Famous for its annual marathon North American showcase, Toronto International Film Festival (September 10-19) has this year selected just 50 titles, which will be presented in a mix of theatres, drive-ins, digital screenings, virtual red carpets, Q&As and industry talks.
Dir. Francis Lee
Lee’s anticipated follow-up to his acclaimed feature debut — and Sundance 2017 premiere — God’s Own Country is an 1840s-set romantic drama inspired by the life of UK palaeontologist Mary Anning. Kate Winslet stars as the woman who forms an intense bond with the wife (Saoirse Ronan) of a wealthy man. Produced by See-Saw Films, with backing from the BFI and BBC Films, Ammonite has sold strongly around the world, including to Neon in the US and Lionsgate in the UK, and was selected for the Cannes 2020 label accolade in June.
Contact: Cross City Films
Dir. Halle Berry
Berry makes her debut as a director with this drama about a former mixed martial arts fighter struggling to regain custody of her son and restart her athletic career. Berry — whose films as an actress have included the X-Men franchise, Catwoman, Monster’s Ball (for which she became the first black woman to win the best actress Oscar) and 2012 TIFF entry Cloud Atlas — also plays the lead, with a supporting cast that includes fast-rising UK stage and screen name Sheila Atim.
Contact: Ashley Alexander, Sierra/Affinity
Concrete Cowboy (US)
Dir. Ricky Staub
Idris Elba stars as an urban cowboy in Philadelphia who spends the summer with his estranged son (Caleb McLaughlin). Straub’s feature debut draws inspiration from the Fletcher Street Stables black urban horsemanship community, as well as Greg Neri’s novel Ghetto Cowboy. Tucker Tooley Entertainment financed the film and produced with Lee Daniels Entertainment, Waxylu Films, Neighborhood Film Co, and Elba’s Green Door Pictures.
Contact: Endeavor Content
David Byrne’s American Utopia (US)
Dir. Spike Lee
Lee’s filmed version of Byrne’s Broadway show features the performer and a troupe of 11 musicians performing songs from Byrne’s 2018 solo album of the same name and Talking Heads standards. The film will premiere in Canada on Bell Media’s Crave day-and-date with the US broadcast on HBO this autumn. Lee’s 40 Acres And A Mule produces alongside companies including River Road Entertainment and Warner Music Group.
Good Joe Bell (US)
Dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green
Green’s follow-up to his Sundance special jury prize-winning debut Monsters And Men (a special presentation at TIFF in 2018) is based on the true story of a father who walked across the US to raise awareness about bullying, after his gay teenage son died by suicide. Brokeback Mountain Oscar winners Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana wrote the script, and Mark Wahlberg, Connie Britton and Gary Sinise star. Argent Pictures produced, and co-financed with Hercules Film Fund.
Contact: Endeavor Content
I Care A Lot (UK)
Dir. J Blakeson
UK filmmaker Blakeson skipped the festival route with his last feature as director, The 5th Wave (2016), and now returns to Toronto after premiering there with his feature debut The Disappearance Of Alice Creed (2009). Rosamund Pike leads the cast of this crime thriller about a legal guardian who uses the law to her own benefit, and her elderly clients’ detriment, but meets her match on her latest scam. The cast also includes Peter Dinklage and Mexico’s Eiza Gonzalez. Black Bear Productions in the US is the lead producer.
Also in Venice
Dir. Chloé Zhao
China-born director Zhao followed her feature debut Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) with the hugely acclaimed The Rider (2017), winning best feature at the Gothams among other accolades. Her third feature — which will also screen in Toronto — stars Frances McDormand as a woman who packs her van and hits the road after the economic collapse of her Nevada home town. The film also features three real-life nomads who serve as mentors and comrades on the journey. Zhao produces alongside her regular producer partner Mollye Asher plus McDormand, Dan Janvey (Patti Cake$) and Peter Spears (Call Me By Your Name) for Disney’s Searchlight Pictures.
Contact: Searchlight Pictures
One Night In Miami (US)
Dir. Regina King
King won the best supporting actress Oscar in 2019 for If Beale Street Could Talk, and has racked up multiple directing credits on TV movies, episodic television and 2014 TV documentary Story Of A Village. Now she makes her fiction feature directing debut with One Night In Miami, a biographical drama that depicts boxer Cassius Clay — as Muhammad Ali was then known — meeting Malcolm X, musician Sam Cooke and American Football star Jim Brown one fateful night in 1964. ABKCO Films and Keith Calder and Jess Wu Calder’s Snoot Entertainment (Blindspotting) produce for Amazon Studios.
Contact: Amazon Studios
Pieces Of A Woman (Can-Hun)
Dir. Kornel Mundruczo
The Crown star Vanessa Kirby leads a cast that includes Sarah Snook, Shia LaBeouf and Benny Safdie, in a story about a grieving woman’s emotional journey after the loss of her baby. Mundruczo’s seventh feature — executive produced by Martin Scorsese — will head to Toronto after Venice, and is his first fully in the English language. His 2014 breakthrough White God won Cannes’ Un Certain Regard prize, while his upcoming projects include a feature about Joseph Merrick, aka the Elephant Man.
