3 Critically Acclaimed Films Coming To Pendance This Week

Straight Up | Feb 21, 8:00pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox

Starring Katie Findlay (The Killing), Randall Park (Aquaman), Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad), James Scully (You Season 2) and the uber-talented James Sweeney, this film is a winner. It’s hilarious, and one of the best-written films we saw all year. Check out this trailer about a dramedy featuring the couple-of-the-year: Todd, a guy who may or may not be gay, and Rory, an actress who may or may not care.


Saint Frances | Feb 22 9:30pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox

This film deservedly won the Audience Award at SXSW last year, and it’s absolutely one of the best films at Pendance 2020. Some films split our team. This film was a unanimous no-brainer for everyone. It’s heading to theatres in March, so here’s a great chance to watch it before the rest of the world. Saint Frances, written by and starring the positively charming Kelly O’Sullivan follows Bridget, a woman who accepts a nanny position weeks after ending her pregnancy. It’s a coming-of-age story like we haven’t seen. It’s funny. It’s heart-warming. It’s everything we’ve ever wanted to see from a film.

The Short History of the Long Road | Feb 21, 4:00PM | TIFF Bell Lightbox

One of the biggest emerging stars in Hollywood, Sabrina Carpenter, leads a star-cast featuring Danny Trejo. Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) and Steven Ogg (The Walking Dead) in a positively heart-warming story about Nola, a nomad who must confront life on the road once tragedy strikes. Writer & Director Ani Simon-Kennedy and cinematographer Cailin Yatsko in attendance. 

Announcing Pendance Doctrina

So much of what made Pendance 2019 successful was about the films. But so much of it wasn’t. Who could forget Mark Raso’s filmmaking workshop? Or Quest director Santiago Rizzo’s heart-felt skype Q&A about youth in crisis? And what would Pendance’s opening-night feature ‘Age Out’ have been without the eye-opening Q&A by OnBuzz CEO and Social Impact advocate Alan Elias?

“We’re trying to be more than a place people go to watch films. We’re trying to bring new ideas and important stories to the forefront and share them against the backdrop of Toronto winters. We want Pendance to become as synonymous with big ideas, important conversations, great music, innovation, and learning as it is with great cinema” stated festival director Robert Misovic.

Doctrina Leaders Maria Fomina (left) and Kristina Zabelin (right)


Pendance Doctrina features 5 components; social impact initiatives, documentaries, workshops, panels and conferences. Doctrina is Latin and is tied with learning, knowledge, or teaching. It is also feminine. And it’s no accident that an initiative entitled ‘Doctrina’ which aims to empower youth is led by two of Pendance’s youngest members; Kristina Zabelin & Maria Fomina leading the workshops and conferences respectively.

For Pendance Workshops, the festival has spent over a year researching how people learn. These free-to-attend workshops feature industry leaders teaching core topics in an engaging way, implementing student participation, audio-visual tools, and hands-on learning. These aren’t merely lectures or how-to instructionals.


Alan Elias speaks on the American Foster Care system at Pendance 2019


The Panels feature lively debates exploring topics from multiple angles and unique perspectives. The team has sought out the brightest and most credible minds in the industry to speak at these panels and by allowing free access to students and partnering with film schools, Pendance is hoping to ignite a deep curiosity among youngsters breaking into the film and television industry.

Pendance conferences follow the format of lectures or talks from key speakers on issues the festival feels are worth exploring. Finally, Pendance will begin to feature documentary features as a means of diversifying its narrative-heavy selections from the first two years.

“Rob Stewart was a big inspiration to me growing up, and documentaries like Sharkwater have sparked global movements. With so many conversations that are best explored through the documentary medium, we look forward to making documentaries a big part of what we’re doing at Pendance and our Doctrina arm going forward” stated festival director Robert Misovic.

Finally, social impact is a means of engaging community involvement year-round. This means youth-driven initiatives and support for charities and causes the festival holds in high regard. In 2019, the festival will be re-launching the ‘Warming the Streets’ initiative in which volunteers take a night to walk through the city with gift-wrapped coats, jackets, sweaters, socks, gift cards, and vouchers and break bread with the city’s underprivelged population.


