The Toronto International Film Festival has begun to announce the slate of its 36th edition and it is already an incredible lineup. I’ve attended the festival in the past two years and plan to return again this year in hopes of providing our readers with some great coverage.
So far, 40 films have been announced including new movies from George Clooney, Todd Solondz, Francis Ford Coppola, Fernando Meirelles, Terence Davies, Lars von Trier, Marc Forster, Lasse Hallstrom, Pedro Almodóvar, Steve McQueen, Alexander Payne, Lynne Ramsay, Jay & Mark Duplass and Cameron Crowe. Are you drooling yet?
Here is the list of the special presentations.
Wang Xiaoshuai, China/France
Wang Han, an 11-year-old boy in the province of Ghizhou is confronted with a runaway murderer. Hiding in the woods, the wounded man takes Wang Han drying shirt and persuades him to help him out. Frightened and fascinated at once, Wang Han and his friends accept to keep it secret from the police. Strange things are happening at school and the police is everywhere…
Jonathan Levine, USA World Premiere
Inspired by personal experiences, 50/50 is a funny, touching and original story of friendship, love, and survival starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston.
Fernando Meirelles UK/Austria/France/Brazil World Premiere
Inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s classic La Ronde, in 360, director Fernando Meirelles and screenwriter Peter Morgan combine a modern and dynamic roundelay of original stories into one, linking characters: from different cities and countries in a vivid, suspenseful and deeply moving tale of love in the 21st century. Starting in Vienna, the film beautifully weaves through Paris, London, Bratislava, Rio, Denver and Phoenix into a single, mesmerizing narrative. Stars Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz and Ben Foster.
Mathieu Demy, France World Premiere
When Mathieu was little, his name was Martin and he lived in Los Angeles. Martin grew up and lives in Paris. When he loses his mother back in California, Martin must return to the city of his childhood to deal with the formalities surrounding his inheritance. Unable to face up to his mom’s death, Martin takes off to Tijuana on the trail of Lola, a Mexican woman he used to know, and who held a special place in his mother’s life. To make his own peace, Martin must delve into his past. Starring Salma Hayek and Geraldine Chaplin.
Roland Emmerich, Germany World Premiere
Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, Anonymous speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds, namely: who actually created the body of work credited to William Shakespeare? Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses one possible answer, focusing on a time when scandalous political intrigue, illicit romances in Royal Court, and the schemes of greedy nobles lusting for the power of the throne were brought to light in the most unlikely of places: the London stage. Starring David Thewlis and Vanessa Redgrave.
Michel Hazanavicius, France Toronto Premiere
Hollywood 1927. George Valentin is a very successful silent movie star. The arrival of talking pictures will mark the end of his career. Peppy Miller, a young woman extra, becomes a major movie star. Starring Malcolm McDowell, James Cromwell and John Goodman
A Better Life
Cédric Khan, France World Premiere
Yann, a cook, and Nadia, a waitress and mother of nine-year-old child, decide to risk everything on the purchase of a restaurant. With plenty of talent, energy, love and dreams, but no finances of their own, they find themselves forced into a jungle of financing and bank loans that quickly overwhelms them. To bail them out, Nadia has to take a job in Canada, while Yann is forced to stay behind to save the restaurant. Together, he and the child confront a relentless avalanche of creditors, an uncaring system and the daily grind from which there is no respite. Yann finally understands that his only chance of salvation lies in joining his lover – as well as reuniting mother and child – by following Nadia to Canada and a better life. Stars Guillaume Canet, Leïla Bekhti and Slimane Ketthabi.
Jonathan Teplitzky, Australia World Premiere
Why is Tom behaving so badly? Six women and an eight-year-old boy are fighting, in very different ways, to help. But for Tom, it seems, there are no rules. Burning Man is the reckless, provocative and moving story of a father and son‟s journey back to happiness. Stars Matthew Goode and Rachel Griffiths.
Chicken with Plums
Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud, France/Germany/Belgium North American Premiere
Tehran, 1958: Nasser Ali Khan, the most celebrated violin player, has his beloved instrument broken. Unable to find another to replace it, life without music seems intolerable. He stays in bed and slips further and further into his reveries from his youth to his own children‟s futures. Over the course of the week that follows, and as the pieces of this captivating story fall into place, we understand his poignant secret and the profundity of his decision to give up life for music and love.
Ralph Fiennes, United Kingdom North American Premiere
Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes), a hero of Rome, is a great soldier but despises the people. His extreme views ignite a mass riot and he is banished from Rome. Coriolanus allies with a sworn enemy (Gerard Butler) to take his revenge on the city.