Contact: Linda Jin, Bron Releasing
Another Round (Den)
Dir. Thomas Vinterberg
Vinterberg reunites with his The Hunt team including scriptwriter Tobias Lindholm and star Mads Mikkelsen for his latest Danish-language film. The story follows a group of high-school teachers who embark on an experiment to uphold a constant level of intoxication throughout the working day. Produced by Sisse Graum Jorgensen and Kasper Dissing, the Zentropa Entertainments production — which was also a recipient of the Cannes 2020 label — has sold widely around the world, including to Haut et Court for France, Mongrel Media for Canada and Studiocanal for the UK; Nordisk is scheduled to release Another Round in cinemas in Denmark on September 24.
Dir. Viggo Mortensen
Mortensen’s directing debut about a farmer who moves in with his gay son’s family in Los Angeles was inspired by, but is not about, his own parents. The film premiered at Sundance and is a Cannes 2020 label title. Sverrir Gudnason and Lance Henriksen play the irascible patriarch in different timelines, while Mortensen is the son in the present and Laura Linney his sister. Daniel Bekerman (Scythia Films), Chris Curling (Zephyr Films) and Mortensen produce the Perceval Pictures and Ingenious Media presentation in association with HanWay Films.
Contact: HanWay Films
The Father (UK-Fr)
Dir. Florian Zeller
Zeller wrote and directed stage play The Father, originating in Paris in 2012 before transitioning to Broadway and the West End, and directs this film version from a screenplay he co-wrote with Christopher Hampton. Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman star in the drama, which premiered at Sundance, about a man who questions the fabric of his reality, while refusing help from his daughter. The UK’s Trademark Films produces alongside France’s FCommeFilm, Ciné-@ and Les Films du Cru, with backing from Elarof Fund and Film4.
Contact: Embankment Films
Penguin Bloom (Australia-US)
Dir. Glendyn Ivin
Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln and Jacki Weaver star in this true story of a family that rediscovers hope when it adopts an injured magpie chick after a near-fatal accident leaves a mother of three (Watts) paralysed from the waist down. Watts is producing alongside Emma Cooper and Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies, Wild), Jodi Matterson and Steve Hutensky. Australian director Ivin’s debut feature Last Ridescreened at Toronto in 2009; in 2003, she won the Palme d’Or for best short film at Cannes with Cracker Bag.
Contact: Endeavor Content
Summer Of 85 (Fr)
Dir. Francois Ozon
The trailer for this 1980s coming-of-age tale unfolding in a Normandy beach resort plays out to the jangling beat of The Cure’s 1985 hit ‘In Between Days’, setting the tone for Ozon’s 20th feature. Félix Lefebvre stars as a 16-year-old boy on a mission to experience love, life and death opposite up-and-coming actors Benjamin Voisin (Un Vrai Bonhomme) and Belgium’s Philippine Velge. Ozon was last in Toronto with his Venice 2016 premiere Frantz, while Summer Of 85 (Été 85) arrives following its selection for the Cannes 2020 label. The film was released in France in July, achieving more than 300,000 admissions in four weeks. Contact: Playtime
True Mothers (Jap)
Dir. Naomi Kawase
Kawase’s adaptation of a novel by Mizuki Tsujimura follows a couple who decide to adopt a baby boy after a long and unsuccessful struggle to get pregnant. Six years later they are contacted by a woman claiming to be the child’s birth mother. Starring Arata Iura (Air Doll) and Hiromi Nagasaku (The Furthest End Awaits), the film — which was given the Cannes 2020 label — is scheduled for Japanese release on October 23 through Kino Films Co, which also produced and handles sales in Asia. Kawase returns to TIFF following a special presentation slot for 2018’s Vision.
Also in Venice
The Disciple (India)
Dir. Chaitanya Tamhane
Indian filmmaker Tamhane’s feature career got off to a strong start when his documentary-style Courtpremiered in Venice’s Horizons in 2014, winning best film in the category and the festival’s Luigi De Laurentiis award (Lion of the Future) for best debut; he subsequently won the best feature film prize at India’s National Film Awards. Having guided Tamhane through the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, Alfonso Cuaron now serves as executive producer on this drama set in the world of Indian classical music in Mumbai, which is also showing in Toronto. Vivek Gomber (Court) produces for Zoo Entertainment.
Contact: Jan Naszewski, New Europe Film Sales
Profiles by Ben Dalton, Charles Gant, Melanie Goodfellow, John Hazelton, Jeremy Kay, Wendy Mitchell, Michael Rosser, Liz Shackleton, Louise Tutt, Silvia Wong