Velvet Underground New Home for Pendance Music

There could have been no home finer than The Velvet Underground. Pendance’s new Music Director Walter Noseworthy had visited and researched every concert venue in Toronto and when it came down to where he wanted to host the opening night concert to launch the Pendance Film Festival, it came down to Velvet Underground v.s nobody.

“It’s the perfect venue. Velvet has a rich history of hosting amazing musicians, a great atmosphere for an intimate concert, and it is located so close to the festival’s film screenings and workshops” said festival director Robert Misovic.

Who is coming to Pendance Music? Well, that’s a surprise. The scouting process to find the best artists to bring to Pendance’s first official concert started in August and everyone on the team internally seems optimistic that they’ll find 3-4 of Canada’s best musicians to headline the event.

Pendance Music takes place at 8:00 PM on February 20, 2020. Velvet Underground is located at 508 Queen Street West in the downtown Toronto core. Tickets should be on sale in January.

Pendance Announces Short Film Jury for 2020

The Pendance Film Festival is proud to welcome eight wonderful additions to the Short Film Jury for 2020.

The Jury is comprised of Robyn Citizen (TIFF Short Cuts Programmer), Alexandra Mitchell (Austin Film Festival Programmer) and Pendance alums; Mauro Mueller, Myrsini Aristidou, Carlota Pereda, Marija Apcevska, Cam Be, and Clara Lezama.

Robyn Citizen is a film and media scholar on ethno-racial and national identity, and the horror and sci-fi genres. In 2018, she joined the programming teams for the Toronto International Film Festival and the Human Rights Film Festival. From 2012 to 2017 she was a lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies and the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of British Columbia. Recently, Citizen was a featured writer and panelist at the Emergence Symposium’s Black to the Future program, on the themes and cultural impact of Afrofuturism.

Mauro Mueller is an independent Swiss-Mexican narrative filmmaker and a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. He is best known for directing the short films A World for Raúl which won the Student Academy Award for 2013, Dear Chickens (which had its Canadian premiere at Pendance 2019) and producing the feature film Copenhagen, and the Mexican feature In Times of Rain. He co-founded Fidelio Films alongside Columbia University alums Mark Raso, David Figueroa García, and Mauricio Leiva-Cock in 2010.

Myrsini Aristidou is an award-winning filmmaker based between Paris and Cyprus. She graduated with an MFA in Film Directing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 2017, and holds a BFA in Film and History of Art from Pratt Institute in New York. Her short film Aria premiered at the the 74th Venice Film Festival, and continued to screen at Sundance. Her previous short film Semele premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 and won the Berlinale Short Film Special Prize of the Generation Kplus International Jury.

Alexandra “Alex” Mitchell was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from Washington University with a B.A. in Film & Media Studies, she made the trek down ‘south’ with the dream of working at Austin Film Festival. She made it! After serving as a Conference intern, Registration Director, and recently the Project Manager, Alex is honored to serve as the Shorts Programmer in the Film Department. When Alex is not watching films and reading up on the industry, she is eating brunch and playing board games.

Carlota Pereda is an award-winning Spanish director and screenwriter. She has worked on various television productions. She is known for directing Las Ninas Rubias (The Blonde Girls) in 2016 and Cerdita (Piggy) in 2018. Both films earned international acclaim, with the latter winning the Goya. Piggy won the Jury Award for Best Short Film at Pendance 2019.

Marija Apcevska is a Macedonian filmmaker. She graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts, Skopje. She continued her education at the New York Film Academy, LA, California with an MFA in filmmaking. Her short film Bardo premiered at Berlinale. Her short film Ambi was included in Cineuropa Shorts selection of Top Five European Shorts of 2017.


Cam Be studied at the New York Film Academy and Columbia College in Chicago. Cam has interviewed and documented iconic artists such as Maya Angelou, Lauryn Hill, Common, among others. He received an Emmy award as a producer for About Last Night in 2012. He’s best known for his feature-documentary The Exchange, and his short doc Where Flowers Bloom (2018).


Clara Lezama is a 25 year-old filmmaker from Montevideo, Uruguay. She graduated from Escuela de Cine del Uruguay in 2016 and has worked as a director, editor and AD. Her short film Emma won best short film at FIEC, the Festival Piriápolis de Película, and Pendance 2017. She participated in Cinemademare in 2017, and currently works for Cinemateca Uruguaya.