The full line-up of world and international premieres in Toronto’s Contemporary World Cinema, Discovery and Midnight Madness programmes, with details on each title including sales contacts. Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18.
Contemporary World Cinema
The Daughter (Sp)
Dir. Manuel Martin Cuenca
Following Toronto launches for his last three features — The Motive (2017), Cannibal (2013) and Half Of Oscar (2010) — Spain’s Martin Cuenca returns with the story of a pregnant teen who takes shelter with a couple after escaping from a juvenile centre, and is forced to abide by their rules. Javier Gutierrez and Patricia Lopez Arnaiz (a Goya winner this year for Ane Is Missing) lead the cast. Martin Cuenca produces for his own La Loma Blanca Producciones, reteaming with Cannibal producers Fernando Bovaira and Simon de Santiago at Spain’s Mod Producciones.
Contact: Film Factory Entertainment
Kicking Blood (Can)
Dir. Blaine Thurier
Thurier is no stranger to TIFF having played Teen Lust in 2014, A Gun To The Head in 2009 and Male Fantasy in 2004. His latest from New Real Films stars Alanna Bale as a modern-day vampire who falls for a recovering alcoholic and resolves to quit drinking blood and become human again.
Contact: Alexis Reybet-Degat, Elle Driver
La Soga 2 (US-Dom)
Dir. Manny Perez
Dominican American filmmaker/actor Perez makes his directing debut on the sequel to TIFF 2009 selection La Soga, in which he reprises his role as Luisito Valerio, a former hitman who fights to rescue the love of his life while confronting his inner demons. The film shot in Rhode Island, Dominican Republic and New York and the producers plan a theatrical release targeted at Latino audiences in the US, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Contact: Conuco Productions
Maria Chapdelaine (Can)
Dir. Sébastien Pilote
Quebecois filmmaker Pilote (Cannes Critics’ Week 2013 selection The Auction) and veteran producer Pierre Even of Item 7 team up for this period drama about a young woman from a pioneer family in 1900 who faces a life-changing choice. The drama was made with the financial support of Telefilm Canada, Sodec, the Harold Greenberg Fund, regional fund MRC Maria-Chapdelaine and Quebecois and Canadian tax credits. mk2/Mile End came on board as Canadian distributor and Radio-Canada (CBC) as Canadian broadcaster.
Contact: Anick Poirier, Lorne Price, WaZabi Films
Nobody Has To Know (Fr-Bel-UK)
Dir. Bouli Lanners
The fifth feature from Belgian actor/filmmaker Lanners is his first in the English language. Set on the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides, the drama stars Lanners as a middle-aged man suffering amnesia after a stroke, who is told he was secretly in love with the woman taking care of him (Games Of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley). It is Lanners’ TIFF debut, having previously enjoyed bows at Berlin (The First, The Last, 2016) and Cannes Directors’ Fortnight (The Giants, 2011 and Eldorado, 2008). Belgium’s Versus Production produces with France’s Playtime and Scotland-based Barry Crerar.
Dir. Ho Wi Ding
Following Cities Of Last Things, which won the Platform prize in 2018, Malaysia-born Taiwanese filmmaker Ho returns to Toronto with a multi-stranded tale of love and revenge. The film stars Austin Lin (I WeirDo), JC Lin (The Scoundrels) and Ding Ning (Golden Horse best supporting actress for Cities Of Last Things). It is produced by Fengdu International, CMC Entertainment and Changhe Films with the support of Taipei Film Fund and Ministry of Culture.
Contact: Alexis Perrin, Rumble Fish Productions
The Wheel (US)
Dir. Steve Pink
Hot Tub Time Machine director and Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity writer Pink returns with this drama about a couple on the verge of divorce. Amber Midthunder and Taylor Gray star as the couple, who take a trip to the mountains in a bid to salvage their relationship. The Hurley/Pickle Productions and Eastern Blocc production shot in California last August.
