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Toronto Film Festival Dailies

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9–18, 2021. in Canada's most vibrant and exciting metropolis, it has become one of the most important film events on the festival calendar.

Showcasing more than 300 films and hosting industryites from around the world, Toronto can "make or break" films looking for international distribution and a chance at Oscar gold. From glitzy red carpet premieres to challenging art films to cutting edge new media, the Festival offers something for every taste.

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TIFF Director interviewed: Michael McGowan for ALL MY PUNY SORROWS


TIFF 2021

With Director: Michael McGowan


Michael McGowan headshot

Michael McGowan 

Michael McGowan’s touching adaptation of Miriam Toews’ beloved novel about two sisters boasts a fine cast led by Alison Pill and Sarah Gadon.
Michael  is a Toronto-born writer and director for film and television. His feature films Saint Ralph (04), One Week (08), Score: A Hockey Musical (10), and Still Mine (12) all played the Festival. All My Puny Sorrows (21) is his latest film.

Interview by Emmanuel Itier

Q: How did this project come to you?


Michael: Actually, it’s based on a book by Miriam Toews and it was brought to my attention by my wife. It was a beautiful book dealing with suicide, with lots of heart and humor. I knew it would translate well on the screen and it was a great opportunity for three actresses to play the two sisters and the mother.  I was trying to adapt this book for a long time, but I couldn’t crack it. It’s a book that takes place over a long period of time and this was the main challenge, to compress it in a shorter timeline. I remember that my option on the book was going to run out and I had almost given up. Then I had one more dinner with Miriam and it all came to my mind. I’m glad I figured it out and I’m quite pleased with the result. Almost allowing myself to fail freed me from the process of adapting. It’s always a challenge making a film in any case.



Q: Talking of challenges, what were the bumps on the road?


Michael: There are always bumps when you put together a movie. Certainly, shooting during covid was a challenge in itself. Even so I was fortunate to be able to make this film during this pandemic. So many people went through difficult times and I was blessed to be able to work. We had three false positive covid result during our shoot, one of them was me. And we ended up shutting down production for a day and a half. Lucky us the results were wrong and we resumed filming. We were always riding that edge but it all worked out, in spite of this doom. But we got lucky at the end.





Q: What are the themes explored in this film?


Michael: It’s a very personal story to Miriam that happened to her family. But there is a universal truth about it that we all can identify to. There is a beautiful line that sums up the film: “She wanted to die and I wanted to live, therefore we were enemies who loved each other”. It’s the idea that someone if so compelled to do something, and is against all of what you believe and if what you believe is “right”, how does love transcend that. Ultimately, it’s a love story between two sisters and a mother. It’s a story of acceptance and forgiveness. It made me realize that there are impossible choices you’re faced with in life. I was very interested with exploring this concept.


Q: Does this make you face your own mortality in a different way?


Michael: Not really. I have wrestled with this in my other films. It’s part of the human condition to wrestle with your own mortality. Especially during this covid times. It’s also about the mental health challenge that everybody is facing right now. For sure the story of “All my puny sorrows” is even more timeless during this period of our existence. There is something beautifully pressing about it. And I hope audiences will get it.


Q: How is it to go to TIFF?


Michael: It’s a homecoming for me and I’m so happy to be able to go there physically! I have shown five movies at TIFF so they have been so good with me and my work. It’s important to be able to show your film and I have such a great slot on a Saturday night at the Princess of Whales theatre. This shows they believe in my movie and I do hope it will be well received so we can get a solid US distributor and then more foreign buyers. I hope it’s a great launching pad for my film.


Q: Anything coming next?


Michael: I’m always hesitant at announcing my next movie but I sure have a few ideas in mind. Nothing is far along right now. We shall see. Meanwhile I’m going to enjoy TIFF and the screening of our film.


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Contributing editors: Bruno Chatelin 

Laurie Gordon Animaze International Film Festival Le Miaff!
Leopoldo Soto Huatulco Food and Film Festival Director
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Mike Rabehl Programmer and Buyer Cinequest Film Festival San Jose Tiwtter: @cqmike
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