Celebrating 2024's Best New Canadian Directors

Spend CanFilmDay with 'Seagrass,' 'Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person' and more

Photo courtesy of Game Theory Films

BY Rachel HoPublished Apr 17, 2024

In its 11th year, National Canadian Film Day continues to bring the country together in celebration of Canada's finest movies and filmmakers. The theme for this year's CanFilmDay line-up focuses on "Films that A.I. Could Never Make," with films like Matt Johnson's BlackBerry, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's Angry Inuk, Érik Canuel's Bon Cop Bad Cop and David Cronenberg's eXistenZ filling out the program.

Today, over 1,000 free screening events (some with special guests, including Jay Baruchel, Atom Egoyan, Alanis Obomsawin and Mina Shum) will be taking place from Dawson Creek, BC, to Joe Batt's Arm, NL, and around the world at participating Canadian embassies in Latvia, Cameroon, Argentina and beyond. Check here for an event near you!

To celebrate CanFilmDay, I've chosen five Canadian filmmakers and their narrative feature film debuts from the past year that stood out to me, as well as where to find them. Our country is rich in talent, culture and artistry, and currently we're seeing vibrant storytelling from people from all walks of life creating a dynamic movie landscape.

Do what you have to do — check your local listings, search your streaming subscriptions, find a free CanFilmDay screening in your local community — just be sure to dig into some good ol' CanCon today, and all year round. Happy National Canadian Film Day!

Luis De Filippis, Something You Said Last Night

Toronto's Luis De Filippis crafts a family lakeside excursion where tensions simmer under the summer sun and scathing remarks find their bite in the cool evening air. But, for all the familial misgivings, De Filippis displays the tender love and care that permeates this family with breathtaking intimacy.

Bolstered by a magnetic performance (and another debut) from Carmen Macedonia, Something You Said Last Night was named to TIFF's Canada's Top Ten list in 2022 and shortlisted for the John Dunning Best First Feature Award at the 2024 Canadian Screen Awards. De Filippis effortlessly transposes the humanity and awareness that granted her success with her short films into a feature film debut that delivers a warm hug — after a few gut punches.

Meredith Hama-Brown, Seagrass

Winning a slew of critics awards and film festival recognition, and listed as one of TIFF's Canada's Top Ten in 2023, Seagrass turns a marriage retreat into a grief-stricken house of horrors. Vancouver's Meredith Hama-Brown shows off her home province's beauty while unpacking generational trauma and speaking truth to unspoken thoughts.

The film stars Ally Maki in a tremendous turn as Judith, but arguably the strong arm of Hama-Brown's direction is exemplified through the performances of the young cast, Canadians Nyha Huang Breitkreuz and Remy Marthaller, who play Judith's two daughters. The two adolescent stars bring a heartache to the film with their inherent innocence and thoughtful maturity that elevates Hama-Brown's script beautifully.

Zarrar Kahn, In Flames
(In theatres now)

One of my favourite films at TIFF last year, In Flames spotlights the practical and spiritual horrors a young woman faces. With the responsibility of helping her recently widowed mother understand the manipulation before her, Mariam (Ramesha Nawal) navigates the ghosts of her mother and all women, generation after generation.

Directed by Mississauga's Zarrar Kahn, In Flames was chosen as Pakistan's submission to the Academy for the Best International Feature Film category and has received acclaim from critics around the world. Shortlisted for the Directors Guild of Canada's 2023 Jean-Marc Vallée DGC Discovery Award and the John Dunning Best First Feature Award at the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards, In Flames exemplifies a delicate ferocity in Kahn's storytelling that should serve him well for projects to ahead.

Ariane Louis-Seize, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person

An inventive take on the coming-of-age genre, Montreal's Ariane Louis-Seize tackles themes of familial expectation and mental health through vampires and depression. It stars Sara Montpetit as Sasha, a teenage vampire who, much to the chagrin of her parents, refuses to kill people for her blood supply. In an attempt to appease her family and keep her morals, Sasha makes a pact with a suicidal teen to accompany him in checking items off of his bucket list.

Winner of the Giornate degli Autori, Best Director award at the Venice International Film Festival and the Jean-Marc Vallée DGC Discovery Award from the Directors Guild of Canada, Louis-Seize has been feted by film festivals across the country and internationally. Mixing Quebecois humour with European artistry and elevating the film past familiar tropes, it's no wonder Humanist Vampire was nominated for 12 Canadian Screen Awards.

Henri Pardo, Kanaval
(Coming to Quebec theatres May 3)

Kanaval marks the first narrative feature film effort from New Brunswick-born, Montreal-raised filmmaker Henri Pardo, following the success of his award-winning documentary Dear Jackie. Co-written with legendary Quebec filmmaker Kim Nguyen, the film received an honourable mention from the Best Canadian Film jury following its TIFF 2023 premiere, won the Amplify Voices Award, and was named to TIFF's Canada Top Ten.

The film journeys with young Rico (Rayan Dieudonné) and his mother Erzuile (Penande Estime) as they acclimate to their new home in Quebec while negotiating the traumas they left behind in Haiti. Pardo broaches a multitude of themes throughout the film, with all roads leading back to the mother-son relationship and all its intricacies. Pardo's delicate hand behind the camera demonstrates a filmmaker in command of his craft and tone.

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