One week today marks the start of TIFF! As with every year, one of the most grueling aspects of the festival is narrowing down what to see. There are simply too many wonderful selections to choose from. While I got the bulk of the films I had on my “must-see” shortlist, seeing tickets for Winter Sleep and Forces Majeure sell out before my selection window opened did throw my TIFF schedule off a bit. However, as the saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens. Below is the list of films I will be seeing at this year’s festival:
Trick or Treaty? Alanis Obomsawin, Canada World Premiere
The new documentary from Alanis Obomsawin follows the journey of Indigenous people in their quest for justice as they seek to establish dialogue with the Canadian government. By tracing the history of their ancestors since the signing of Treaty No. 9, they are raising awareness about the issues that concern them and finally putting an end to inertia.
The Wanted 18 Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan, Canada/Palestine/France World Premiere
Through stop-motion animation, drawings and interviews, this film reveals how 18 cows in the village of Beit Sahour became an inspiration and symbol of resistance during the first Palestinian Intifada. As the Israeli army searches for the illegal bovines, the story veers from comedy to drama to tragedy — with a large dose of the absurd.
Shrew’s Nest (Musarañas) Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel, Spain World Premiere
Spain, 1950s. Monste’s agoraphobia keeps her locked in a sinister apartment in Madrid and her only link to reality is the little sister she sacrificed her youth to raise. But one day, a reckless young neighbour, Carlos, falls down the stairwell and drags himself to their door. Someone has entered the shrew’s nest… and perhaps he’ll never leave.
Cruel Story of Youth (Seishun zankoku monogatari) Nagisa Ôshima, Japan Free Screening
Master director Nagisa Ôshima’s seminal second feature — a brutal and beautiful portrait of two doomed, rebellious young lovers living fast and dying young in the sleazy backstreets of Tokyo, has never been crueller or more visually glorious than in this pristine 4K restoration. Cruel Story of Youth was a landmark in Japanese cinema, exploring the country’s postwar malaise with a razor-sharp sense of style. Starring Miyuki Kuwano and Yûsuke Kawazu. The digital restoration was performed in 4K by Shochiku Co., Ltd. under the supervision of Takashi Kawamata and cameraman Nagisa Ôshima. Courtesy of Janus Films.
Beyond the Lights Gina Prince-Bythewood, USA World Premiere
Noni is the music world’s latest superstar, but the pressures of fame have her on edge — until she meets Kaz Nicol, a young cop and aspiring politician. Can Kaz’s love give Noni the courage to find her own voice and become the artist she was meant to be? Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Colson “MGK” Baker and Danny Glover.
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya Isao Takahata, Japan
Studio Ghibli’s Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) transforms an ancient Japanese folktale into a dazzling animated fantasy.
Ned Rifle Hal Hartley, USA World Premiere
Ned Rifle is the third and final chapter of Hal Hartley’s tragicomic epic starting with Henry Fool (1997) and continued with Fay Grim (2007). At once a saga concerning the Grim family of Queens and how their lives are turned upside down by the arrival of the self-proclaimed genius Henry Fool, the trilogy is also an illustration of America’s grappling with ideas, art, politics, and religion over the course of 20 years. In this swiftly paced and expansive conclusion, Henry and Fay’s son Ned sets out to find and kill his father for destroying his mother’s life. But his aims are frustrated by the troublesome, sexy and hilarious Susan, whose connection to Henry predates even his arrival in the lives of the Grim family.
Second Coming Debbie Tucker Green, United Kingdom World Premiere
Jackie is pregnant and knows it’s not her husband Mark’s. She says she’s slept with nobody else. Mark and their son JJ don’t know what to say. Second Coming follows this family over a year as they navigate their way through the aftermath of an unexplained pregnancy. Starring Nadine Marshall, Idris Elba, Kai Francis-Lewis and Sharlene Whyte.
Whiplash Damien Chazelle, USA Canadian Premiere
Andrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite East Coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher, an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability — and his sanity. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Max Kasch and Damon Gupton.
Foxcatcher Bennett Miller, USA Canadian Premiere
Based on true events, this film tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers. Starring Anthony Michael Hall, Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Ruffalo and Sienna Miller.
My Darling Clementine John Ford, USA Free Screening
John Ford’s classic western — the mythic tale of Wyatt Earp’s gunfight with the corrupt, cattle-rustling Clanton clan at the O.K. Corral — is restored in near hallucinatory detail and clarity. Henry Fonda as Earp embodies the forces of order and civility in the “wide-awake, wide-open” town of Tombstone. The supporting cast, includes Victor Mature as the consumptive Doc Holliday and Walter Brennan as the grizzled Clanton patriarch. The 4K digital restoration courtesy of Fox. Scanned in 4K from the Museum of Modern Art’s nitrate 35mm fine grain master and restored in 4K at Cineric Inc. Audio was restored from the source element at Audio Mechanics.
Mommy Xavier Dolan, Canada Toronto Premiere
In a fictional Canada, where a new law allows distressed parents to abandon troubled children to the hospital system, Die Despres, a feisty widow, tries to cope with Steve, her wild yet charming son with ADHD. While they both try to make ends meet and live under the same roof, Kyla, their mysterious neighbour, offers her help. As Kyla’s heartwarming presence becomes increasingly intense, questions emerge about her own mysterious life, and the way her destiny may ultimately be linked to that of Steve and Die. Starring Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement and Antoine Olivier Pilon.
