The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the most anticipated events on a film fan’s calendar, as it stands alongside Cannes as one of the most prominent festivals on the world cinema circuit. Over the years, numerous films have been discovered at the festival by discerning moviegoers, while films that have gone on to receive overwhelmingly positive critical attention and even win Oscars have seen their buzz build from TIFF. Thus, the festival’s lineup itself has become a source of anticipation for many, with numerous films choosing to make their world premiere at the festival, and others choosing to make their North American premieres. Here are 10 features we hope to see in the lineup for TIFF come September.
With a moniker that is shared by one of the most legendary actors in the history of cinema, British filmmaker Steve McQueen already faced an uphill battle in making his mark before he even began. His debut feature, 2009’s Hunger, however, proved that McQueen was capable of handling difficult subjects with nuance, and 2011’s Shame established him as a force to be reckoned with, rather than a flash in the pan. The most interesting aspect of his newest feature, however, is the fact that, for the first time, McQueen steps away from writing duties, instead working from a script by John Ridley. The subject matter of American slavery, however, falls right in the auteur’s list of difficult topics that is evident in his filmography, and a cast that sees regular McQueen collaborator Michael Fassbender joined by the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael K. Williams, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Quvenzhane Wallis, and Alfre Woodard, the potential in this film is huge, and a chance to catch McQueen’s third outing at TIFF would be fantastic.
Filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron was well-regarded among film fans even before his 2006 effort Children Of Men; the dystopian film, however, cemented Cuaron’s status as an attention-grabbing storyteller. Rather than capitalise on the new group of fans Cuaron had acquired, however, the filmmaker instead took a hiatus from filmmaking, working on tv shows and documentary shorts. That will change with Gravity, and the story Cuaron has chosen to tell makes this more intriguing, as the science fiction setting is the only thing this movie shares with its predecessor. With Cuaron collaborating with his son on the screenplay, this movie is set in only one place, but that is the vast expanse of space. Furthermore, the cast credits feature only two onscreen performers, and reports indicate the bulk of the picture will rest upon the shoulders of Sandra Bullock, in perhaps her most challenging role yet. What Cuaron has up his sleeve after seven years away from film, and how Bullock tackles the challenge thrown her way, will be worth seeing, and the chance to do so at TIFF would be great.
Not much can be said about the Coen Brothers that hasn’t already been said, as their status as one of the best filmmakers working today is rarely disputed, and their ability to move from genre to genre and still produce quality movies is well-documented over their career. Their involvement in a new feature alone is cause for excitement, and the idea of them tackling the US folk music scene in the early 1960s only adds to that. Following their foray into remakes, both with their feature True Grit and the penning of Gambit, for which they handed off the directing reins, the brothers tackle original material once again with Inside Llewyn Davis, and while the cast includes familiar faces such as John Goodman and F. Murray Abraham, the Coens also work with a plethora of promising younger talent, such as Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver, and Alex Karpovsky. Having already received raves at Cannes, a premiere at TIFF would no doubt be a great way for the movie to introduce itself to North American audiences.
One of the surprises at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival was the film Blue Is the Warmest Color, as relatively unknown filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche beat out many other better-known veteran filmmakers to with the coveted Palme d’Or on the festival’s last day. A three hour epic on the examination of a relationship from beginning to possible end would pique interest on its own, but the fact that the relationship in question is between two women adds another layer worth examining, and none of this takes the Palme d’Or win into consideration. But another fascinating aspect of the movie are the detractors that have emerged since the increase in the film’s profile, the most prominent of which is Janet Maroh, the author of the graphic novel that the film was adapted from, who asserts that the perspective that Kechiche and co-writer Ghalia Lacroix brought to certain key scenes was not enough to capture the true nature of them. Making its North American premiere at TIFF would allow filmgoers here to see the film with all this in mind, and begin building their own conclusions.
While Oscar wins are always a source of debate among those with more than a passing interest in film, stretching all the way back to Citizen Kane’s Best Picture loss at the 1941 Academy Awards, A Separation’s 2011 win for Best Foreign Film is agreed by many to have been a deserving one. The hard-hitting family drama vaulted filmmaker Asghar Farhadi to the ranks of someone worth keeping an eye on on the international stage, and his follow-up feature likewise displays great promise. Working from an adaptation of Massoumeh Lahidji, whose last onscreen work was 2010’s Certified Copy, the central duo at the core of The Past is played by Berenice Bejo and Tahar Rahim, both of whom have drawn critical raves for their work in The Artist and A Prophet respectively. The talent in front of and behind the camera for this film is incredible, and a chance to see the film at a festival may be the only one a lot of North Americans get, making it worthy of a North American premiere at a prominent one such as TIFF.
