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.
76 Days (US)
Dirs. Hao Wu, anonymous, Weixi Chen
Festival regular Wu (2005’s Beijing Or Bust, 2013 Sheffield Doc/Fest premiere The Road To Fame, 2018 SXSW premiere People’s Republic Of Desire) collaborates on a documentary about the struggles of patients and frontline medical professionals during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China. Wu won the SXSW 2018 grand jury award for People’s Republic Of Desire. This time he co-directs with Weixi Chen and an anonymous partner, illustrating the sensitivity of the subject matter at a time of crisis in China and the rest of the world.
Contact: North American sales, CAA Media Finance; international sales, Dogwoof
Enemies Of The State (US)
Dir. Sonia Kennebeck
The second feature documentary from filmmaker and investigative journalist Kennebeck — whose National Bird premiered at the Berlinale in 2016 — tells the story of an American family that sought refuge in Canada after their hacker son was targeted by the US government. Originally scheduled to screen in competition at the since-cancelled Tribeca Film Festival, Enemies Of The State was made with the help of grants from the Sundance Institute and International Documentary Association and support from Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters. Errol Morris serves as executive producer.
Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds (UK-US)
Dirs. Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer
Herzog returns to Toronto for the first time since Into The Inferno, which segued there from Telluride in 2016. Co-directing with Oppenheimer, a professor of volcanology at the University of Cambridge who appeared as a scientific authority in both Into The Inferno and Herzog’s Encounters At The End Of The World (2007), the veteran German filmmaker this time travels around the planet to investigate how shooting stars, meteors and comets have impacted the human imagination. Sandbox Films (US) and Spring Films (UK) produce for Apple TV+, which will premiere the film in more than 100 countries.
Contact Apple TV+
Inconvenient Indian (Can)
Dir. Michelle Latimer
Toronto-based Latimer has adapted Thomas King’s 2012 book The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account Of Native People In North America. Her documentary explores the cultural colonisation of Indigenous peoples in North America and exposes the falsehoods of white supremacy. Latimer’s shorts include 2010’s Choke, which received an honourable mention at Sundance, and 2017’s Nuuca.
Contact: Nathalie Bourdon, National Film Board of Canada
Lift Like A Girl (Egy-Ger-Den)
Dir. Mayye Zayed
This documentary follows an Egyptian teenage girl who dreams of becoming a world champion weightlifter and is trained by a veteran coach, whose own daughter was an Olympic weightlifter. Egyptian filmmaker Zayed was previously one of six directors on 2013 drama The Mice Room and her short A Stroll Down Sunflower Lane played at the Berlinale in 2016. Lift Like A Girl is produced by Egypt’s Cleo Media in co-production with Germany’s ZDF and in association with Jyoti Film (Germany) and Rufy’s Films (Egypt).
Contact: Cleo Media
Dir. Sam Pollard
Prolific Emmy-winning film and TV director, editor and producer Pollard returns to features with this documentary, which uses newly declassified files to explore the US government’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King Jr and history of targeting black activists. Pollard edited Spike Lee’s 2000 Toronto entry Bamboozled (as well as several of the director’s other features) and produced Lee’s TIFF documentary Four Little Girls. MLK/FBI was also revealed by Telluride as one of its 2020 selections after the Colorado festival cancelled its physical edition.
Contact: Cinetic Media
The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel (Can)
Dirs. Jennifer Abbott, Joel Bakan
Seventeen years after documentary The Corporation (which Abbott co-directed with Mark Achbar) played at TIFF, the filmmaker returns with a sequel that exposes how the scramble by corporate America to rebrand as socially responsible entities is endangering democratic freedom. This time she co-directs with Bakan, whose non-fiction book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit Of Profit And Power inspired the earlier film, and who wrote the narration and served as associate producer.
Contact: Jan Rofekamp, Films Transit
No Ordinary Man (Can)
Dirs. Aisling Chin-Yee, Chase Joynt
After the premiere of her feature directing debut The Rest Of Us at last year’s TIFF, Chin-Yee (a recipient of the festival’s Canning Fellowship) teamed with Joynt, a transgender artist and writer whose short Framing Agnes premiered at last year’s Tribeca, to make this documentary about US jazz musician Billy Tipton. The film — backed by organisations including the Canada Media Fund and Telefilm Canada — uses performances by trans artists and Tipton’s son to cast the musician as an unlikely hero.
Contact: Sarah Spring, Parabola Films
Get The Hell Out (Tai)
Dir. Wang I-Fan
Wang I-Fan’s feature debut is a horror comedy about a security guard who becomes a new MP, before realising he has to fight his way out of the parliament when a deadly virus turns the trapped politicians into zombies. The film had its world premiere at Taipei Film Festival in June, followed by a local theatrical release on August 14. It is produced by Greener Grass’s Hank Tseng whose credits include The Tag Alongfranchise and Netflix TV series The Victims’ Game.
