While the Toronto International Film Festival looks around the world and in all genres to find features for its annual incarnation, one area that receives focus is films aimed at children. With the understanding both that quality cinema is not dependent on its target audience, and that cinephiles can begin at any age, the festival’s Kids Programme highlights such features.
The Discovery Programme, on the other hand, brings together films from first and second time directors, with an eye on emerging talent. The festival has now announced the lineups for both Programmes in the 2015 incarnation of the event, along with further additions to the Cinematheque and Vanguard lineup. The Discovery lineup joins previously announced Canadian features. The films, with their official synopses, can be seen below.
- The Boy and the Beast, directed by Mamoru Hosoda, making its International Premiere
A young boy in modern-day Tokyo stumbles into an alternate dimension and becomes the apprentice to a bearlike warrior, in this stunning animated fantasy from writer-director Mamoru Hosoda. Recommended for ages 11 and up.
- My Skinny Sister, directed by Sanna Lenken, making its Canadian Premiere
Just as Stella enters the exciting world of adolescence, she discovers that her big sister and role model Katja is hiding an eating disorder. The disease slowly tears the family apart. A story about jealousy, love and betrayal told with warmth, depth and laughter. Recommended for ages 11 and up.
- Phantom Boy, directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, making its North American Premiere
An 11-year-old boy named Leo, becomes an unlikely superhero when he discovers that he has the ability to leave his body and fly through walls. When a nefarious gangster takes control of New York’s power supply, only he can save the city. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
- The Iron Giant: Signature Edition, directed by Brad Bird, making its World Premiere
Remastered and enhanced with two new scenes, the modern animated classic about a young boy befriending a gigantic space robot returns to enchant a new generation of audiences. Recommended for ages 7 and up.
- A Patch of Fog, directed by Michael Lennox, making its World Premiere
A celebrated novelist and TV personality finds his reputation on the line when he is caught shoplifting by a lonely security guard, intent on becoming his friend for life.
- The Ardennes, directed by Robin Pront, making its World Premiere
Two bandit brothers, one fresh from prison, the other eager to escape their criminal past, form a potentially explosive love triangle with the ex-con’s ex-girlfriend, in Robin Pront’s Cain vs. Abel update.
- Beast, directed by Tom and Sam McKeith, making its World Premiere
Deep in the slums of Manila, a young boxer’s life is changed forever when his father pressures him to cheat in a fight.
- Black, directed by Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah, making its World Premiere
Fifteen-year-old Mavela is a member of the notorious Black Bronx gang. She falls head over heels in love with the charismatic Marwan, a boy from the rival gang 1080ers. The two young people are brutally forced to choose between loyalty to their gang and their love for each other. An impossible choice … or not?
- Born to Dance, directed by Tammy Davis, making its World Premiere
A Maori teen faces parental and social pressure while leading his competitive hip-hop dance crew toward the regional championships, in this exhilarating feature directorial debut from New Zealand actor Tammy Davis.
- Dégradé, directed by Arab Nasser and Tarzan Nasser, making its North American Premiere
Gaza Strip, present day. Christine’s beauty salon is heaving with female clients: a bitter divorcée, a stern religious woman, a disenchanted housewife addicted to prescription drugs, and a young bride-to-be, among others. But their day of leisure is disrupted when gunfire breaks out across the street. A gangland family has stolen the lion from Gaza’s zoo, and the police have decided it’s time to wrestle control. Stuck in the salon, the women start to unravel…
- Desde Allá, directed by Lorenzo Vigas, making its North American Premiere
Fifty-year-old Armando picks up young boys in the streets of Caracas and pays them to come home with him. He also regularly spies on an older man with whom he seems bound by something in the past. One day he meets 17-year-old Elder, the leader of a small gang. Violent at first, their relationship morphs into something beautiful … until the inevitable happens.
- Downriver, directed by Grant Scicluna, making its International Premiere
James has served time for drowning a little boy when he himself was just a child, although the body was never found. Upon his parole, a visit from his victim’s mother sends him on a quest to find the truth. With little time and danger at every turn, James risks his freedom and his life to uncover the trail of sins that might give closure to a grieving mother.
- Eva Nová, directed by Marko Škop, making its World Premiere
Eva would do anything to regain the love of the one she hurt the most — her son. She is a recovered alcoholic, but decades ago she was a famous actress.
- Five Nights in Maine, directed by Maris Curran, making its World Premiere
Reeling from the tragic, sudden death of his wife, a man travels to rural Maine to seek answers from his estranged mother-in-law, who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter’s death.
- The Here After, directed by Magnus von Horn, making its North American Premiere
When John returns home to his father after serving time in prison, he is looking forward to starting his life afresh. However in the local community, his crime is neither forgotten nor forgiven. John’s presence brings out the worst in everyone around him and a lynch-mob atmosphere slowly takes shape. Feeling abandoned by his former friends and the people he loves, John loses hope and the same aggressions that previously sent him to prison start building up again. Unable to leave the past behind, he decides to confront it.