Huh Jong-ho, Korea World Premiere
Jeon Do-youn plays a beautiful ex-con who, after being released from prison, tries to make some quick cash by manipulating a heartless debt collector.
Todd Solondz, USA North American Premiere
A thirtysomething guy with arrested development (Justin Bartha) falls for a thirtysomething girl with arrested development (Selma Blair), but moving out of his junior high school bedroom proves too much and tragedy ensues.
The Deep Blue Sea
Terence Davies, United Kingdom World Premiere
Hester Collyer (Academy Award-winner Rachel Weisz) leads a privileged life in 1950s London as the beautiful wife of high court judge Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale). To the shock of those around her, she walks out on her marriage to move in with young ex-RAF pilot, Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), with whom she has fallen passionately in love.
Alexander Payne, USA World Premiere
From Alexander Payne, the creator of the Oscar-winning Sideways, set in Hawaii, The Descendants is a sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic journey for Matt King (George Clooney) an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries.
Nicolas Winding Refn, USA Canadian Premiere
Ryan Gosling stars as a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night. Though a loner by nature, Driver can‟t help falling in love with his beautiful neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), a vulnerable young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld by the return of her ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac). After a heist intended to pay off Standard’s protection money spins unpredictably out of control, Driver finds himself driving defence for the girl he loves, tailgated by a syndicate of deadly serious criminals (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman).
Malgorzata Szumowska, France/Poland/Germany World Premiere
Anne (Juliette Binoche), a well-off Paris-based mother of two and investigative journalist for ELLE, is writing an article about university student prostitution. Her meetings with two fiercely independent young women, Alicja (Joanna Kulig) and Charlotte (Anais Demoustier), are profound and unsettling, moving her to question her most intimate convictions about money, family and sex.
The Eye of the Storm
Fred Schepisi, Australia International Premiere
In the Sydney suburb of Centennial Park, two nurses, a housekeeper and a solicitor attend to Elizabeth Hunter as her expatriate son and daughter convene at her deathbed. But in dying, as in living, Mrs. Hunter remains a powerful force on those who surround her. Based on the novel by Nobel Prize-winner Patrick White, The Eye of the Storm is a savage exploration of family relationships – and the sharp undercurrents of love and hate, comedy and tragedy, which define them. Stars Geoffrey Rush and Charlotte Rampling.
Friends With Kids
Jennifer Westfeldt, USA World Premiere
Friends With Kids is a poignant ensemble comedy about a close-knit circle of friends at that moment in life when children arrive and everything changes. There are big laughs and unexpected emotional truths as the last two singles in the group, out of step with their married pals, resolve to have a kid together… and date other people. Stars Kristen Wiig, Megan Fox, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph and Edward Burns.
Nanni Moretti, Italy/France North American Premiere
The newly elected Pope suffers a panic attack just as he is due to appear on St Peter‟s balcony to greet the faithful, who have been patiently awaiting the conclave‟s decision. His advisors, unable to convince him he is the right man for the job, seek help from a renowned psychoanalyst (and atheist). But his fear of the responsibility suddenly thrust upon him is one that he must face on his own.
Morten Tyldum, Norway North American Premiere
Roger (Aksel Hennie) is a successful Headhunter. But he lives above his means and steals art on the side. When introduced to Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Roger starts planning his biggest theft ever. But Roger runs into trouble and it‟s not financial problems that are threatening to knock him over this time…
Derick Martini, USA World Premiere
Tired of fending for herself and her mother’s penchant for hard-drinking men and barroom drama, thirteen-year-old Luli (Chloe Moretz) hits the road on her own, heading west to realize her dream of becoming a superstar. On her travels she meets Eddie, a drifter with a chip on his shoulder, and Glenda (Blake Lively), a troubled but spirited woman who takes Luli under her wing. Hick is a road picture about a little girl that comes face-to-face with the realities of just how complicated adulthood can be.
Daniel Nettheim, Australia World Premiere
Based on the acclaimed novel by Julia Leigh, The Hunter is a powerful psychological drama that tells the story of Martin (Willem Dafoe), a mercenary sent from Europe by an anonymous biotech company to the Tasmanian wilderness on a dramatic hunt for the last Tasmanian Tiger. Against his wishes, Martin‟s only option is to stay at a base camp house with the despondent wife and spirited children of a missing zoologist. Drawn deeper into the wild landscape in his search for the mysterious Tiger, Martin‟s unexpected connection to the family and the majestic wilderness around him, forces him to confront the reality of his work and personal morality, with dramatic consequences. Stars Academy Award-nominee Willem Dafoe, Frances O‟Connor and Sam Neill.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, USA World Premiere
Jeff, Who Lives at Home stars Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon. Penned by the writer/director team of brothers Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus), this is the story of one man searching for the meaning of life while running to the store to buy wood glue. Using the universe as his guide, Jeff looks for signs to help determine his path. However, a series of comedic and unexpected events leads him to cross paths with his family in the strangest of locations and circumstances. Jeff just may find the meaning of his life… and if he’s lucky, pick up the wood glue as well.
