After a chaotic edition which involved numerous Spielberg appearances, a Taylor Swift ticket-master fiasco, and an underwhelming curation of world cinema titles — the Toronto International Film Festival returns with a more subdued edition for their 48th celebrations. After building a notorious reputation for their glamorous red carpets and celebrity sightings, TIFF may have accidentally found themselves in a bit of a head-scratching situation. How does a festival team recuperate, when the majority of the big-name talent behind the pivotal headliners can't participate due to strike mandates? The answer is rudimentary. TIFF is looking backwards in order to move forward.
Instead of solely focusing on World Premiere titles, the programming teams have instead looked at other festivals for potential allurement. Unlike previous years, there's more films carried over from the Berlinale and Locarno selections within the TIFF slate. There's an enthusiastic international cinema presence; a healthy equilibrium between the average Hollywood production and the latest indie-darling. TIFF is a place for discovery, after all…
In honour of the 48th Toronto International Film Festival, Film Hounds has compiled an exclusive list which shines a light on ten unique films. The titles span throughout each of the integral sections; spotlighting films from Centerpiece, Discovery, Gala Presentations, Special Presentations, and the Wavelengths sidebar. To remain in alliance with this year's solemn curational exploits, the following list will specifically highlight lesser known titles. Obviously, Hayao Miyazaki's The Boy and the Heron is bound to dazzle and seize the imagination of any susceptible cinephile attending. However, the team at FilmHounds is more curious about the standout discoveries — the unexpected talk of the town! From domestic indies to the barriers of the avant-garde, there's plenty to scour through at this year's festival. As promised, here are ten promising features that might make a big splash at this year's festival edition:
(The) Human Surge 3 – Wavelengths
As a thematic and structural continuation of his debut feature ‘The Human Surge (2016)', Argentine director Eduardo Williams returns to the Wavelengths selection with his latest mind-bending feature. On paper, The Human Surge 3 sounds simplistic enough. Three groups of friends meander through daily routine, spending time with one-another as they find ample mystery in their individualistic paths. In execution, Williams latest is far from a rudimentary hang-out film. Shot with a 360º camera across Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Peru; Williams' augmented directorial vision is simultaneously idiosyncratic and spiritual. Appreciators of avant-garde cinema should place The Human Surge 3 at the top of their priority watch-list. William's latest humanitarian reverie is a must-see cinematic event!
Hit Man – Special Presentations
Continuing within his tapestry of small-scaled American stories, Richard Linklater makes an intrepid return to the Toronto International Film Festival with his latest true-crime saga. Adapted from an obscure Texas Monthly print-article — Linklater excavates a timely narrative from the most unlikely of places. For fans of his criminally under-appreciated Bernie (2011), Hit Man promises another plentiful dose of the auteur's signature brand of off-kilter humor. Glen Powell stars in the titular role, whilst acting as the film's dedicated producer. More significantly, Hit Man continues Linklater's known predilections for distinctly American stories; venturing into genre-territory with his latest mimicry of the American Dream.
Sweet Dreams – Centrepiece
After premiering her debut feature ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice' at the TIFF Next Wave Festival in 2019, many cinephiles across the Toronto film community have been eagerly anticipating the great return of Ena Sendijarević. After a long-awaited hiatus, the Bosnian filmmaker's sophomore outing is a thematically-rich depiction on the ripple effects of Dutch colonisation. Entrapped within a claustrophobic aspect ratio, the disturbing events which unfold in Sendijarević's feature are both electrifying and haunting in equal measure. An international co-production between the Netherlands, Indonesia, Sweden, and France — Sweet Dreams grants a unique albeit unsettling depiction of Indonesia's unjust colonial occupation.
The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed – Centrepiece
After winning the coveted Silver Bear Jury Prize for her sharp and sensuous short ‘Bad at Dancing' at the Berlinale, it was inevitable for New York wunderkind Joanna Arnow to eventually transition into the realm of feature-filmmaking. Her eccentric debut ‘The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed' implements the writer/director's signature meta-text into a sexually-liberating mosaic of BDSM events. At its core, Arnow examines the kinky tale of one woman's exploration of millennial angst; capitalising on the deadpan dirtiness of the New Yorker lifestyle.