- Ixcanul, directed by Jayro Bustamente, making its Canadian Premiere
María, a young 17-year-old Mayan girl, lives and works with her parents on a coffee plantation in the foothills of an active volcano in Guatemala. An arranged marriage awaits her. Although María dreams of going to the “big city,” her status as an indigenous woman does not permit her to change her destiny. A snake bite forces her to go out into the modern world where her life is saved, but at what price?
- James White, directed by Josh Mond, making its Canadian Premiere
James White (Christopher Abbott) is a troubled twenty-something trying to stay afloat in a frenzied New York City. He retreats further into a self-destructive, hedonistic lifestyle, but as his mother (Cynthia Nixon) battles a serious illness James is forced to take control of his life.
- Keeper, directed by Guillaume Senez, making its North American Premiere
Maxime and Mélanie are in love. Together, they clumsily explore their sexuality with fiery curiosity until the day Mélanie realizes she’s pregnant. At first Maxime takes the news badly, but then he gets used to the idea of becoming a father. He convinces Melanie to keep the baby. So it’s been decided – Maxime and Mélanie, all of fifteen years old, will become parents.
- Les Cowboys, directed by Thomas Bidegain, making its North American Premiere
A vast prairie, a country and western gathering somewhere in the east of France. Alain is a central figure in this community. He’s dancing with his daughter, 16-year-old Kelly, as his wife and their young son Kid watch from the sidelines. But on this day, Kelly disappears, and the family falls apart. Alain embarks on a relentless search for his daughter, even though it costs him everything and takes him to dark, unsettling places, where his sole support is Kid, who sacrifices his youth to accompany his father on this seemingly endless quest.
- Meghmallar, directed by Zahidur Rahim Anjan, making its World Premiere
A case of mistaken identity throws an apolitical chemistry teacher into the maelstrom of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, in the striking debut feature from director Zahidur Rahim Anjan.
- Mountain, directed by Yaelle Kayam, making its North American Premiere
An Orthodox Jewish woman, living at the edge of the cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, becomes fascinated by a nocturnal community of prostitutes and drug dealers congregating amongst the tombstones.
- My Name is Emily, directed by Simon Fitzmaurice, making its North American Premiere
Packed off to a foster home after her father is institutionalized, a rebellious young Irish girl resolves to bust her dad out of the hospital where he’s been confined, in this spirited coming-of-age tale from celebrated memoirist and first-time feature director Simon Fitzmaurice.
- The Paradise Suite, directed by Joost Van Ginkel, making its World Premiere
This dexterous tale of survival from director Joost van Ginkel traces the intersecting stories of six immigrants from very different backgrounds in Amsterdam who learn that they can irreversibly influence each other’s lives, sometimes with just one glance.
- Semana Santa, directed by Alejandra Márquez Abella, making its World Premiere
Dali and her eight-year-old son Pepe take a vacation to Acapulco with Dali’s boyfriend, Chavez. Instead of bringing them closer, their beach holiday brings out things in each of them that threaten to pull this emerging family apart.
- Spear, directed by Stephen Page, making its World Premiere
Djali, a young Aboriginal man, sets off on a journey of initiation to understand what it means to be a man in a modern day world. He sees the problems being faced by Aboriginal men in remote and urban communities. As he struggles to find his place, he becomes awakened to a spiritual force within, guiding him on his journey into manhood.
- Very Big Shot, directed by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, making its World Premiere
Intending to smuggle the amphetamine Captagon to Iraqi Kurdistan, a small-time Lebanese drug dealer discovers that a way to foil customs, with the help of a talentless filmmaker. Posing as a film producer, he has no qualms manipulating public opinion to his advantage.
- The Wait, directed by Piero Messina, making its North American Premiere
Waiting for someone is an act of faith. Anna and Jeanne, isolated in a Sicilian country house in Caltagirone, are waiting for Giuseppe’s arrival. He is the former’s son, the latter’s boyfriend. Their wait turns into a mysterious act of love and will, while in the streets people are celebrating Easter.
- We Monsters, directed by Sebastian Ko, making its North American Premiere
Paul and Christine know their teenage daughter Sarah has been thrown off track by their separation — but is she capable of committing a horrible crime? Wanting to protect her, they decide attempt to hide her wrongdoing, but their joint guilt forces the family back together under a web of lies.
- Wedding Doll, directed by Nitzan Gilady, making its International Premiere
Fixated on romantic fantasies, a kindly and strong-willed young woman with a mild mental disability embarks on a relationship — much to the concern of her protective mother — in this assured first feature from director Nitzan Gilady.
- Heat, directed by Michael Mann
Hard-boiled ex-con Neil McCauley is the leader of a crew of seasoned thieves who operate with grim determination and military discipline. But when a last-minute replacement on his team leads to a bloody triple murder during an armoured truck robbery, McCauley is targeted by veteran detective Vincent Hanna, whose obsessive dedication both mirrors and contrasts with McCauley’s ruthless professionalism. Starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro with Jon Voight, Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, Tom Sizemore and Amy Brenneman.
- Zoom, directed by Pedro Morelli, making its World Premiere
Zoom is a fast-paced, pop-art inspired, multi-plot contemporary comedy. The film consists of three seemingly separate but ultimately interlinked storylines about a comic book artist, a novelist and a film director. Each character lives in a separate world but authors a story about the life of another.
The 2015 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 10th to the 20th.