Contact: Josh Jason, Hurley/Pickle Productions
Aloners (S Kor)
Dir. Hong Sung-eun
Hong’s feature debut premiered in South Korea’s Jeonju International Film Festival, winning a best actor prize for Gong Seung-yeon for her performance as a call centre staffer leading a solitary life, who begins to question her existence when a lonely neighbour is found dead. The film, which also won an arthouse distribution grant at Jeonju, received a local release in May. It will make its international premiere in Toronto before heading to San Sebastian for the New Directors competition. Hong studied directing at the Korean Academy of Film Arts, a film institution founded by the Korean Film Council.
Contact: M-Line Distribution
Anatolian Leopard (Turkey-Ger-Den-Pol)
Dir. Emre Kayis
Turkish director Kayis’s debut feature is a drama set at Turkey’s oldest zoo, featuring popular local actor Ugur Polat as a zookeeper who fakes the escape of its prized Anatolian leopard in a bid to stop the institution’s privatisation. The director’s short The Translator was nominated for a 2015 European Film Award and Anatolian Leopard won the top $50,000 prize at Israel’s Sam Spiegel Lab in 2018. Kayis is also co-creator of Turkish crime thriller series Alef.
As In Heaven (Den)
Dir. Tea Lindeburg
Denmark’s Lindeburg makes her debut feature after previously creating and writing the Danish Netflix series Equinox. As In Heaven follows 14-year-old Lise (Cry Wolf’s Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl), the eldest of her siblings, who experiences the harsh reality of farm life in the 19th century. She is poised to become the first in her family to go away to school, until one fraught 24-hour period puts her future freedom in doubt. Lise Orheim Stender (Heartstone) and Jesper Morthorst (Silent Heart) produce for Danish outfit Motor. Frequent Michael Winterbottom collaborator Marcel Zyskind serves as the DoP. After Toronto, the film heads to San Sebastian’s main Competition.
Contact: Tine Klint, LevelK
A Banquet (UK)
Dir. Ruth Paxton
The UK’s Paxton, a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art and Screen Academy Scotland, follows acclaimed shorts including Be Still My Beating Heart (2019) with her debut feature A Banquet. Rooted in horror, the film stars Sienna Guillory as a widowed mother whose teenage daughter (newcomer Jessica Alexander) insists her body is no longer her own and is in service to a higher power. The cast also includes Ruby Stokes (Rocks, Bridgerton) and Lindsay Duncan. The UK’s Tea Shop Productions and Riverstone Pictures produce with Reliance Entertainment Productions 8.
Contact: HanWay Films
Dug Dug (India)
Dir. Ritwik Pareek
Jaipur-born, Mumbai-based Pareek, whose background is in advertising, makes his feature debut with this Hindi-language project described as a comedy, mystery and satire. The story — inspired by true events — is about a village rocked by a freak motorcycle accident, which sows the seeds of a new religion. Jaipur-based Bottle Rocket Pictures produces the film. The cast features Altaf Khan, Gaurav Soni, Yogendra Singh and Durgalal Saini. Pareek produces alongside Prerna Pareek.
Contact: Ritwik Pareek, Bottle Rocket Pictures
Dir. Darin J Sallam
The events of 1948 in Palestine are retold through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl growing up in a small village, who has to swap dreams of furthering her education to fight for survival as the Palestine War of 1947-49 changes her life forever. The film marks the debut feature of Sallam (who participated in Berlinale Talents this year) after her award-winning shorts Still Alive, The Dark Outside and The Parrot. The cast includes Ashraf Barhom, Ali Suliman and Jordanian newcomers Karam Taher and Tala Gammoh. Sallam’s Amman-based production and training company Talebox spearheaded the production.
