The Toronto International Film Festival’s prominence on the festival circuit has only grown over the years, with films from numerous different fields having gone on to critical and commercial acclaim. Among the festival’s different categories are TIFF Docs and Vanguard. TIFF Docs allows documentaries to get their own spotlight at the festival, giving acclaimed documentarians such as Michael Moore and Frederick Wiseman a platform for their films. The Vanguard section, on the other hand, showcases films that aren’t easily categorisable into a specific genre. With the Canadian Films lineup announcement having revealed the first set of films playing in each group, TIFF today revealed more of the lineup in each section. The list of newly announced films, with their official synopses, is as follows.
- Amazing Grace, directed by Sydney Pollack, making its International Premiere
Sydney Pollack’s film of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace.’ Filmed during church services in Los Angeles on January 13 and 14, 1972, the footage was never seen until now. Featuring Reverend James Cleveland, the Southern California Community Choir and the Atlantic Records rhythm section.
- A Flickering Truth, directed by Pietra Brettkelly, making its North American Premiere
As Afghanistan teeters on an unpredictable future, A Flickering Truth uncovers the world of three dreamers and cinephiles, the dust of 100 years of war and the restoration of 8,000 hours of film archive that they risked their lives to conceal. What surprises will emerge from the cloak of time?
- A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers, directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, making its World Premiere
A unit of Bangladeshi female police officers leave their families to join a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti and challenge stereotypes about the capabilities of Muslim women. The film focuses on three of the women as they grapple with the harsh realities of becoming foot soldiers in a UN Peacekeeping Mission, and the pressures on their families left behind.
- A Young Patriot, directed by Du Haibin, making its Canadian Premiere
This intimate documentary chronicles five years in the life of a young Chinese student, whose fervent idealism and dedication to Mao’s legacy stands in stark contrast to contemporary China’s turn towards state capitalism.
- Being AP, directed by Anthony Wonke, making its World Premiere
Being AP is an intimate documentary portrait of AP McCoy – the greatest jump jockey of all time. As he passes his 40th birthday, an age beyond which most jockeys are unable to continue, AP contemplates his obsession with winning, the years of sacrifice that he has endured to become a champion, the chase for a 20th successive title, and then a future without racing.
- Bolshoi Babylon, directed by Nick Read, making its World Premiere
For the first time, Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre allows filmmakers full and uncensored access backstage. After a brutal acid attack on the ballet company’s director Sergei Filin in January 2013, Bolshoi Babylon follows the dancers and managers through a new season as they try to regain their status as the world’s leading dance company.
- Dark Horse, directed by Louise Osmond, making its Canadian Premiere
Set in a former mining village in Wales, Dark Horse is the inspirational true story of Jan Vokes and her group of local friends who decide to take on the elite ‘sport of kings’ and breed themselves a racehorse. Raised on a slagheap allotment, their foal becomes a source of inspiration and hope.
- He Named Me Malala, directed by Davis Guggenheim, making its International Premiere
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim shows us how Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus, remains committed to fighting for education for all girls worldwide. Providing an inside glimpse into her extraordinary life — from her close relationship with her father who inspired her love for education, to her impassioned speeches at the UN, to her everyday life at home.
- Heart of a Dog, directed by Laurie Anderson, making its Canadian Premiere
Heart of a Dog is a personal essay film that explores themes of love, death, and language. The director’s voice is a constant presence as stories of her dog Lolabelle, her mother, childhood fantasies and political, and philosophical theories unfurl in a seamless song-like stream.
- Hitchcock/Truffaut, directed by Kent Jones, making its Canadian Premiere
In 1962, two of the greatest minds in cinema sat down for an intimate and expansive conversation. Based on the original recordings of this meeting — used to produce the influential book Hitchcock/Truffaut — this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plummets us into the world of the creator of Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo. David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Martin Scorsese and other legendary filmmakers add to the discussion of Hitchcock’s enduring legacy and influence on cinema.
- Horizon, directed by Bergur Bernburg and Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, making its World Premiere
A documentary about the late Icelandic painter Georg Gudni Hauksson, whose innovative interpretations of forms and ideas paved the way for a renaissance in Icelandic landscape painting.
- In Jackson Heights, directed by Frederick Wiseman, making its North American Premiere
Frederick Wiseman’s latest documentary is about the diverse neighborhood of Jackson Heights in Queens, New York where 167 languages are spoken among immigrants from every continent, and half the population is foreign-born. The community is an example of America as a ‘melting pot’ settled and made strong by people committed to making their neighborhood work despite cultural and religious differences.
- It All Started At The End, directed by Luis Ospina, making its World Premiere
Filmmaker Luis Ospina recounts the history of El Grupo de Cali, the prolific bohemian artistic collective that revolutionized Colombian film and literature in the 1970s and ’80s.
