airport_transferbarbathtubbusiness_facilitieschild_activitieschildcareconnecting_roomcribsfree_wifigymhot_tubinternetkitchennon_smokingpetpoolresturantski_in_outski_shuttleski_storagesmoking_areaspastar
Sign In
Knight of Cups | © FilmNation Entertainment
Knight of Cups | © FilmNation Entertainment
Save to wishlist

10 Independent Films To See In Toronto: March 2016

Picture of Katie Hill
Updated: 5 March 2016
It’s time once again for Torontonians’ monthly movie dose. With spring weather just around the corner, there’s no better way to wait out the winter than hibernating in cinemas showcasing the latest in independent film. With new releases ranging from critically acclaimed biopics to an Academy Award winner for best foreign language film, here are ten of the best independent films to see in Toronto this March.
Save to wishlist

The Program (2015)

The Program chronicles Lance Armstrong’s rise and fall in professional cycling, from seven-time Tour de France winner to disgraced cheater. Adapted from Irish journalist David Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, the film is framed within Walsh’s mission to expose Armstrong’s doping, a scandal which broke in 2012. Ben Foster is convincing as Armstrong in looks and performance, exposing the athlete’s dark side as a narcissistic bully. Chris O’Dowd is scene stealing as Walsh, proving the comedic actor is capable of dramatic fare. Directed by Stephen Frears, The Program is a gripping biopic that exposes the dark underbelly of professional sport and the will to win.

Fun Film Fact (FFF): Upon the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Foster admitted in a September 2015 interview with The Guardian to using performance-enhancing drugs (unbeknownst to his director) in preparation for his role as notorious doper Armstrong. Talk about method acting.

Magic Lantern Carlton Cinema, 20 Carlton St, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 494 9371

Opens Friday, March 18

Cineplex Theatres (check for updated listings)

Opens Friday, March 25

The Program | © StudioCanal

The Program | © StudioCanal

Save to wishlist

Glassland (2014)

This gritty Irish drama starring Jack Reynor, Academy Award nominee Toni Collette, and Will Poulter (The Revenant) tells the story of a young taxi driver in Dublin who becomes mixed up in human trafficking when he takes a shady job to help his mother overcome addiction and pay for rehab. Completed in 2014, critically acclaimed Glassland is finally being released in North America. It was featured at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema – Dramatic category. Now, Toronto audiences will have the chance to see this moving and understated look at love, family, and addiction.

FFF: Glassland is only the second feature film by 28-year-old Irish writer and director Gerard Barrett. In 2013, he won the IFTA Rising Star Award at the Irish Film and Television Academy Awards in Dublin after his first film Pilgrim Hill. He’s in good company, as previous winners of the award include Irish actors Michael Fassbender and Saoirse Ronan, both two-time Academy Award nominees.

Magic Lantern Carlton Cinema, 20 Carlton St, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 494 9371

Opens Friday, March 11

Glassland | © Element Pictures

Glassland | © Element Pictures

Save to wishlist

Born to Be Blue (2015)

Born to Be Blue is an unconventional biopic of American jazz musician and trumpeter Chet Baker. For those unfamiliar, Baker is perhaps best known for his haunting rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘My Funny Valentine‘. Played by four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke, the film sees Baker cast as himself in a film about his career (very meta), which forces him to confront his struggles with drugs and the law before pursuing a musical comeback in the late 1960s. The film had its world premiere at TIFF 2015. At its heart is rising British actress Carmen Ejogo, who plays Baker’s love interest and biggest champion.

FFF: As a Canadian co-production, the film was written and directed by Canadian Robert Budreau, and much of it was shot in Sudbury, Ontario.

TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 599 8433

Opens Friday, March 11

Born to Be Blue | © IFC Films

Born to Be Blue | © IFC Films

Save to wishlist

Cemetery of Splendor (2015) (Rak ti Khon Kaen)

This acclaimed Thai drama debuted at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and has since been featured at more than a dozen film festivals around the world including TIFF and Sundance. Cemetery of Splendor tells the story of a lonely, middle-aged housewife who, while volunteering at a hospice for soldiers suffering from sleeping sickness, embarks on a hallucinatory journey of self-discovery. The film is written and directed by Thai indie filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who previously won the prestigious Palme d’Or (best picture) at Cannes in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. His latest film is a mystical and stunning viewing experience not to be missed.

FFF: Weerasethakul is one of few Thai filmmakers who works outside the studio system. In order to seem more authentic, he prefers to use non-professional actors and encourages improvisation in order to blur the lines between film and documentary.

TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 599 8433

Opens Friday, March 11

Cemetery of Splendour | © Kick the Machine

Cemetery of Splendor | © Kick the Machine

Save to wishlist

Crazy About Tiffany’s (2016)

This authorized documentary on Tiffany & Co. investigates the phenomenon behind the little blue box. Written and directed by Matthew Miele, Crazy About Tiffany’s chronicles the company’s history and its rise from a modest jewellery store to worldwide sensation. In addition to its commercial success, Miele examines Tiffany’s cultural significance, including the iconic Academy Award-winning film Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) starring Audrey Hepburn. This fascinating look behind the curtain includes interviews with international celebrities, designers, and style icons, including Jessica Biel, Katie Couric, Rachel Zoe, and director Baz Luhrman.

FFF: This is not Miele’s first foray into documenting the world of luxury fashion. In 2013, he wrote and directed the box office hit Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s, which looked at the success of the Bergdorf’s department store in Manhattan.

