian filmmaker.

"I think for any independent film in Canada, you're making it for TIFF," says Simms. "It's kind of a stamp of approval."

Adds White, "It's really good for exposure. It's one of the biggest film festivals in the world and the most prestigious in the country."

The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 4-13.

Organizations: Best Newfoundland and Labrador Film

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Toronto, St. John's Vancouver Canada

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