Songs She Wrote About People She Knows Kris Elgstrand, Canada World Premiere
Carol, an emotionally repressed woman, loses friends and alienates people when she begins singing songs she wrote about people she knows. But she unexpectedly inspires her boss, to whom she dedicated the song Asshole Dave, to resurrect his dreams of becoming a rock star. As Dave flounders, Carol continues to hone her creative voice. Starring Arabella Bushnell, Brad Dryborough and Ross Smith.
The Tribe (Plemya) Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine North American Premiere
A teenager who is deaf and mute enters a specialized boarding school where, to survive, he becomes part of a wild organization — the Tribe. His love for one of the concubines will unwillingly lead him to break all the unwritten rules within the Tribe’s hierarchy. Starring Yana Novikova and Grigoriy Fesenko.
Revenge of the Green Dragons Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo, USA World Premiere
In the vein of crime classics like Mean Streets and Infernal Affairs, this film follows two immigrant friends, Sonny and Steven, who survive the hard streets of New York in the 1980s by joining Chinatown gang The Green Dragons. Sonny and Steven quickly rise up the ranks, drawing the unwanted attention of the city’s police force. Starring Ray Liotta, Justin Chon, Kevin Wu, Harry Shum Jr., Shuya Chang and Geoff Pierson.
Leviathan Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia Canadian Premiere
Kolia lives in a small fishing town near the Barents Sea. He owns an auto-repair shop that stands right next to the house where he lives with his young wife Lilya (Elena Liadova) and his son Roma (Sergueï Pokhodaev) from a previous marriage. The town’s corrupt mayor Vadim Shelevyat is determined to take away his business and his house, as well as his land. First the mayor tries buying off Kolia, but Kolia unflinchingly fights as hard as he can so as not to lose everything he owns. Facing resistance, the mayor starts to become more aggressive. Starring Alexey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovitchenkov, Roman Madyanov and Anna Ukolova.
The Cobbler Thomas McCarthy, USA World Premiere
Max Simkin repairs shoes in the same New York shop that has been in his family for generations. Disenchanted with the grind of daily life, Max stumbles upon a magical heirloom that allows him to step into the lives of his customers and see the world in a new way. Sometimes walking in another man’s shoes is the only way one can discover who they really are. Starring Adam Sandler, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Ellen Barkin, Melonie Diaz, Dan Stevens, Fritz Weaver, Yul Vazquez, Steve Buscemi and Dustin Hoffman.
Impunity Jyoti Mistry, South Africa World Premiere
When the mauled body of Zanele Majola, a minister’s daughter, is discovered in the forest of an exclusive safari lodge the morning after her engagement party to a rising political star, Dingande Fakude, a Special Crimes Unit detective is dispatched from Pretoria to oversee the investigation and bring swift closure. He is teamed with the local detective, Naveed Khan, a self-styled outcast. When two young lovers, Derren and Echo, working as waiters at the party, are taken in for questioning, their complicity seems obvious. But as more crimes are uncovered, what looks like an open and shut case presents the two policemen with the complicated challenge of protecting the political elite. Behind the intertwining stories of a couple on a killing rampage and the corruption of politics in South Africa, filmmaker Jyoti Mistry weaves a provocative portrayal of a society permeated with violence and its spectacle, where the notion of justice has gone awry.
Labyrinth Of Lies (Im Labyrinth des Schweigens) Giulio Ricciarelli, Germany World Premiere
Frankfurt 1958: young prosecuting attorney Johann Radmann comes across documents that help to initiate the trial against members of the SS who served in Auschwitz. Both the horrors of the past and the hostility against his work bring Johann to the point of meltdown. It is nearly impossible for him to find his way through this maze; everybody seems to have been involved.
The Keeping Room Daniel Barber, USA World Premiere
Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women — two sisters and one African-American slave — must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army.
Starring Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Muna Otaru and Kyle Soller.
Tokyo Tribe Sion Sono, Japan International Premiere
Set in an alternate Tokyo of the near future, director Sion Sono continues his run of sensational films with the explosive street gang tale Tokyo Tribe. Tokyo Tribe is the first live-action adaptation of the best-selling manga series Tokyo Tribe 2, by Santa Inoue, which has sold two million copies and has been published in Asia and the west to great popularity.
The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer Randall Okita, Canada, 10’ World Premiere
A short story about two brothers who go to extremes in the different ways they live their lives — looking forward and looking back. When crisis hits, their bonds pull them back together, for better or worse.
A Single Body (Un seul corps) Sotiris Dounoukos, Australia/France, 19’ International Premiere
Set against the raucous and grisly backdrop of an abattoir, best friends and skilled workers David and Wani diligently ply their trade as they dream of opening their own butchery.
Me and My Moulton Torill Kove, Canada, 13’ North American Premiere
One summer in mid-’60s Norway, a seven-year-old girl asks her parents if she and her sisters can have a bicycle. Me and My Moulton provides a glimpse of its young protagonist’s thoughts as she struggles with her sense that her family is a little out of sync with what she perceives as normal. A witty animation by Torill Kove creator of the Academy Award-winning short, The Danish Poet.
For those attending TIFF, if you happen to be at any of the same screenings, drop by in line and say hello.