Films & Schedules

  • Mothers & Daughters

  • Carl Bessai

85 minutes

Production Company:
Raven West Films Ltd.
Carl Bessai, Rod Ruel
Carl Bessai
Production Designer:
Chelsea McCormack
Carl Bessai
Mark Shearer
Jeff Carter
Lullaby Baxter with Bertram Havisham
Principal Cast: Tantoo Cardinal, Babz Chula, Gabrielle Rose, Camille Sullivan, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Tinsel Korey

Monday September 0809:00PM AMC 3 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Thursday September 1108:45PM VARSITY 6 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Friday September 1202:45PM VARSITY 4 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Carl Bessai returns to the Festival with Mothers&Daughters, mining the rich terrain of the mother-daughter bond. Bessai's sparkling ensemble cast breathes life into six unique and beguiling characters. The high-strung pulp romance novelist Micki (Babz Chula) eclipses her sullen daughter Rebecca (Camille Sullivan), an actress who finds Mom overwhelming. Brenda (Gabrielle Rose) is a dedicated housewife and mother who is shocked to learn that her husband has left her for a younger woman. Her daughter Kate (Tiffany Lyndall-Knight) is less sympathetic, and appears more devastated by her father's departure than her mother. Celine (Tantoo Cardinal) is a Metis woman who owns her own business. When she is hired by Cynthia (Tinsel Korey), a young professional who was adopted into a white household many years earlier, a troubling question arises: could Cynthia be Celine's long-lost granddaughter?

With Mothers&Daughters, Bessai has created a film that is entirely fresh yet openly referential to iconic filmmakers and movements: Robert Altman, John Cassavetes, Mike Leigh and the Dogme95 set can all be sensed.

The keen performers deliver inspired moments from across the entire spectrum of emotions. A dinner party scene, during which Micki's friends debate the merits of her work, is a standout. It is a testament to ringleader Bessai and his onscreen team that Mothers&Daughters emerges as such a delightful work. Bessai has worked in collaboration with his actors, but while films created in this model often devolve into a series of performance exercises, here the filmmaker and cast remain disciplined, ensuring that each scene serves the complex web of stories. Never descending to the maudlin, the actors pay tribute to the intricacies of these relationships while simultaneously celebrating the art of performance itself. The result is a trenchant exploration of several different facets of the mother-daughter connection – the way buttons are pushed, the way bonds are rebuilt – with clarity and quite a lot of courage.

Matthew Hays

Carl Bessai was born in Edmonton and studied at the Ontario College of Art & Design and at York University in Toronto. He has worked extensively in film and television as a cinematographer, writer, producer and director. He directed the documentaries Brothers from Vietnam (98), Out of Orbit: The Life and Times of Marshall McLuhan (99) and Indie Truth (02), and co-wrote the feature They Wait (07). His feature films are Johnny (99), Lola (01), Emile (03), Severed (05), Unnatural & Accidental (06), Normal (07) and Mothers&Daughters (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award