Filmmaker Claire Denis’ understanding of film is obvious from her position as professor at the French state film school La Femis and her seat on the 2005 Venice Film Festival jury, even if one has not seen any of her features. Her movies, however, display a clear understanding of character relationships, and remain compelling even if they’re simply exploring the day-to-day life of a father and daughter in modern day France, as in 35 Shots of Rum. While the opportunity to see any Denis film is worth it on its own, the fact that the auteur is bringing her distinctive capability to form unique characters and compelling character relationships to a thriller only heightens this. Denis works again with frequent collaborator Jean-Pol Marceau on the screenplay, and the film has garnered raves in its premiere at Cannes. The chance to see it on the festival circuit may be the only time many North American fans of Denis may get to watch the film on the big screen, and making its North American premiere at TIFF is a great way to build up the movie.
Filmmaker Alexander Payne’s movies have always been able to make otherwise mundane stories somehow compelling, from the story of a high school election in Election to the tale of a retiree widower’s life in About Schmidt. 2011 marked Payne’s first full-length feature in seven years, following a turn to television, but the writer-director has gotten right back into the swing of things with his newest film, Nebraska, already making its premiere at Cannes. While Payne has previously been involved in screenplays that he has not directed, this movie marks the first time he’s directing from a screenplay he has not written or co-written, instead working from a script from first-time writer Bob Nelson. The story of an aging man and his estranged son making a road trip to collect the father’s sweepstakes prize, however, fits in perfectly with Payne’s filmography, and the fact that it is shot in black and white, and stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte in the two lead roles, makes this very intriguing, and TIFF is a great venue for the film to make its North American debut.
Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s relative lack of presence in North American theatres has been lamented by many fans, as the only two features made by the writer-director in the last 10 years have only received limited runs in American theatres, leaving many to find them on DVD. This has not been due to a lack of critical praise, however, and his newest feature looks just as fascinating. Having once put his unique stamp on samurais with Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Jarmusch has now turned his vision to the story of vampires with his new film. As he once again writes and directs, the cast that has been assembled for the movie would draw attention even if there was someone else behind the camera; with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in the lead roles, the rest of the cast includes Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, and Jeffrey Wright. If the last two Jarmusch films are any indication, this one may also end up as a limited release, making TIFF a great place to expose the film to a large audience.
Filmmaker Bong Joon-ho stormed onto the international stage in 2006 with The Host, his third full-length feature that breathed new life into the monster invasion genre around the world. However, the writer-director’s other efforts display the true versatility of his skills, as he has tackled period crime dramas and black comedies about life in South Korea with equal skill. His next film, however, sees him going in a whole new direction, working from an adaptation for the first time as he tackles a dystopian future landscape with an international cast, and set on a single train. Adapted from the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Bong Joon-ho collaborated with Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’s Kelly Masterson on the script, and directs a cast that includes Chris Evans, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Alison Pill, Ed Harris, Ewen Bremner, and Octavia Spencer. While this film will open in some countries before September, with no US or Canadian release date set yet, a premiere at TIFF is a great place to build an audience to push for an eventual theatrical run.
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese is regarded as a legend among film fans all over the world, with numerous classics, from Taxi Driver to Goodfellas, in his filmography alongside other well-regarded features such as The Aviator and Gangs of New York. Despite being in his 70s, the auteur shows no signs of slowing down, with his first movie since 2011 now in post-production. Scorsese goes down the adaptation route this time around, working from the memoirs of Jordan Belfort to tell the story of securities fraud and money laundering in the 90s US stock market, and Boardwalk Empire creator and The Sopranos writer Terence Winter takes on screenplay duties for Scorsese. Equally as interesting as the idea of seeing how the two work together on the big screen is the cast assembled for the film; with Leonardo DiCaprio joining the director for the fifth time, the cast around him includes Jon Bernthal, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, and Margot Robbie. The film has yet to make its world premiere, and there’s no better venue to do so than TIFF.
Of course, this is but a small sample of movies we hope to see, with films such as Spike Jonze’s Her, George Clooney’s The Monuments Men, Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, and Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips also among the list of films we hope to see among the lineup of TIFF when it is announced. In addition, none of this accounts for the possibility of the discovery of a gem from a previously unknown filmmaker, as film fans stumble upon at a festival such as this, and the possibility of other anticipated films unexpectedly finding their way to a festival screening, such as Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie. No matter what films get announced as part of the festival, however, there’s very little doubt that it will be two exciting weeks for filmgoers.
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- Deepayan Sengupta