Toronto has a long history with movie magic. It’s one of Canada’s worst kept secrets – major Hollywood films have disguised Toronto’s recognizable streets, landmarks and surrounding areas for decades. Take, for instance, Casa Loma, the city’s hilltop castle, which accommodated the mutants of Professor Xavier’s School for the Gifted in X-Men. Or Downtown Yonge Street, which saw Batman atop The Jokermobile in DC Comics’ Suicide Squad. Or Port Hope, a quaint lakefront town just west of downtown, which completely transformed into Stephen King’s fictional town of Derry for IT and IT: Chapter 2…the list goes on and on.  

Toronto is a chameleon city in that it can be disguised as nearly any destination – both existing and fictional. Famed director/producer Guillermo del Toro declared he wants to open his own studio here as most of his films (including last year’s Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water) are shot entirely in Toronto. There’s a reason this Canadian capital city is known in the movie industry as “Hollywood North.”

But besides producing and starring in movies, Toronto boasts some of the most prestigious and popular film festivals in North America, if not the entire world. The most glamorous of them all being TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), with honourable mentions going to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the Canadian Film Fest, and the European Union Film Festival (EUFF), which is currently celebrating its 14th anniversary at the Royal Cinema in the heart of Little Italy.

This year’s film selections – one from each country in the European Union – cover a broad list of topics and genres, from fantasy to drama, and everything in-between. I had the privilege of being asked to review the official Italian selection, Tito e gli alieni (Little Tito and the Aliens), a beautifully shot sci-fi/drama about love and loss (and aliens), unlike any movie I’ve ever seen.

The film’s screening, which was co-presented by the ICFF (Italian Contemporary Film Festival), was Tito’s Canadian debut. Written and directed by critically acclaimed Italian director, Paola Randi (one of eleven female directors showing films at EUFF 2018), Little Tito and the Aliens is a fantasmagorical science-fiction selection that delivers a heartfelt yet untraveled journey into the barrings of a tragedy-ridden family.

Professor Biondi, played by “one of the best Italian and European actors alive,” Signore Valerio Mastandrea, is a lonely and depressed scientist living near Area 51 in the United States. Isolated from the rest of the world, the Professor receives a message from his dying brother who entrusts him with his two children: Anita (Chiara Stella Riccio) and Tito (Luca Esposito), both of whom steal the show with their physical acting, humour, and Italian charm. The siblings arrive in Nevada expecting the blinding lights of Las Vegas and American celebrities like Lady Gaga, instead, they find themselves in the hands of their seemingly wacky uncle in a foreign place where extraterrestrials are said to live…

The story came into fruition for Paola after a family member of hers passed away. Another family member found a picture of the deceased and would speak to the photo as if their mutual loved one had never perished. With that raw pain, Randi found a way to merge her inquisitions of Area 51 into a touching dedication of what it means to start over after losing a loved one. Within the 1h 32m of this American-Italian-Alien cinematic fusion, audiences will question what it means to both dead and alive, here on earth, and in outer space. With its American indie feel and Italian cultural flavour, Tito e gli alieni is an orbital gem in the heart of world cinema.

4 Popcorn Kernels / 5



(For more information about FREE TICKETS to the remaining EUFF screenings, visit

About the Author

Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.