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 637 3123

Sun. Mar. 6, Tues. Mar. 8, Fri. Mar. 11, Sun. Mar. 20, & Wed. Mar. 23

Crazy About Tiffany's | © Gravitas Ventures

Crazy About Tiffany’s | © Gravitas Ventures

Save to wishlist

Speed Sisters (2015)

This fascinating documentary tells the story of the titular Speed Sisters, the first all-female car racing team in the Middle East. In April 2015, Speed Sisters was featured as an Official Selection at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto. It is directed by Amber Fares, a Lebanese-Canadian filmmaker who currently resides in Ramallah, Palestine. Her film provides an eye-opening look at politics, gender, family, religion, and military occupation in present-day Palestine through ‘the vehicle’ of a women’s racing team breaking down boundaries both within the popular male-dominated sport and in Palestinian society.

FFF: This is the first feature-length documentary for Fares, having previously directed the short Ghetto Town (2009) about a Palestinian hip-hop group that emerged out of a refuge camp outside of Jerusalem.

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 637 3123

Friday, March 11–Thursday, March 17

Speed Sisters | © Blue Ice Docs

Speed Sisters | © Blue Ice Docs

The Bronze (2015)

This LOL, R-rated comedy is about Hope Annabelle Gregory (Melissa Rauch of TV’s The Big Bang Theory), a foul-mouthed, egotistical Olympic bronze medal gymnast, whose local celebrity status is threatened when a young, talented gymnast begins to steal the spotlight. Produced by indie film giants the Duplass brothers, The Bronze was a hit when it premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. In addition to a breakout performance for its leading lady, the film boasts an all-star cast of the who’s who in television comedy, including SNL’s Cecily Strong, Veep’s Gary Cole, and Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch.

FFF: Rauch wrote the film’s screenplay with her husband Winston Rauch. It is their first screenwriting venture in feature film.

Cineplex Theatres (check for updated listings)

Opens Friday, March 18

The Bronze | © Sony Pictures Classics
The Bronze | © Sony Pictures Classics
Save to wishlist

Knight of Cups (2015)

This highly anticipated romantic drama, from visionary filmmaker and three-time Academy Award nominee Terrence Malick, is about a screenwriter from LA who on a journey for love and self-discovery becomes entangled with six very different women. The film’s talented ensemble cast is led by Academy Award winners Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman. Knight of Cups premiered at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival in the main competition section. The title refers to the tarot card Knight of Cups: upright it signifies change, opportunity, and excitement, but reversed, it represents recklessness and instability. Like Bale’s character, the Knight of Cups is someone intelligent, artistic, and principled, but easily bored and persuaded.

FFF: Known for his unpredictable and unorthodox methods, Malick did not write a script for the film; rather, the dialogue was primarily improvised.

Cineplex Cinemas Varsity and VIP, 55 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 961 6304

Opens Friday, March 18

Son of Saul (2015) (Saul Fia)

From Hungary, this acclaimed drama recently won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Set at Auschwitz in 1944, Saul, a Jewish-Hungarian prisoner forced to work as a member of the Sonderkommando, desperately tries to arrange a Jewish burial for the body of a young boy. Directed and co-written by László Nemes, Son of Saul provides a unique and authentic account of Auschwitz, which is both unnerving and moving. Do not let its heavy subject matter deter you. The film is ultimately a lesson in history, morality, and beautiful filmmaking. Nemes describes his film’s message best: ‘Even in the darkest hours of mankind, there might be a voice within us that allows us to remain human’.

FFF: Cinematography was of particular concern. Shot primarily through close-ups, long tracking shots, and 40mm lens creating a shallow depth of focus, the camera, and by extension the audience, sticks with Saul. The camera does not go beyond Saul’s perspective or experience intentionally, forcing the audience to witness the events of the film as he does, which serves to heighten the film’s intensity and sense of urgency.

TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 599 8433

Now Playing

Fox Theatre, 2236 Queen St E, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 691 7335

Tuesday, March 15–Thursday, March 17

The Royal, 608 College St, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 466 4400

Sat. Mar. 12, Sun. Mar. 13, Sat. Mar. 19, Sun. Mar. 27, & Mon. Mar. 28

Son of Saul | © Sony Pictures Classics
Son of Saul | © Sony Pictures Classics
Save to wishlist

Eye in the Sky (2015)

For those still reeling from the tragic passing of beloved British actor Alan Rickman, it is bittersweet that this dramatic thriller features his final live action film role (he voices Blue Caterpillar in May’s Alice Through the Looking Glass). Eye in the Sky grapples with the moral and political implications of modern warfare when a nine-year-old girl enters the kill zone of a secret drone operation to prevent a terrorist suicide bombing in Kenya. The film premiered at TIFF 2015 and also stars Academy Award winner Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul. Strong performances by a talented international cast provide the backbone of this tense drama.

FFF: Somalian actor Barkhad Abdi co-stars in his first film role since his Academy Award-nominated debut in Captain Phillips (2013). In 2015, he guest starred on an episode of TV’s Hawaii Five-O.

Cineplex Cinemas Varsity and VIP, 55 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 961 6304

Opens Friday, March 25

Cineplex Theatres (check for updated listings)

Eye in the Sky | © Entertainment One

Eye in the Sky | © Entertainment One

By Katie Hill

Katie is a recent graduate of the ComCult program at Ryerson University, and currently works for the Toronto International Film Festival. When she’s not busy writing about movies, she can usually be found watching them in theatres with an icy-cold pop and regular-sized popcorn in hand (hold the butter). Follow her on Twitter @katieM_hill and Instagram @katiem_hill.