Contact: Eric Chou, Greener Grass
Shadow In The Cloud (US-NZ)
Dir. Roseanne Liang
Chloë Grace Moretz stars in this action-horror as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot during the Second World War. She must save her mysterious cargo and deal with a malign force on board the plane as a Japanese ambush awaits them. It is the second fiction feature from Chinese-New Zealand filmmaker Liang, whose semi-autobiographical My Wedding And Other Secrets (based on her 2005 documentary Banana In A Nutshell) was a chart-topping hit in New Zealand in 2011. Endeavor Content introduced Shadow In The Cloud to market in Berlin in 2019.
Contact: Endeavor Content
Dirs. Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Dusty Mancinelli
This psychological thriller marks the first feature from Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli, and centres on a troubled woman who embarks on a crusade of revenge after being betrayed by her sister and brother-in-law. The film also stars Sims-Fewer, who teamed with Mancinelli after meeting at the TIFF Talent Lab in 2015. The duo wrote the script and produce through their DM Films outfit. Their shorts include Slap Happy, Slamdance grand jury prize-winner Woman In Stall and Chubby, which debuted at Telluride.
Contact: Dusty Mancinelli, DM Films
Contemporary World Cinema
Bandar Band (Iran-Ger)
Dir. Manijeh Hekmat
Iranian filmmaker Hekmat returns to the festival circuit with a road-trip movie, in which a band of musicians journey across a flooded landscape to reach a competition in Tehran. It marks Hekmat’s first TIFF selection after feature debut Women’s Prison premiered at Venice in 2002 and Three Women screened at more than 80 festivals, starting in Berlin in 2007. Farsi-language Bandar Band is produced by Hekmat through her Bamdad Film outfit, and co-produced by Germany’s KapFilme.
Contact: Mohammad Esfandiari, Irimage
Preparations To Be Together For An Unknown Period Of Time (Hun)
Dir. Lili Horvat
Actress/filmmaker Horvat’s second feature came through the Coproduction Village at Les Arcs in 2017, having secured close to a quarter of its $2.4m (€2m) budget through the Hungarian National Film Fund. Coming to TIFF from a Venice Days world premiere, it centres on a 40-year-old neurosurgeon who leaves a career in the US for her love in Budapest — only for him to claim they have never met before. Horvat’s debut The Wednesday Child opened at Karlovy Vary 2015, winning two awards including the East of the West competition main prize.
Contact: Klaudia Androsovits, NFI World Sales
Under The Open Sky (Jap)
Dir. Miwa Nishikawa
Following 2012’s Dreams For Sale and 2016’s The Long Excuse, Nishikawa returns to TIFF with Under The Open Sky. Based on Ryuzo Saki’s novel Mibuncho, it centres on a former yakuza (Koji Yakusho) who, on release from prison, intends to look for his long-lost mother, but becomes involved in a TV programme about his life. A release in Japan is dated for February 2021. Nishikawa also directed 2006 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight premiere Sway and 2009’s Dear Doctor, which won the best screenplay prize at the Japanese Academy Awards.
180º Rule (Iran)
Dir. Farnoosh Samadi
Iranian filmmaker Samadi has written several shorts with director and compatriot Ali Asgari, as well as one feature — 2017 Venice Horizons title Disappearance. She has also directed shorts including Cannes 2016 selection The Silence. Her feature directing debut — for Ali Mosaffa Productions — is a drama about a schoolteacher in Tehran who has to make a choice about defying her husband to attend a wedding. Sahar Dolatshahi, Pejman Jamshidi, Azita Hajian and Hassan Pourshirazi lead the cast.
Contact: Salaud Morisset
Dir. Tracey Deer
In 1990, a land dispute between two Mohawk communities and the Canadian government led to a 78-day standoff, and eventually violence. Mohawk filmmaker Deer makes her fiction feature debut with a dramatisation of this real-life event, which she experienced as a 12-year-old. Deer has previously made documentaries about her community including 2005’s Mohawk Girls. Beans came through the 2017 TIFF Studio and 2018 TIFF Filmmaker Lab, winning a TIFF-CBC Films Screenwriter award last year for Deer and co-writer Meredith Vuchnich.
Contact: WaZabi Films
Dir. Déa Kulumbegashvili
Originally announced with the title Naked Sky, this Georgian drama — which was selected for the Cannes 2020 label — revolves around a young Jehovah’s Witness missionary who is in shock after angry locals burn down her place of worship during a service. Her husband obtains CCTV footage of the attack, but this puts them at odds with the police. Georgia-born Kulumbegashvili studied film directing at Columbia University in New York, and achieved prestige festival slots for her shorts Invisible Spaces (2014) and Léthé(2016).
Contact: Wild Bunch International
Dir. Ben Sharrock
This offbeat story of refugees waiting to be granted asylum on a fictional Scottish isle shot for five weeks on the Uist islands in the Outer Hebrides. Amir El-Masry stars with Vikash Bhai, Ola Orebiyi and Kwabena Ansah, along with Sidse Babett Knudsen, Kais Nashif and various non-professional actors. Sharrock’s debut Pikadero won the Michael Powell award for best British film at Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2016. Film4, Screen Scotland and the BFI have backed Limbo, which was selected for the Cannes 2020 label.
Contact: Protagonist Pictures
Memory House (Braz-Fr)
Dir. Joao Paulo Miranda Maria
A recipient of support from Cinémas du Monde, Hubert Bals Europe Fund and Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual (FSA), Memory House follows a black Brazilian from the country’s rural north who moves to a former Austrian colony in the south of the country to work in a milk factory. Surrounded by xenophobic locals, he finds comfort in an abandoned house that reconnects him with his roots. A Cannes 2020 label selection, Memory House marks Maria’s feature debut.
Contact: Celluloid Dreams
Shiva Baby (US-Can)
Dir. Emma Seligman
Seligman’s comedy — about a young Jewish woman who encounters her sugar daddy while attending a post-funeral reception with her parents — makes its second run at a major festival after it was selected to play at the (cancelled) SXSW earlier in the year. Based on Seligman’s eight-minute short of the same name, the writer/director’s debut feature stars Rachel Sennott (reprising her lead role from the short), alongside Polly Draper (Obvious Child) and Coens regular Fred Melamed as the parents, plus Danny Deferrari and Molly Gordon.
Contact: Neon Heart Productions
Spring Blossom (Fr)
Dir. Suzanne Lindon
Lindon — the 20-year-old daughter of 2015 Cannes best actor winner Vincent Lindon and César winner Sandrine Kiberlain — makes her feature debut with this semi-autobiographical tale, which was selected for the Cannes 2020 label in the First Features line-up. She directs and stars as a Parisian teenager who is bored by people her own age, and finds a soulmate in an older actor, 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) star Arnaud Valois, who is likewise disenchanted with his own milieu. Lindon wrote the screenplay when she was 15 years old.
Dir. Cathy Brady
Irish writer/director Brady makes her feature debut with this drama about two sisters who grew up on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. When one of them, who has been missing, returns home, the sisters’ bond is reignited before secrets and resentments from their mother’s past threaten to overwhelm them. Nika McGuigan — who died in 2019 at the age of 33 — and Nora-Jane Noone co-star in this production from the BFI, Screen Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen and Wellcome Trust, with backing from Film4, Sulcata Productions, Illium and Lexis Media.
Contact: Film Constellation
A Suitable Boy (UK-India)
Dir. Mira Nair
Last in Toronto with the premiere of her 2016 feature Queen Of Katwe, India-born Nair is bringing to TIFF her six-part adaptation of the Vikram Seth doorstopper, set in post-partition, post-independence India. Produced by Lookout Point for the BBC and Netflix, the series has already aired in the UK, where it attracted attention for being the first BBC episodic drama wholly populated by Asian actors, as well as for being scripted by period drama king Andrew Davies, whose credits include Pride And Prejudice, Bleak House and War & Peace.
Contact: BBC Worldwide
The Third Day (UK)
Dirs. Marc Munden, Philippa Lowthorpe
Co-created by TV scribe Dennis Kelly with Felix Barrett (the founder and artistic director of innovative theatre company Punchdrunk), The Third Day sees Kelly reunite with Munden, following their collaboration on Channel 4 production Utopia. Munden here shares directing duties with Lowthorpe (Misbehaviour). A six-part psychological thriller set on a mysterious island, The Third Day stars Jude Law and Naomie Harris alongside Katherine Waterston, Emily Watson and Paddy Considine. Plan B Entertainment, Sky Studios and Punchdrunk International produce, and HBO (in the US) and Sky (in the UK) air from mid-September.
Dir. Michelle Latimer
A Canadian filmmaker and actress of Algonquin/Métis descent who first gained popularity on Canadian soap Paradise Falls, Latimer here presents a series of six 60-minute episodes based on Eden Robinson’s coming-of-age books about an Indigenous teen struggling to support his dysfunctional family as supernatural forces infiltrate his life. The show will debut on CBC in Canada on September 17 and marks the first time the network has adapted a TV series based on a book by an Indigenous author. Contact: Streel Films
Dir. Nicolas Pereda
During a visit by estranged siblings to their parents in a Mexican mining town, things get interesting when the girl’s actor boyfriend plays out the role of a drug lord. Mexican-Canadian filmmaker Pereda’s comedic take on the pervasive force of Mexico’s drug crisis marks his return to Toronto after he attended with the drama Minotaur in 2015. Pereda’s work has been shown at most major international festivals including Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Locarno, and his Summer Of Goliath won the best film prize in Venice’s Horizons section in 2010.
Contact: Interior XIII
The Inheritance (US)
Dir. Ephraim Asili
Hudson Valley-based artist and filmmaker Asili has spent his career telling stories about the African diaspora, and his feature debut weaves together the histories of the MOVE Organization, the Black Arts Movement and his involvement in a black Marxist collective. Commissioned by the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in Troy, New York state, The Inheritance is based on real events, and sees the protagonist inherit a house in West Philadelphia that becomes home to a collective for activists of colour.
Contact: The Film-Makers’ Cooperative
Profiles by Ben Dalton, Charles Gant, Melanie Goodfellow, John Hazelton, Jeremy Kay, Wendy Mitchell, Michael Rosser, Liz Shackleton, Louise Tutt, Silvia Wong