Contact: Picture Tree International
The Game (Ser-US)
Dir. Ana Lazarevic
Lazarevic’s feature debut is about a gambling addict and smuggler who becomes stranded with two refugee boys in the Balkans. The trio try to find an illegal crossing into Western Europe. Lazarevic earned an MFA from Columbia University in New York and her short The Runner screened at New York Film Festival in 2011. Pavle Stevanovic produces for NiKrivaNiDuzna. The project was previously selected for IFP/Film Society of Lincoln Center Emerging Visions & Artist’s Academy programme, and Thessaloniki’s Agora Crossroads Co-production Market and Works in Progress.
Contact: Ana Lazarevic, NiKrivaNiDuzna
Learn To Swim (Can)
Dir. Thyrone Tommy
Previously in Toronto with his 2016 short Mariner, which played extensively across the festival circuit, Canadian director Tommy brings his debut feature to the Discovery strand. Co-written by Tommy and Marni Van Dyk, Learn To Swim is billed as a stormy and tragic romance between two contemporary jazz musicians. It is produced by Alona Metzer of Toronto’s Leilani Films, which also produced Mariner. Learn To Swim has been supported by Telefilm Canada’s Talent To Watch programme, Canadian broadcaster CBC and Toronto Arts Council.
Contact: Alona Metzer, Leilani Films
Lo Invisible (Ecuador-Fr)
Dir. Javier Andrade
This second feature from Andrade, whose Better Not To Talk (About Certain Things) was Ecuador’s 2014 Oscar submission, centres on a woman who returns from a clinic following a bout of post-partum depression and decides the only way to deal with family pressures is to glide elegantly into madness. Ecuador’s Punk SA and La Maquinita produce with France’s Promenades Films. The film received development backing from Région Sud Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur, production funding from Ecuador’s national film fund Instituto de Cine y Creacion Audiovisual, and a post-production award from Ecuador’s OrquideaLab En Marcha fund.
Contact: Lucas Taillefer, Tropico Cine
Paka (River Of Blood) (India)
Dir. Nithin Lukose
Sound designer Lukose makes his feature directing debut with this Malayalam-language film, set on the river in the filmmaker’s village of Wayanad, Kerala. The story, inspired by his own grandmother’s tales, follows a centuries-old feud between two families and the young lovers who try to overcome this history. The cast includes non-professional locals alongside Basil Paulose, Nithin George and Vinitha Koshy. Anurag Kashyap and Raj Rachakonda produce for Studio 99 Films in association with Alif Talkies Productions. The film won the work-in-progress award at Goa’s Film Bazaar in 2020.
Contact: Alif Talkies
Dir. Haya Waseem
Pakistani-Canadian editor and shorts filmmaker Waseem makes her feature directing debut with this study of a young woman of colour as she navigates romantic and familial turmoil. Waseem, who is a graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s Norman Jewison Film Program directors’ lab, also wrote the screenplay. The English and Urdu-language drama is produced by Yona Strauss of Toronto’s Film Forge Productions, which was also behind Brandon Cronenberg’s 2019 horror short Please Speak Continuously And Describe Your Experiences As They Come To You.
Contact: Yona Strauss, Film Forge
Dirs. Shasha Nakhai, Rich Williamson
Adapted by Catherine Hernandez from her own debut novel, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Toronto Book Awards, Scarborough tells the story of three children coming of age in the titular low-income district of Toronto. Nakhai was selected for TIFF’s first Talent Accelerator programme in 2019, and she and Williamson have previously worked together on projects including documentary Take Light. Nakhai also produces through Toronto’s Compy Films, and the feature has received support from Telefilm Canada’s Talent To Watch programme and the Toronto Arts Council.
Contact: Shasha Nakhai, Compy Films
Dir. Evan Jackson Leong
Snakehead — which has been more than seven years in the making — is based on a true story and follows a Chinese woman who rises up the ranks of the New York crime syndicate that smuggled her into the US. Writer/director Leong’s basketball documentary Linsanity debuted at Sundance in 2013, while Snakehead has been acquired for North American distribution by Samuel Goldwyn Films and Roadside Attractions.