(The) Royal Hotel – Gala Presentations
For many cinephiles, Kitty Green's The Assistant was one of the last films to screen across Canada before the declaration of a global pandemic shuttered cinemas and festivals around the globe. As the doors began to lock, Green's subtle debut shone through the subconscious of various arthouse fans; taking note of her name for greater things to come. With her sophomore feature The Royal Hotel, Green continues her collaboration with actor Julia Garner in a tight-knit thriller set in the Australian outback. Jessica Henwick and Hugo Weaving also star in Green's latest feature; a powerful exploration of two women and their resilience against exploitative drinking culture.
Green Border – Centrepiece & Luminaries
In conjunction with her affinities for historical European phenomena, Agnieska Holland has now turned her camera onto a more present issue with her latest feature. Three pivotal perspectives insect in Green Border; a narrative indebted to the recent Polish-Belarusian border developments. Holland previously depicted a different humanitarian atrocity with her critically-acclaimed Mr. Jones. From the Holodomor to the refugee crisis, Holland has traversed nearly a century into the future with her latest philanthropic drama. Without any hesitance, Green Border offers another profound attempt at cinematic empathy within the Polish auteur's impressive oeuvre.
Les Indesirables – Special Presentations
Since his rhapsodic splash onto the international cinema scene with his Oscar-Nominated Les Miserables, Ladj Ly returns to the Toronto International Film Festival with another vital tale of systemic injustice. Whereas his debut specifically highlighted the horrors of corrupt policing within impoverished communities; Ly shifts focus onto another unspoken truth. Tackling the instability of gentrification, anti-immigrant policies, and corrupt governmental practice within marginalised communities — Les Indesirables illuminates an immediate & timely tale of communal resilience.
They Shot the Piano Player – Centrepiece
In the year 2010, filmmakers Fernando Trueba & Javier Mariscal brought the criminally underseen Chico & Rita into the world. An animated feature with an irresistible erotic rhythm; the directorial duo introduced a new kind of rotoscoped triumph to the animation community. After an elongated hiatus between other live-action projects, Trueba and Mariscal have finally returned to the silver screen with their second animated opus. Entitled ‘They Shot the Piano Player', this latest animated vision uncovers the shrouded mystery behind the disappearance of Brazilian piano virtuoso Francisco Tenório Júnior. An elliptical celebration of Latin American heritage — They Shot the Piano Player is a magical feat of animated majesty. A film for the eyes, ears, and soul.
How to Have Sex – Discovery
Molly Manning Walker is in the middle of what might be the most eventful year in her filmmaking career. After lensing Charlotte Regan's Scrapper —which premiered and won the coveted World Cinematic Dramatic Grand Prize at Sundance— Walker later splashed onto the Croisette with her feature debut. With How to Have Sex, Walker examines the exigency of consent through the eyes of a susceptible teen. The viewer peruses through endless Greek nightclubs and raves, carefully examining each precarious footstep alongside our perilous protagonist. Many critics have already cheered for Walker's harrowing exploration of human survival. Devoid of artificiality, How To Have Sex is an immediate and vulnerable piece of coming-of-age cinema.
The Pigeon Tunnel – TIFF Docs
A spellbinding journey into the life and legacy of acclaimed writer John le Carré, Master documentarian Eroll Morris takes an intimate sit down with le Carré for his final interview. Continuing his anthropological saga of enriching cultural dialogues with recent films such as My Psychedelic Love Story and American Dharma; The Pigeon Tunnel is a foreboding farewell to one of the great novelists of the 20th century. The Pigeon Tunnel is a must-see — with the Toronto International Film Festival providing a platform to share the great humanistic insights and illuminating framing devices of Morris' oeuvre to a new generation of cinephiles.