William Friedkin, USA North American Premiere
When 22-year-old drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) has his stash stolen by his mother, he has to come up with six thousand dollars quick or he’s dead. Desperate, he turns to “Killer Joe” (Matthew McConaughey) when he finds out that his mother’s life insurance policy is worth $50,000. Although Joe usually demands cash up front, he finds himself willing to bend the rules in exchange for Chris’ attractive younger sister, Dottie, who will serve as sexual collateral until the money comes in… if it ever does.
Drake Doremus, USA International Premiere
Like Crazy is a film from and about the heart. Jacob, an American, and Anna, who is British, meet at college in Los Angeles and fall madly in love. It’s the purest kind of romance – they’re each other’s first significant attachment. When Anna returns to London, the couple is forced into a long-distance relationship. Their perfect love is tested, and youth, trust, and geography become their biggest enemies. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones star as the young couple. An original, contemplative look at first love, Like Crazy strikes a universal chord as it explores the bittersweet beauty and impermanence of relationships.
Machine Gun Preacher
Marc Forster, USA World Premiere
This inspirational true story, Machine Gun Preacher is about Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing criminal who undergoes an astonishing transformation and finds an unexpected calling as the savior of hundreds of kidnapped and orphaned children. Gerard Butler (300) delivers a searing performance as Childers in Golden Globe®-nominated director Marc Forster‟s (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) moving story of violence and redemption.
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Sean Durkin, USA Canadian Premiere
Martha Marcy May Marlene is a powerful psychological thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, a young woman rapidly unravelling amidst her attempt to reclaim a normal life after fleeing from a cult and its charismatic leader (John Hawkes). Seeking help from her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), Martha is unable and unwilling to reveal the truth about her disappearance. When her memories trigger a chilling paranoia that her former cult could still be pursuing her, the line between Martha’s reality and delusion begins to blur.
Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany North American Premiere
In this beautiful movie about the end of the world, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland). Despite Claire‟s best efforts the wedding is a fiasco, with family tensions mounting and relationships fraying. Meanwhile, a planet called Melancholia is heading directly towards Earth… Melancholia is a psychological disaster film from director Lars von Trier.
Julian Farino, USA World Premiere
The Ostroff and Walling families are best friends and neighbours, living across the street from each other on Orange Drive. Prodigal daughter Nina Ostroff (Leighton Meester) returns home for Thanksgiving dinner after a five-year absence, newly broken up with her fiancé Ethan (Sam Rosen). Rather than developing an interest in the successful son of her neighbours, Toby Walling (Adam Brody), which would please both families, it‟s her parents‟ best friend David Walling (Hugh Laurie) that captures Nina‟s attention. When the romantic attraction between Nina and David Walling becomes too great to ignore, the lives of the two families are thrown into upheaval. It is not long, however, before the ramifications of the affair begin to work on the other family members in unexpected, hilarious and even positive ways, leading everyone to reassess what it means to be happy, and how to find happiness with, and perhaps in spite of, your own family and friends.
Pearl Jam Twenty
Cameron Crowe, USA World Premiere
Pearl Jam Twenty chronicles the years leading up to the band’s formation, the chaos that ensued soon after their rise to megastardom, their step back from centre stage, and the creation of a trusted circle that would surround them – giving way to a work culture that would sustain them. Told in big themes and bold colors with blistering sound, the film is carved from over 1,200 hours of rarely seen and never-before seen footage spanning the band’s career. Pearl Jam Twenty is the definitive portrait of Pearl Jam: part concert film, part intimate insider-hang, part testimonial to the power of music and uncompromising artists.