Contact: XYZ Films (North America); Odin’s Eye (international)
To Kill The Beast (Arg-Bra-Chile)
Dir. Agustina San Martin
San Martin, whose Monster God earned a special mention in the Cannes 2019’s short film competition, makes her feature directing debut with the story of a 17-year-old girl on the cusp of sexual awakening who arrives at her aunt’s hostel on the border between Argentina and Brazil, just as a shape-shifting beast is said to be roaming the region. To Kill The Beast is produced by Caudillo Cine (Argentina), Estudio Giz (Brazil) and Oro Films (Chile). The feature received grant funding from Argentina’s INCAA and regional body IAAviM and Brazil’s FSA, and also went through Berlinale Talents Script Station, Bafici Bal, Bolivia Lab, Los Residentes and La Habana Unproduced Scripts.
Contact: Coline Bouret, The Party Film Sales
Tug Of War (Tanz-S Afr-Ger-Qat)
Dir. Amil Shivji
Tanzania-based Shivji, who is also a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, delivers his second feature after T-Junction and shorts that screened at Rotterdam, Fespaco and Zanzibar festivals. He co-wrote the script with Jenna Bass (Flatland, High Fantasy). South Africa’s Steven Markovitz, whose credits include Rafiki and Winnie, produces alongside the director; the film’s backers include Doha Film Institute. The story follows a young revolutionary and a runaway bride as they struggle for their freedom.
Contact: Steven Markovitz, Big World
Dir. Bretten Hannam
Writer/director Hannam expands his own short Wildfire, which debuted at the BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival in 2019, into a feature about a rebellious teenager who flees from his abusive father and reconnects with his Indigenous Canadian Mi’kmaq heritage. Hannam’s screenplay won Telefilm Canada’s Pitch This! competition at TIFF in 2018, and was funded by Telefilm Canada. Wildhood was one of the first films to shoot in Nova Scotia following the pandemic shutdown, and its cast includes Indigenous Canadian actor Michael Greyeyes (Passchendaele, Woman Walks Ahead).
Contact: Films Boutique
Dir. Rob Savage
UK filmmaker Savage tapped into the zeitgeist with last year’s pandemic-inspired horror Host. Born out of a video-call prank he played on his friends, the resulting film proved a hit for streamer Shudder and nabbed Savage a three-film deal with genre power-player Blumhouse Productions. The first result of that partnership is Dashcam, which is co-produced by Douglas Cox of Shadowhouse Films. Much like Host, which played out across a Zoom video call, Dashcam utilises digital technology — in this case a car dashcam — to deliver its chills. According to the synopsis, “a caustic online streamer’s anarchic behaviour triggers a non-stop nightmare”.
Contact: Endeavor Content
Dir. Jean Luc Herbulot
French-Congolese writer and director Herbulot previously directed Dealer (a Fantasia International Film Festival premiere in 2014) and created the action TV series Sakho & Mangane. His latest film, set in Senegal in 2003, is a genre-shifting thriller about a trio of mercenaries who are trying to extract a drug lord out of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, and are forced to hide in the mystical region of the title. Herbulot also produces alongside Pamela Diop for LACME, and the cast includes French-Cameroonian actor Yann Gael (Sakho & Mangane).
Contact: Elle Driver
You Are Not My Mother (Ire)
Dir. Kate Dolan
Irish writer/director Dolan’s 2016 short Little Doll debuted in Berlin’s Generation Kplus sidebar. Her feature debut You Are Not My Mother stars Hazel Doupe (winner of the discovery award at this year’s Dublin International Film Festival for her role in Eva Birthistle’s short Kathleen Was Here) as a teen whose mother disappears, only to return with a completely different personality. The film was funded by Screen Ireland’s POV scheme, and is produced by Deirdre Levins and executive produced by Fantastic Films’ Brendan McCarthy and John McDonnell.
Contact: Bankside Films
Profiles by Nikki Baughan, Charles Gant, Melissa Kasule, Jeremy Kay, Wendy Mitchell and Silvia Wong