- Janis: Little Girl Blue, directed by Amy Berg, making its North American Premiere
Academy Award-nominated director Amy Berg reveals the raw, sensitive and powerful woman behind the legend in Janis: Little Girl Blue; the quintessential story of the short, turbulent, epic existence that changed music forever. Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) lends her raspy Southern voice to the film, reading Janis Joplin’s achingly intimate letters.
- Je Suis Charlie, directed by Emmanuel Leconte and Daniel Leconte, making its World Premiere
On January 7, 2015, French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was the victim of a terrorist attack that killed 12 people, including some of the greatest French cartoonists such as Cabu, Wolinski, Charb, Tignous and Honoré. The following day a policewoman was shot dead in the street. On January 9, another attack targeted the Jewish community. Four hostages were murdered. This film pays tribute to all these victims.
- Miss Sharon Jones!, directed by Barbara Kopple, making its World Premiere
Two-time Academy Award-winner Barbara Kopple follows R&B queen Sharon Jones over the course of an eventful year, as she battles a cancer diagnosis and struggles to hold her band the Dap-Kings together.
- The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, directed by Morgan Neville, making its World Premiere
This film tells the extraordinary story of the Silk Road Ensemble, an international musical collective created by legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The film follows this group of diverse instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, arrangers, visual artists, and storytellers as they explore the power of music to preserve tradition, shape cultural evolution, and inspire hope.
- Nasser, directed by Jihan El-Tahri, making its International Premiere
Filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri explores the history of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the revolutionary army officer whose decade-long reign as president of Egypt saw him defy the West during the 1956 Suez Crisis, co-found the international Non-Aligned Movement, and suffer a dramatic defeat to Israel in the Six-Day War.
- Our Last Tango, directed by German Kral, making its World Premiere
Argentina’s María Nieves and Juan Carlos Copes are the best-known couple in tango’s history and shaped the dance like no others. They danced passionately, loved and hated each other for almost 50 years, until one day they separated, and left a gap in the tango scene. Now, almost at the end of their lives, they tell their story for the first time.
- P.S. Jerusalem, directed by Danae Elon, making its World Premiere
Danae Elon grew up in Jerusalem. After many years of living abroad, she moves back with her three young sons and French-Algerian husband Philip who are fresh to the city. Over three years, she documents their experiences, bearing witness to what makes Jerusalem so fiercely contested. A looming presence is the memory of her late father, the esteemed author Amos Elon, seen in home movies. Through the prism of one family’s life, the film exposes a complex portrait of Jerusalem today.
- The Reflektor Tapes, directed by Kahlil Joseph, making its World Premiere
The Reflektor Tapes is a fascinating insight into the making of Arcade Fire’s international #1 album Reflektor. The film recontextualizes the album experience, transporting the viewer into a kaleidoscopic sonic and visual landscape. The Reflektor Tapes blends never-before-seen personal interviews and moments captured by the band to dazzling effect, and features 20 minutes of exclusive unseen footage, filmed only for cinema audiences.
- Return of the Atom, directed by Mika Taanila and Jussi Eerola, making its World Premiere
Finland was the first country in the West to give permission to build a new nuclear power plant after the Chernobyl disaster. The film portrays the strange and stressful life in the small Finnish ‘nuclear town’ Eurajoki during an era of nuclear renaissance.
- Sherpa, directed by Jennifer Peedom, making its Canadian Premiere
Director Jennifer Peedom set out to uncover tension in the 2014 Everest climbing season from the Sherpas’ point of view, and instead captured a tragedy when an avalanche struck, killing 16 Sherpas. Sherpa tells the story of how the Sherpas united after the tragedy in the face of fierce opposition to reclaim the mountain they call Chomolungma.
- Thru You Princess, directed by Ido Haar, making its International Premiere
In her late 30s, Samantha lives in New Orleans and works as a caregiver. She often uploads her songs and musings online and none of her clips get more than a few dozen hits. She doesn’t imagine that someone, on the other side of the world, is about to expand the number of listeners by millions. Kutiman, an Israeli musician, discovered Samantha’s songs on YouTube and weaves them with audiovisual symphonies composed of musical clips that people posted online.
- Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, making its Canadian Premiere
Chronicling events that unfolded over 93 days in 2013 and 2014, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom witnesses the formation of a new civil rights movement in Ukraine. What started as peaceful student demonstrations supporting European integration morphed into a full-fledged violent revolution calling for the resignation of the nation’s president. The film captures the remarkable mobilization of nearly a million citizens from across the country protesting the corrupt political regime that utilized extreme force against its own people to suppress their demands and freedom of expression.