Oren Moverman, USA World Premiere
A genre-bending, 1990s Los Angeles police family drama, Rampart explores the dark soul and romantic misadventures of a never-changing LAPD cop (Woody Harrelson) whose past is finally catching up with him in the wake of a department-wide corruption scandal. Along the way, he is forced to confront his disgruntled daughters (Brie Larson, Sammy Boyarsky), his two ex-wives (Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon), a tenacious Deputy DA (Sigourney Weaver), an investigator on his trail (Ice Cube), a homeless witness to his crimes (Ben Foster), his aging mentor (Ned Beatty) and a mysterious new lover who may or may not be on his side (Robin Wright), as he fights for his own sanity and survival.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Lasse Hallstrom, United Kingdom World Premiere
Stuffy government fisheries scientist Fred is asked by a fishing-obsessed Arab Sheik to do the seemingly impossible – introduce British salmon to the wadis of the Yemen. Despite considerable trepidation, Fred is finally won over by the charismatic Sheik, who reveals that fishing brings him closer to God, and he hopes it will have the same effect on his countrymen. Fred also begins to fall for the Sheik’s beautiful legal representative Harriet; and so he rises to the Sheik’s eccentric challenge, casting off his English reserve on a transformative journey of self discovery and late blooming love. Stars Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.
Steve McQueen, United Kingdom North American Premiere
Brandon is a thirty-something man living in New York who is unable to manage his sex life. After his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment, Brandon‟s world spirals out of control. From director Steve McQueen (Hunger), Shame is a compelling and timely examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us. Stars Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale and Nicole Beharie.
A Simple Life
Ann Hui, Hong Kong, China North American Premiere
Based on real people and events. Ah Tao was born in Taishan, China. She works as a servant for 60 years and has been serving four generations of the Leung family. For the past decade, Ah Tao lived with Roger, the only family member left in Hong Kong. Stars Andy Lau, Deanie Ip, Wang Fuli and Qin Hailu.
The Skin I Live In
Pedro Almodóvar, Spain North American Premiere
Ever since his wife was burned in a car crash, Dr. Robert Ledgard, an eminent plastic surgeon, has been interested in creating a new skin with which he could have saved her. After twelve years,he manages to cultivate a skin that is a real shield against every assault. Stars Antonio Banderas..
Jeff Nichols, USA Canadian Premiere
Curtis lives in Ohio with his wife Samantha and daughter Hannah. When he begins having dreams about an encroaching apocalyptic storm, he channels his anxiety into building a shelter in their backyard. Though his obsessive behaviour provokes intolerance in his community, Curtis confides in Samantha, testing their bond against the highest possible stakes. Stars Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.
Jamie Linden, USA World Premiere
Ten Year focuses on a group of friends – married and unmarried, successful and unsuccessful, happy and unhappy – as they return home on the night of their high school reunion. It stars a large ensemble cast that includes Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Justin Long, Kate Mara, Anthony Mackie and Chris Pratt.
Michael Winterbottom, United Kingdom World Premiere
Starring Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Riz Ahmed (Centurion) and based on Thomas Hardy‟s novel Tess of the d‟Urbervilles, the film is set in contemporary India and tells the tragic love story between the son of a wealthy property developer and the daughter of a rickshaw driver.
Francis Ford Coppola, USA World Premiere
A writer with a career in decline arrives in a small town as part of his book tour and gets caught up in a murder mystery involving a young girl. Stars Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning and Ben Chaplin.
Paddy Considine, United Kingdom Canadian Premiere
Joseph is a man plagued by violence and rage that is driving him to self-destruction. As Joseph’s life spirals into turmoil, a chance of redemption appears in the form of Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker. Their relationship develops to reveal that Hannah is hiding a secret of her own which has devastating results on both of their lives. Starring Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Lynne Ramsay, United Kingdom Canadian Premiere
A suspenseful and psychologically gripping exploration into a parent dealing with her child doing the unthinkable, We Need to Talk About Kevin is the highly-anticipated third feature from director Lynne Ramsay and features a tour-de-force performance by Tilda Swinton.
Where Do We Go Now?
Nadine Labaki, France/Lebanon/Italy/Egypt International Premiere
Set against the backdrop of a war-torn country, Where Do We Go Now? tells the heart-warming tale of a group of women’s determination to protect their isolated, mine-encircled community from the pervasive and divisive outside forces that threaten to destroy it from within. Stars Kevin Abboud and Julian Farhat.
Woman in the Fifth
Pawel Pawlikowski, France/Poland/United Kingdom World Premiere
American writer Tom Ricks comes to Paris desperate to put his life together again and win back the love of his estranged wife and daughter. When things don’t go according to plan, he ends up in a shady hotel in the suburbs, having to work as a night guard to make ends meet. Then Margit, a beautiful, mysterious stranger walks into his life and things start looking up. Their passionate and intense relationship triggers a string of inexplicable events… as if an obscure power is taking control of his life. Stars Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas.