Screen spotlights the key world and international premieres in Toronto’s Platform and TIFF Docs line-ups. Toronto International Film Festival runs September 8-18.
Dir. Carolina Markowicz
The feature debut from Markowicz went through Karlovy Vary’s First Cut lab and takes place in rural Brazil, where a family tending to the ailing patriarch is approached by a nurse who proposes they let the old man die and accommodate an Argentinian drug lord on the run. Maeve Jinkings and Argentina’s Cesar Bordon lead the cast. Sao Paulo-based Markowicz is known for her shorts, which have screened at TIFF and Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. Charcoal (Carvao) is produced by Zita Carvalhosa’s Superfilmes, and co-produced by Bionica Filmes and Ajimolido Film.
Contact: Urban Sales
Dir. Frances O’Connor
UK-born and Australia-raised actress O’Connor is known for literary period roles such as Fanny Price in Mansfield Park (1999) and Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary (2000). Fittingly, she makes her directing debut with this self-penned drama about Wuthering Heights author Emily Brontë, starring Emma Mackey in a cast that includes Fionn Whitehead and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Emily, which opens Platform, is lead produced by Piers Tempest, David Barron and Robert Connolly. Warner Bros has UK and select other rights, releasing in UK and Ireland cinemas on October 14.
Contact: Embankment Films
The Gravity (Fr)
Dir. Cédric Ido
French Burkinabé actor, writer and director Ido’s sophomore feature centres on a planetary event that upsets the equilibrium of a futuristic Parisian suburb. Ido previously helmed 2017’s Chateau, co-directed by Modi Barry. The Gravity stars Max Gomis, Jean-Baptiste Anoumon, Steve Tientcheu, Olivier Rosemberg and Hafsia Herzi, and is produced by Emma Javaux through Une Fille Productions, with Trésor Cinéma co-producing and distributing in France.
Dir. Maïmouna Doucouré
Hawa is the follow-up to Doucouré’s 2020 Sundance and Berlin entry Cuties, which sparked controversy for Netflix around underage girls performing sexualised dance routines. Prime Video is on board for Hawa, a coming-of-age tale that centres on a teenage girl (Sania Halifa) who sets out to be adopted by one of the world’s most powerful women. Like Cuties, it is headlined by first-time actors. Cuties producer Zangro, who shared the best short César with Doucouré in 2017 for Maman(s), produces again for his Bien Ou Bien Productions.
Contact: Prime Video
How To Blow Up A Pipeline (US)
Dir. Daniel Goldhaber
Goldhaber, whose 2018 horror Cam began its festival run at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival and was then acquired by Netflix, returns with this thriller about environmental activists sabotaging an oil pipeline. The film stars Ariela Barer (also a co-writer and producer), Kristine Froseth and The White Lotus’s Lukas Gage. It is based on Andreas Malm’s 2021 book, which argues that sabotage is a logical form of climate activism.
Contact: CAA Media Finance
Riceboy Sleeps (Can)
Dir. Anthony Shim
With his second feature, Shim brings a 1990s-set drama about a Korean single mother desperate to provide a better life for her son in the Canadian suburbs. Originally starting out as an actor, with roles in 2018 Tribeca title Zoe and Star Trek Beyond, Shim made his feature directing debut with 2019 drama Daughter. The cast for Riceboy Sleeps includes Shim, Ethan Hwang (The Umbrella Academy), Hunter Dillon (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) and newcomer Choi Seung-yoon.
Contact: Sphere Films
Dir. Mani Haghighi
Festival regular Haghighi has had four films at the Berlinale (The Pig, A Dragon Arrives!, Modest Reception and Men At Work) and one at Tribeca (Abadan) but this is the Iranian director’s first time at TIFF. Subtraction centres around a married couple (Leila’s Brothers co-stars Navid Mohammadzadeh and Taraneh Alidoosti) who become convinced they have met their doppelgangers. It is the first Iranian film to compete in the Platform strand. Haghighi co-wrote Asghar Farhadi’s 2006 Fireworks Wednesday.