- Women He’s Undressed, directed by Gillian Armstrong, making its International Premiere
During Hollywood’s golden age, the Australian known as Orry-Kelly was a costume designer for an astonishing 282 films including classics like Some Like It Hot, Casablanca, and An American in Paris. As a gay male during a closeted era, he was also a keeper of secrets. Director Gillian Armstrong (Oscar and Lucinda; Little Women) employs inventive recreations, interviews and film clips to uncover his story.
- Collective Invention, directed by Kwon Oh-kwang, making its World Premiere
Young and unemployed Gu is desperate to make some money and participates in a clinical trial for a pharmaceutical company’s new drug. As an unknown side effect, he slowly transforms into a fish. This bizarre situation becomes Korea’s hottest news and fish man Gu is catapulted into the spotlight and becomes a superstar, only to fall from grace just as quickly.
- Demon, directed by Marcin Wrona, making its World Premiere
Peter is a stranger in the hometown of his future wife Janet. As a wedding gift from the bride’s grandfather, he receives a piece of land where the two can build a house and raise a happy family. While preparing the land for construction, Peter finds hidden bones of human bodies in the ground beneath his new property. Then very strange things begin to happen.
- Der Nachtmahr, directed by AKIZ, making its North American Premiere
When 17-year -old Tina passes out at a party, she assumes it was just the side-effect of her wild lifestyle on the decadent Berlin-party scene. Soon she becomes unsettled and nervously manic as a mysterious ugly creature starts to haunt her, in both her dreams and waking hours, and nobody believes her.
- Evolution, directed by Lucile Hadžihalilović, making its World Premiere
A 10-year-old boy discovers a dead body in the sea just before he is brought to the hospital for a mysterious injection. Before long, something appears to be growing inside of him.
- February, directed by Osgood Perkins, making its World Premiere
In February, beautiful and haunted Joan makes a bloody and determined pilgrimage across a frozen landscape toward a prestigious all girls prep school, where Rose and Kat find themselves stranded after their parents mysteriously fail to retrieve them for winter break. As Joan gets closer, terrifying visions begin plaguing Kat while Rose watches in horror as she becomes possessed by an unseen evil force.
- Lace Crater, directed by Harrison Atkins, making its World Premiere
On a weekend trip to the Hamptons with friends, Ruth (Lindsay Burdge) encounters a mysterious ghost (Peter Vack) haunting the guest house. One thing leads to another and they find themselves in the throes of an unexpected one-night stand. Soon, Ruth begins suffering from a bizarre sexually-transmitted disease that leaves doctors and friends confused and frightened. As her body and social connections begin to disintegrate, she must find a way to reconcile her condition with the world around her, or risk losing herself to a void from which she may never emerge.
- Love, directed by Gaspar Noé, making its North American Premiere
January 1, early morning. The telephone rings. Murphy wakes up next to his young wife and two-year-old child. He listens to his voicemail: Electra’s mother, sick with worry, wants to know whether he has heard from her daughter. Electra’s been missing for a long time. She’s afraid something really bad has happened to her. Over the course of a long rainy day, Murphy finds himself alone in his apartment, reminiscing about the greatest love affair of his life: his two years with Electra. A burning passion full of promises, games, excess and mistakes.
- Men & Chicken, directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, making its North American Premiere
Men & Chicken revolves around two special-natured brothers, Elias and Gabriel (Mads Mikkelsen and David Dencik). Upon their father’s passing, they find out through their father’s will that they are adopted. Elias and Gabriel decide to seek out their natural father and set out for the island Ork, where their biological father lives. Here they discover a most paralyzing, yet liberating truth about themselves and their family.
- My Big Night, directed by Álex de la Iglesia, making its World Premiere
The story unfolds amidst a frenzied and lavish New Year’s Eve television special, taped during a sweltering hot August in Madrid. An unemployed Jose is sent to join hundreds of extras cooped up on set, day and night, as they hysterically celebrate the fake coming of the New Year — over and over again. The star of the show, Alphonso, is a charismatic ratings-chasing diva; and Adán, a young Latino singer, is being hounded by fans that are trying to blackmail him.
- The Missing Girl, directed by A.D. Calvo, making its World Premiere
The Missing Girl tells the story of Mort, the lonely and disillusioned owner of a comic book shop, and Ellen, the emotionally disruptive, aspiring graphic novelist he’s hired. The story involves the search for a girl who isn’t missing and the discovery that it’s never too late for late bloomers.
- Veteran, directed by Ryoo Seung-wan, making its North American Premiere
A tough cop targets the tyrannical heir to a mega-corporation in this hard-hitting thriller from South Korean cult auteur Ryoo Seung-wan.
The 2015 Toronto International Film Festival will run from September 10th to the 20th.