Contact: Films Boutique
Dir. Carmen Jaquier
Jaquier’s 2012 graduation short The Girls’ Grave won a Silver Pardino at Locarno. Thunder is her first feature, and is set in 1900 in Switzerland, telling the story of trainee nun who rebels after the death of her sister. The film, which is also playing in San Sebastian’s New Directors strand, is produced by Close Up Films, a co-producer on Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro.
Contact: Gregor Chambet, WTFilms
Tora’s Husband (India)
Dir. Rima Das
The first Indian film to feature in Platform, this Assamese-language drama follows a father struggling to keep his business and relationships afloat during the pandemic. Das — who also produces Tora’s Husband — is no stranger to TIFF: her Village Rockstars had its world premiere at the festival in 2017, going on to win best feature at India’s National Film Awards and becoming the country’s Oscar submission for 2019. She followed it up with 2018’s Bulbul Can Sing, which also premiered at TIFF.
Contact: Chaitanya Hegde, Monica D’Souza, Tulsea
Dir. Stéphane Lafleur
Lafluer’s relationship with TIFF began in 1999 when Karaoke picked up best Canadian short. Eight years on, his debut feature Continental, A Film Without Guns won best Canadian first feature there, and he returned in 2014 with You’re Sleeping, Nicole, screening in Contemporary World Cinema after its Cannes Directors’ Fortnight premiere. Viking follows a group carrying out a parallel space mission back on Earth to help solve astronauts’ interpersonal problems.
Contact: Sphere Films
Toronto’s documentary section takes in 22 titles this year, 16 of which are world premieres.
Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues, director Sacha Jenkins’ reappraisal of the jazz great for Apple TV+, is the section’s opening night world premiere.
The Grab, from Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, is another world premiere, following the work of a journalist revealing corporate land grabs.
Theatre Of Thought is a meditation on the human brain from Werner Herzog, previously at TIFF with documentaries including Encounters At The End Of The World.
World premieres include Sinéad O’Shea’s Pray For Our Sinners, about Ireland’s history of brutality against children and women; Mila Turajlic’s Ciné-Guerrillas: Scenes From The Labudovic Reels, about anti-colonial cinema; Documentary Now!, with mockumentary episodes from Alex Buono, Rhys Thomas and Micah Gardner; and Sam Soko and Lauren DeFilippo’s Free Money, about a universal basic income experiment in Kenya.
Also launching at TIFF are Vinay Shukla’s While We Watched, about independent media in India; Tamana Ayazi and Marcel Mettelsiefen’s In Her Hands, about a female mayor in Afghanistan, which is executive produced by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton; Stephanie Johnes’ female Brazilian surfer portrait Maya And The Wave; Mark Fletcher’s marine videography film Patrick And The Whale; and Self-Portrait As A Coffee Pot, directed by and about artist William Kentridge.
Miucha, The Voice Of Bossa Nova, an archive film from Daniel Zarvos and Liliane Mutti, delves into the life and career of the titular singer.
Documentaries arriving at TIFF after screening this year at Venice or Cannes are Laura Poitras’s All The Beauty And The Bloodshed, Sébastien Lifshitz’s Casa Susanna; Mariupolis 2 from the late Mantas Kvedaravicius, and My Imaginary Country from Patricio Guzman.
There are also five Canadian films, all world premieres: Babak Payami’s 752 Is Not A Number, Madison Thomas’s Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, Brian D Johnson’s The Colour Of Ink, Tanya Tagaq and Chelsea McMullan’s Ever Deadly, and Nisha Pahuja’s To Kill A Tiger.
Profiles by Nikki Baughan, Ellie Calnan, Tim Dams, Charles Gant, John Hazelton, Jeremy Kay, Lee Marshall, Jonathan Romney, Silvia Wong.